Sunday's New York Times took a look at the relationship between women and horror films, with Jennifer's Body about to hit theaters.

Jennifer's Body is written by a woman (Diablo Cody), directed by a woman (Karyn Kusama, of Girlfight fame) and stars a woman: Megan Fox.

But women are often the victims in horror flicks: As Michelle Orange writes for the Times:

Long before the first big-screen vivisection of a female breast, the novelist H. P. Lovecraft wrote that horror was "supposed to be against the world, against life, against civilization." But the delight that the genre's filmmakers, especially those behind the Saw franchise and its torture porn kin, take in depicting a steady stream of starlets being strung up, nailed down or splayed open, makes it clear that modern horror is against some more than others.

And the fact is: Research shows that women love horror movies. Debbie Liebling, the former president for production at Fox Atomic, a studio for low-budget, teen-oriented genre films like Turistas, doesn't get it: "I'm not sure what the attraction is, psychologically, for females," she says. "I would love to know why girls are going to see Saw, because I have no idea." Diablo Cody has an answer: "Some of us just like that stuff," she explains. "We like suspense, we like to be scared, we like to have visceral reaction in the theater. Maybe I'm starved for adrenaline, but for me watching a horror movie is very pleasurable. So making one was kind of a dream."


As a woman who digs a good horror flick, I'll agree it's about the thrill. You go for the same reason you ride a roller coaster: It's a rush, to jump in your seat, to be scared, to feel your heart pound. And if the flicks don't exploit women? Even better. Orange points out that Cody and Kusama attempt to keep everyone happy:

Jennifer's Body was designed with both feminists and 15-year-old boys in mind, a seemingly eccentric blueprint that, as Ms. Kusama points out, is in line with the best movies of the slasher tradition. "It may be one of the best ways for a young male audience to experience a female story without feeling like they have been limited by a female perspective," she said. […] Between Needy's cautious yearning and Jennifer's pure, trampling id, the film presents a portrait of female identity in flux.

It was an effort that often bedeviled Ms. Cody and Ms. Kusama, who tried to balance brute violence and lesbian kisses with the film's more substantial metaphors. "The tricky thing is if you're going to subvert those tropes, they have to be there," said Ms. Cody, whose script is a self-described "crazy, chaotic homage" to the horror films of her youth. "We were constantly bobbing and weaving. Karyn and I talk about the film as a kind of Trojan horse. We wanted to package our beliefs in a way that's appealing to a mainstream audience."

Women are a big part of the fan base, so it makes sense to make movies with strong female characters. Instead of screaming chicks a la Janet Leigh in Psycho: we need more of the "final girl," the one who makes it, or uses her strength and wits to survive. (Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween?)


As Diablo Cody expains about her love of horror: "When I watched movies like The Goonies and E.T., it was boys having adventures. When I watched Nightmare on Elm Street, it was Nancy beating" up Freddy. "It was that simple."

Taking Back The Knife: Girls Gone Gory [NY Times]