Arts & Media

An Ode to Feminist B Horror Movies

By Zizzy Murphy

There’s debate to be had on what exactly a modern B-movie entails, but the best way to explain it in brief is that good B-movies seek the same entertainment value as Jay Versace vines, where the lack of budget is not only redeemed but valorized by the matching commitment to the narrative throughline, no matter how niche or absurd.

Instead of placing random items on one’s head to signify different characters as Versace commonly does, B-movies deal with having little to no funds by taking awful special effects, clichey scripts, and stale acting as stylistic choices. The freedom of the B-movie genre allows for overblown stories that would have to be cut down to size to chase larger budgets elsewhere in the industry to become fully-fleshed creatures – as long as the creator is willing to take the process a bit less seriously.

Horror and B-movies have gone hand-in-hand for decades, Sharknado being the most recent example of the marriage’s potential for success. Feminism finds refuge within this microgenre for the same freedom that draws creators to it – the overblown imperfection and outright absurdity creates the perfect setting to explore the accepted absurdities inherent in gender, compulsory heterosexuality, patriarchy, and other oppressive structures. Feminist horror allows for what’s scary – one’s feelings about their body, their urges, and what the world is asking of them – to also be by turns hilarious and powerful.

For those who are unfamiliar with this intersection, allow me to present a few of my favorites:

Ginger Snaps (2000)

Taking advantage of the metamorphic elements of lycanthropy, Ginger Snaps marries the seductive and the abhorrent as Brigitte (Emily Perkins) watches her sister Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) grotesquely transforms after a mysterious animal attack on the eve of her first period. Isabelle is now a household name with regard to horror (see also: American Mary and seasons 2-3 of Hannibal), this being the film that brought her to the genre in a major way.

Teeth (2007)

An anti-choice teen simultaneously discovers her sex drive and the fact that she has a fully-formed set of teeth in her vagina. It’s about as vile as you would expect it to be, and probably a little more thanks to some truly awful men, but absolutely worth it for Dawn’s (Jess Weixler) empowering and unusual self-awakening. Heavy warnings for depictions of sexual assault, though all of them end with the attacker losing at least one appendage.

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

You could argue that Jennifer’s Body is too high budget for a B-movie. You would be wrong, largely owing to Diablo Cody’s choice dialogue (“Do you buy all your murder weapons at Home Depot? God, you’re butch.”) and Karyn Kusama’s direction. A botched virgin sacrifice leaves high school hottie Jennifer (Megan Fox) possessed by a man-eating demon, and it’s down to her nerdy bff Needy (Amanda Seyfried) to stop her from eating half the student body and becoming even more of a bitch. Though not nearly as successful as Diablo Cody’s better-known Juno, Jennifer hits all the same marks in terms of humor and explores the complexity of female-female friendships without casting blame on the women themselves.

All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

A true mess of a film that gleefully pits a homoerotic zombie cheer squad against the entitled football players who caused their untimely death. With no potential male audience in sight, it seems that the film was freed of the need for its same-sex scenes to titillate anyone aside from its core audience of gay and bi women. I have never seen a more tender depiction of love and sex between two women, which is somehow only amplified by the pulp of the narrative surrounding it. Holding men accountable should always be this vindicating.

Photo Credits to Little White Lies