Are horror films inherently sexist?

The genre turns women into victims and can offer a judgemental depiction of sexuality. But several women film-makers say there are ways to have feminism and frights, reports Nada Tawfik.

Horror films, particularly those about masked men wielding blades and taking out unsuspecting innocents one by one, often have a roster of stereotypical female victims. “The bimbo, the party girl… who is one of the characters who’s going to get slashed and killed right away” is one such type, says film-maker Jenn Wexler. “And then one that’s reading a book so she’s going to be the final girl who survives to the end.”

Women often don’t fare well in horror movies, with those who are sexually active implicitly shamed by being killed off quickly. There have been some exceptions over the years – most notably, the Alien films with Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, who isn’t sexualised and is defined by her formidable skills and intelligence – but many feel the genre’s consideration of gender needs improvement. Reporting for Talking Movies, Nada Tawfik talks to several women film-makers who believe that a different approach to horror is possible.

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