I love horror films…

31 Jul


My name is Sheena and I LOVE horror films.

For as long as I can remember I have loved reading and writing stories. I think it was my mum who introduced me to the work of Stephen King and that was it – I was hooked! I read all the books of his that I could get my hands on. And then I re-read them.

When I was at school I used to have Friday night sleepovers with my friend Michelle and we would watch horror film after horror film and totally scare ourselves silly (and then camp out in the front garden of course!) Pennywise the clown and the man in the hat from Poltergeist still haunt me to this day.

It’s hard to say exactly why I love the horror genre so much. I just know that I do. I really like the way that horror can speak about a vast range of subjects and especially things that are difficult or ‘taboo’. (‘American Mary’, ’Chained’, ‘Sleep Tight’) I like that they tend to focus on ‘outsiders’ and people who aren’t ‘the norm’. (‘Berberian Sound Studio’, ‘Ginger Snaps’, ‘Wilderness’) I have always been an outsider, I have never been ‘the norm’ so I suppose I identify with these films a lot more than a mainstream summer release blockbuster. I love how horror films take on a dreamlike quality and can be literally be your worst nightmare visualised. (‘Black Water’, ‘Audition’, ‘The Loved Ones’) I love the way that the visuals of a horror film can be very Expressionist in their mise-en-scène and use of light, dark and shadows.

The other thing that I love about horror films (which is probably rooted in my adolescence) is the fact that for me they are an ‘event’. A horror film is something that you watch with other people, you turn all the lights out, you eat great movie snacks, you can make it a double or triple-bill, it’s basically the best way to spend an evening.

At university I studied Theatre, Film and TV and I wrote my dissertation to disprove the idea that the horror genre is a low worth genre. To prove that it isn’t just exploitation, sexploitation and as much blood, guts and gore as is possible – all for no reason other than to shock.

Yes, some horror films are like that – and they do serve a market. However not all horror films are that generic. Some tell a really amazing story, they have really brilliant characters, they deal with difficult subjects very sensitively, and at the same time manage to create a ‘world’ which viciously drags it’s audience in and then scares them half to death. (‘Cold Prey’, ‘The Signal’, ‘Dark Water’, ‘Pontypool’)

I love a big range of horror films – I love spooky horror films, I love terrifying horror films, I love gruesome horror films – but I cannot bear horror films with weak storylines, stock characters and girls getting naked for no reason. I think films like these are an insult to their audience and basically just lazy filmmaking.

My love of horror has zealously continued into my adult life. I am now a filmmaker, I work with the arts and I make performance work. My favourite aspect of all of my different projects is when I can work on something that is a little bit darker or a little bit scarier… One of my favourite freelance jobs is helping young people make their own short horror films complete with zombie face painting, edible fake blood and DIY severed finger tutorials.

I am currently the writer/director on a short horror film called ‘The Ditch’ (we complete shooting in September) and I am very excited to be yet again spending the bank holiday weekend in the depths of the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square at this year’s Fright Fest.

In Conclusion; I am a BIG horror fan.

Oh yeah, and I’m female.

To me this is not an issue. Throughout my life I have never really thought anything of it. I am a fan of horror, I am a filmmaker and I am aspiring to make a horror feature film. The fact that I am female doesn’t mean a thing.

Except, it turns out that it is ‘A Big Thing’ whether I want it to be or not.

Recently I was looking through the upcoming Fright Fest line up to plan my weekend and I realised that out of the 27 films being shown on the main screen there is only 1 by a female director. 1!!!!!

I also checked out the line-up of last year’s Abertoir festival (this year’s line-up hasn’t been announced yet) and out of the 25 films they showed, again only 1 was by a female director!!

I started doing more research and came across list after list of the best horror films/directors –

20 greatest horror films,

10 best horror directors,

Top 13 MASTERS OF HORROR: Writer/Directors,

10 New Masters of Horror

All of these lists contain films made by male directors. There are no female directors on these lists.

And then I found this article – Time Out compiled a list of the 100 best ever horror films, in their words…

“as chosen by those who write in, direct, star in and celebrate the genre”

So a list compiled by a collection of people who are really passionate about the genre. Out of one hundred films listed guess how many were directed by a woman??



