(OBVIOUSLY, SPOILERS AHEAD)
Horror is known for the final girl trope, the sole survivor who is spared at the end of the movie. She is smart and capable, and many see these women as empowering figures. Many women have made careers on creating these iconic women, becoming “scream queens” in their own right.
But what about the villainesses? There are many instances of the killer’s mask coming off to reveal a woman underneath. There are also many performances where you are aware of their villainy all along.
Check out the six amazing films below for a look at some great performances by women who prove that sweet and innocent is not the only effective way to cast a women in horror.
Friday the 13th
One of the most iconic killers of all time, Jason has been prowling the horror landscape in his hockey mask since 1980. Sometimes we forget, however, that the original killer was actually revealed to be his mother, Mrs. Voorhees. Well, we did forget it until the famous scene in Scream where Drew Barrymore got the question wrong in one of the most horrifying opening scenes in slasher history. Mrs. Voorhees was played by creepy perfection by the wonderful Betsy Palmer. Driven mad by her son’s death, she returns to the camp as it reopens, targeting new camp counsellors, whom she still blames for not watching while her son drowned all those years ago.
When author Paul Sheldon crashes his car in the snowy wilderness, a local nurse rescues him and brings him home with her. While in her care, Annie asks if she can read the transcript for his latest novel that she found in his car. He complies, and Annie is less than happy with the fate of her favourite character. Thus begins Mr. Sheldon’s nightmare, as he is trapped in the home of his number one fan. Kathy Bates was absolutely perfect in this role, swinging wildly from oh so sweet to rage in a split second. One word, guys: “hobbling.”
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
A group of teens heads to a secluded vacation home, only to be picked off one by one. At the center of the storm is newcomer to the group, Mandy Lane (Amber Heard). She is clearly uncomfortable around all of these popular kids, and all of the guys are being creeps and trying to get in her pants. It sounds like the typical formula, but this one has a twist as Mandy is revealed to be not as sweet as she seems….
This hilarious horror comedy is quickly gaining cult status in the decade following its release, and this attention is well-deserved. Megan Fox plays Jennifer, a girl who is murdered in a sacrifice that doesn’t go quite according to plan. As a result, she is possessed by a demon that gives her some amazing abilities, but also the need to feed on human flesh. A hilarious comedy, an original possession story, and a damning look at female friendships, Jennifer’s Body is destined for classic status.
Oof. Hard Candy is a tough movie to watch, but the performances alone make it worth it. Ellen Page plays a barely teenaged girl, Hayley, who has been flirting online with a thirty-something photographer, Jeff (Patrick Wilson). The two meet and go to his house, where they continue to flirt and the have some drinks together. Soon, Jeff passes out as Hayley proclaims that “playtime is over.” She then plays a psychological game of cat and mouse, claiming that she knows that Jeff is a pedophile, murderer, and rapist. This film sticks with you despite the fact that there is not a whole lot of graphic content (except THAT SCENE – the one that’s burned in my brain and if you’ve seen it, it’s burned on yours, too) and basically zero music. The two leads drive the tension in this movie for the entire run time just by talking. Ellen Page plays this part to perfection, and when she makes the switch from innocent waif to badass avenger, it is truly something to behold. In fact, when she was praised for her part in Juno just a few years later, I thought, “But what about Hard Candy?” Watch at your own risk if you are easily disturbed.
The Conjuring 2
I haven’t included The Nun here because I haven’t actually seen it yet, but yes, I am talking about the nun. The nun is a spirit that is seen by psychic Lorraine Warren, whom she claims to see in truly terrible situations and who she believes is an omen of her husband’s death. While she is not a huge part of The Conjuring 2, the scene in which she stalks Lorraine in a dream by coming alive from a portrait that Lorraine has been painting was so effective that she warranted her own spin-off. While the character relies on heavy makeup, she is played in both entries by Bonnie Aarons, who does a phenomenal job with slow burn movements that bring on the jump scares.
How many of these have you seen? Do you have a favourite female villain or anti-hero?