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A Salt Lake City horror fan recommends these spooky movies about female characters fighting back

This Halloween, check out Tribune reporter Kolbie Peterson’s 12 nightmare-worthy, not-for-kids picks.

(Rafy | A24 via AP) Anya Taylor-Joy plays Thomasin in a scene from the film "The Witch."

Not everyone understands my love of horror. Even my psychiatrist has said he’s a little weirded out that I choose to watch movies with screams in them when I can’t sleep.

But sometimes, the best way to feel better about the darkness in my own life is watching a female character pick up a butcher knife and refuse to be a victim.

Being a woman can be terrifying — the horror practically writes itself. So, in celebration of spooky season, here are 12 of my favorite movies about that particular flavor of horror. Listed in no particular order, these picks are about women and teen girls confronting their darkest demons and biting back. Some even exact sweet revenge on their enemies. (Bonus: Many also were directed by women.)

(IFC Films) A mom, Amelia (Essie Davis, left), and her son Samuel (Noah Wiseman) discover an evil presence in their home in the Australian horror thriller "The Babadook."

“The Babadook” (2014)

This movie directed by Jennifer Kent has a deceptively simple premise: A single mother and her young son struggle to coexist as she grieves her dead husband. The mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), gets progressively more exhausted, and her son (Noah Wiseman) gets progressively more creepy and paranoid, saying the Babadook is coming to get them. It’s a dark fairy tale about how scary the monsters in our heads can be. Trivia: Kent used puppetry and stop-motion animation to create the Babadook effects, not CGI. Cool!

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.

“Hush” (2016)

Here’s my unofficial synopsis of this movie from director Mike Flanagan (who also made the incredible Netflix series “Midnight Mass”): A self-made professional writer who happens to be deaf creates a lovely solitary life for herself in the woods, where she buys a house and gets to write in peace, and the only back talk she has to deal with comes from her cat. Then a random dude thinks he has the right to show up and try to terrorize and kill her. Think again, bro.

Where to watch: Netflix.

“Jennifer’s Body” (2009)

After it bombed when it came out over a decade ago, this movie directed by Karyn Kusama has become a feminist horror cult classic. And I love that, when it debuted, some straight dudes were lured into watching it with the marketing promise of Girls! Kissing!, only to have to sit through an hour and 42 minutes of the bloodthirsty and possessed Jennifer (Megan Fox) getting chompy with guys who see her as an object. “Jennifer’s Body” is centered around the friendship between Jennifer and her best friend, “Needy” (Amanda Seyfried), and it reminded me of another horror movie I really like, which is next on the list.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.

“Ginger Snaps” (2000)

Women are so often portrayed in pop culture as perfectly beautiful, charming and desirable that I really love it when female characters in horror movies are given free rein to go into full-on monster mode. Directed by John Fawcett, “Ginger Snaps” is about two death-obsessed teenage sisters whose relationship is tested when one of them is bitten by a werewolf. There’s some cool parallels here between the transformations that girls go through during puberty, and the transformations that werewolf girls go through during the full moon.

Where to watch: Peacock, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.

(A24 via AP) Toni Collette portrays Annie in a scene from "Hereditary."

“Hereditary” (2018)

The idea of a family being literally haunted by their past is so damn spooky. But in “Hereditary,” directed by Ari Aster, you also get to see intricately made dioramas (which I’ll never again think of as just grade-school fun) and watch Annie (Toni Collette) give her famous “I am your mother” monologue, which punches like a cannonball to the gut. The first time I saw this nightmare of a movie, I went home and did not sleep *one minute* that night.

Where to watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime and Apple TV.

“The Witch” (2015)

The stressed-out Puritan parents in “The Witch” probably would’ve agreed with this line from “Jennifer’s Body”: “Hell is a teenage girl.” This feature debut from director Robert Eggers is a starkly beautiful depiction of a family breaking the first rule of surviving in 1630s New England: Don’t settle on the edge of a forest. At the center of the story is teenage daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), whose parents blame her and accuse her of witchcraft when their baby son is spirited away and their crops fail. The scapegoat (and her demonic goat) gets the last laugh, however, and the ending will light your head on fire.

Where to watch: Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Showtime and Apple TV.

“Saint Maud” (2019)

There’s a part in “Saint Maud” that reminds me of one of the last scenes in “The Witch,” and you’ll know it when you see it. Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a hospice nurse whose newfound Christian faith makes her creepily obsessed with “saving” the soul of the dying dancer she’s been tasked to care for. Directed by Rose Glass, “Saint Maud” toys with the line where religious fervor can turn to madness. Maud may be more of a villain than a saint, but the way she’s so committed to her beliefs is admirable in a society where women are conditioned to constantly second-guess themselves.

Where to watch: Hulu.

“A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” (2014)

There are bad guys in Bad City, and who better to bring them down than a lone skateboarding vampire known simply as The Girl (Sheila Vand). Billed as “the first Iranian vampire spaghetti western,” this black-and-white feature debut from director Ana Lily Amirpour is full of punk-rock energy but already feels like a classic. The first thing I said after I saw it was, “I loved every second of that movie.”

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.

(A24 Films) Florence Pugh, center, stars in Ari Aster's 2019 horror drama "Midsommar."

“Midsommar” (2019)

It’s impossible for me to watch the final scene of this sun-dappled, folky terror-fest directed by Ari Aster without imagining Lucille Bluth from “Arrested Development” saying, “Good for her.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.

“The Wind” (2018)

This was a spontaneous pick on a night when I couldn’t find anything to watch on Netflix, and it was the first horror movie I’d watched in a while that gave me literal shivers. Here’s my unofficial synopsis of this movie directed by Emma Tammi: A tough-as-nails frontierswoman possibly suffering from postpartum depression is betrayed and abandoned by everyone she knows and left to live alone on the desolate prairie, and understandably starts to believe an evil force is hunting her.

Where to watch: Netflix.

“Carrie” (1976)

I know the original “Carrie,” directed by Brian De Palma, has been talked about a lot. But never has revenge been as terrifying as that shot of the wronged and blood-drenched Carrie (Sissy Spacek) descending the steps of the stage at prom as her school, peers and enemies go up in flames.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, and AMC on cable TV.

“The Other Lamb” (2019)

A teenage girl (Raffey Cassidy, again with the teenage girls!) who was born into an all-female cult starts rightfully questioning the cult’s leader and only man, identified only as the Shepherd (Michiel Huisman). Director Małgorzata Szumowska sure knows how to make *gorgeous* horror and gives the viewer many, many visual details to enjoy, not the least of which is the haunting Irish landscape where “The Other Lamb” was shot.

Where to watch: Hulu.

Editor’s note • Kolbie Peterson is a Tribune reporter with an impressive VHS collection. For more random thoughts about horror movies, as well as her regular reporting on breaking news, crime and public safety, follow her on Twitter: @kolbiejpeterson.

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