On January 24, 2020, director Floria Sigismondi (The Runaways, The Handmaid’s Tale, every good music video) unleashes The Turning, a handsome-looking horror film starring Mackenzie Davis (Black Mirror, “San Junipero”), Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things), and Brooklynn Prince (The Florida Project), from executive producer Steven friggin’ Spielberg. Based on initial footage, the film, adapted from Henry James’ influential 1898 short story “The Turn of the Screw,” boasts eerie atmosphere, elevated performances, and uncommonly keen psychological scrutiny. It also represents an essential form of representation in horror filmmaking. As progressive as genre cinema has often sneakily been, both in the analyses of their texts and their opportunities for marginalized groups behind and in front of the camera, there is still a startling lack of female directors in horror filmmaking — particularly for studio-funded horror films like DreamWorks/Universal’s The Turning. As such, Sigismondi’s work is worth celebrating.
To help celebrate — and to keep on inspiring female horror filmmakers — we’ve accrued a list of 15 of the best horror films directed by women. These films are terrifying, unique, often savage, and often incendiary — essential entries into the genre canon. We’ve absolutely missed many essentials, but we hope this serves as a helpful tip of the iceberg when it comes to female genre directors. Here’s to 15 of the best horror movies directed by women — and here’s to more opportunities for women behind the camera to come.