Film Review: Bethany

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Bethany wasn’t the usual jump-scare horror nor did it have any sort of boogie man so to speak. What I liked about Bethany is that true life trauma intermingled with a sense of dread. Claire (Stephanie Estes) is haunted by past childhood traumas that she endured at the hands of her cold, unfeeling mother (Shannon Doherty) who placed physical beauty above all. Young Claire is forced to compete in beauty pageants against her will and to obsess over her appearance, and somehow all this stress on physical perfection causes a terrible rift between mother and daughter.

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But after the passing of her estranged mother, Claire inherits her childhood home and decides to return to live there with her husband Aaron (Zack Ward). I’m still unsure why someone with such terrible PTSD linked to that particular house would want to return let alone start LIVING in said home, but the couple does just that. Unsurprisingly, Claire begins to be haunted by her past in more ways than one.

You see, as a child, she had an imaginary friend called Bethany that would speak to her from the wall. Was the friend real or had she always been a little crazy? These are the questions that surface throughout the course of this movie. There’s a creeping dread that follows the viewer and characters throughout the whole movie and I like it because it makes you question everything. You know that bad things are going to happen, but are those things merely imagined or are they really happening?

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Bethany is one trippy movie, taking you on this rollercoaster of black emotions. What is real? What is imagined? This is a slow burn horror where everything comes to a head when the climax is finally reached and the twist revealed. I was satisfied by the ending, but then again, I’ve always been a sucker for creepy dolls, childhood traumas, and flirting with schizophrenia. The film combines psychological suspense with the supernatural and the twisty reveal is one that many wouldn’t have seen coming.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the horror genre, then you will enjoy this movie as it has many things that horror junkies love such as: an old house, creepy dolls, and strange objects protruding from one’s flesh.

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Check it out, you’re in for a dark thrilling ride.

*Thank you to the director James Cullen Bressack for the free viewing of this movie for an honest review.

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Women In Horror: Top 5 Female Directed Horror Movies

The world of directing is still predominantly male, and so is the horror genre. But more and more women are trying to carve out their space in both directing and horror. Below are some of the best the world of horror has to offer when it comes to female directors. Many times women decide to tackle subjects that many men wouldn’t understand with the same amount of ethos. Women understand trauma, the fear of sexual assault, female friendships, and body horror more than men, and the movies I’ve selected all explore those themes.

RAW – directed by Julia Ducournau

Everyone in Justine’s family is a vet. And a vegetarian. At sixteen she’s a brilliant student starting out at veterinary school where she experiences a decadent, merciless and dangerously seductive world. Desperate to fit in, she strays from her family principles and eats RAW meat for the first time. Justine will soon face the terrible and unexpected consequences as her true self begins to emerge.

Honeymoon – directed by Leigh Janiak

Young newlyweds Paul (Harry Treadaway) and Bea (Rose Leslie) travel to remote lake country for their honeymoon, where the promise of private romance awaits them. Shortly after arriving, Paul finds Bea wandering and disoriented in the middle of the night. As she becomes more distant and her behavior increasingly peculiar, Paul begins to suspect something more sinister than sleepwalking took place in the woods. Treadaway (CONTROL) and Leslie (HBO’s GAME OF THRONES) give captivating leading performances as a couple that takes new love to disturbing depths. With romance slowing giving way to terror, writer/director Leigh Janiak puts her unique stamp on this intimate, chilling thriller.

Blue My Mind directed by Lisa Ivana Brühlmann

15-year-old Mia is facing an overwhelming transformation that calls her entire existence into question. Her body is changing radically, and despite desperate attempts to halt the process, she is soon forced to accept that nature is far more powerful than she.

M.F.A directed by Natalia Leite

An art student struggling with creativity is violently raped by a fellow classmate. After attempting the traditional routes to cope with her trauma, she impulsively confronts her attacker – a decision that has deadly repercussions. Her world is turned upside down as a chilling reality is uncovered: she is one of many silenced sexual assault survivors on campus. A vigilante is born- retribution is the inspiration she’s been waiting for.

