Sisters and shivers – women who make horror movies


Without thinking for too long, write down your top five horror movies. If that’s too difficult, list your top five movies. Or just do it in your head, if you prefer.

Now look back over your list. How many of them were directed by men? Chances are, your answer will be ‘all of them’. Your horror film list might include The Shining, Hallowe’en, Nightmare on Elm Street, Suspiria, Silence of the Lambs, Psycho, Alien, The Thing, The Exorcist… (or, if you’re like me, it might have included some older classics like Bride of Frankenstein, I Walked with a Zombie or Night of the Hunter). Every single one of them directed by a man.

Chances are your list didn’t include Near Dark, Chained, Pet Sematary, Ravenous or American Psycho, all horror films directed by women.

Why is this?

At this point in the discussion, if you’re a man, you might shrug your shoulders and say, “I guess women don’t make horror films.” If I pushed you as to why, you might say, “well, women don’t like horror. They prefer romantic comedies.” And, if you’re a certain kind of man, you’d probably say the last sentence with a bit of a snigger (a lot of women would probably give the same answer, only without the snigger).

If you answered this way, you’d be wrong on several counts. Click ‘Continue reading’ to find out why.

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Why aren’t there more horror films directed by women?

Why aren’t more horror films directed by women? It’s a simple question, but perhaps the answer isn’t so simple.

Our project, The Ditchis a horror film written and directed by a woman with an all-female cast. It surprises me that this is something even worth noting, but apparently it is. So I decided to sit down with my friend and collaborator Sheena Holliday, director of the film, to discuss the issue.

[I’ve broken up the discussion into segments so that people with limited time can pick out the bits they’re most interested in, but you can watch the whole thing at one sitting here (runtime 9m 43s) if you prefer.]

We talked first about Sheena’s reaction to her experiences at FrightFest 2012, in which the issue of sexual violence against women seemed to be a constant theme running through the selected films. It was this experience that prompted Sheena’s interest in gender representation in the genre, and which has led her to research the issue of women’s role in horror:

(It should be noted that no one is accusing FrightFest of advocating or promoting sexual violence – at least, not intentionally.)

I went on to ask Sheena if there were any films in that festival which she did like, and she cited one example of a film which dealt with sexual violence in a more sophisticated way – and just happens to have been directed by a woman:

So why aren’t more women making horror films? Sheena thinks it’s inexplicable, given that more women than men attend horror films. She speculated on what it is women have to do to be more evenly represented among directors (since this is an issue which cuts across all genres, not just horror):

There’s an assumption, when it comes to horror, that women prefer to make films which concentrate more on psychological drama with more focus on character, as opposed to plot. Sheena agreed with this to an extent, but pointed out that horror has to be a blend of character drama with more visceral content:

Finally, we discussed the attitude which women have to face when they raise gender issues, both in this and in other areas (we filmed this discussion before the revelations of the threats made against Caroline Criado-Perez, but that disturbing story only makes our conversation more relevant):

Sheena will soon have a post up on her blog about this subject (which I’ll link to), and tomorrow I’ll be posting my own thoughts; not so much from my perspective as a man, but more as an attempt to summarise the situation and suggest advantages to having more women contributing to the horror genre.

Hunting us down

The Hunters in the Snow

Brueghel’s Hunters in the Snow

Most of you will be familiar with this blog – after all, you’re reading it now, right? You’ll probably also be familiar with our website and our live Indiegogo page, where we’re raising the money to get The Ditch completed. But there are lots of other places you can see us, read about us, follow us, talk to us, stalk us and generally keep up to date with the production and the people behind it. We’ve listed these places below, so feel free to follow us on any of them. You won’t be seeing the same stuff over and over again, as every one of these sites is tailored to a different aspect of the project. The only way to see it all is to follow it all!

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Guess the story – from just four pictures!

Those who have been following our crowdfunding campaign will be aware that we’ve just received pieces of concept art from 2012 Olympics artist Adam James*, which are available as part of the package offered to donors who pledge £100 or more. The four full-colour pictures depict key moments of action from the film, and are a great deal more attractive than the sketchy storyboards I cobbled together with a pencil and a few index cards (but they were good enough for the shoot, so hey…).

Now, here’s a bit of fun. Can you work out the story of The Ditch from these four storyboards alone? The four scenes are presented in the order in which they appear in the film, and you’ll already be familiar with the first two if you’ve watched our trailers or read my posts on the story (here and here). But can you work out where things go from there? Also, can you guess the twist at the end – which isn’t shown in these pictures? Leave us a comment, either here or on our Indiegogo comments page! If anyone gets particularly close to the actual story, we’ll offer a prize (on condition you don’t broadcast the twist!).

The four pictures appear below the fold.

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Japanese ghosts, men in masks, and sisters doing it for themselves

Recently, Sheena and I were asked which films influenced The Ditch, and it got us thinking. Although we could answer the question easily enough (we cited The Ring and Witchfinder General, as we usually do when we want to pitch the film), we couldn’t help thinking there were many, many films we could pick as influences on this production, and on us as filmmakers generally. So we had a chat about it together and the more we talked, the more films we came up with. Here are just a few of them; read down the list, and find your favourite!

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The campaign to rescue Donna has begun!

Indiegogo page for The Ditch

The campaign to rescue Donna is already underway – within 24 hours of opening, we have already exceeded 10% of our target! This is an amazing start and we plan to maintain the momentum!

If you want to find out what this is all about, and especially if you want to get involved…

visit this page

… you’ll be able to read all about the production, why we’re raising the last funds we need to get the film properly finished, and what rewards you can choose from when you contribute.

The page will be regularly updated with more information about the production, feedback from the team and constant new material – videos, photos, artwork. It’ll be like a blog all on its own!

Please visit our page, look at what rewards you can have, and use the ‘share’ button to Like it, share it on Facebook, Twitter or Google+, embed it onto a website of your own, or email it to a friend.

Donna’s future is in your hands. She’s got into a very dangerous situation, and only YOU can help to get her out of it.

Horror in the woods – the story continues…

Nina screams

It’s Saturday morning. On Monday morning, the campaign to rescue Donna begins!

Yesterday morning I posted the first part of the story of The Ditch. What you read yesterday, and what you’re about to read below, is all the stuff we’ve filmed so far (apart from a few pick-ups).  Donna has knocked down a mysterious pedestrian in the middle of an isolated road in the forest, and now she has to decide what to do next… Continue reading