Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Horror-Movies. recently sparked a controversy surrounding their "10 New Masters of Horror" list written by Herner Klenthur.  Sharpening a lens on horror film directors that have the potential to become the next Carpenter or Craven, Klenthur's top ten list featured Ti West, Xavier Gens, Adam Green, Steven C Miller, Alexandre Aja,  Eli Roth, Neil Marshall, James Wan, Pascal Laugier, and Rob Zombie.  In case you didn't notice, all of the people featured on this list are men.  It pains me to start a statement with this, but "as a woman in horror..." I have no problem with this list not including any women.  I pride myself in being a feminist horror fan, but it's important to realize that despite the ill-named term "feminism," the feminist movement is about encouraging equality of the sexes.  The entire point of feminism is to give women the opportunity play ball on the same playing field as men, or give them the choice not to.  Feminism is about choice, and equality between the sexes.  This post is not going to be some social justice vocabulary lesson, but it's important to realize that feminism is NOT anti-man.  If you think it is, you're wrong, and you should educate yourself.  MOVING ON.

Steven C Miller. Know him? You should.
It's also important to realize that lists are a matter of opinion and are in no way factual statements that we should live our lives around.  That being said, this is a damn good list and I don't have a problem with any of the directors presented on this list.  I'm about to turn a lot of people against me with this, but there are currently no female horror directors that were worthy of being presented on this list.  I'm sorry, but that's the honest to Lovecraft truth.  This list is to focus on the "10 New Masters of Horror" and there has not been a woman in recent memory that deserves a place on this list.  Are there women directing outstanding horror films? Absolutely.  Are there women who have made an impact as large or as influential as the men on this list? No. Going back to the rules of feminism, it's about equality of the genders.  Equality also means being held to the same standard.  Hannah Neurotica, the founder of Women in Horror Month called out the author for not including any women, to which he replied
"I did not intentionally ignore the women directors. Give me 3 that you think should be on this list and would be considered a master of horror based off their contributions to the genre over the last while."  
Hannah then went on to list off a multitude of female directors including Katt Shea, Mary Lambert, Rachel Talalay, Amy Holden Jones, Kathryn Bigelow, Jackie Kong, Roberta Findlay, Mary Harron, and of course, The Soska Sisters.  Another wonderful woman, Jennifer Cooper, suggested many of Hannah's suggestions, but added Brenda & Liz Fies, Jennifer Lynch, Barbara Stepansky, and Axelle Carolyn.

Mary Harron: She made American Psycho
Considering the fact Kathryn Bigelow, Roberta Findlay, Marry Harron, Mary Lambert, Rachel Talalay, Amy Holden Jones, Katt Shea, and Jackie Kong have been making films for more than 20 years (and with the exception of Shea are not predominately horror directors) even considering them to be "NEW" masters of horror is pointless. even mentioned in the opening of their article that they were looking for NEW directors and because of that wasn't going to feature the John Carpenters or Wes Cravens of the world.  Going back to Hannah Neurotica's list of suggestions, the only ones that fall within the timeline of this list are the Soska Sisters.  Admittedly, Jennifer Cooper's suggestions fall moreso within the realm of what the list was intending to concentrate, but none of the women on her list of suggestions have nearly the same caliber or quality of influence in their films the way that the men featured on that list do.  I LOVE Liz Fies' film The Commune but to say it has the same sort of influence that Ti West's House of the Devil does, simply because "Holy shit! women in horror!" is insulting.  Don't get me wrong, The Commune is a fantastic film but did it re-ignite the genre's love for slow burn horror? No.

