The realm of the movie macabre has long been a ghoulish men’s club, with women depicted as either beauty to the big screen’s many beasts or sexually voracious vixens.
Either way, femininity in horror is more often than not a perversion of the male id, partly because the ladies haven’t stepped up to wrest control of the genre. But as new documentary Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror proclaims, the tides are turning.
Pretty Bloody sees East Coast-based filmmakers Donna Davies and Kimberlee McTaggart profiling a gaggle of intelligent modern women who have carved out their livelihood in the world of horror, including Vancouver-born scream queen and Fangoria Radio co-host Debbie Rochon and Toronto-based Rue Morgue magazine editor-in-chief and human horror tattoo canvas Jovanka Vuckovic.
“We did this film to help dispel some of the myths surrounding women and horror,” Davies says. “Women have actually had a huge influence on the genre, and not just as the helpless victim running from the monster, but as writers, directors and producers.”
Pretty Bloody also profiles such noted fright-based females as Pet Sematary director Mary Lambert, dark fantasy writer Tanya Huff and cult actress Brinke Stevens. In a series of frank conversations, these sophisticated and articulate individuals speak of the struggles they’ve endured trying to make their mark in a mostly male-driven genre, and of the ways fans have responded to their respective legacies.
“Times have changed and women are making up a large percentage of audience for these films,” Davies says. “But female fans want to see a different kind of horror. They are looking for scares but want to see better developed story lines with stronger female leads who are sexy and kick butt.”
Davies also notes that the cathartic appeal of horror isn’t necessarily gender specific, but rather a byproduct of the human condition.
“Everyone has a dark side but most of us are afraid to go there because society tells us it’s wrong,” she says. “So we repress that dark side and it comes out in our nightmares … and sometimes in traffic.”
Pretty Bloody: The Women of Horror airs tomorrow night on Space at 10 p.m.