GSWS Funds Graduate Research on “Cut-Throat Women” Horror Filmmakers | Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
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GSWS Funds Graduate Research on “Cut-Throat Women” Horror Filmmakers

by Sonia Lupher, PhD student in Film and Media Studies and English

The GSWS student research grant has generously funded the beginnings of a Digital Humanities project I am undertaking in conjunction with my doctoral dissertation in Film and Media Studies and English. My dissertation, which considers the contemporary wave of women horror filmmakers through the lens of the 1970s women’s cinema movement, claims that horror tropes have long been present in films by women and that, in turn, contemporary women’s horror cinema utilizes and revises thematic imagery established by a tradition of female-forward alternative cinema through a mainstream, dominant genre. The digital project, titled “Cut-Throat Women: A Database of Women Who Make Horror,” therefore serves as a companion piece to my dissertation by giving visibility to the staggering number of women who have contributed to the horror genre and, in turn, to provide a resource for scholars, fans, and filmmakers. The number of women contributing to the horror genre is ever-growing, yet the distribution of their films remains infrequent and largely limited to women-oriented genre festivals. Yet the recent success of films such as The Babadook (2014, dir. Jennifer Kent) and Get Out (2017, dir. Jordan Peele) demonstrates overwhelming potential for social critique through minority representation within a traditionally formulaic, male-dominated, and oft-dismissed genre. In short, it is becoming evident that fear is a vital territory for politically-driven cinematic art. Cut-Throat Women therefore joins an emerging cultural field that seeks to bring attention to minor and infrequently-screened films from international directors whose collective work further illuminates the genre’s growing importance.

Inspired in part by Jane Gaines and Monica Dall’Asta’s Women Film Pioneers Project, which seeks to unearth women’s contribution to film production during the silent era, Cut-Throat Women is similarly collaborative. I have solicited pieces on individual directors from scholars and critics with expertise in the horror genre. The website is scheduled to launch in late June at with pieces on five directors including Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, 2014, Iran), Mary Harron (American Psycho, 2000, Canada), and Lucile Hadzihalilovic (Evolution, 2015, France). Contributors to the first round of pieces include Dr. Lindsey Decker (Boston University), Alison Lang (Rue Morgue Magazine), and Dahlia Schweitzer, author of Going Viral: Zombies, Viruses, and the End of the World. For the time being, Cut-Throat Women gives priority to directors working from 2000 to the present, of which I have compiled nearly five hundred names. In the future, I aim to expand it to producers, screenwriters, cinematographers, and other roles, and to excavate the history of women in horror film production in previous decades.

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