7 Horror Films With Anti-Patriarchy Undertones To Watch This Halloween Season
Horror is a vague genre loosely describing works which trigger terror. Things like scare shots, sound effects and graphic images are common in the genre, but there are more inspiring ways filmmakers can incite fear.
Female theorists such as Julia Kristeva and Barbara Creed have dissected horror, stating that social structures and politics are responsible for what we find terrifying. Terror, in other words, is aroused from what we consider estranged from the norm, and in many cases, in a male-dominated world, female bodies and characteristics are exploited in such genre for the effect.
This Halloween, we would like to diverge from cliché forms of horror and dig into films that invoke a deeper kind of fear. Here are seven subversive screenplays that will keep you awake at night while simultaneously attacking the patriarchy.
1/7 Pan's Labyrinth (2006), Guillermo del Toro
A Guillermo del Toro classic, this Spanish speaking film takes us back to the summer of '44, during the Spanish Civil War. The young female protagonist, Ofelia, finds herself in a new home under the tyranny of Captain Vidal, with her pregnant and ailing mother. Witnessing her militant stepfather’s cruel treatment towards his subjects, Ofelia divulges into a mysterious world of monsters and magical creatures to escape her violent reality.
2/7 Midsommar (2019), Ari Aster
Bright and beautiful its visuals may be, but Ari Aster's Midsommar is a dark and distressing film. Dani and Christian are struggling with their relationship amongst other issues. Deciding to leave to Sweden with a group of anthropology classmates for the midsummer celebration, they plan to unwind and hopefully resolve some of their problems. However, what initially seems like a festive utopia gradually turns creepy.
Suicidal rituals and black magic are part of the culture, and conscience seem convoluted. After experiencing several traumatic instances, Dani accepts her new community and smiles to the annihilation of her rough past.
3/7 Shutter (2004), Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom
It is not until the end of the movie that what Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Wongpoom are trying to convey is finally unveiled. Shutter tells the story of a photographer struggling with his job as strange shadows keep ruining his films. From the points of views of Tun, the photographer, and his girlfriend, Jane, we slowly learn of the dark secret driving the plot. Tun's classmates from university mysteriously die one by one, some leaving ominous messages like "she's back". Jane begins to suspect that answers lie in her boyfriend's past.
4/7 Antichrist (2009), Lars von Trier
It is rather ironic that a Lars von Trier film would appear on this list, since rumour has it that he has issues with women. Antichrist derides patriarchy through sarcasm. The film is truly poetic and indeed a depressing one with the first sequence glamorising sex and death simultaneously. In the film, we see several parallelisms with religious text which condemns females for the damnation of mankind. The drama starts when two characters, a man and a woman, venture into their cabin in the forest. Eventually, in the isolated environment, the woman's 'true nature' is unleashed. Confronted with bizarre and later violent incidences, the man is thrown off balance by the erratic and unpredictable nature of both the forest and his female counterpart. Ending in a riddle, the whole movie is pretty much up to how you want to interpret it.
5/7 The Shining (1980), Stanley Kubrick
One of the most frightening and best movies to many, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is one of the most discussed films in contemporary history. Jack accepts a job as a caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies during winter when no guests are accepted. He decides to bring his wife, Wendy, and their son, Danny, over to his new office. Alone in the large establishment, the seemingly exciting holiday turns rancid as each character experiences eerie spectres of the past and things turn violent. While some may blame the father for demise, perhaps it is the traditional patriarchal family system which relies too heavily on the patriarch that is to blame.
6/7 120 Days of Sodom (1975), Pier Paolo Pasolini
Pier Paolo Pasolini's 120 Days of Sodom, also known as Salò, is an adaptation from Marquis de Sade's unfinished masterpiece of the same title. Categorised by many as extreme cinema, this piece is the hardest to watch and is the most precise in its political statement. Sade, the father of sadism, wrote the piece while imprisoned in Bastille, France in 1785, and Pasolini made this last film of his before his murder during years of political turmoil in Italy. Addressing real-life context, the plot features four libertine patriarchs with an insatiable taste for extreme, unorthodox sex. Sealing themselves in a castle together with 36 young victims and four veteran prostitutes, they re-enact stories of abuse and sexual adventures told by the old ladies—this film is not for those with a weak stomach.
7/7 Les Yeux sans Visage (1960), Gerorges Franju
Ending our list may be the lesser intense films of the list though absolutely not light to watch. Les Yeux sans Visage or Eyes Without a Face tells of a once beautiful young lady, Christiane, whose face was destroyed in an accident. Her father, Dr Génessier, who is responsible for the automobile accident, hunt hunt down pretty, young girls with his assistant to replace Christiane's face with theirs. With each failed attempt to fix Christiane's face, more innocent lives are taken. Christiane, an innocent soul, hides her deformed face under a white mask while waiting for her new identity to be given to her by her father.
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