Here are ten of my favorite horror movie females, and why:
Annie Wilkes – Misery
I read this book when I was a teenager, and I was mostly unimpressed by it, but Kathy Bates knocked this character out of the park, in the movie. Think of Annie as a rather unhinged version of Dolores Umbridge long before Harry Potter existed. I love characters that have these sweet temperaments on the surface, but are willing to commit to horrific acts of violence when they don’t get their way. There are a lot of male characters like that all over film, (usually serial killers), but female characters who do that are kind of rare, and worth noting.
I had a choice between Sue Ann from Ma, and this character, but I chose this one because she came first, and that leg hammering scene was the most hardcore shit I’ve ever seen a female character commit on a movie screen. She is the poster child for keeping your fanship in fucking perspective, and never letting it get out of hand. You define what your fandom is going to be. You don’t let your fandom define you.
Samara – The Ring
What I like, (for lack of a better word), about this character is she is just evil to be fucking evil. Yes, she was drowned by her mother or something, in a well, but what’s bad ass about her is there is no appeasing of this character. You can’t find her body and lay her to rest. She’s not angry because her murderers got away, or any of the usual reasons for ghostly activity. She ‘s just bad, to be bad. There’s just shit all you can do to save yourself from her, and that’s simply terrifying.
The lead character does everything she can to avert Samaras wrath, and the deaths of her loved ones, by investigating Samara’s crimes, and trying to find her, and get justice for her, but to no avail. You can’t do anything to make her happy. She is just bad. Samara is an example of how we should sometimes just “Let it go, already!”
Carrie White – Carrie
Although the story is tragic, I still see Carrie as a revenge fantasy for teenage girls. I can’t think of a single teenage girl who didn’t like this character, or have her resonate with them, somehow. Stephen King says she was based on a young woman he knew in high school, who was something of an underdog. She tried to get out from under it, to be more popular, dress better, or be more fun, but ultimately she couldn’t, and King saw that and wondered about what her life was like, and her story just stuck with him.
Despite that there have been several movies made about this character, two in the theater, and one on TV, her story, from the book, has still not been adequately captured. Carrie is the ultimate bad-ass of feminine vengeance. In the book, she destroys thousands of lives and burns down an entire town. I think there’d be an audience for this, if it were made with an actual budget, because the full scope of Carrie’s abilities has never actually been shown.
Eli – Let the Right One In
Eli is one of the few child vampires in cinema, and I would argue its a fairly accurate depiction of the life, in that she seems entirely plausible. A child vampire would need a caretaker, someone to act as a parent. They wouldn’t be able to go to school really, since they don’t age, and even if they did, they couldn’t remain in one place for more than a couple of years at a time.
In the novel, Eli simply says she’s been twelve for a very long time, so she is not a grownup in child’s body. Her brain simply never develops into adulthood at all, which sounds absolutely horrifying. She simply remembers being a child for a very long time, and never develops mature thinking, at all.
Eli is also a total bad ass. At the end of the movie, she comes to the defense of her child friend, when he is being tormented by bullies. What happens to them occurs off screen, but its still an incredibly effective scene. She has all of a child’s terrifying rage and intensity in a fight, coupled with the speed and strength of a vampire.
Katrina – Vamp
Katrina was the first Black vampire I’d ever seen. I’d read about a couple of them, but I can’t think of anyone more likely to play a vampire, than Grace Jones, who was my idol at the time she played this character, waaay back in the eighties, who says not one word throughout the entire movie, and still manages to get the last word right before she dies!
Grace Jones was important to me not just because I happened to be the right age for it, but she was of my time. Not someone my mother, or aunts, or grandmother admired. I chose her. She was an example of the kind of woman I wanted to be at sixteen, laughing, and beautiful, and fearless, in a way I just wasn’t. She was a dark skinned supermodel at a time when there were none who looked like her. She was an action star when there were no black female action stars. And she dated some of the hottest men of that era including Adam Ant, and Dolph Lundgren.
