For the most part, Anvita Dutt's Bulbbul plays out like a noirish fairytale. Men in the Bengal Presidency go missing, there's talk of a bloodthirsty chudail nabbing them. Fear and suspicion mount. But by the end, it's the chudail you empathize with. By revealing these men to be predators and the 'chudail' to be a protector, Dutt plays with notions of how women with agency are often reviled rather than respected. Bulbbul becomes an unabashedly feminist horror movie. If you enjoyed it, here's 5 more we recommend:
Ari Aster's Midsommar follows the bereaved Dani (Florence Pugh), navigating a toxic relationship with her uncaring, unsympathetic boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor). It's also a great representation of female rage. Early on, Christian gaslights Dani, then stonewalls her requests for an apology. She internalizes the need to keep her feelings to herself for the rest of the film. It's only towards the end that she allows herself to cry freely, and as she screams out in frustration, the women of the Swedish commune they're visiting wail back in solidarity. They may not know why she's hurting, but they understand. They see her as Christian never did. In this universal expression of female pain and friendship, Dani finds the family she's been looking for all along.
Based on traditional folk tales from Assam, Aamis director Bhaskar Hazarika's debut feature is a frightening anthology film with a feminist twist. Four loosely connected stories in a doomed village—a young woman is ostracised for giving birth to a fruit, a matriarch marries off her daughter to a python, and so on—what Kothanodi lacks in production value, it makes up for it with powerful storytelling.
Flirty socialite Jen (Matilda Lutz) sets off on a weekend getaway with the man she's seeing, only for one of his friends to brutally rape her, another to watch without intervening, and the trio to push her off a cliff, leaving her for dead. Director Coralie Fargeat shoots the early portions of the film and its sun-drenched protagonist in a distinctly male-gazey way, with tight close-ups and lingering shots. That quickly changes. Jen reawakens and proceeds to savagely hunt down the men who wronged her. The film's climax is an inversion of every use of the vulnerable, easily disposable woman trope seen in slasher films.
The teenage Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) has little-to-no autonomy for most of Robert Eggers' The Witch. She's consigned to a drab, dull life on the outskirts of town after her father's actions ostracize the Puritanical family, blamed when her younger brother is kidnapped, blamed when her other brother ogles her chest, blamed for a missing family heirloom her father stole. As the family's misfortunes increase, she's suspected of, and mistreated for, being a witch. There's a gleeful irony in the fact that the very first choice she gets to make of her own free will, towards the end of the film, is to become the one thing her family fears the most. Thomasin is a Final Girl who not only survives, but lives out the rest of her life, as Satan puts it, deliciously.
A woman in chador roams the bleak streets of Bad City, an industrial ghost town in Iran. Called simply The Girl, and described by the director as "a serial killer, a romantic, a historian, a drug addict", Ana Lily Amirpour's impossibly cool and stylish Persian-language Vampire-Western turns conventions of the two male-centric genres on their head. Shot in spare digital black and white and featuring a score as genre-jumping as the film: from Ennio Morricone-inspired riffs to Iranian rock, and techno.
By Gayle Sequeira and Sankhayan Ghosh