Bow to horror’s scream queens

How fan support and recognition of actresses can push filmmaking further

Toni Collette in Hereditary.
Credit: 
Screenshot from the movie Hereditary

Horror fans are flocking to internet magazine Fangoria to cast their votes in support of snubbed women in film.

After the Academy Awards nominations were released on Jan. 22, many horror fans weren’t surprised to see their favourites were overlooked yet again.

Year after year, horror films bring massive box office success but fail to win some of the most coveted awards in the film industry—largely due to poor representation of women behind and in front of the camera.

In Canadian filmmaking, there’s been progress: Funding agency Telefilm recently reported that 44 percent of its films have a female director, which impacts the quality of female representation on-screen.

In a similar effort to rectify this disparity, horror and cult film magazine Fangoria has taken votes to give out its own award: The Chainsaw Award.

A tradition started in 1992, the magazine has been recognizing the talented people working on horror films, and, since 2015, horror TV shows.

This year, horror films are getting more attention than usual, and it’s largely thanks to the women who appear in them as some of the most terrifying characters of 2018.

Toni Collette, Jamie Lee Curtis, Tilda Swinton, and Andrea Riseborough are just some of the actresses who’ve been nominated by Fangoria for their depictions of strong, relentless women.

In recent years, the trope of the scream queen—a helpless, fragile woman whose only job is to look pretty and fail to escape her murderer’s clutches—has been replaced by more complex and developed horror characters.

After decades of horror films giving us unrealistic, unrelatable female characters that hardly resemble real people, the horror genre is evolving to make amends—and we see that through these women’s performances.

Collette’s performance in Hereditary shows her grieving for her dead mother and daughter. It’s an emotive performance, and at times, it’s hard to look at Collette’s face as she sobs over her losses.

She’s constantly put down by her husband—who thinks her grieving methods are inappropriate—but continues in her own way despite his disapproval.

But these improvements haven’t seemed to change the way the horror genre is viewed in comparison to other more respected genres.  

Horror is still perceived as shallow, easy to grasp entertainment, relying on jump scares and gory murders for effect—this perception hinders horror films’ chances of ever earning a shiny trophy. 

Despite improvements made in its quality of characters, critics and viewers too often don’t give enough credit to the genre.

Fans stepping up to recognize the failures of the industry are an important part of its growth. While Fangoria is a smaller platform than the looming Oscars, it’s giving credit where credit is due.

Thankfully, it looks like Hollywood is done churning out the tired old stories of teenagers stranded in the middle of the woods, falling prey to a masked killer of folklore or legend.

Horror movies now rely on audiences sympathizing with their characters to ensure a more terrifying viewing experience.

It’s all thanks to people like the creators of Fangoria—as well as all those people voting and expressing interest in more realistic women on screen—that changes to the landscape of horror have been made possible.

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