“What’s the point? They’re all the same. Some stupid killer stalking some big breasted girl who can’t act who is always running up the stairs when she should be running out the front door. It’s insulting.” - Sidney Prescott, Scream (1996)
Ohhh, Sidney. If she only knew what would happen to her just moments after uttering those words. These days women are more than just a dumb girl getting caught by a killer in the latest slasher flick. Women are portrayed in horror films in so many ways that it is hard to keep up. All too common is it to think of terms like: victim, whore, bitch, virgin, or pretty dumb girl when it comes to naming a females role in a horror movie. While women do take on these types of characters in horror movies they also take on stronger ones too. Women in horror films can also be the hero, badass, caregiver, monster, or villain. Heck! These days it isn’t uncommon to find that a female is the director of your new favorite gore fest! If you haven’t guessed, I am going to be talking about some of my favorite ladies in horror and with February being Women in Horror Month, I can’t think of a better horror topic to discuss!
From Elsa Lanchester (The Bride of Frankenstein) to The Soska Sisters (Twin sister horror film directors) and everything in between, women have really made some badass reputations for themselves in horror. While a lot of people think horror films are sexist towards women and victimizing, this is the one genre where there are more females taking on lead roles. Yeah, think about that for a second. I can name more female leads in horror than I can in comedies, drama, and action put together. You will always have those crazy rom coms, but that is one point I would like to give back half the time. Sorry Sandra Bullock and Katherine Heigl.
One of the great things about horror films is that you don’t have to be the good guy or gal, in this case, to be the main character. Katherine Isabelle as Ginger in Ginger Snaps (2000) is a prime example. Not only is she a girl running around killing people, but she is also a werewolf! So right off the bat, you have a villain lead that you know will have to be killed and she is playing an unconventional supernatural role for a woman!?!!! My mind is already blown! Katherine Isabelle isn’t the first female to take on a villainous lead in a horror movie. No ma’am! That is how we ended up with movies like Species, Splice, Let the Right One in, and The Exorcist. Granted, some of these characters are more like victims of circumstance and are only playing into what scientists, a vampire, or a demon have created them to be they are still scary and evil as all hell! Linda Blair as young, possessed Reagan haunted my dreams as a child, but as I got older, I realized she was merely the victim of demonic possession. She isn’t really the “bad guy”, but man is she terrifying! Now, since there is no evil without some good, I bring you to my heroes category.
A hero can come in many shapes and sizes. They can come in the form of a mother protecting her child or a girl refusing to be another victim of a serial killer. They can be a lady who was treated as anything but and is getting her revenge or the only voice of reason when the body count starts to grow at a seemingly normal family dinner. This list can go on forever, but I am going to stick with two of my favorites that fall into this category.
The first is a mom, Rose, who has an adopted daughter, Sharon, who suffers from night terrors about a little place called Silent Hill. To help Sharon cope with her fears and understand everything better, Rose decides to visit this town. Unfortunately, there is a really bad car accident that leaves Rose knocked out at the wheel of the car. When she awakes she is still in the car just on the edge of Silent Hill and her daughter is gone. Rose soon discovers the hidden secrets of Silent Hill and that a girl, Alessa, who looks identical to her daughter has an evil, supernatural grasp over the entire town. Rose very quickly comes to the realization that she not only has to find her daughter, but get her away from these people who want to murder her for looking like Alessa and finding her way to Silent Hill. I don’t want to spoil the bizarre ending so I will say this - Rose is a badass. She travels through hell and looks fear in the face more times than I can count. She is incredibly brave and not once does she second guess her decision to save her daughter. I freaking love her!
The second is high school girl named Sarah in my favorite witch film, The Craft. Sarah is new to her school and meets group of girls that she is a little leery of. After a bad date and rumors are spread about her by the popular kids, she turns to the very girls she was worried about. Things go from worrisome to fun in no time. Yes, these girls are witches. Yes, they formed a coven. Yes, they make bad things happen to and people. But, like ya know, we’re just 17. Anyways, the gals start getting a bit out of control and Sarah tries to speak her mind and before you know it, her head is on the chopping block. Mean jokes of a spell casting persuasion are played on Sarah and she has to confront her fears, find her inner strength, and kick some witchy butt! The way I talk about this film, it sounds like some cheesy, C rate horror flick, but it is far from it. The cast is perfect, the music is awesome, and the special effects aren’t bad at all. This film has two very strong female characters in it, one trying to be good and confront her fears and another who wants to watch the world burn if she can’t have it all!
Now, while strong moms and teenagers make awesome female leads in horror films, nothing comes close to the legacy and power that comes with being a Final Girl. That’s right, I’m talking about Scream Queens! They are a favorite of mine when it comes to women in horror. They aren’t dumb enough to die early on, but they always have the worst of luck when it comes to crazed killers. Every major horror franchise has one. A Nightmare on Elm Street has Nancy, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has Sally, Scream has Sidney, Halloween has Laurie, and Friday the 13th has Alice. Every single one of these franchises have some of the most memorable villains that are always paired with an epic Scream Queen. Not only do these girls go through hell, get harassed, and are almost murdered, they kick ass and, most importantly, they survive! They go from victim to last person standing in the span of one film and many of them comeback to fight their past again and again and again. They don’t give up and with god has their witnesses, they never will.
Well, for a genre filled with blood, guts, and sexism, there sure seem to be a lot of strong ladies that help make up this business called horror. Whether you like a slasher filled with blood, a tale of witches, or a good ghost story; there is no shortage of women in horror.
Happy Friday the 13th in this Women in Horror Month!