Later, the great Aaliyah, and Eddie Murphy himself, would follow in Jones footsteps, proving , yet again, that African vampires could put their shit down, and compete with any European Vampire. Katrina rips out throats and hearts, and still manages to find time for her night job, dancing in, and running, a vampire strip club.￼ She was the highlight of the movie, and really the only reason anyone remembers this, still rather obscure, 80s vampire comedy.
The Alien Queen – Aliens
Normally The Queen would qualify as the baddest of the bad, except she was defeated by Ripley. I mean, she had a good thing going there, with lots of warm bodies for her eggs, obedient kids, and plenty of food, and it was all ruined. She is every bit as bad as she believes she is, when going toe to toe with the power loader wearing human, who destroyed her nest. Normally, this sort of thing gets copied over and over in any movies that get released in its wake, like what happened after The Matrix, but nobody even tried to duplicate her.
She is, and always will be, one of a kind!
I remember the first time I saw this in the theater. The audience let out a collective gasp. Everyone was in awe of her. Cameron had delivered an excellent, thrill ride of a movie up to that point. He didn’t need to impress us any more, so really, our first glimpse of this thing, that had only been theorized about earlier in the movie, was like the icing on a chocolate fudge cake. And then to follow that up with a “Final Girl” battle…just WOW!!!
Satanico Pandemonium – From Dusk Til Dawn
This is only the third woman of color I’ve ever seen as a vampire. This is interesting because, even though vampire mythology can be found across every culture in the world, from Asia, to Africa, and South America, the only vampires we almost ever see in films and books, are White. Vampirism is not a White European tradition. There is a bunch of different types of vampires in the South American tradition, because of the interaction of so many cultures in the region. The vampires in From Dusk til Dawn most closely resemble the Cihuateteo of Aztec folklore.
In the TV series, Satanica tells about how she was sacrificed to an Aztec god when she was a child, and that she was given certain powers and curses by that god, and at the end of the movie version, we find that the nightclub, the Titty Twister, is situated at the top of an ancient temple.
I find the trope of the centuries old vampire, living a quiet, and discreet lifestyle, as the owner of a nightclub, to be pretty interesting. I guess it makes sense, as vampires can’t come out in the daytime, and as was explained in the movie Vamp, you get a ready supply of itinerant victims, many of whom won’t be missed. What I find equally interesting is that female vampires eventually become sex workers, club dancers, in the modern era. The male vamps who own nightclubs never have to dance, apparently.
If there is anyone who was going to play this character in a movie, I can think of no one else than the beautiful, and bodacious, Salma Hayek. She is definitely a rival for Akasha, as the world’s sexiest, baddest vampire.
Akasha – Queen of the Damned
Guys! When an ancient one walks up in the club, it’s time to get the fuck out!
By any measure of cinema, Queen of the Damned is probably a horrible movie, but it joins the list of horrible movies I’m not ashamed to love, solely on the strength of Aaliyah’s performance, as the titular character. She is a queen by every definition of the word, and she knows it. I think I hated every other character in the film, (except Marius), but Aaliyah rocked the shit out of this role. She was simply outstanding!
The scene, where she burns down an entire nightclub full of vampires, is one of the highlights of vampire cinema, and is right up there with the shootout from Near Dark, and the power loader scene from Aliens. She then saunters away from the flames, with not a care in the world. Her ass is completely unbothered, and unburnt. The walk! The Attitude! The music!
What’s interesting to me is that I’ve seen a whole new generation of young black women, including my niece, The Potato, who have fallen in love with Aaliyah. I don’t know if it’s because of her movie roles or her music, though. How about both!
Sue – Jurassic Park
I don’t actually know the Name of the Rex from this movie. I don’t think she has a name in the film. I call her Sue because the T. Rex skeleton, from the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History, is named Sue, and I’m a fan. (Actually, Sue is from South Dakota.) The real life Sue was a bigger, and heavier animal than her animatronic counterpart.