Always Shine directed by Sophia Takal

Two friends, both actresses (Halt and Catch Fire’s Mackenzie Davis and Masters of Sex’s Caitlin FitzGerald), leave Los Angeles for Big Sur embarking on a weekend getaway to reconnect. Once alone, however, the two women’s suppressed jealousies and deep-seated resentments bubble to the surface, causing them to lose grasp not just of the true nature of their relationship, but also of their own identities.

What female-directed horror movies are your favourites?

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Throwback Thursday: Disturbing Behavior

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Confession: This wasn’t one of my favourite movies from my youth, however, it WAS a movie I saw once during my youth that I thought at the time was cool and did want to revisit it, so I did. Well, apparently my memory of this movie was completely rose-tinted as I disliked this movie very much on my second go around.

This was Katie Holmes first role playing the “bad girl” and Nick Stahl was an up and coming rising star (that sadly merely crashed into the pit of anonymity now). The basic plot of Disturbing Behavior is that two siblings relocate to a small idyllic small town with their parents after their older brother committed suicide. The first thing they notice is that all the students there are seemingly perfect, and soon even the so-called revels start to turn. Only backfire? The perfect students seem to become irrationally violent when triggered by sensations of sexual desire.

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I feel like the movie was trying to make some social commentary about how teenagers should be allowed to be themselves rather than be pressured by their parents and school administrators to be perfect as it could cause them to become violent (not sure if the director was trying to allude to the pressure of being a teenager as a reason why there were school shootings or teenage suicide).

However, the movie falls short cause of terrible editing, bad acting, and just overall bad script. Although it seems that the director wasn’t satisfied with the end result either, claiming that the movie got so transformed in post-production that it didn’t even feel like it was the same movie he had shot on set. So who knows, maybe this movie could’ve been better than it was. But for how it stands as a completed project, it’s definitely not that good at all, and not even one that has aged gracefully over time either. In other words, you’re better off checking out The Faculty instead. At least that one didn’t try to take itself so seriously.

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Throwback Thursday: Candyman

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There are some movies that stick with you far more than others, and throughout the years, Candyman has become one of the. It recently was added to Netflix, so since my fiance had never seen the film before, I thought it was the perfect occasion for me to rewatch it.

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Candyman has three very unique aspects to it that I love. First, it incorporates an urban legend (somewhat echoing Bloody Mary with the whole mirror curse), a ghost story (cause Candyman is basically a ghost), and a love story (the first one being Candyman with the rich white girl he impregnated and was killed for and secondly, the one he has with Helen, who looks seemingly similar to his first love). The film is based off of Clive Barker’s short story, The Forbidden, and although elements of it are very similar, the film has given the villain a far more richer back story than the short story ever did. Probably because the short story’s setting was England, and moving the setting to modern-day Chicago, allowed the racial tensions of the past and present be a theme within the film.

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Plus, out of all the horror villains, Candyman has a valid reason to be pissed off and seeking vengeance. He not only was separated from the woman he loved and his unborn child, but was mutilated (an angry mob cut off his right hand, and him being a painter meant they pretty much stole him of both his livelihood and talent) and killed him in the most atrocious way (he was covered in honey and died by being attacked by thousands of bees). So ya know, he has a really good reason to want to off pimple-raced teens who are dumb enough to call upon him.

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But another thing that sets Candyman a little bit above all other movies is the fact that Tony Todd delivers an impeccable performance. His villain isn’t only scary, but there’s an element of seductive danger to him too. We know that Helen joining him means it’ll be her death, but a part of us can also understand why she can’t refuse him. He is both menacing and alluring, and that makes for one complex character. As much as we all love Michael Meters, Jason Vorhees, and Freddy Krueger, there’s also no question that we’d haul ass if we ever encountered them and surely wouldn’t find those psychos sexy! But Candyman on the other hand, is almost a Gothic hero. He has a tragic backstory, we feel his pain, and in most cases want to believe that maybe we could make him fall in love again.

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Throughout the years, I’ve seen many horror films, but time after time this one has remained as one of my absolute favourites because Candyman isn’t just your ordinary slasher film. It’s a film that dares to question racial tensions, to push us into that grey area between love and hate, and ultimately giving us one of the very best and redemptive endings of all time.

