The Best Female-Directed Horror Movies You Probably Haven't Seen

(Welcome to The Best Movies You've Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we celebrate the 9th Annual Women in Horror month with a look at six horror movies you haven't seen that were directed by women!)

Every month is the right time to celebrate female filmmakers, but those of you who like labels and official designations will be pleased to know that February is Women in Horror Month, It's the ninth for those of you keeping track, and it's a good reminder that while there still aren't enough women making horror movies, there are plenty of great horror movies made by women. Near Dark, Pet Sematary, The Babadook, The Invitation, Prevenge, RavenousA Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, and more all come to mind as known and loved examples.

But as I'm sure you know by now – and as the title of the post suggests – I'm not here to talk about the movies everyone already knows and loves. I'm here to suggest some lesser known titles that you probably haven't seen despite being well worth your time.

Messiah of Evil (1973)

A young woman heads to a small coastal town in California in search of her father, but when she arrives, his house is empty, the townspeople are wackadoodle, and she finds only her father's writings warning her not to come visit. That's some bad father/daughter communication right there.

Crazy cult movies are fairly common place, but few are as creepy and creative as this one. Things just seem a bit off at first as characters act odd and discuss the coming of the "blood moon," but as the film progresses, their behavior shifts from quirky to violent and deadly. It's legitimately unsettling at times, with group assaults by vampires/zombies/weirdos that remind favorably of early David Cronenberg in their displays of cold terror. There's an apocalyptic feel to it at times, both in the cult's beliefs and in the film's third act, and it ends with a chilling effect.

Gloria Katz wrote and directed this gem alongside her husband (despite what the opening title credits say), and she went on to write films like American Graffiti, Howard the Duck, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. This is easily her strangest and most memorable creation though.

Buy Messiah of Evil on DVD from Amazon or watch via Amazon Prime.

Humanoids from the Deep (1980)

A small fishing community on the California coast begins experiencing terror when bipedal creatures exit the sea to satiate their desires. Sadly for the townspeople, those desires are murder and procreation. That's how you know the monsters are mutated from salmon.

This creature feature is straight out of the Roger Corman school of exploitation as evidenced by the riffing it does on past films as well as its gore and sexual violence. The monsters are the result of scientific experimentation by a new fish cannery that used growth hormones on salmon with disastrous results. The Rob Bottin-designed creature suits look good, the set-pieces range from bloody interactions to explosive action, and leads Doug McClure and Vic Morrow are solid as expected. It's a tasteless cautionary tale that has sloppy fun on its way to a terrifically old school and unhappy ending.

Barbara Peeters worked a variety of jobs with Corman's New World Pictures as an actor, costume designer, script supervisor, art director, writer, and director. She helmed her first film in 1970 and ended her directorial career with this one 10 years later. That end may be related to her irritation at discovering Corman added two rape scenes to the movie after she turned in her cut. They're brief, but Corman says he did instruct her beforehand that the creatures should "kill all the men and rape all the women." Good old Roger Corman.

Buy Humanoids from the Deep on Blu-ray from Amazon.

Spookies (1986)

A pervy old man desperate to resurrect his child bride traps seven bickering acquaintances in a big house with a single intention – to kill them. Of course, being a feature film and not a short he goes about it in the most convoluted way possible. Multiple threats descend upon the unwary visitors forcing them to fight for survival against increasingly odd odds.

Look, this movie's a mess of bad writing and rough acting, and the first 20 minutes or so meanders like it just doesn't care what you think of it, but if you give it a chance, I promise you will be entertained. Like the hottest new club in town, it's a film with everything. Possession, puppets, flatulent dirt monsters, face melting, reptile-like beasts, an ancient Asian spider demon lady, a guy who looks like a tail-less Nightcrawler from the X-Men, a scythe-wielding Death who explodes on impact like a car that's gone over a cliff in an '80s action movie, and more. More I say! The last hour is a delight-filled romp of practical effects, screaming, and confusion. It's amazing.

