Horror films, too often, portray women as weak, helpless victims. Every now and again, you will see a female hero, some woman who survives all the horrible shit that has happened to her over the course of the film and manages to escape. Sometimes she even displays some kind of raw power and kills her tormentor. But it isn’t often that a woman goes on the offensive. These two movies, both what I would classify as feminist horror tales, do a really great job of showing the risks men run in putting women in these positions of vulnerability. Women are not weak.
Please see Exhibit A:
Vagina dentata. Take a second and let that soak in. Teeth tells the story of a girl born with an impressive set of chompers in her lady bits. Throughout the film, she interacts with a number of men, most of whom subject her to the same nonsense that most women in horror movies typically face. The key difference here is that her body simply will not have it. The implications are amazing and redemptive. What we end up with is a cautionary tale for men everywhere, one that demands something simple and fueled by common sense: respect women. Otherwise you’re going to lose your dick. The applications of this movie’s themes to everyday life are simultaneously obvious and complex.
The Woman, in a more grisly and graphic way, brings the same ideas to the forefront. A domineering husband and father captures a feral woman when he’s out deer hunting. He brings her home and chains her up, telling the family that they’re going to civilize her. Really, though, he teaches his son how to treat women and he shows his wife and daughter exactly how much regard he has for their sex. I love this movie because it drives home the idea, albeit in an extreme way, that our behavior is our legacy. Our children are watching. If you hit your spouse, they see it. If you treat a woman like a slave, they see it. At the same time, it also shows these behaviors have their own cost.
Tonight, women will feel strong. Men will be humbled. And everyone will be a little queasy.