Why do women like horror movies? At first, I found the question in general to be offensive, especially when posed by the usually respectable New York Times.
“Why wouldn’t women like horror movies?” I thought, ready to take on whoever had a problem with ladies who dig slasher flicks.
Then I read further — and wondered why I only seem to like horror movies of the ’60s and ’70s variety, and why when forced to sit through trailers for movies like Saw be it 1, 2,3 or 4 — I cringe. It isn’t that women can’t handle the blood, violence and suspense — it’s that modern horror films are exploitative, pornographic and void of character, and filmmakers having seemingly no interest in attracting female viewers.
Cue Diablo Cody’s new film Jennifer’s Body, lauded by some and dismissed by others as an attempt for a woman to take back the knife during a particularly rough era for horror films.
“When I watched movies like The Goonies and E.T., it was boys having adventures,” Cody told the Times. “When I watched Nightmare on Elm Street, it was Nancy beating up Freddy. It was that simple.”
Like many horror films of the ’70s, the killer may leave corpses of both men and women in his wake, but there always seems to be a female heroine who escapes and, in some cases, kills the bad guy. In many cases, the young, attractive women being picked off one by one was a way to attract male audiences.
Jennifer’s Body, which Cody says was made with both women and 15-year-old boys in mind, is not necessarily a feminist horror classic. I thought the movie was entertaining, at times a bit misguided, but when I thought about it further I understood more of what Cody was going for when it came to her man eating, demonic killer.
The film (spoiler alert) has a possessed Megan Fox eating her young, male victims who are not the sort of guys you necessarily want her to eat in the film. They are actually likeable. I found myself wanting Jennifer to devour the film’s true villains, one of which was played pretty hilariously by Adam Brody, but that doesn’t happen. Well, not exactly.
As I complained about this while leaving the theater, I thought about every horror movie I had seen in recent years. Why do I feel guilty about Megan Fox eating innocent victims when, for years, all I have seen is some psychotic killer gutting innocent female victims?
In the Times article, both horror director Rob Zombie and former president for production at Fox Atomic Debbie Liebling state that they are baffled by the female attraction to horror films, not because of gender so much as the destruction of the genre in the last 30 years. I couldn’t agree with Mr. Zombie more in this case.
“The ’80s are the decade that ruined everything for everybody,” he said. “The soul went away, and it became gore for the sake of gore, and kids were cheering at killings and yelling and screaming. It became a roller coaster ride. And of course once something becomes a roller coaster, all you can do is build a bigger, more extreme roller coaster. That’s where I think horror movies really got perverted.”
The article also mentions lesbian novelist Rita Mae Brown, who, much to my surprise, wrote the pervy and campy Slumber Party Massacre in1982. Unfortunately, she said producers stripped the film of its satire.
“Horror films are one of the last places where women will make progress,” Brown said, “because they go to the root of adolescence. They attract adolescence, on some level, even if you’re 50.”
Hopefully, the recent boost in women heading to see horror films in large numbers will change the way many of these films are made, and have directors and writers thinking more about characters than dismembering hot 18-year-olds just for the hell of it.
What are your thoughts about women and horror movies?