Girls just wanna have fun…
Jason Voorhees. Freddie Krueger. Michael Myers. Dracula. That American Werewolf (the one who went to London). We get it, guys. Often, women in horror films are there to be the sidekick (who can fight because she grew up with brothers or something that makes her cool and edgy), the terrorised love interest who probably dies (but sexily, though), or to be saved (white knight style). Enough of that, eh? Let’s take a look at a few of our favourite bad gals in horror…because girls aren’t always sugar and spice…
Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) – Misery (1990)
She’s his number one fan, and she’ll do anything to prove it. Based on Stephen King’s (awesome) novel, Annie Wilkes is an obsessed super-fan of novelist Paul Sheldon. An accident leaves Paul stranded in the wilderness, at which point Annie, a seemingly kind nurse, takes him in. It soon becomes clear than Annie has a very dark past, and her present and future aren’t looking much better, either. She keeps Paul hostage, demanding he write more for her, and after a few failed escape attempts, we get the infamous sledgehammer-to-the-ankles scene. It still makes me cringe, but damn it’s so good. This one goes straight to the Hall of Perfect Casting Fame.
Adelaide Wilson/Red (Lupita Nyong’o) – Us (2019)
Not only did Lupita Nyong’o deliver an absolute masterclass in character acting, she also helped realise one of the creepiest, most terrifying villains of the year in Us. Jordan Peele has the Midas Touch when it comes to horror movies, so it was no surprise that Us was fantastic, but a lot of that is down to the duality of performance from the actors. The Wilson family are on a getaway, however Adelaide’s past soon comes back to haunt her in an all too familiar guise. As the family are pursued by their doppelgangers, they must fight for their lives against themselves. This film had no right to be absolutely terrifying but also as funny as it was. Easily in my top three of the year, and cemented Adelaide/Red as a baddie for the ages.
Carrie (Sissy Spacek) – Carrie (1976)
Another Stephen King classic, Carrie was the author’s first novel and the first to be made into a film. Carrie is an unpopular kid in high school with a fanatically religious mother. Also, she has telekinetic powers. Y’know, as you do. After that shower scene, things get worse and worse for Carrie and she begins to unleash the full effects of her telekinesis upon those who have wronged her. The film culminates in what has been voted as one of the best moments in horror movie history. You know the one. Hell hath no fury…
Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) – The Exorcist (1973)
This pint-sized pain in the ass had to make the list because of some of the belters of one-liners we get from her. Mother Chris realises that her daughter Regan is acting strangely. After what seems like far too long (beds shaking, speaking in tongues, random scars reading “help me”) Chris enlists the help of priests Merrin and Karras to exorcise her daughter. Producers had doubts about having a 12 year old girl carry an entire movie, especially given the psychological strain it would take on her. However, Linda was perfect for the role, directors recall, and The Exorcist became one of the most profitable horror films ever made. Nice one, Regan.
Akasha (Aaliyah) – Queen of the Damned (2002)
It may have been panned by the critics and barely successful at the box office, but Queen of the Damned gave us Queen Akasha, and for that we should all be eternally grateful. Ancient vampires, rock bands, the dramatic moral push-pull of humanity; it’s all pretty tropey, but it’s so absurd that you can’t stay mad at it. Akasha is a merciless, ruthless queen, and is described as the worst of the monsters because she will not admit her own monstrosity. Damn, it’s good to see women be unabashedly evil sometimes.
Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike) – Gone Girl (2014)
More of a psychological thriller than a horror per say, but there was no way that I was leaving Amy Dunne out of this list of the baddest gals in town. Amy discovers that her husband has been cheating on her, so she elaborately, painstakingly, and oh so elegantly frames him for murder. Details of Amy’s past come out of the woodwork but despite it all, as far as the general public are concerned, they get the “happy” ending. Amy Dunne is a character that shook up how women are portrayed in film. She was no pining waif, nor was she an “overly emotional fishwife” – she was calculated, cold, and callous. Beyond that, she also gave a gift to women the world over in one of the most awesome speeches in cinema: the cool girl monologue. It’s one that everyone needs to hear.
and last but not least, the one and only…
Jennifer Check (Megan Fox) – Jennifer’s Body (2009)
As with a lot of great art, Diablo Cody’s Jennifer’s Body was never truly appreciated in its time. Ten years later, however, I am still a staunch supporter of this masterpiece, and I know many others who are, too. Jennifer Check is a demonically possessed high school student who kills and devours her male classmates to stay alive, despite the efforts of her best friend Needy to stop her. Now (finally) dubbed a feminist horror classic – Jennifer’s Body did more for female empowerment than a lot of people are willing to admit. A high school movie where the power is with the girls and not the meathead jocks? The cheerleader and the nerdy kid being best friends without the typical stereotypes? Girls supporting girls? Full emo soundtrack? Honestly, I’ll defend this film until my dying breath – which I hope to be at the hands of Jennifer Check.
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