Kiersten is away this week, but today we’ve doused ourselves in pig’s blood in honor of the lovely G.G. Andrew blog post about the battle for control over women’s bodies and sexuality represented by a handful of freaky horror films. Take it away, G.G!
Thanks Madeline —
A short but growing list of horror films in the past two decades have focused on women’s sexuality—and I’m not talking about movies where some topless girl gets slashed to shreds. The movies I mean have all tackled female sexuality head-on, revealing the complex thrills and terrors, power and danger inherent in sexual awakening. If you’re looking for something feminist along with freaky this Halloween, here’s a quick watch list.
Carrie (1976, 2013)
Both versions of this horror classic based on the Stephen King book start with a period horror story: Carrie, raised by her religiously severe and abusive mother, finds herself menstruating for the first time in a locker room full of girls who taunt her with the famous “Plug it up! Plug it up!” while throwing pads at her. Though traumatic, Carrie’s late, bloody entrance into puberty sets into motion the awakening of her telekinetic power. This growth into her power is especially well done in the 2013 version with Chloe Grace Moretz in the lead, though you can’t beat Sissy Spacek’s turn as Carrie for her depiction of the girl as powerful yet unbalanced and dangerous. (Teens should have telekinesis, like, never.) Carrie’s strength climaxes at another female rite of passage, the prom, when she is once again bathed in blood but full of power as she destroys the town that has hurt her. Watch it when you’re on your period and harboring revenge fantasies.
Ginger Snaps (2000)
The themes of blood and menstruation continue in Ginger Snaps, a werewolf tale that has since spawned a sequel and prequel. Two goth sisters, obsessed with death and suicide, find their relationship transformed when a werewolf bites older sister Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) on the night she finally gets her period (“the curse”). The once close-knit sisters find a rift growing between them as Ginger starts dressing sexier and spending time with boys—oh yeah, and growing a tail and killing dogs. The shyer, younger Brigitte (Emily Perkins) suspects Ginger is transforming into a werewolf, but everybody—their mom, the school nurse in one hilarious scene—attributes Ginger’s behavior and physical symptoms to puberty. Becoming a woman is not unlike becoming a werewolf: there is blood, pain, external changes, and internal rhythms. Brigitte tries to help her sister, charting Ginger’s menstrual cycle for times she’s most sexually and physically aggressive. “She’s ovulating!” she shouts at a boy to warn him of the danger. Watch this movie with the person who’s most likely to determine whether you’ve become a werewolf—and still have your hairy back.
Jennifer’s Body (2009)
Sexual awakenings and complicated female relationships turn witty in the Diablo Cody-penned Jennifer’s Body. Needy (Amanda Seyfried) has always played second fiddle to her more popular, sexy, bossy best friend Jennifer (Megan Fox). But when Jennifer is stolen away by a band of “agents of Satan with really awesome haircuts” fronted by evil Nikolai (Adam Brody), things gets a bit demonic. The band assumes the popular girl is a virgin, but she isn’t (“not even a back door virgin”), and their sacrifice of her has unintended consequences—namely, as meek Needy soon learns, it gives Jennifer a fondness for seducing boys and eating them alive. Jennifer-as-demon is insatiable, forceful and terrifying, and the depiction of her with the guys reflects, as it does in other horror, our culture’s discomfort with sexually-aggressive women. Needy’s struggles with Jennifer are also real to anyone who’s had a friendship sour, and her scenes with her sweet beta boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons) add a nice counterpoint. Watch the film when you want to grieve a toxic relationship from your past, or to remember the words that begin the movie: “Hell is a teenage girl.”
Wes Craven’s unconventional slasher film broke new ground with its sharp humor, Drew Barrymore cameo, and meta-commentary on horror tropes, including the trope that staying a virgin means you’ll survive in a scary movie. While high schooler Sidney (Neve Campbell) is still grieving her mother’s brutal death, she’s targeted by a psycho killer who massacres everyone around her, often after giving them a creepy phone call. (Remember cordless phones? Yeah, people used to use those.) At the same time, Sidney is under pressure from her boyfriend, Billy (Skeet Ulrich), to have sex, but she’s been afraid of turning into a “bad seed” like her adulterous mother. But maybe the fear runs deeper. “Now you’re no longer a virgin. Now you’re going to die. Those are the rules,” one character says to her at the end. Yet as Scream twists other genre tropes, so it does here—often hilariously. Watch it if you’re trying to figure out if he’s The One—or just, you know, possibly a psycho killer.
It Follows (2014)
It Follows takes the sex-is-danger idea a step further. In it, college student Jay (Maika Monroe) sleeps with the nice guy she’s been dating…only to wake and discover he’s given her a sexually-transmitted monster: a creature that can transform itself into any other person and will stalk and kill her—unless she has sex and passes it on to someone else. Though it seems like it would lend itself to Jay desperately banging her way to safety, the movie is more realistic and subtle at first (and freaky; did I mention freaky?). Much of it involves her trying to survive within the protective circle of her sister and friends, including the cute and nerdy Paul (Keir Gilchrist), who still has a thing for her—yes, even with the sexually-transmitted nightmare on her hands. Watch to remind yourself that a real man would take a monster from you.