Guest Post: Women Led Horror

Hey there, hope you’re doing well. So once again, I will be taking a bit of a backseat on a post. Because for the second time ever, we have a special guest giving us a little treat. And wouldn’t you know, it’s none other than my good friend Mary, who recently wrote another great piece for us. So without further ado, let’s see what Mary has to say about female-driven horror movies. Take it away, Mary!

When it comes to horror movies, it’s fair to say that female characters often get the shite end of the stick. Paraded around in skimpy outfits; tripping over tree branches whilst being pursued by the movie monster; sexual activity rewarded with being the first to die … These movie tropes are deeply ingrained and highly condescending. And whilst they still haven’t completely disappeared, there are plenty of alternatives. Narratives where women are strong, logical protagonists or well fleshed out villains are becoming easier to find. They are there to do so much more than scream and flee.

So, who laid the groundwork and who is benefitting? Traces of which 60s and 70s classics can be found in which contemporary movies? Here are some of all the most iconic performances from women in horror movies.

Rosemary’s Boby (1968)

Carrie (1976)

The image of Sissy Spacek, drenched in blood has to be one of the most iconic of horror cinema. She gives a phenomenal performance here as the titular character – a social outcast and a victim of her mother’s religious fervour. It’s a performance that requires a lot of credibility – telekinesis has been used rather ropily before and since – but Spacek is commanding yet vulnerable.

Suspiria (1977)

Garishly nightmarish, the original Dario Argento movie is a giallo classic. Jessica Harper gives an impressive performance as the ballet dancer, Suzy Bannion, who quickly realises that all is not quite right with her new dance school. Despite disorientating colourscapes and the Goblin soundtrack, her performance does not get lost in amongst it all. She is determined to be believed …

Alien (1979)

It’s no secret that the character of Ripley was written as a man, which is perhaps why Sigourney Weaver’s take on the role is so important. She’s not softened or “feminised” in any way. Instead, she’s quietly commanding, physically capable and intellectually three steps ahead of her colleagues. She is perhaps the most memorable “last woman standing”.

Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Freddie Kruger – a horror icon himself – is busy invading the dreams of small town teenagers and picking them off, one by one, in this Halloween classic. However, he and his knives are no match for Nancy Thompson, played by Heather Langenkamp.  Director Wes Craven has acknowledged that he wanted a cliché-free, progressive female lead.

Misery (1990)

From hero to villain, now, as Kathy Bates takes on James Caan in this Stephen King adaptation. Despite presenting as a mousy, introverted middle aged woman, Annie Wilkes is one of the most terrifying female villains. Bates turns on the charm – and the scares – at the drop of a hat and it is this duality that makes her so scary.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Yes, Anthony Hopkins is the consummate movie maniac here, but it is Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling who deserves all the plaudits here. A rookie FBI investigator, she holds her nerve when faced with Hannibal the Cannibal. It’s all about the power dynamic here and Foster gives a convincingly reassured performance.

Scream (1996)

Whilst everyone was talking about – and buying – those ghoulish white masks, it is Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott who stands out in Scream. She is another well-written, multi-dimensional female lead with vulnerabilities and strengths. She even mocks the masked killer with comments as to how scary movies are always about screaming women running the wrong way from their pursuers.

Audition (1999)

You could be forgiven – on first watch – for thinking that the villain of the piece was the sleazy Shigeharu Aoyama, the man who is literally auditioning girls to be his new wife. That is, until you see that garbage bag move … Eihi Shiina gives a truly fascinating performance as the seemingly sweet but ultimately twisted as fuck Asami Yamazaki.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

This irresistibly shot Iranian movie centres around a female vampire, played by Sheila Vand, who is picking off deviant male victims one by one. So not only is this movie beautiful to look at, it also has a strong feminist message and female lead. Vand gives a thoroughly engaging performance, with so much being conveyed through a look or her physicality.

Midsommar (2019)

Florence Pugh’s Dani is both victim and victor in Ari Aster’s movie. She starts the film suffering emotional trauma and being gaslit by her douchebag boyfriend. Pugh really draws you in to her character – it’s an incredibly physical and demanding performance – so that by the time that enigmatic little smile crosses her face, you’ll be fully onside. But should you be?

