Horror movies are the best thing about Halloween. Sure, we have crazy costumes and cheap candy and pretty autumn colors, but come on. Is there anything sweeter in life than turning on the television at ten in the morning and having eight different horror movies to choose from?
Modern horror movies are also an area of cinema where women can really shine. Yes, we still have dumb blondes making classic horror movie mistakes and thus end up dying horrible, violent deaths in the name of male entertainment. But then there’s a legion of women heroes who are downright awesome. (This probably has something to do with the fact that Hollywood is loathe to kill off women who don’t “deserve” to die (re: virgins), and so they have to give them some skills and capabilities that allow them to survive. But that’s an article for another time. For now, let’s just look at the bright side.)
The other alternative for women in horror movies is the terrifying monster. Sometimes, like with Carrie, they’re both.
In the spirit of the holiday, I have gathered my personal favorite five women in horror movies, both monsters and heroines. So when you’re flipping channels looking for your next favorite cult classic, see if you can find some of these gems:
Samara (The Ring)
The Ring is one of those movies that just crawls under your skin and stays there forever, and a lot of that has to do with its villain Samara. Like all children, Samara just wants to be heard. Unlike other children, she does this by killing people. Or rather, she has them watch a tape with her nightmarish thoughts, live a week of growing dread and creepiness, giving them the occasional mind-fuck, and then kills them.
You could argue that The Ring and its later sequels (also good movies) have some sort of message to convey about the stupidity of television and how it’s slowly killing us . . . but since you have to watch a movie in order to get that message, I’d say we’re getting some mixed signals there.
Kayako Saeki (The Grudge)
The Grudge series will never let you sleep soundly again. Kayako isn’t like Samara. She doesn’t have a message to be heard or a statement to make. She’s just pissed and she’s taking it out on everybody. On the one hand, I get it. If I were killed by an abusive husband who then also killed my son and was forced to haunt a place while a parade of obnoxious Americans and teenagers came to check it out, I’d be pissed, too.
On the other hand, she is just terrifying. Probably the creepiest scene in the whole movie is when Kayako and her ghost-son goes after the sister-in-law of the new homeowner, who never even set foot in the house. She just left a voicemail. A freaking voicemail, and that got her killed.
The Blair Witch
The Blair Witch Project (1999) and the recent sequel Blair Witch (2016) are definite must-sees for anyone who loves horror movies. The two things that make this villain so terrifying are her immense power and the fact that we know so little about her. In both movies we get several different theories as to who the Blair Witch is, but none of them are ever really confirmed. So we don’t know who she is or what she wants. I can’t even get a good picture of her! We just know that whomever goes into her forest eventually ends up dead.
Ellen Ripley (Alien saga)
Finally! A good guy!
You could argue that the Alien saga is more action than horror, to which I say: Why can’t it be both? Or I should say “all three,” since it’s also a hallmark sci-fi film.
Either way, I think we can all agree that Ripley is awesome. And if you don’t know who Ellen Ripley is, get off of my column, turn on your TV, and watch Alien and Aliens. You can ignore Alien 3 and 4, since they kind of suck. Nobody references them, anyway, and Ripley is at her best in the first two. Heck, even Spider-Man used some of her tricks!
Mia Allen (Evil Dead 2013 remake)
Call me crazy, but I prefer the remake of Evil Dead to the 1979 original. In part because it’s a lot more horrifying, in part because it goes a lot deeper into the mythology and world-building, and in part because of Mia.
Mia is the first of the five protagonists to get possessed by the demon and start reigning hell on the others. She’s also, conversely, the one who survives to the end. She starts off as a drug addict who’s trying to quit cold turkey (which means we probably have a metaphor on the hell of getting clean somewhere in there), spends her hours possessed terrorizing her friends and family, and after getting de-possessed gets to spend the final act facing off against the demon that they accidentally summoned from hell. Good times.