Chaos and Destruction in Female Friendship Films

by Emalie Soderback

There are certain elements in film, plot and otherwise, that I’m inherently drawn to. Someone could start describing a movie to me and specific key words will make me immediately add it to my watch list. Did you say blood that looks like pink paint? Awful one-liners? Troublemaking teens? Anything at all about 1970s interior design? Girls who get supernatural powers around puberty? A young Drew Barrymore? Count me in.

One especially satisfying subgenre for me is the female friendship film. The type of movie that revels in the world that two female protagonists create with their own imaginations, strange obsessions, and impenetrable bonds with each other. I’m not talking about Mean Girls here (although I also will never renounce it), or even our beloved The Craft (long live Nancy Downs), because those cliques and companionships exist within the confines of social structure and depend on a certain hierarchy, cattiness and rivalry to form the core of these girls’ supposed “friendships”.

The type of films I want to highlight here are the ones that portray the bizarre connections, unspoken loyalties, imagined worlds, and the utter decadence and destruction that surrounds the best friendship of girls. If you’re sensitive to spoilers I’ve bolded some alerts, but I think comparing the endings of these four films is pretty beneficial.

(Vera Chytilová, 1966)
Considered one of the key films of the Czech New Wave, Daisies follows two teen girls, both named Maria, who are desperately bored and hungry for both food and attention. They decide together that they are going to be ‘bad’. The rest of the film is them tricking men into giving them money and food, dancing wildly, making fun of ex-lovers, philosophizing, and eventually stumbling upon an abandoned banquet hall and trashing a lavish feast set out for political leaders. The beautifully absurd cinematography mimics the bizarre nature of these girls’ companionship—a kaleidoscope of colors, locations, and increasingly outlandish situations spiral towards the finale, wherein (SPOILER ALERT) Marie I and Marie II are crushed and killed by a giant crystal chandelier.

don't deliver

Don’t Deliver Us From Evil (Joël Séria, 1971)
There’s nothing like attending a religious convent school to show you who your real friends are, aka the ones that want to worship Satan with you. In Don’t Deliver Us From Evil, Anne and Lore attend a convent school where they pull pranks, read dirty novels, and keep a diary vowing to sin as much as they can. When school’s out for the summer and Anne’s parents leave her home alone while they go out of town, the two decide to dedicate themselves to Satan. They practice seducing men only to humiliate them, killing birds, and burning barns, all the while preparing a devil-worship ceremony in an abandoned chapel on Anne’s family’s property. One of their pranks goes too far, however, when a strange man tries to rape Lore and the girls end up killing him. Convinced they’ll be found out, and not wanting to be apart (SPOILER ALERT) they hold hands and light themselves on fire at the school’s talent show in the fall.


Death Game (Peter S. Traynor, 1977)
This gender-flipped, sleazy home invasion movie starts out with our innocent male lead kissing his wife and child goodbye as they leave town to her sick father’s house. Suburban Family Man is all alone that evening when a rainstorm rolls in, bringing two beautiful young ladies, Agatha “Jackson” and Donna, to his front door asking to use the telephone. Of course they have a hidden agenda, so of course they seduce him in his jacuzzi, put on the smiles and coyness of two spontaneous, ready-for-anything nymphs, and stay the night. The next morning, however, they refuse to leave. Jackson and Donna eat all of his food, get dressed up in his wife’s make-up and negligee, trash his house, and put Poor Cheating Husband through all sorts of emotional, physical, and sexual torture before (SPOILER ALERT) giggling their way down the street and getting killed by a speeding truck. Eli Roth’s new film, Knock Knock, is a re-imagining of this sludgy exploitation shocker.


Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994)
Sandwiched between foul-mouthed puppets and ring-obsessed Hobbits, Peter Jackson crafted a fantastic film based off of the real 1954 murder case of Honorah Parker by her teenage daughter Pauline Parker and her best friend Juliet Hulme. Pauline and Juliet quickly develop an intense friendship when they meet at school, connecting over their creative similarities, shared history of illnesses, and a love of Hollywood stars and musicians. They begin to write stories together, taking place in a fictional world they create called Borovnia, which slowly begins taking over reality for them, especially when Pauline’s mother and her begin fighting constantly. When it is threatened that Pauline and Juliet will have to be separated, they decide to murder Pauline’s mother, believing her to be the only obstacle to their being together forever. SPOILER ALERT, the two bludgeon Honorah Parker to death, and are sent to prison, where they are forbidden to ever see each other, even after their eventual release.

Isn’t it funny how all of these obsessive, indestructible friendships between two women must end in their death or imprisonment? The pure chaos that almost always surrounds filmic representation of female friendship definitely makes for some explosive and dark movies. Apparently if there’s something that’s more terrifying than one independently thinking and creatively passionate woman, it’s two that get along, and stand up for what they believe is right. Or you know—two that torture sleazy mustachioed men, worship Satan, and wreck dining halls.

Emalie Soderback is a total badass who works at Scarecrow Video. She will probably own a snake some day.  

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