In the 18/01/2018 issue of The Guardian, Anne Bilson examines the Old Woman in Horror Films and coins the word “hagsploitation”.

I admit I have paid no attention to these films in my research. The genre has never appealed to me and apart from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962) I was not aware of the significant filmography of this genre since the 60s.

Bilson notes that in this film Crawford was 56 years old and Davis 54.

In a heartbreaking echo of Hollywood’s real-life attitude to its ageing female talent, they’re playing washed-up actors driven mad by their own obsolescence, bound together by self-loathing, agonisingly aware of their vanished sex appeal.

The film was a great success and hagsploitation was born says Bilson quoting many late films with old characters played by Shelley Winters, Olivia de Havilland, Joan Fontaine.

After a lull in old women in Horror films Bilson sees a revival of the genre but this time she says:

It’s no longer considered demeaning when a 75-year-old screen legend such as Gena Rowlands plays a hoodoo harridan in The Skeleton Key (2005). Next month, 72-year-old Helen Mirren stars in the haunted-house movie Winchester. And in October, 59-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis will be reprising her role as Laurie Strode in a reboot of the film that made her famous. “

I find it sad that in the gap between horror and costume dramas or terminal superficiality there are not more films like for example:  Alexandra (an old woman point of view about war) , Antonia’s Line (three generations of a family), The Company of Strangers (diversity of experiences), Aquarius (ageing in a changing world) where the old woman is represented in all the aspects of a long life.

About rinaross

Born in 1935. MA in Film and Television Studies at the University of Westminster 1998. Studying the representation of older women in film since then.
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