Feminist Horror Cinema

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: School of Media & Communication


This fellowship brings to light the work of ten women writers, producers, directors, editors and composers working on some of the most well-known horror films and franchises from the 1970s-2000s. I reveal the story of a unique period in genre filmmaking, charting the creative struggles of women amidst turbulent political and cultural changes in industry, society and academia. I utilise production studies of women's work on The Shining (1980), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) and Scream (1996), amongst others, and ask:

What major industrial, political and cultural shifts took place in horror filmmaking between the 1970s-2000s?

How did we move from individual and industrial rejection of feminist reform in the 1970s, to the fervently feminist horror filmmaking, criticism and fandom that emerged in the 2010s?

This project is feminist in its attempt to deepen our understanding of the contributions of women to horror film. However, the feminist intent runs deeper than this desire alone. The case studies are an opportunity to ask bigger questions of film studies:

To what extent are our methodological and theoretical models for studying women filmmakers, feminist film criticism and horror film still useful?

How might they be re-conceptualised in light of current political and social concerns?

What forms might the research take?

The primary aim of the fellowship, then, is to establish an original, critical- and practice-based research model for doing women's film history. I offer an intersectional re-reading of 1970s activist and radical theories of cinefeminism and horror film, and generate a new socially conscious theory of women's film practice. I then construct an iterative, reflexive and cyclical methodology for doing film research that moves across prose, audio and audiovisual mediums. Finally, I employ techniques of creative nonfiction to retool disciplinary understandings of academic form, creating engaging narrative nonfiction outputs with wide public appeal.

There are three major outputs. The first is an 80,000-word monograph, Feminist Horror Cinema. This will be launched in a live event on Shudder, a worldwide streaming service with over 1million subscribers. My book benefits researchers in film genre and history by revealing the unknown contributions of women to horror films, and by creating a transformative model for doing film history.

The second output is Horror Queens, a podcast series based on the first draft of my book. It will be launched through a teaser campaign on globally popular horror podcasts including Faculty of Horror. The podcast benefits horror fans who will learn about an unwritten period of horror cinema, as well as accessible ways to think about film from a feminist perspective.

The third output is an essay film, based on the second draft of my book. This will be published in a special issue of MAI: Feminism and Visual Culture. I will edit the special issue and mentor the academic contributors in filmmaking. The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival will launch the issue in an online, live showcase event. The contributors benefit from new technical skills. MAI and Final Girls benefit from academic expertise on film gender and genre.

I plan for these collaborative activities to create new research, and to shed new light on existing ideas. As such, I have built time into the fellowship to reflect upon and integrate these new findings into drafts of my book, creating an innovative and cyclical mode of research reflection and production.

In summary, the fellowship offers three distinct elements that establish me as a leader in my field. First, it enables me to produce discipline-leading research that interrogates our understanding of theory, method and form. Second, I will develop new technical skills in podcasting and filmmaking. Finally, I will undertake collaborative developmental activities with broadcasters, film festivals, filmmakers, academics and fans.


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Peirse A (2022) Towards a feminist historiography of horror cinema in Horror Studies

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Peirse A (2024) The language of rage in Teknokultura. Revista de Cultura Digital y Movimientos Sociales

Title Three Ways to Dine Well 
Description This essay film explores horror's relationship to eating, in over seventy horror films made by women, from the 1920s-2020s. 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2022 
Impact Peirse, A. (2022) Tres maneras de comer bien / Three ways of dine well. Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays/Revista de Ensayos Audiovisuales, 10, 2022(2). ISSN: 2659-4269 
URL https://tecmerin.uc3m.es/en/journal-10-1/