Written by Mary Palmer

Some Scary Characters

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With it being Halloween, AKA the end of the Month of Spooks, I felt that I had to something special for the blog. Sure, I could’ve done a review of John Carpenter’s “Halloween”, but that would have been a bit of a cliché move on my part. So I started thinking… how about a list? I mean, I haven’t done a list in a while, so now is a good a time as any. Some of you might be asking “BUT MARKUUUUUS… Why not make it a list about your favorite horror movies?”. Honestly… I feel like I haven’t seen enough horror movies to really be able to make a list like that any feel good about it. So instead I opted to do something that I’ve been thinking a little bit about for a while… how about a list of characters/creatures from fiction that I find scary? And then I decided to actually do it. So let’s do it… after the rules.

Rule #1: This is my list, so no bitching allowed. These are things I find scary in some way. If you don’t find any of these scary… then that’s your thing. These are just my opinions in here, not what I think everyone should think. So no bitching… got it!?

Rule #2: This list is not really ranked, so don’t take it as me thinking one of the things on this list is scarier than the other… they all creep me out in some way, so I will not really rank ’em. I also don’t rank them because I might make another list like this in the future with even more shit that scares me.

Rule #3: I will only include one thing from each intellectual property. So if a piece of fiction mentioned in this thing has more than one scary creature, I will only mention one of them.

So that’s about it for the rules. And while bitching isn’t allowed here, I do encourage discussion. Maybe share some characters you think are scary in the comments. With that said, let’s get into it.
Ladies and gentlemen… Some Scary Characters.

Freddy Krueger – Nightmare on Elm Street
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Let’s get one of the most popular ones out of the way first. Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) was a child killer who got burned alive by a mob of angry parents, and now he kills people in their dreams. Firstly, child killer… that shit is just awful and terrifying. Secondly, he kills you when you’re sleeping, he’ll make sure you’ll never wake. Sadistic christmas songs aside, the fact that he kills you in your dreams, where anything can happen, that is a very creative and scary thing. And Freddy is a very scary character… at least in the original movie, in the sequels he became more of a joke. But a lot of why he was so great was because of Robert Englund’s pitch-perfect performance, he was a perfect choice for Freddy. And to give credit where credit is due, even though the remake was really bad, I thought the casting of Jackie Earle Haley as Freddy was a really good one. What am I trying to say with all this? Freddy is an awesome and scary villain.

Frank – Donnie Darko
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Next up is the creepy fucking giant man-bun from the 2001 mindfucker “Donnie Darko”. Basic plot is that Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a really weird teenager and he starts seeing a giant bunny named Frank that makes Donnie do some shady shit. Let’s put it like this, the movie is awesome and you should see it if you haven’t. And now we get to Frank, a fucking weird giant bunny (or rabbit) that has a scary design and a creepy voice. Yeah that’s about it… that’s why I think he’s scary.

Ruvik – The Evil Within
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Hey look, it’s Jackie Earle Haley again! From critically acclaimed video game director Shinji Mikami comes “The Evil Within”, a survival horror game where you as Detective Sebastian Castellanos (Anson Mount) investigates a gruesome mass murder and then gets dragged into some mind-bending bullshit. As you go through the game you encounter various creepy and disgusting creatues. But none of them had as much of an effect as Ruvik. And my comment earlier about it being Jackie Earle Haley was serious, he really voiced the character. So why did I pick Ruvik to put on this list? Well, he is basically the main reason as to why the plot happens. And honestly, that’s not exactly why I chose him for this list. Mild spoilers coming for the game. In chapter 9 (titled “The Cruelest Intentions”) you enter a creepy mansion. In front of you there is a big and weird door that you need to get open. If you look closely you will see that there are cables going from the door to various doors in the foyer. So of course you follow these cables into the rooms. Now the scary stuff comes. As you enter any of these rooms (timing varies), Ruvik will appear. First instinct, shoot the fucker… doesn’t work. He walks towards you, and if he cathes you he will kill you. All you can do is run away from him (always keep your eyes on him), until he disappears after about 30 seconds. And that’s the scary thing, an unstoppable thing that just walks after you. I find that scary. Seriously, whenever I get to that part of the game I lock up because I don’t want Ruvik to appear. But sometimes you have to bite the bullet to progress. And he will appear 3 times throughout… which is terrifying. So yeah… that’s why Ruvik is on the list. And on a quick sidenote: If you want a pretty cool game to play, I do recommend “The Evil Within”.