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5 Horror Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2020

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CANDYMAN

A “spiritual sequel” to the 1992 horror film ‘Candyman’ that returns to the now-gentrified Chicago neighborhood where the legend began. It’s gonna be produced by Jordan Peele and Tony Todd is reprising the titular role of Candyman, so I have high hopes for this one.

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MORBIUS

Biochemist Michael Morbius tries to cure himself of a rare blood disease, but he inadvertently infects himself with a form of vampirism instead. Played by true-life Jared Leto (the man doesn’t age!).

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FRIDAY THE 13th

LeBron James of all people is actually going to be producing this remake. He claims to have always been a fan of the franchise, so I hope that he does a better job than the previous remake that was made a couple of years ago.

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FEAR STREET TRILOGY

A murder mystery shakes up the town of Shadyside, Ohio. Feature adaptation of R.L. Stine’s book series. As a huge fan of R.L. Stine and the Fear Street series, I am incredibly thrilled about this and can’t wait to see what they cook up since there are so many books in the series!

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SAW

A re-imagining of the franchise produced this time by Chris Rock. He says he’s a huge fan, again, I hope him being a fan means that he will do the franchise justice. But I really am looking forward to seeing Samuel L. Jackson in this project too.

What horror movies are you looking forward to? How do you feel about some of the remakes?

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Shriekfest 2019 – Let Me Hear You Scream!

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Red carpet at Shriekfest

Shriekfest is a bi-annual and bi-coastal horror film festival that takes place both in Los Angeles and Orlando. This was my second time going to Shriekfest and once again it didn’t disappoint! Denise Gossett is the founder of this festival and has been very influential in giving many horror shorts and movies a chance to be seen and discovered by a myriad of people. This year I got to chat a bit with Denise and she’s a very lovely woman and a very busy one since she not only runs Shriekfest but will also appear in a TV series about astronauts very soon.

 

Just like last year, I was able to attend the third day of the festival (Saturday). Luckily, I got right on time to the studios as the first short Finley aired. Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE killer dolls in any shape or form, so a killer doll that kinda resembles R.L. Stine’s Slappy? I was ALL OVER THAT. It was by far my favourite short. This year, I noticed that some of the shorts explored some true horrors like domestic violence in short films such as She Fell and Listen. Although, I’ll admit that I preferred She Fell’s feminist message where the abuser gets what he deserves (the new program is very unconventional and effective). The Clapper was a classic horror short about an invalid girl who has to deal with an unknown presence in her house whilst in the dark.

 

The second half of the shorts started off with a bang with The Thing About Beecher’s Gate. A deputy that has recently transferred to the town of Beecher’s Gate, is ordered by the town’s sheriff to spend a night alone in a barn with only a shotgun as a rite of passage. This short was very intriguing and suspenseful. By far, this was my favourite short from the second half of the fest. We Got a Monkey’s Paw was a bit campy but fun. The two actors Jacqueline Jandrell and Zack Ogle had perfect comedic delivery and made the most amusing duo. Naughty was both a fun and twisted film about a little girl who gives a robber a run for his money. Just like last year, we also got to check out a music video. This year it was Aesthetic Perfection’s Gods & Gold, which is a very goth-inspired video with lots of old school vibes with a touch of glam.

 

What differed between last year’s event and this year is that they had a couple of hours reserved for a Meet & Greet. This gave everyone a chance to network, chat, and get some food. Which made watching the second part of the festival a little easier with the break in between. I took that time to explore Raleigh Studios, as it’s very fascinating to be on an actual movie lot studio.

 

I ended up staying for three feature films.

First was the viewing of The Field. A long-empty farmstead holds secret worlds, accidentally unlocked by an amateur photographer and his wife. This movie wasn’t that scary and had more of a sci-fi bent than horror. Initially, I was very intrigued by the premise of Norse witchcraft in the beginning, however, it was never fully explained in the movie why they were doing those rituals. That was what made the film fall short for me.

The second was the viewing of Volition. A man afflicted with clairvoyance tries to change his fate when a series of events leads to a vision of his own imminent murder. I really enjoyed this movie and again, it didn’t quite fit the horror bill for me. It had more a thriller sci-fi feel to it with time leaps and bending time. But it was a very original film that Tony Dean Smith directed, and I can give him props for having one of the most unique films at the festival.

