Every Karyn Kusama Movie Ranked
Ever since she burst onto the scene at the turn of the century with her debut feature, Karyn Kusama has been a dynamic voice across the action-thriller-horror genres. She does not limit herself to one type of film, but she does tend to return to these specific types of movies often: ones that highlight the strength and resilience of women. Whether her characters are facing a crisis, seeking revenge, or looking to better themselves, it can be certain that Kusama’s unique directorial vision will help see them through. Kusama is an often misunderstood voice, but she’s not without her supporters — she’s one of the 21st century’s most underrated filmmakers, but because of her tendency to stick to genres most often dominated by men, she’ll always have a loyal group of fanatics willing to support her work. With a filmography still in the single digits, it’ll be fascinating to see how her voice continues to shift as her career goes on. So far, she’s got six incredibly unique movies.
Karyn Kusama’s 2009 film Jennifer’s Body, based on a script by Juno scribe Diablo Cody, is so misunderstood it hurts. Initially dismissed by critics as nothing but a sleazy attempt to bring teenage boys into the theater to check out Megan Fox’s latest film, the film has recently enjoyed plenty of reevaluation and late-in-the-game praise for its genius and originality. A high school comedy, a bloody vampire horror film, and a metaphor for teenage angst and the unique struggles of being a woman all wrapped into one, Jennifer’s Body is Karyn Kusama’s masterwork.
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Unlike Jennifer’s Body, 2015’s The Invitation is a horror movie that received praise immediately upon release. It’s tense, it’s pretty realistic, it’s incredibly slick, and it’s another really impressive piece of work from Karyn Kusama. It’s great to see her finally get the appreciation she deserves these days instead of getting brushed aside like she used to be.
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Kusama’s debut (and one of only two movies that she wrote as well as directed), Girlfight, does a great job establishing everything that Kusama stands for as a filmmaker. Its lead, a young amateur boxer who shows strength, resilience, restraint, and integrity in the face of adversity, could be a stand-in for Kusama herself as she so often goes toe-to-toe with her critics.
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Kusama’s most recent piece, a thriller starring Nicole Kidman, follows a police detective as she attempts to reconnect and make peace with the people she interacted with in a past undercover assignment. It’s understated and slow-burning… until it kicks into high gear, that is. Kusama is nearly at the top of her game right now with nowhere to go but up.
Not yet in theaters at the time of this writing.
Sharing directorial credits with three other women, XX contains four segments — each one written and directed from a different female perspective. Horror really is dominated by male filmmakers, so it’s really important for movies like XX to make an impact on audiences in order to show studio heads that these works matter just as much as any other good horror film does.
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Kusama’s only true flop, Æon Flux is a strangely misguided attempt to bring a classic piece of adult animation into the realm of live-action. It’s hard to follow, its action is muted to fit a PG-13 rating, and a lot of it feels inexplicably off. With Charlize Theron in the leading role and Kusama behind the camera, there’s a lot that could’ve worked really well here. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.
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