Unfinished Business: The New Wave of Women's Horror Cinema

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Vena, Dan
Horror Studies , Film Studies , Feminist Film Studies , Feminist Studies , Gender and Sexuality , Horror Cinema , Feminist Cinema , Feminist Horror Studies
My doctoral dissertation, “Unfinished Business: The New Wave of Women’s Horror Cinema,” responds to early considerations in feminist horror studies via the recent surge of horror films directed by women filmmakers for a primarily female audience. Placing this new wave of horror cinema in dialogue with the canonical works of Linda Williams, Carol Clover, and Barbara Creed, I re-evaluate the assumption that horror forecloses the possibility of female spectatorship in favour of male audiences. I argue that a change in authorship from almost exclusively male directors to women artists produces a markedly different form of address previously underrepresented in American and Canadian horror cinemas. Now, for the first time in the genre’s history, women directors are developing a globally substantial body of work that explicitly centres the ‘feminine’ and uses the conventions of horror to bridge topics such as sexuality, menstruation, virginity, gender-based violence, trauma/PTSD, eating disorders, pregnancy, and motherhood all from a woman’s perspective and for a female audience. The result is a cinema that affirms women’s experiences of fear, paranoia, anxiety, and desire, and addresses the ways in which living within patriarchy constitutes its own horror. Given this unprecedented development, the primary aim of this dissertation is to document the ways in which this new body of women-authored/women-driven horror re-inscribes the genre’s primary mode of address as distinctly female/feminine and constructs a tenable subject position for the female spectator. I stake a claim in recording this phenomenon as a crucial cultural moment in the genre’s development and suggest more work needs to be done to account for this cinema’s representational and political offerings.
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