Women’s involvement in horror has progressed drastically over the years. Some of the biggest and most bad-ass horror icons are female, and today we celebrate their contribution to turning the genre on its head.
1. Laurie Strode in Halloween
Jamie Lee Curtis contributed heavily with her role as Laurie Strode in John Carpenter’s 1978 franchise Halloween. 40 years later, with an adaptation by Rob Zombie and a reboot coming this October, Curtis is a veteran for the slasher series. Her battle with the seemingly immortal Michael Myers has gripped fans and fuelled rumours of rekindling the series. Unlike other enemies, these two seem to have a “will they, won’t they” vibe going on. The fact that it is a “will they, won’t they kill each other” is all the more reason to brace ourselves for the final showdown Myers fans have been waiting for later this year.
2. Sadako Yamamura in The Ring
Hideo Nakata’s 1998 Japanese horror film The Ring (Ringu) is a sinister example of “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”. Adapted from the novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki, the original production has resulted in a remake in 2002 and the reboot Rings in 2017. Demonstrating that vengeance from beyond the grave is actually alive and well, the infamously terrifying spectre of Sadako Yamamura relentlessly haunts watchers of her tape in the 7 days following their viewing of it. After all, if your family left you to rot in a well, wouldn’t you want to crawl through the TV, wreak some havoc and kick some ass? I sure would.
3. Selena in 28 Days Later
Naomi Harris plays Selena in Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) and is a pioneer for diversity on and off screen. The versatile actress played a ruthless apocalypse survivor, initially showing no mercy or hesitation to slay you if she suspects you are one of the “infected”. She continuously saves the day and even becomes the unlikely carer for a father and daughter stranded at the top of a tower block. Her no-mess-no-fuss attitude comes in handy when she and her party are lead into an army base where things are not what they seem. A mixture of bad-assery (yes, that’s a word) and nurturing shows Selena prove that she is something other than a baby-making machine in the aftermath of a post-apocalyptic disaster.
4. Maleficent in Maleficent
Robert Stromberg’s 2014 Maleficent is a champion for the broken-hearted in a visually stunning adaptation of Disney’s classic 1959 Sleeping Beauty. We follow the untold story of Disney’s most iconic villainess, brutally betrayed by the man she loved, as he steals her wings for his own empowerment. His cruel acts turn the once angelic Maleficent, played by Angela Jolie, to the dark side. In a siege of unforgiving vengeance, we see her curse the man’s infant, who just so happens to be the King, and his new born Princess, Aurora. However, as the film unfolds, Maleficent proves to be the anti-hero we were hoping for, when she begins to care for the young child and stops at nothing to undo her deadly ways.
5. Ellen Ripley in Alien
Sigourney Weaver paves the way for female leads as one of the most memorable action heroines in Ridley Scott’s 1979 Alien. On a spacecraft dominated by men, Weaver’s character Ellen Ripley, a Warrant Officer, combats terror head on in the form of an extra-terrestrial only referred to as “the alien”. After witnessing a colleague’s chest explode whilst giving birth to the celestial, commonly known as “face huggers” or “chest bursters”, Ripley leads the team into battle against the vicious creature. Armed with violent weapons and some cracking one-liners, this sci-fi horror flick sets the bar for forward-thinking, originality and terrifying visual effects.
6. Carrie in Carrie
Sissy Spacek in Brian De Palmer’s 1976 Carrie makes a fitting ode to murderous revenge. Throughout the film, Carrie is subject to emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her mother and her peers, and is eventually betrayed by the one teacher she trusted. We follow the female protagonist throughout the film, willing her to raise beautiful hell on those who have wronged her. The viewers’ appreciation and justification allow our Prom Queen to be crowned the eternal Scream Queen as she finally discovers how to use her powers to enact the perfect revenge.
7. Yasmine in Frontière(s)
Karina Testa stars as Yasmine in Xavier Gens’ 2007 French horror flick Frontière(s). Pregnant Yasmine shows us what she’s made of as she and her friends inadvertently enter a house of horrors. After being kidnapped, and with her male counterparts having met a grisly end, the female lead must fight to survive. Her capturer, a perverse Nazi, has unimaginable intentions. Full of gore, guts and a bitter fight to the end, Testa demonstrates what a woman on the edge can do in a bloody fight to save herselfand her unborn child.
8. Mary in American Mary
The twisted Soska Sisters are at it again with their 2012 Canadian production of American Mary, whose protagonist is played by actress Katherine Isabelle of Ginger Snaps (2000). Disillusioned with her life, the desperately broke medical student delves into the mysterious world of underground body modification surgery. This brutal flick is filled with bloodshed, gruesome deaths and shocking acts of revenge. Horror icon Isabelle delivers an outstanding performance, depicting Mary as a Queen of the macabre body-mod realm. Viewers are gripped as we follow her journey through the depths of psychosocial and physical despair, at the hands of herself and others around her.
9. Regan in The Exorcist
The Exorcist is still regarded one of the most controversial films ever produced. Regan played by Linda Blair in the 1973 American supernatural horror film directed by William Friedkin. Regan’s shocking character set the tone for many more films of a similar ilk to be made. Her suffering, coupled with inappropriate and extreme behaviour, sent shock waves through audiences, with the film even being banned in some places. When you think of possession (as one often does) it is highly unlikely that you won’t cast your mind back to the young girl professing obscenities at priests. The on-screen production did so well that it has gone on to influence a play and a new TV series.
10. Ruka in Tokyo Gore Police
Eihii Shiina’s performance as Ruka in Tokyo Gore Police is not one that is easily forgettable. The film opens casually when Ruka slices a man’s arms off with a machete when he molests her on the subway. In this dystopian society, a mad scientist only known as Key Man has created a virus that mutates human bodies. Known as “Engineers”, the virus enables these monsters to grow weapons from any injury that’s inflicted. Ruka the vengeful Police Officer must team up with the sadistic and violent “Engineer Hunters”, notorious for vicious street-side killings, to defeat the relentless force of evil. Our protagonist is also on the war path to avenge the father’s untimely death, as he was assassinated before her very eyes. Bloodshed and weaponry is all the loner knows and nothing and no one can stop her vengeful tornado.
11. Kathy Bates in Misery
Adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, Rob Reiner’s 1990 production of Misery sees horror maestro Kathy Bates as the infamous psycho Anne Wilkes. We follow the terrifying tale as the kidnapper’s bizarre idea of “meet and greet” with her favourite novelist Paul Sheldon (played by James Caan) unfolds. Abducting and disabling the novelist, Bates torments her victim through psychological and brutal violence. She consistently creates a level of suspense that leaves viewers on the edge of their seats. Fans will always be left wincing when recalling that scene, bringing a new meaning to the phrase “hammer time”. Bates is an incredible actress with a robust attitude, beating the renown ageism in Hollywood and leaving a legacy that has been hard to follow.
There you have it – my little homage to some of horror’s greats! The list is endless – and different for everyone. The prominent message which remains the same across this epic evolution, however, is the growing influence women have in the horror genre. Fans can invest just as much in the anti-hero’s story as they do the survivor. These unforgettable characters prove that the female of the species can definitely be as deadly (if not deadlier) than the male.