The Thing – The Thing
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The titular thing from John Carpenter’s sci-fi/horror masterpiece is fucking terrifying. It’s also one of the most clever plot devices ever. The creature can take the shape of anyone, so there’s constant mistrust and tension between the characters, which makes for a very suspenseful and awesome movie. But when the creature decides to finally show itself as a monstrous being, it is disgusting and creepy and Rob Bottin’s effects are some of the best ever put to film. I don’t think I need to say much here since it’s such a well known and beloved film.

John Doe – Se7en
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Okay, I’m not even gonna show a picture of this one in case someone reading this haven’t seen “Se7en” yet… which you should, damn it. David Fincher’s “Se7en” is honestly one of my personal favorites… definitely one of my top ten. For those that don’t know, detectives Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) investigates a series of gruesome murders that all seem to be related to the seven deadly sins in some way. And the reasons as to why I picked John Doe for this list is because he is a highly skilled killer who works in secret, and isn’t even seen until the last third of the movie. The stuff he does to his victims… horrifying. And when you do see him later on, he’s still scary, with a calm and menacing demeanor and a perfectly calculated plan. Really, a killer who’s got every step of his plan worked out is just scary to me, especially when their plans involve some truly horrifying and awful stuff.

Dementors – Harry Potter
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The Dementors are something I talked about fairly recently in my review of “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” (#ShamelessPlug). They are dark creatures with a scary design and with no real sympathy for anyone or anything. Seeing one in the movie? Scary. Being chased by one in the video game while trying to solve a puzzle… fucking terrifying. Really, these things are just horrible. I’m just gonna leave you with a quote from the “Prisoner of Azkaban” novel. “Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair, they drain peace, hope, and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself — soul-less and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”

Regenerator – Resident Evil 4
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I know, the graphics on that thing don’t look too scary from where you’re sitting right now… but trust me, these fuckers are the stuff of nightmares! Agent Leon Kennedy (Paul Mercier) gets sent to Spain to find the President’s kidnapped daughter. While there he encounters some dark and disturbing stuff. At first, “Resident Evil 4” only feels like a very tense action-thriller, at least for me. I understand if someone might find most of it scary, but I didn’t exactly feel those spooks myself. Then we get a part pretty late in the game. You walk around some strange lab underground, and what do you find there? Infected people… and motherfucking Regenerators. These things… god. When you first encounter them, you think that it’s just as simple as shooting them… like pretty much all other enemies… but that is not the case here. Sure, you can blow off it’s limbs, but that shit will just grow back (hence the name). The only ways you can kill them is with either the help of a special scope you find later, or with a rocket launcher (very rare and kind of expensive). So all you can do really is run. Maybe blow off the legs to slow them down, but you can’t beat them. And the sounds they make, good fucking grief. It’s a weird breathing noise that scares me every time I hear it. And if a Regenerator gets hold of you, it will take away your health faster than you can say “Oklahoma”. Another thing about them is that there are two versions of them; the “normal” one (not normal in the eyes of me or god or anyone), and the “Iron Maiden” version. And no, that version doesn’t have excellent taste in music… that version has huge spikes coming out of it to stab the ever-living shit out of you. I hate these guys… they are terrifying. Sidenote: “Resident Evil 4” is an amazing game, go play it.

Xenomorph – Alien
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This is the final one that I will put on the list. Can’t be here too long with the listing. But I think you all can agree that the Xenomorph from Ridley Scott’s “Alien” is really scary. A big, phallic, alien that sneaks on board a ship and then proceeds to stalk the crew and kill everyone… seriously, that is scary. The design of it (done by the brilliant H.R. Giger) is like something you’d see in your nightmares. And many people agree that it is horrifying, evidenced by it’s long-running popularity. From the OG movies, to the “AvP” bullshit, to the critically acclaimed game “Alien: Isolation”. This thing has gotten stuck in people’s minds, and I don’t think it will get out anytime soon.

So what do you think? Do you find any of these scary? And what are some scary characters/creatures that you get spooked by that I didn’t include? Seriously, I’d really love to hear from you guys!
Have a good one and Happy fuckin’ Halloween!