A Feminist’s Horror Film Marathon

But it is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it. Are nourished by it. Shudder and cling and cry out – and come back for more.
-Bela Lugosi

You said it, Bela.

I love horror movies. I’m a total wimp about them, the screaming, crying, watch-the-movie-behind-my-hands, “NO DON’T GO IN THERE oh god why am I watching this” kind of wimp, but I love them. Horror movies not only create spaces where we can explore and exorcise cultural fears: they are fantastically complex pieces of media that can reinforce cultural rules or shatter them, that celebrate and condemn transgression.

Plus they’re just wicked fun.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites. For best results, I’ve recommended a food/drink combo and some complementary feminist literature. Happy Halloween!

Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys’ “Medea.” Don’t mess with the best.

Suggested reading for everything: Men, Women, and Chainsaws, Carol Clover — the definitive work on feminism and horror films

The Awakening
Pair with: Sherry
Suggested reading: The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, because I’m pretty sure anything else I could recommend would result in spoilers

Pair with: Beer and spaghetti with red sauce
Suggested reading: Female Masculinity, by Judith Halberstam

Megan Fox looks ready to eat your face in Jennifer's Body.Jennifer’s Body
Pair with:
Jello shots
Suggested reading: The Sadeian Woman and the Ideology of Pornography, Angela Carter

Pair with:
Spiked punch and/or pork chops
Suggested reading: Queen Bees and Wannabes, Rosalind Wiseman
(Secondary reading: “If Men Could Menstruate,” Gloria Steinem)

Rosemary’s Baby
Pair with: Chocolate mousse and a pervasive sense of nausea over Roman Polanski in general
Suggested reading: Our Bodies, Ourselves

The Silence of the Lambs
Pair with: A nice Chianti
Suggested reading: Gender Trouble, Judith Butler

Heather's confessional video in The Blair Witch Project.The Blair Witch Project
Pair with: A six-pack of cheap beer and protein bars
Suggested reading: Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, Laura Mulvey

El Laberinto del Fauno
Pair with:
A bottle of rioja tinto and several boxes of tissues
Suggested reading: Feminism and Fairy Tales, Karen E. Rowe

Black Swan
Pair with: A pitcher of Black Velvets
Suggested reading: The Laugh of the Medusa, Hélène Cixous

Natalie Portman's reflection turns to look at her in Black Swan. AAAAH.

N.B.: Films included here are not necessarily explicitly feminist or even necessarily pro-woman; they are included because of the space they create for feminist critique. Similarly, the recommended readings were chosen to complement, not necessarily match, the movies, and aren’t necessarily indicative of my own thoughts on feminism. (Because some of that second-wave stuff, man . . . I dunno.)

Watch some movies. Read some theory. Draw your own conclusions. If horror movies teach us one thing, it’s that what we create for ourselves is always more wonderful, more terrifying, and more moving than anything we’re shown explicitly.

(Special thanks to everyone who suggested readings and made this post possible: Elisa, Izzy, Caitlin, Nicole, Esther, Lillian, Kait, Sara, Ernie, and my professors Kristina, Chemers, Wendy, and Pino.)

4 thoughts on “A Feminist’s Horror Film Marathon

  1. And all of this knowledge and experience accumulated in the past twelve years?The one who would never read Goosebumps . . . I’m deeply impressed. Also, a little bewildered by the pork chops recommendation for Carrie. Cooked rare? Because the frisson of possible trichinosis would add to the experience?

      1. Oh. Good to know. I do note that none of these gets Irish coffee paired with them. Perhaps not an appropriate drink for horror movies.

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