The only director(s) nominated by both Hannah and Jennifer that are even possibly close to making this list are The Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska.  The Soska Sisters are undoubtedly one of the biggest noises in independent horror with their films Dead Hooker in a Trunk and the Katherine Isabelle (of Ginger Snaps fame) starring American Mary.  These two generate a ton of buzz for all of their film, but I'm not going to lie and say the fact they're attractive women has nothing to do with it.  The Soska Sisters make pretty enjoyable horror films, nothing monumental or ingenious, but enjoyable nonetheless.  However, if The Soska's are good at one thing, it's marketing.  The Soska Sisters have figured out how to market themselves and horror fans have been eating it up.  Female directors in horror don't get nearly as much attention as they should, and The Soskas have found the magical "oh wait, men like boobs" loophole and used it to their advantage. On one hand, I can't fault them. Honestly? They're just doing what they've been conditioned to do. This "system" tells women every day that if we want more attention or someone to take us seriously, we have to be smokin' hot and look like the girl all of the horror fanboys couldn't get in high school. The Soska Sisters are just executing everything that geek culture has told women we need to do in order to generate buzz and bring attention to their films. In that regard, if people are stupid enough to praise their films simply because they'd fantasize about them, The Soska Twins were smart enough to exploit it.  Before I get attacked with "that's just who they are and it's the system that sexualizes them," I'm aware. I know how it works.  I'm also a girl in geek culture.  We're all more than aware that we're either extradited or sexualized.  The Soska sisters aren't stupid, they know how to play the game and they play it well.  It goes back to the movies though. Does having buzz and attention equate to being a "Master of Horror?"  Hell no. The Soska Sisters are doing something wonderful for women in horror, but they've not perfected their craft to the same degree that the men on this list have done, and giving them special treatment because they're women is taking a step back for female equality in horror.

John Squires, the righteous dude behind Freddy in Space made a comment on his Facebook page about this ordeal saying 
"And the funny thing is that the two most well known female horror filmmakers, the Soska sisters, have gotten a lot more respect and love than they even deserve, based on the fact that they are attractive women. Nobody would've given two shits about that Dead Hooker turd if the filmmakers were two obese brothers. And that's the truth. I've got no problem with them parading around their sexuality to get fans and make a name for themselves, but I guarantee no females would be supporting them the way they do, if they were men. So who's really making this all about sex here?
Ti West: Master Pacer.
I've heard this criticism many, many times and on a personal note, I have a blogging troll (sorry for feeding him) that has told me numerous times that until I "look like a Soska, I have no right to talk about horror" and it's that mentality that supports the claim Johnny Squires is trying to make.  The fact that women cling so hard to The Soska Sisters shows us that we're settling with making our idols above average independent filmmakers instead of pushing for better.  I've seen my fair share of independent horror films and a hell of a lot of them are directed by women.  If I'm being honest, half of the time I don't look up who the director is until after it because gender doesn't equate talent.  If I like a movie, I like a movie, and it doesn't matter what's between the legs of whoever made it.  I refuse to make excuses and whine about inequality when I haven't seen a female directed horror film that has made as big of an impact of the men on this list. Does that make me a bad feminist? No, it makes me an honest feminist and an unbiased film critic.  I don't want female horror directors to be held to a different standard, I want them to be held to the exact same scrutiny as male directors.  If a female director makes a film that moves me like House of the Devil, or terrifies me like Haute Tension, or has the impeccable dialogue of Frozen, I'll bite my tongue.  Complaining about this list is bad for feminism.  If we really want equality, we need to be producing equal quality work.  I want women to make movies just as strong as men (which we are totally capable of) but at this point in time, there aren't any women that deserve to be on that list more than any of the men.  I will not take the deserving glory away from a man who has worked hard and created an incredible piece of art to make way for a woman who hasn't created something of the same caliber, simply because she's a woman.  Well, maybe Eli Roth, but that's for another day. Chick vision...give me a break.

8 comment(s):

Wanda Bates said...

This curmudgeonly old feminist agrees with your assessment.

FunkTastic said...

Great article and frankly you made a better counter point to why we had no women on our new masters of horror list then I did in my rebuttal.

The only question I really have for you is what does this one line mean ' gets a lot of slack for plenty of things written on their website,'

All the best

Ashlee said...

I understand your points.

But I think the root of the issue is why aren't enough women and their roles as directors of horror films aren't given the same amount of exposure as the men on that list. Why they aren't pushing or even pushed enough into the circles that will allow them the means, resources, and exposure to be as conspicuous as the Roth's or Green's.

There are plenty of women making horror films that I would argue given all of those things I mentioned above with their body of work thus far proving that their features would rival and even surpass some of the directors on that list.