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The third was the viewing of Max Winslow and the House of Secrets. This was one of the few films that actually had a very popular actor, with Chad Michael Murray (from One Tree Hill series and most recently playing an enigmatic cult leader in Riverdale) in the role of eccentric genius billionaire Atticus Virtue. Five teenagers compete to win a mansion owned by Atticus Virtue. To win the teens must face-off against a supercomputer named HAVEN who controls the mansion. The film had Escape Room moments and would be better suited for tweens and teens as it has scary elements but it never gets too bad. None of the main characters face any serious consequences but each character grows within the course of the movie, so at least you get good character arcs. I’d recommend watching this as a family movie more than a classic horror movie.

 

Viewing the movies from 11a.m.-11p.m. was a very intense but fun experience. I appreciate Denise for giving me the opportunity to attend Shriekfest once again! And this time around I managed to snag a tee before they ran out my size (small) since ya know, now I feel like a veteran of the event and all. Here’s looking forward to next year’s 20th anniversary, I’m sure it’s gonna be one hell of a horror ride!

DSC_0045 modified.jpgPhotos by: David Hanger

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Throwback Thursday: Angel Heart

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I’ve decided to start a new series, Throwback Thursday. So one Thursday a month I’m going to share my experience of either rewatching, rereading, or relistening something that I adored back when I was a youngster (think between the ages of 6-18) and see if it stands the test of time. So for my first Throwback, I decided to rewatch the 1987 horror film, Angel Heart.

When I told a friend of mine that I saw this movie at six he was appalled (what can I say? My parents were horror fans who knew I was one and watching movies kept hyper me occupied, so there’s that).

So the premise of Angel Heart is that a private detective called Harry Angel, has a new case at hand, to find a man called Johnny Favourite. Except things aren’t quite that simple, and Johnny doesn’t want to be found. Let’s just say that, amongst the period detail and beautiful scenery, it all gets really, really nasty fast.

All I could remember about the movie in question was that it dealt with voodoo, Robert DeNiro was in it, (I also recalled another detail but can’t reveal it as it’s *spoilers*), and that this was one of those movies where Mickey Rourke was hot.

Upon viewing the movie I was like, HOLY SHIT this movie is truly very twisted and no wonder people are shocked I saw this at the tender age of six. This movie has one hell of a twist back in the day before twist endings were a thing, so it was very innovative in that way. The mystery was captivating and the gore factor was high, so if you’re into that, you’re gonna love it (and yeah I’m a creep and love that).

The movie has Angel (Mickey Rourke) traveling from Brooklyn to New Orleans in search of the ever elusive Johnny Favourite (that Robert DeNiro’s character wants to find because he’s got a score to settle with him), only that everyone that knew Johnny begins to die in horrible ways and Angel is made to look like the culprit of those murders when he is not. So will he be able to find Johnny before he gets framed for murder? And will the voodoo queen Epiphany ( Played by a pre-Lenny Kravitz & Jason Momoa, wide-eyed Lisa Bonet) help Angel in his endeavor to find Johnny or is she simply going to bring his downfall? The stakes are high and the mystery is very much intriguing.

I really enjoyed my this movie and think that six years old me had impeccable taste for being so young (and probably was a teeny bit twisted).

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5 Horror Movies I’m Looking Forward to in 2019

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It: Chapter 2 – 27 years later, the Loser’s Club have grown up and moved away, until a devastating phone call brings them back. The biggest question that I have for the sequel is, I hope they give the movie a better ending than the novel actually did.

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Pet Sematary – Another Stephen King novel adaptation, I truly loved the original and was iffy about them doing a remake, however, after viewing the trailer, I’m quite excited now. Louis Creed, his wife Rachel and their two children Gage and Ellie move to a rural home where they are welcomed and enlightened about the eerie ‘Pet Sematary’ located near their home. After the tragedy of their cat, Church, being killed by a truck, Louis resorts to burying it in the mysterious pet cemetery, which is definitely not as it seems, as it proves to the Creeds that sometimes, dead if better. I just need three things for this remake to work for me, Gage needs to be incredibly adorable as the original, Zelda has to be crazily terrifying as the original, and Stephen King needs to make an appearance in the film as he did in the original.

