Cut-Throat Women Looks To Shed Light on The Scale of Female Contribution to the Horror Genre

Image of Mary Mason from the film American Mary

Earlier this month while on Twitter I discovered the site Cut-Throat Women (I wish I remember who shared it so I could thank them).  The site was launched at the end of June by Sonia Lupher, a Ph.D. candidate in Film and Media Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.  The site is an online database of women working in horror film production around the world that looks to highlight female directors, producers, and screenwriters that are contributing to the horror genre while also bringing attention to their work.  The site is made up of a database of names as well as submitted essays that provide “thoughtful and rigorous writing on the creative work of individual figures.”

Lupher initially got the idea while pursuing her Master’s degree at Columbia University sometime around 2012.  There, she worked with Dr. Jane Gaines on her Women Film Pioneers Project, a similar resource that documents women who worked in film production during the silent era.

“I’ve always been a horror fan, and I was especially drawn to horror films directed by women (especially after seeing American Mary!). I started taking down names then, but it wasn’t until a little over a year ago that I started attending film festivals with the idea to collect more names and try to learn as much as I could about women working in the genre,” explained Lupher in an email interview.  Lupher is currently working on her dissertation, which is partially on women in horror, which has allowed her to devote more time and energy to getting Cut-Throat Women up and running.

The database currently focuses on women who have worked in the horror genre within the last 20 years.  At the time of this writing, it houses the names of over 500 directors and launched with five essays highlighting the works of Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night), Lucile Hadzihalilovic (Innocence, Evolution), Mary Harron (American Psycho), Holy Fatma (Please Love Me Forever), and Cindy Sherman (Office Killer).  The database has been curated by Lupher using a very manual process involving “a ton of spreadsheets.”  “For the most part, I find the names through film festival programs—women-centered genre fests, of course, but also other genre and general festivals, and through digging online as much as I can, or asking filmmakers for the names of their friends,” says Lupher.  Lupher admits that the database is not exhaustive, even if it aims to be.  “If a woman has directed a horror film, she should be on the list, and if she isn’t, it’s either an oversight on my part or I’m not familiar with her work. Cut-Throat Women aims to document the historical moment of women in horror film production inclusively, not exclusively.”  Lupher has collected names of producers and screenwriters but feels there aren’t enough yet to include them in the database.

The writings featured on the site come from academics and critics who choose to contribute to the site.  While it launched with only five pieces, Lupher says the goal is to publish at least one new piece per month.  While she is at the mercy of her contributors Lupher does have pieces lined up for the coming months and will announce new pieces through the website’s blog.  Those interested in contributing to the site can reach out to Lupher via the site’s contact form for more information.

I asked Lupher to share with me her thoughts on what she hopes people gain from visiting the site and exploring its database, Lupher responded, “First, I really want people (filmmakers and otherwise) to realize the sheer number of women working in the genre. That number is growing in part, I think, because women see other women making films and realize they can do it too, and I would be thrilled if Cut-Throat Women plays any part in inspiring new filmmakers. Second, I want to encourage critical engagement with the work of female horror filmmakers. The criticism on women’s horror cinema is expanding, but I’m hoping that Cut-Throat Women will bridge a gap between academics, critics, filmmakers, and fans and open conversations between them that have been closed off, as I see it. All of these areas have a lot to offer one another. Finally, though not least of all, I really would like Cut-Throat Women to give more exposure to women in horror film production and provide a resource for filmmakers and crew members seeking creative collaboration. I’ve had a lot of suggestions from filmmakers about how to add to Cut-Throat Women in order to facilitate that, and within the next year I hope I’ll be able to implement some changes to foster more collaboration and help more women get hired.”

This is an incredible new online resource and one I am going to be keeping a close eye on over the coming months.  I’m always looking for new horror and I know female filmmakers are often underrepresented so this will definitely be a great way to discover new works that I may not be exposed to otherwise.  You can check out Cut-Throat Women at  While you’re there, beyond just poking around the database, I would highly recommend exploring some of the sites listed in the Resources section as I found a lot of other great female horror resources.

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