There’s Something About Her I Just Don’t Trust
Written by Erica Gerald Mason as part of the Valkyries Horror Festival focused on Women in Horror.
The Good Wife
The Good Woman is cinema’s favourite horror victim. Beautiful, skeptical, and screaming, she runs from the killer and hides behind her man. When did she become the perfect victim? Was it with Fay Wray’s Ann Darrow in the 1933 film King Kong? Or was it in George Romero’s 1968 film Night of the Living Dead? When, standing at the cemetery, Barbara’s brother taunts her with the infamous line, “they’re coming to GET you, Barbara?”
The Good Woman is Rosemary in Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and the frazzled Lynn in The Sixth Sense (1999). She’s Karen in the original Child’s Play (1988). She’s Wendy in The Shining (1980) and Sidney in Scream (1996). Her motives are pure, always. Lorraine in The Conjuring (2013) is literally doing God’s work.
The Pretty Reckless
In contrast, we have her cinematic sister, who we’ll call Pretty Evil. Her intentions are as misty as a meadow at dawn. Pretty Evil is Grace in 2001’s The Others, she’s Katie in 2007’s Paranormal Activity, she’s Thomasin in 2015’s The VVitch, and she’s Willow in 1975’s The Wicker Man. Oh boy, is she Dani in 2019’s Midsommar and Annie in the adaptation of Stephen King’s Misery (1990).
There are two female protagonists: the one we’re supposed to root for but don’t quite like, and the one that scares the shit out of us and leaves us wanting more. While The Good Woman rushes in to save her friends, Pretty Evil hesitates at the door.
In some ways, The Good Woman is the ideal woman. The Good Woman keeps a stiff upper lip, she keeps a tidy house (or has the manners to be chagrined at the state of her home). She wonders what everyone must think of the strange noises she hears at night. The tapping on the windows must mean the trees need trimming. The Good Woman doesn’t trust the gardener.
The Good Woman and Pretty Evil aren’t friends. They might be cousins, but if they are, they’re the kind of cousins who say hello to every year at Christmas. If they sit next to each other at dinner, they don’t speak much, and The Good Woman wonders what Pretty Evil’s problem is.
The Good Woman’s fear tends toward her family: she keeps family pictures scattered around the house and wears a locket given to her by her late grandmother. The Good Woman makes a full breakfast for her children on a school day and hands her husband a cup of steaming coffee. When her child mentions seeing a Bad Man in her dream, The Good Woman purses her lips while a buzzing bee of concern flits across her face. Unfailingly, The Good Woman swats the fear away and tells her child to hurry up, or he’ll be late for school. Punctuality is important to The Good Woman.
Pretty Evil is a beauty who keeps strangers at arms length. She smiles, then frowns and turns away. Pretty Evil is prone to heavy sighs and then shaking her head when you ask her what’s wrong. Pretty Evil has a big, juicy secret. She’ll invite you over for coffee and then forget where the mugs are. Tidiness is not nearly as important as compliance. Pretty Evil wants things done a certain way. She thinks you are out to get her as she plots against you. She will either have a glass of water or a whiskey double, neat.
The Good Woman
The Good Woman tells her husband she is so, so sorry for doubting him about the entity haunting their house. Pretty Evil shouts to her husband that she never wanted to move to this goddamn town.
The Good Woman loves her neighbours. A smiling Pretty Evil waves at the little old lady next door and mutters the word “psychopath” under breath.
The Good Woman invites her husband’s boss over for a dinner party. Pretty Evil doesn’t go to her best friend’s funeral.
The Good Woman covers her mouth as she screams. Pretty Evil’s shrieks, then smooths her hair behind her ears.
The Good Woman wants to understand why bad things happen. Pretty Evil knows evil when she sees it.
Pretty Evil is the kind of woman who tells her panicked husband that one more night in the house won’t kill him -right before she kills him. The Good Woman wants to get in the car and go far, far away.
Pretty Evil’s past is not up for discussion, thank you very much.
The Good Woman is the kind of woman who makes a birthday cake from scratch, then smiles bashfully when her husband tells her how tasty it is.
Pretty Evil is the kind of woman who yells at her boyfriend when she forgets that he’s allergic to nuts.
The Good Woman goes to the oldest library in town to find out who used to live in her house. Pretty Evil won’t go in the basement.
Pretty Evil is the kind of woman who stares at the Ouija board her husband bought and tells him to get rid of it. The Good Woman places her hand on the planchette while murmuring “Anything to save my family.”
The Good Woman has the angels on her side. The Devil wants Pretty Evil here on Earth, where he can keep an eye on her.
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