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The Curse of La Llorona – Ignoring the eerie warning of a troubled mother suspected of child endangerment, a social worker and her own small kids soon drawn into the frightening supernatural realm. Their only hope to survive La Llorona’s deadly wrath may be a disillusioned priest and the mysticism he practices to keep evil at bay, on the fringes where fear and faith collide. I’ve been looking forward to seeing this because the original legend of La Llorona is quite creepy and I’m curious to see how the director will pull this off.

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The Turning – A young governess is hired by a man who has become responsible for his young nephew and niece after the deaths of their parents. This is a modern take on Henry James’ creepy novella “The Turn of the Screw.” This movie stars It’s and Stranger Things young talent, Finn Wolfhard and is Floria Sigismondi’s second feature film (her first being The Runaways). If you think that name sounds familiar, it’s because in the early 90’s Floria directed the majority of Marilyn Manson’s music videos, so if her gothic, creepy videos were any indication of her style, I’m certain that this movie will be just as chilling and haunting.

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US – This is Jordan Peele’s second horror movie, and although the plot to this movie is yet unknown, simply being described as a “social horror-thriller,” on IMDb, I’m intrigued since I really enjoyed Peele’s Get Out. Besides, with Elisabeth Moss and Lupita Nyong’o in the cast, I know that the movie promises some top-notch performances.

What movies are you looking forward to seeing in 2019?

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Shriekfest 2018 Horror Film Festival

Shriekfest is a bi-annual horror film festival that takes place in both Los Angeles and Orlando. The event is organized by actress Denise Gossett (best known for appearing in Tom Hiddeleston’s movie I Saw The Light and Mel’s Gibson’s Get The Gringo). She founded Shriekfest 2001 and it’s been the 18th year for Los Angeles. It’s one of the most influential horror film festivals and definitely one with the best horror film screenings.

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Red Carpet at Shriekfest 2018 Photo taken by David Hanger – Dress by Dolls Kill

I was graciously given a Press Pass for the event by Denise and was able to attend the third day of the festival (it’s a four-day fest). I opted to go on Saturday because it was screening the most films that day and had several shorts listed that I was thrilled to check out.

The films were screened at the Raleigh Studios on Melrose Avenue, at the Chaplin Theatre. The inside of the theatre had that old Hollywood glamour to it with comfy velvet cushioned seats that made viewing a marathon of movies (we stayed nine hours with short fifteen interruptions between each session) fairly easy.

Out of the shorts I viewed, one of my absolute favourites was “Snaggletooth,” which was about an unconventional dentist visit. The film had a good mixture of humor and creepiness to it that I enjoyed. Another really excellent short was a British one entitled “The Moor,” that centered around a father and daughter who go the moor to celebrate May Day but find out that sometimes the pagan gods may take something from us that we’re not ready to give up. “A Doll Distorted,” explored mental illness and how obsessive love can lead to dire consequences. “Avulsion,” was another of my favourites as it followed a blue collar worker who visits an escort that is capable of fulfilling her clients unusual and twisted fetish desires.

I really enjoyed the music video for Medicine from Peter Bibby. It had a bunch of kid doctors performing an autopsy on Peter Bibby’s body who’s begging for pills, hallucinogens, or some other form of medication rather than being told to get some sun or some sleep.

The first feature film I saw was Ashes by director Barry Jay. Ashes was about a family who begins to be haunted by their dead aunt once her ashes arrive at their home. What I truly loved about this movie was that there was the perfect blend of humor and horror. Plus, the performances by the actors were truly top-notch, I particularly loved Elaine Partnow in the role of the sassy grandmother, Caroline, who livened the movie up anytime she was in a scene. The first half of the movie delivered more laughs (in a good comedic way), but the second half of the movie focused on the horror elements (I’ll never be able to look at an egg slicer in the same way again!). It was also my first time watching a movie whilst being seated next to the cast and crew that worked on the film, so that added a bit of a surreal feeling to the experience.

The second feature film I saw was Chimera by Maurice Haeems. This movie was less horror and far more sci-fi. The movie centered around a brilliant scientist who chooses to freeze his children alive whilst he tries to find a cure for the deadly genetic disease that seems to have befallen them. The movie was good and full of surprises and twists (some that I had anticipated and others I hadn’t). But the gut-wrenching end left one with the belief that maybe trying to uncover immortality is far more dangerous than death.