You're right, the point is influence. But not enough female horror directors are given the opportunity to prove that them and their work can be influential.

The growth of this niche is still very new and I think the future will reflect a list that has a relative number of both men and women on it as 'masters of horror'.

But for now, I feel it's important to ask ourselves the question of why aren't women on this list.

Rob said...

Nice article. I'm a male and also consider myself a feminist. That being said....whatever the reason, there just AREN'T any woman horror directors making considerable waves at the moment. At the same time, I don't think I would consider half of the MEN on the list to necessarily be "Masters of Horror" either. One or two good flicks do not a Master my opinion. It seems there are more horror movies being made now than ever before, but a way too sizable chunk of those are direct-to-video pap, tired remakes, and "made for the PG-13 crowd" CGI-fests. Many of the guys on the list made one great independent movie, then got immediately sucked into the mainstream money machine (I'm looking at you Alexandre Aja and Pascal Laugier). The days of your John Carpenters and Romeros seem to be mostly over, unfortunately.

Am I being too negative? Ah, well.

The Goodkind said...

Instead of blaming women directors for producing a lower quality product, I think a better question to ask is why there are so few women directing films at all. Are there historical reasons why women have been excluded?
Could we not also say why are there so few directors of color making good horror films? Is it their fault? Ignoring historical context is tantamount to victim blaming.

Check out some bell hooks.She's rad.

And I know you've already apologized, but you certainly have your own issues with accuracy, logic and grammar in your writing. We all do, that's why we peer review.

BJ-C said...

@The Goodkind-
There's actually a very large amount of women directing horror films, they just don't get as much attention. There's a reason Women in Horror month exists or why we have gender specific film festivals like Viscera. Those are needed to get the word out and start the buzz about female directed horror films.

I've read Bell Hooks. I'm not denying that (historically speaking) women have gotten the short end of the stick, I was simply defending the fact that this guy made a quality list and we should be mad at the system, and not at the results. People of color are also making few horror films, but we have seen a spike of Latin directors recently (many of the directors of ABC's of Death were of Latin descent) but this list was not about ignored minorities in horror cinema. This list was a guy's opinion and I was helping defend him and show that he wasn't trying to be anti-woman, he was giving an opinion and why asking for special treatment isn't doing us any favors.

As far as my writing, I'm well aware of my flaws, but I'm not trying to be a leading source of horror news. I wasn't bashing their site for accuracy, logic, or grammar. I was stating that there are other people that have had complaints with their site...the same way people bitch about every single site on the internet.

I'm a kid with a blog. I started this when I was 19, and I'm only 23 at this point. Most of my entries are posted late at night and I run, design, promote, and edit this entire film entirely by myself. Of course I'm going to fuck up, it's a one woman show and I have zero help.

Superheidi said...

I have to say - there are many really good women directors.

Some women who could be on the list and who have made just as many films at the same level recently include:

Marina de Van

Helene Cattet

Caroline du Potet

Devi Snively

and I can name about ten off the top of my head who are "people to look out for" in the next year or two, who will be making features that are on par with the men listed above.

I don't think the author was anti-woman by listing only men. He was simply ignoring women directors. Not a crime, just a woefully ignorant and common mistake. It happens every day.

If an African American person is never nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars, is it because all African American actors suck? Or is it a combination of African Americans not getting good roles, facing obstacles in getting to that point in their career, and then being passed over in favor of white actors when it comes time to make lists and give out awards? It's the same thing in green, folks.

It's only a list on a small horror film site, but it's on the Internet and it is fair game for criticism, and that is mine.

The Goodkind said...

And I agree with you, standards of quality, as subjective as those are, should be the same. It just came across to me as saying "the problem is you're not good enough, end of story."
There is an important distinction between equality and liberation. As other feminists have pointed out, the former is measurement by existing (patriarchal) standards, the latter is freedom from those standards.
This to me is the point of Women In Horror month and other such events.

And finally, I too am just a kid with a blog flying solo, so I understand and suffer the same pratfalls, hence the offer of peer review.

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