I loved this character, and not because she ate a lawyer. As the movie’s heavyweight (she is fully acknowledged by the director, Spielberg, as being the film’s star), Sue is iconic, and the special effects still stand up, twenty five years later. According to her Wiki, (yes, she has her own page), she stood 17 feet tall, weighed 17,000+ pounds, and was 20 feet long. The T. Rex was truly a force of nature:
Its roar is a baby elephant mixed with a tiger and an alligator, and its breath is a whale‘s blow. A dog attacking a rope toy was used for the sounds of the T. rex tearing a Gallimimus apart, while cut sequoias crashing to the ground became the sound of the dinosaur’s footsteps.
Ellen Ripley – Alien/Aliens
This list would not be complete if I didn’t add Ellen Ripley. She doesn’t just make this list just because she’s the baddest of the bad, or because I’m a huge fan of the actress, Sigourney Weaver. I think of the character as an icon and role model. (I have a couple of others, Grace Jones, and Nichelle Nichols, for example.) Ripley is the only fictitious role model I’ve ever adopted. I just happened to be at the right age, and the right stage of emotional development, when I first saw her.
I remember watching the first film, Alien, when I was around eleven or twelve, and no Ripley did not impress me in her first outing. (It would be Parker, played by Yaphet Kotto, who did that.) I distinctly remember being scared and intrigued by the ads for that movie, but I was too young to see it in the theater, at just nine years old, when it was released. By the time I saw Aliens, I was sixteen, and by that time my family had a VCR. I’d already been impressed by Cameron’s The Terminator, but for some reason, Sarah Connor, although she was pretty tough, did not make the list to role model, Ripley did.
I think the thing that most impressed me about this character was the scene at the beginning of the movie, Aliens, when her voice breaks as she is describing the murders of the crew of the Nostromo, because its that scene, (and the cut scene where she cries about the daughter she left behind), that informs all her decisions for the rest of the movie.
Ripley cries a lot, actually. She cries, screams, shakes, her voice trembles. This is a woman who has nightmares, and trauma, and is deeply terrified, but nevertheless, she keeps moving forward, and this was an attitude I would adopt as I moved through a life filled with anxieties, nightmares, mental illness, and suicide. I didn’t so much ask myself what she would do, (I knew what she would do), so much as adopt her attitude. Ellen Ripley taught how me to pass through fear like a cloud of dust, and that whatever terrors I have are irrelevant, if my goal is important enough.
One of the reasons I didn’t add Vasquez from Aliens, is because I wanted to highlight one of the non-human characters in the film, which I thought was awesome, and I had already included Ripley. Because I added the Xenomorph, I decided to take out the Latina Bad Ass I admired so much when I first saw the film. I had never seen any character like Vasquez in a movie, especially in 1986. Latina character simply were not regulalrly seen in Science Fiction movies, which sort of makes her character as groundbreaking as she is problematic. (The actress who plays her is not Latina, and is Jewish American. Her cultural markers are a bit stereotypical.)
I like all of the women in this movie, to tell the truth, including the brave and resourceful Newt, and the no nonsense Cpl. Ferro (whose very name is totally metal). I’d end up highlighting the entire film if I did that.
I specifically referenced the Aliens version of Ripley, because of her link to the first film, which is classified as a Horror movie, and while Ripley was an admirable character in that film, she was not yet a full on Bad Ass yet. That didn’t happen until the second movie which is why I referenced that one instead.
Another character I would have liked to include, for the same reason, is Sarah Connor. The first movie classifies as SciFi Horror, but she doesn’t become a true Bad Ass until the sequel. She too is one of the few White female characters, I truly admire, and one of the few White actresses whose career I followed very closely. But once again, I wanted to highlight non-human characters that impressed me, like Sue.