You can’t have a good meta horror movie without a key ingredient: a likeable character who is also a horror fan. The question is, how realistic are the horror fans in meta horror?
In most meta horror movies, the fans are male. They are antisocial or outsiders, stereotypical nerds that have off-putting personalities. Fans of any kind can be a little off-putting in their passions, but horror movie fans in movies tend to have a sort of creep factor to them, a desensitized view of the world that makes them seem one movie away from being a serial killer. Or at least enough that we suspect they might be the ones behind the murders in their story.
But what about female horror fans? Where are we in the meta world?
It’s not like female horror fans are completely non-existent in meta horror. In Scream 4, my absolute favourite character was Kirby, played by Hayden Panettiere. Kirby was a hardcore horror fan, from slashers to Argento. However, the disheartening thing about this was that this didn’t become a huge part of her character’s arc until the last half of the movie. She was considered a cool girl, but her love of horror movies wasn’t a part of her persona as a popular kid. In fact, she mocks the two other male horror fans in the movie as dorks and doesn’t participate in the conversations that they have about horror. In the film’s final acts, the film nerd is surprised and she is suddenly seen as attainable to him because of her love of the genre. I loved that Kirby was seen as a social person, and as a person that people could relate to, but I was disappointed that her love of horror was not put forward as a big part of this personality, and that it was something that she seemed to actively hide in her school life.
More recently, Alyson Hannigan has tackled the role of the female horror fan in You Might Be the Killer. What I love about her character is that she is her own person. She is not portrayed as goth or emo, and she is not wearing all black. She is of course obsessed with not only horror movies, but also the occult. She is a huge bookworm, which was something that I can relate to. But best of all was that her best friend was not a huge horror fan. Typically, the fans in meta horror tend to stick together, which adds to their reputation as loners. In this one, Chuck guides her friend Sam (Fran Kranz) through the perils of waking up in a campsite slasher flick. She also clearly has feelings for Sam, but it was subtly done, and not something that Sam picked up on even once. In her feelings for Sam, however, she never once pretends to be something that she’s not. Her horror fandom is a part of who she is, and she flies that flag tall and proud. To me, Chuck is a step in the right direction.
Fandoms have been typically seen as a boys club, but in horror, this truly isn’t the case. According to Movio, in 2016, horror audiences were 49% female. For me, this has proven true in the social media world. Horror communities are some of the friendliest that I have encountered, and very embracing of horror from many different perspectives. This realization that horror is not the boys club that it was believed to be is also helping to drive the recent push for more female voices in horror films. As studios are beginning to realize that there is an audience for female-driven storylines, we are seeing a larger push for films from The Babadook to The VVitch, all the way to one of my most anticipated for next year, Happy Death Day 2U.
In general, fans as represented in film are often seen as the other. They are the geeks, nerds, and outsiders. Chances are, as a horror fan you’ve had to explain your taste in books or movies to someone at some point. As a female horror fan, I’ve found that this phenomenon is amplified. We are often asked to explain why we like it because we’re girls, and girls don’t like things that are bloody or messy or violent. All we want is a pretty dress and a fainting couch, right? It’s tricky because your gender can end up dominating the conversation about what you love, when all you want to talk about is how brilliant you think Leigh Whannell is, or how Curse of Chucky is arguably the best in the series.
Hopefully, the trend will lean toward continuing to represent females in fandoms in meta horror. Until then, let’s keep the conversation going! Don’t let people make you feel weird for being a female horror fan. You have kindred spirits out there, trust me.