Written and Directed by Anna Biller
Starring Samantha Robinson, Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Laura Waddell, Gian Keys, Jared Sanford, Robert Seeley, and Jennifer Ingrum
The double standard for gendered behavior in our society establishes rules that few can follow. It’s especially hard on women, who are still held to the artificial 1950s model of being subservient homemakers. In return men are expected to have no emotional life. The whole mess is a recipe for disaster, and that’s what we get in the comic love tragedy The Love Witch.
Written and Directed by Xan Cassavetes
Starring Joséphine de La Baume, Roxane Mesquida, Milo Ventimiglia, Caitlin Keats, Anna Mouglalis, and Michael Rapaport
Vampire movies featuring women used to be about sex, implied or explicit. The story of Countess Bathory has been filmed many times with varying degrees of predatory lesbian action. Naked, young vampire women occupy a significant portion of the filmographies of sexploitation-horror directors like Jean Rollin. But we’re starting to see more films that treat female vampires as actual characters, even as the Underworld series reduces Kate Beckinsale to a fetishized killer. One of these is Xan Cassavetes’ Kiss of the Damned, which explores the struggle between intellectual and physical desire.
Directed by Brice Mack
Written by Steve Krantz and Kay Cousins Johnson
Starring Lisa Pelikan, Bert Convy, Nina Foch, Amy Johnston, John Gavin, and Louise Hoven
A good friend of mine says that everyone wants to be the second to do something. Pioneers do the hard work of breaking new ground, and then others swoop in to capitalize on the effort. Thus, the success of Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) brought imitators, including De Palma’s own The Fury in 1978. That same year saw the release of Jennifer, which switches out telekinesis for snake handing.
aka Dans ma peau
Written and Directed by Marina de Van
Starring Marina de Van, Laurent Lucas, Léa Drucker, and Thibault de Montalembert
One of the most ridiculous bits of praise I ever heard about a movie was that a girl in It Follows laid pieces of grass on her leg in a symbolic act of cutting. I liked the movie, but so what? An empty metaphor, unsupported and never addressed is nonsense. Self-harm is a real issue, not something to be winkingly referenced in an attempt to appear deep. Marina de Van understood that it is a frightening and irrational means of control, and she deconstructed herself to explore this in her film In My Skin.
Directed by Rachel Talalay
Written by Rachel Talalay and Michael De Luca, based on characters created by Wes Craven
Starring Robert Englund, Lisa Zane, Shon Greenblatt, Lezlie Deane, Ricky Dean Logan, Breckin Meyer, and Yaphet Kotto
Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street came out in 1984, creating the relentless killer who became the sole speaking member of the Unholy Trinity of 80s Slashers. Together with Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger captured imaginations and box office with flamboyant murders and the inability to stay dead for long. Sequels were on such a fast track that only 7 years after the original Freddy movie the 6th one was released. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare was not, of course, the end of Freddy Krueger. It wasn’t even the last time that the character would be portrayed by Robert Englund. But it was the last of the original sprint of Nightmare movies.
Written and directed by Karen Lam
Starring Katerina Katelieva, Richard Harmon, Mayumi Yoshida, Kelvin Redvers, Nelson Leis, David Lewis, and Natalie Grace
Women in movies are often raped and killed in order to motivate male heroes. When women began to be shown as heroes, their rapes became their own motivations. As thrilling as it is to watch Jennifer hunt down her attackers in I Spit on Your Grave, it and far too many other pictures assume that the only reason for vengeance is sexual assault on women. Which leaves me feeling conflicted about Evangeline, a film that steeps itself in vengeance cliches to address matters of humanity and spirituality.
aka Las luchadoras contra el médico asesino
Directed by René Cardona
Written by Alfredo Salazar
Starring Lorena Velázquez, Armando Silvestre, Elizabeth Campbell, Roberto Cañedo, Sonia Infante, Chucho Salinas, and Chabela Romero
Once upon a time, a fella named K. Gordon Murray discovered that there was money in dubbing and distributing Mexican films for American audiences. He’s most known now for importing children’s movies like Little Red Riding Hood (La caperucita roja) and Santa Claus, particularly since Mystery Science Theater 3000 re-popularized it. Murray also brought over luchador movies, including several with El Santo (renamed Samson) and films like Wrestling Women Vs the Aztec Mummy.
Directed by Kimberly Peirce
Written by Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, and Stephen King
Starring Chlöe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Ansel Elgort, Demetrius Joyette, and Judy Greer
It’s got to be a thankless task to remake a movie adaptation of a novel for the second time, especially when the previous remake is only a decade old. The fact that the original film is so iconic that images from it persist in popular culture almost 40 years on makes it practically a fool’s errand. Yet in 2013, another version of Carrie was presented to a skeptical audience.
Directed by Brea Grant
Written by Brea Grant and Vera Miao
Starring Brea Grant, Vera Miao, Sean Maher, Kit Williamson, Constance Wu, Stacey Storey, Alex Berg, and Alex Fernie
Who doesn’t love a good apocalypse? Since at least the days of science fiction films like The War of the Worlds movies have presented us with stories of threats to our way of life, whether through war, disease, environmental catastrophe, the risen dead, or killer plants from outer space. While some wallow in nihilism, most of them reaffirm or faith in humanity’s ability to overcome hardships and rebuild. Even when there are few characters the implication is that they represent society, so their success heals all. Best Friends Forever follows two young women on a road trip from Los Angeles to Austin as the nation reels from a nuclear attack. It’s a very personal apocalypse, and it emphasizes the significance of a single relationship against the background of a nation’s collapse.
Directed by Danielle Harris
Written by Alyssa Lobit
Starring Alyssa Lobit, Jennifer Blanc-Biehn, Kamala Jones, AJ Bowen, Brianne Davis, Christopher Backus, Dana Daurey, and Chris Meyer
In last year’s review of X-Game I mentioned the influence of the Saw franchise on modern vigilante horror. Five years ago, Danielle Harris’s Among Friends used the sub-genres conventions to point out how rape culture targets victims with continued societal disbelief and minimization. Spoilers, ahoy. There’s just no way to discuss this one without revealing plot points.