It has been Women in Horror month and here in the BlanketFort we take a want to take this opportune time to give honor to the fantastic and horrifying characters brought to life by some of the leading actresses of horror. I dare you to find a horror film that is not bestowed with a strong female character. One could argue that the horror genre would never be what it is without the talent of feminine presence. It’s not in my interest to rank and file these performances as they all offer a unique and terrifying impact on the scene and have left their marks in the minds of their fans new and old. Besides, fuck that click bait nonsense. So, let’s get into it and discuss few of our favorite scream queens.
Margret White, played to a religious fervor by Piper Laurie is really the most troubling element of the film Carrie. We feel bad for Carrie and sympathize for her sheltered life and the harassment it has brought her from her school mates. However, we feel absolute vicious contempt for Mrs. White and her brand of crazy making her demise all the more righteous.
Allyson Ames gives a fantastic performance opposite William Shatner in probably the greatest piece of cinema he’s ever been involved in. Allyson plays Kia, a well seasoned witch that desires a challenge in her quest to obtain souls for Satan. Tired of the easy prey of corrupt and lustful men, Kia seeks a pure soul to take, and there’s no purer soul in the land than that of the Shatner.
Check your cis privilege right there at the door mafuka! Who says a scream queen has to be a woman. Actor Andrew Hubastek brought forth one of the freakiest female characters to chilling effect when he played the role of Zelda in Mary Lambert’s Pet Sematary. The albeit short performance of an invalid and dying sibling and the effect it had on her younger sister will burn itself into the viewers mind faster than you can say, “sometimes dead is better.”
Maria de Aragon is Victoria Waterman in 1966’s Blood Mania. Armed with resting bitch face, a macramé dress and one of the most hilariously wooden performances, Victoria conspires to regain her rightful riches from her recently deceased father after being shunned from his will. What transpires is an ether soakedexpedition of sex, blood, and of course mania.
Marki Bey is Sugar Hill. She’s beautiful, badass and out for revenge on the suckas who murdered her boyfriend. Armed with an army of the silvery eyed undead, you don’t find leading horror actresses tougher and more stylish than Marki.
Jackie Neyman plays the little girl by the name of Debbie in Manos: The Hands of Fate. I include her here simply because she endured this horrible film and everything involved with it while being just a young kid at the time this now cult film was made. They must have given her that fucking puppy just to keep her going. I imagine her getting piggyback rides from Torgo over the desert landscape while wailing “I am Torgo!” at the night sky.
Beverly Washburn and Jill Banner are double trouble as the seductive yet deadly Merrye sisters in Jack Hill’s seminal cult film Spider Baby. The both of them together is movie magic as they play off each other perfectly as flirtatious yet deadly. “I caught a big fat bug right in my spider web and now the spider gets to give the bug a big sting. Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting!”
Dario Argento films are full of incredible leading lady roles so it’s really hard to choose one. So most notably I have to include Jessica Harper as Suzie Bannion the heroine in Argento’s career defining film Suspiria. Suzie, an aspiring ballerina finds out her prestigious dance school is run by a coven of witches using its students as sacrificial offerings. It’s wonderful performance of a terrified young woman turning the tables on her captors in the end.
Zelda Rubinstein plays Tangina as the last bastion of hope in the Tobe Hopper ghost story Poltergeist. Her smallish stature and impish voice betray the viewer and the characters she is there to help as to her truly powerful abilities to confront the dead and send them packing. “This house is clean!”
I don’t know where the horror genre would be without the presence of Barbara Steele. She really is queen of scream. With mainly uncredited film appearances prior, Barbara was plucked from headshot obscurity by Mario Bava and placed as the lead in Black Sunday and she has never looked back. Over her long career, continuing even today, she has a film roster that couldn’t be more impressive, including The Long Hair of Death, Pit and the Pendulum, Castle of Blood and the Dark Shadows series.
Lorraine Garry is the backbone of the Jaws movie franchise and is really the only redeeming factor in the films past the sequel. Ellen Brody is the loving and concerned mother and wife perfectly portrayed, but she is more than that. She is the consummate rock that holds the family together. At least until Laws eats them as the series continues. Yes, the films chain should have been bitten off arguably after the first one, and Lorraine is really the sole reason you sat down to give part four a viewing. I’m glad we have this overdone series though, as after so many years the campiness has crept in and can make for some ridiculous fun viewing.
Candace Hilligross is Mary Henry in the seminal horror ghost story Carnival of Souls. Her performance is pitch perfect as she portrays a woman drawn to a strange abandoned carnival after being involved in a terrible accident. Being the sole survivor of the car crash that claims her friends the rest of the film carries on in an ethereal and dream like hue. As the dream like state she is in gives way to nightmarish visions we learn all is not what it seems. As Mary Henry is the sole survivor in the beginning she is also the practically the sole cast member as well. Almost every other interaction that she has with another character makes her seem even more isolated and alone until we have the truth revealed.
The BlanketFort could go on and on about iconic female (and some male to female) performances within the horror film world. If you find yourself unfamiliar with some of these captivating performances, I truly recommend you take an evening or two and treat yourself. There are so many fantastic women performing in the horror that literally the genre wouldn’t exist without them. Join us and chime in to let us know which women in horror freaked you out on the big screen and continue haunt your nightmares when you sleep.