Overall, the film festival was a complete success and I loved the fact that food and snacks were provided on location for sale if you needed to grab something quick to eat in between your viewing sessions. I truly enjoyed watching all the movies I had the opportunity to see and would totally recommend this festival to horror film buffs, you won’t be disappointed!

Thanks again to the fabulous Denise who gave the Inkblotters the opportunity to be there! I had a blast!

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Entrace to Raleigh Studios

Photos taken by David Hanger

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6 Feminist Horror Movies

Horror movies aren’t always generous to women. Usually, women in horror movies are depicted as the victims, and if they aren’t such, they’re usually the final girls who survived (only barely) to a number of acts of violence. But there are some horror movies that turn the tables and have the women be in charge. These women aren’t weak. These women aren’t victims. These women are dangerous and make the men in the movies quake in their shoes.

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Dawn goes from cursed to strong in Teeth

Teeth (2007)

Dawn O’Keefe (Jess Weixler) looks like your typical teenager on the outside. She’s a spokesperson for a Christian abstinence group and is an all around good girl. But when one of the boy’s from her abstinence group tries to assault her, she soon finds out that she’s not like all the other girls. In fact, her vagina has teeth, the infamous “vagina dentata.” At first, Dawn sees her teethed vagina as a curse, but before the movie ends, she realizes that her curse is actually her strength and how no man will ever take advantage of her again.

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Sometimes being a teen girl can be a bloodbath as Ginger soon finds out.

Ginger Snaps (2000)

In Bailey Downs, a rash of dog killings have been occurring. Two teenage sisters, Brigitte (Emily Perkins) and Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle) are obsessed with death and take macabre photos depicting various deaths. On the night of Ginger’s first period, she is attacked by seems to be a rapid oversized dog. The creature wounds and bites Ginger, and her sister rescues her. In the days that follow, Ginger’s wounds heal quickly. But the fast healing wounds isn’t the only change that takes place in her. Soon she undergoes both physical and mental transformations. Ginger begins to act aggressively, as hair grows from her wounds, heavily menstruates, and eventually grows a tail. This film juxtaposes the act of becoming a woman with becoming a werewolf.

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Jennifer shows her rapists that they messed with the wrong girl.

I Spit On Your Grave (1978)

Despite the movie being controversial for depicting a 30-minute gang rape, but the fact that the protagonist Jennifer Hills (Camille Keaton) decides to execute revenge towards her rapists is what makes this movie, not your usual horror film. Jennifer kills her rapists in the most savage ways, allowing any rape victim to feel somewhat vindicated in seeing a victim rise above her abuse and take charge.

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The Girl shows no mercy to abusive men. 

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014)

A young girl (Sheila Vand) wearing a chador stalks the streets at night. She seduces men who were known to be abusive towards women and brutally kills them. This progressive Iranian movie directed by Ana Lily Amirpour gave the world a feminist vampire that was much needed in the horror genre.

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Eli isn’t your typical little girl. She can kick your ass or kill you. 

Let The Right One In (2008)

In this chilling snow infested film, Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is a young Scandinavian boy who is constantly bullied at school. But when he befriends Eli (Lina Leandersson) he begins to feel uplifted by this new friend. But Eli isn’t like all the other girls. She doesn’t suffer the cold (as she’s able to walk barefoot in the snow) and tells Oskar to stand up to his bullies and if he can’t do it, she will. Oskar soon finds out that Eli is actually quite strong because she’s a vampire. And when the bullies decide to attack Oskar once again, he soon finds out just how ruthless his friend and crush can really be.

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Asami looks disarming but she’s brutal to the men she encounters.

Audition (1999)

“Where are all the good girls?” Aoyama’s friend asks him. Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) is a widow who is planning on remarrying, but he doesn’t know how to meet young women. So Aoyama and his friend devise a plan where they decide to pretend that they’re auditioning young women for a movie when in reality it’s just a way for Aoyama to meet women in a safe environment. He is quickly enchanted by the delicate beauty of Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina). But Asami harbors a dark secret, a former abused child, she has grown up to take revenge on men by maiming and dismembering them through hideous forms of torture. This movie will make men think twice about lying to a woman.

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