Horror Films...and the Women that Love Them!

By Robert Marich
   Hollywood has learned that women are a bigger audience for some horror films than men, which is impacting selection of projects and marketing, according to an Entertainment Weekly story.
   “Name any recent horror hit and odds are that female moviegoers bought more tickets than men,” says the EW article written by Christine Spines. “And we’re not just talking about psychological spookfests like 2002’s The Ring (60 percent female), 2004’s The Grudge (65 percent female) and 2005’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose (51 percent female). We’re also talking about all the slice-and-dice remakes and sequels that Hollywood churns out.”
   The article makes a counter-intuitive assertion because males -- with their reputation as the physically-aggressive gender -- have always been credited as horror's main audience. While the article's case that women are a sizeable fan base is well argued, I’m not completely convinced and wonder if there is a grey area in how one defines horror. Do women really embrace violent bloodfests? Or is their interest only in movies presenting nuanced suspense...minus splattering guts?
   One reader comment on the EW website nails this point in a related story, saying, “There are several sub-genres of horror, and A-List actors and mainly actresses will only work in the ‘safe’ sub-genre of haunting/supernatural/ghost story type movies and psychological thrillers. [These] are easily the least-offensive sub-genre of horror for the general public, as well they tend to be PG-13 and lite on the gore (and as a result bore me to no end - I laughed during most of The Ring).”
   Still, the article is persuasive that women are a surprisingly big fan base, although it can be debated how big. Females are factor because these are “date films” that bring a male-and-female couple that want to squeeze each other in the darkened theater at every scare. Also, horror often has a “stealth empowerment message, thanks to some canny ingénue who claws her way out of danger,” notes the article.
   The EW article adds, “The trend has not been lost on movie studios, which have responded by cranking out a steady supply of scary movies with female protagonists. The latest is Orphan, which stars Vera Farmiga (The Departed) as a grieving mom forced to defend her family from her newly adopted child.”
   “The next few months, we’ll see a Halloween sequel in which Scout Taylor-Compton faces off against the masked murderer Michael Myers; Zombieland, which finds Abigail Breslin and Emma Stone fending off the undead; Antichrist, in which Charlotte Gainsbourg battles her own demons; and, of course, Jennifer's Body.”
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