Director Genie Joseph got her start in Hollywood as a production assistant on 1980's The Exterminator, but within a year she was writing, directing, and editing additional scenes for the film Spittoon. Perhaps not coincidentally, that's the same route she took with Spookies. It was a mostly finished film called Twisted Souls before financial disputes led the producers to hand it over to Joseph and have her write, shoot, and edit in entirely new scenes. The result is magical, but sadly she's gone on to do very little since then.

Spookies is currently unavailable.

Blood & Donuts (1995)

When a stray golf ball shatters a window it also awakens the sleeping form within – a vampire named Boya who has been hibernating for a quarter of a century. His wandering lands him in a donut shop, where he befriends a cab driver and a counter girl. While he tries to survive on rat blood, the pair's circumstances lead him towards violence anyway.

This Canadian film is something of a genre bender that starts deceptively light and goofy before finding some darker beats along the way. Small moments of observational humor give way to sweetly romantic ones, but once the gangsters enter the picture (including David Cronenberg as a small-time mob boss), the blood and violence ramp up in entertaining and fresh fashion. The inclusion of a human woman who was once Boya's main squeeze complicates things in interesting ways, as does the cabbie's insistence on talking like Christopher Walken, and it builds to a strong conclusion. Be sure to stay for the post-credits scene too.

Holly Dale has only directed one narrative feature – this one – but she's also made a handful of documentaries and shorts. Her presence is most ubiquitous on television, where she's been directing steadily since the '90s. The Americans, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Castle, and more are among the dozens of shows to her name, and her work will next be seen on an upcoming episode of The X-Files.

Blood & Donuts is currently unavailable.

Soulmate (2013)

A recently-widowed young woman retreats to the country after a failed suicide attempt in the hopes of finding renewed purpose and interest in life, but she finds something wholly different instead. The small cottage she's rented is also home to noises at night, and on further investigation, she discovers the ghost of the previous owner in the attic above.

As ghost stories go, this one's as much of a drama as it is a horror film, but that's far from a negative. The film draws viewers into Audrey's grief and sadness, and Anna Walton's performance makes it impossible not to care about her well-being. She begins having conversations with the ghost, and the film teases threads of romance and danger alike as his ultimate motives (as well as those of a nosy neighbor) slowly reveal themselves. There are some jump scares, but the focus here is on atmosphere, tone, and the oppressive threat of loneliness.

Writer/director Axelle Carolyn started her career acting in films like Neil Marshall's Doomsday and Centurion before moving behind the camera in 2011 for a handful of shorts. Soulmate is her first (and still only) feature film, but she's since made another short and directed the "Grim Grinning Ghost" segment of 2015's horror/comedy anthology film, Tales of Halloween. Side note for dog lovers... that's her Basenji, Anubis, playing Anubis in the movie.

Rent Soulmate on Amazon Video or buy on DVD from Amazon.

Blood Punch (2014)

Milton is still four months away from getting out of mandatory rehab for cooking meth when he meets a newcomer named Skyler who's looking for someone to help her cook meth. Sex and the promise of a massive cash payout leads him to join in on an escape from rehab orchestrated by Skyler's psychotic boyfriend, but once they arrive at a remote cabin for some meth cooking fun, things take a turn for the weird.

This is another example of blending genres to great effect, as what starts as a dark comedy quickly reveals horror/sci-fi elements that build it into a fun and creative time. We get a brief tease early on as Milton awakens to find a video message from himself...where he chops off his own fingers. The Milton watching the tape has all his fingers, so we immediately know we're in for a trippy journey, and that's exactly what we get. Deathgasm's Milo Cawthorne does good work in the lead, convincing viewers of his character's curiosity and motivation, and Olivia Tennet is equally charismatic as the bad girl who just might choose the good guy.

Director Madellaine Paxson's filmography is overflowing with children's television shows with titles like LoliRock, Lalaloopsy Kitchen, and Kuu Kuu Harajuku, but she made her feature film debut with this terrifically entertaining and decidedly adult thriller. After years of writing cartoons and kiddie fare, she steps into this with confidence and skill, and hopefully she's readying a sophomore effort as you read this.

Buy Blood Punch on DVD from Amazon or rent via Amazon Video.