However, strangely I am not that surprised.

Women are massively under-represented across the board in the film industry. The results of a recent study prove this as a fact…

“In 2012, women comprised 18% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films”

Celluloid Ceiling Report 2012

“Women accounted for 9% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2012”

Celluloid Ceiling Report 2012

Apparently this under representation of females does not stop behind the scenes of a film either; we face the exact same thing on the screen.

“Only 11% of all clearly identifiable protagonists are female, 78% are male”

It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World

And as a special kick in the teeth for me as an aspiring female horror director…

“Women were most likely to work in the documentary, drama, and animated film genres.

They were least likely to work in the action, horror and sci-fi genres”

Celluloid Ceiling Report 2012

In 2012 Cannes film festival had 22 films up for the Palme d’Or award and not one of them had a female director.

In 2013 they did slightly better by including 1 film with a female director.

I posted the above article on Facebook during the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and one of my Facebook ‘friends’ commented below it asking me why I had to make a fuss about there being no female directors nominated, and why I couldn’t just be happy that 22 great films were nominated?…

Well… On a personal level there are two main reasons actually.

1. I am female and I am a film director. These statistics do not inspire me about the future of my career, and the opportunities I might have.

2. I spend a lot of my time working with young people helping them be creative and make films. I work with boys and girls. When we make our films the boys and girls are equal. I would like to be able to make reference to amazing films made by women and prestigious awards given to women in my sessions. I do not want to make the girls feel like they can’t achieve as much as the boys in the group in terms of filmmaking simply because of their gender. But unfortunately I do not have the statistics to back that up.

So why aren’t more women making films? And specifically why aren’t more women making horror films? I am a filmmaker, I love horror films – I can’t be the only one can I?!!

Something I want to make very clear is that I do not want to take any credit away from any of the amazing male directors out there.  Also I don’t believe it is the fault of Fright Fest or Abertoir that there aren’t more female directed films being screened – if films directed by women aren’t submitted to the festivals then they can’t be screened.

I really want to try and understand why the film industry is in this position. There is nothing synonymous about filmmaking and the male gender, or horror and the male gender.

So I’m going to talk to people and try and get some insight. I’m going to interview as many people as I can on this subject to try and understand why things are the way they are.

So if you are a female horror director I would like to hear from you, if you are a female who works in filmmaking in any sense I would like to hear from you. If you are a female who loves horror I would like to hear from you! But the conversation does not stop there – I would also like to hear from you if you are male. Are you a filmmaker? Do you love horror? Both? Neither? Talk to me. I want to get to the bottom of this…

I truly believe that filmmaking and specifically horror filmmaking shouldn’t have to be about gender. But it is and unfortunately it will be until the statistics show that women and men are represented equally in the film industry, and that is a fact that cannot be argued with.



5 Responses to “I love horror films…”

  1. mikeroberts1003 July 31, 2013 at 8:38 am #

    You have mentioned many of my favourite horror movies in here. Ive been obsessed with horror all my life too. Good piece of writing.

    • crestfallensheena July 31, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

      Thanks so much for your comment : ) Why do you think there are so few female horror directors?

      • mikeroberts1003 July 31, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

        I really don’t know. It could be social pressure, genre typecasting (women generally just being the tits and axe fodder in horror) or studios just not taking women seriously, I’m not sure: but it does seem as if things are changing. As well they should. With people like Jennifer lynch and the Soska sisters etc, women are kicking some serious horror arse. In my opinion, as long as someone shows genuine love and care for my favourite blood coated genre, and the films they make, they can be men, women, transvestites, hermaphrodites or Martians for all I care. It really shouldn’t matter:).


  1. Sisters and shivers – women who make horror movies | The Ditch - July 31, 2013

    […] Sheena's article is now up. I'll be expanding on it in my next post on this […]

  2. “I’m a woman, I’m a filmmaker, I love horror films – I can’t be the only one” | The Ditch - August 1, 2013

    […] with her, which I posted a couple of days ago. You can find Sheena’s article in its entirety here, but I wanted to take some of the things she said and match them up with points from my article, to […]

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