Girls, guts and gore
Francesca Sylph, Screen Editor, discusses Titane and the future of women in horror.
BACK in 2016, French director Julia Ducournau shocked the world when she released Raw, a cannibal coming-of-age film (my favourite underrated horror sub-genre) which caused two people to pass out during the Midnight Madness screening at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) due to its graphic body horror and gruesome depictions of cannibalism. Five years later and Ducournau may have accidentally created a tradition. Her latest film, Titane, reportedly also caused at least one person to faint during its Midnight Madness screening at TIFF. Titane also went home with the Palme d’Or at Cannes this summer, making Ducournau the second female director in history to win the festival’s most prestigious award.
Trying to explain the premise of Titane honestly feels like a fever-induced car crash (no pun intended) but here goes nothing: newcomer Agathe Rousselle plays Alexia, a young woman with a titanium plate fitted in her head and a disturbing obsession with cars. On the run from the police, Alexia decides to disguise herself as a boy who has been missing for 10 years and is ‘reunited’ with the boy’s father. There’s more I could say but, honestly, you probably wouldn’t believe me and I think it’s best to go in knowing very little (and be traumatised a lot).
Female filmmakers working in the horror genre have often been overshadowed by their male counterparts
Horror, and body horror in particular, is a very male-dominated genre, with Ducournau frequently being compared to the ‘king’ of body horror David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome, Crash) as opposed to an auteur in her own right. Female filmmakers working in the horror genre have often been overshadowed by their male counterparts; how many people know John Carpenter compared to Debra Hill, his producing partner and frequent co-writer (Halloween, The Fog, Escape from New York)? As Anna Bogutskaya, co-founder of The Final Girls collective, explains: “Horror has always been queer, and horror has always had women in it, it’s just not how it’s been positioned or marketed.” Female filmmakers in horror are increasingly getting the recognition they deserve, from Amy Holden Jones (The Slumber Party Massacre) to Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body) and Jennifer Kent (The Babadook). This year alone, we not only have Titane to look forward to, but also Nia DaCosta’s Candyman sequel and Prano Bailey-Bond’s Sundance smash Censor. The gender balance in horror seems to be shifting and the future is undeniably female.