Monday, March 23, 2009

Retrospective: Ladies of Horror

There have been many fine women to grace the screen in the history of the horror film, so today we're gonna look back on them. Ladies of horror, past and present.

Linnea Quigley- A child of the '80's (well, mostly '90's. Still) I deemed her the best place to start. Linnea's, um, assets were pasted all over the screen throughout the entirety of the 1980's. She starred in such classics as Night of the Demons, Return of the Living Dead, Jack-O, Graduation Day, Silent Night Deadly Night, Pumpkinhead II: Blood Wings... the list goes on and on. As far as scream queens go, she ranks amongst the top, just for the quantity of work alone if nothing else.
Memorable Film: Return of the Living Dead. Yeah, Linnea was generally sought out for a movie if there was a skin scene to be had, but in this classic she went all out. Linnea takes her clothes off randomly in about her third scene, and remains that way for the duration of the film (even past death).

Jamie Lee Curtis- Would this shindig really be complete without her? Jamie is arguably the original scream queen, and one of the few to move on to a massive career outside the genre. After her phenomenal breakout performance in Halloween, Curtis went on to star in a plethora of other genre hits (Prom Night, The Fog, Terror Train, Halloween II) before moving on to a bigger career. Then, because she's a class act, Curtis (unlike most actors) was well aware of her roots in horror, enough to make Halloween: H20 twenty years after the original. Halloween: Resurrection is another story...
Memorable Film: Is it even open to debate? Her debut as the innocent yet powerful Laurie Strode in Halloween set the bar for horror actresses everywhere.

Elsa Lanchaster- Her two minute performance in The Bride of Frankenstein will be always be remembered. If that doesn't say something about her screen presence, I don't know what can. When the doctors prepare to remove the bride's bandages, we're expecting an unsightly horror. Instead, we see a creature that is awkwardly beautiful, somehow fractured. She's like a helpless, frightened animal, so unlike the creature she was born to love.
Memorable Film: Obviously, The Bride of Frankenstein.

Angela Bettis- Angela burst onto the scene at the dawn of the millenium and pretty much headlined a new generation of scream queens. Since her debut, she has starred in Bless the Child, May, Carrie, Masters of Horror: Sick Girl, The Woods, and others. Her characters are generally very socially awkward and she is not conventionally attractive, but there is a definite lure to her that cannot be argued.
Memorable Film: Definitely May, for her frighteningly stunning and darkly humorous portrayal of a very disturbed young girl fighting to connect with the people around her.

Janet Leigh- Mother of the aforementioned Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh (like Elsa Lanchaster) had a lengthy and impressive career, but will always be remembered for one scene. That would be the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's classic Psycho. She's built up as our heroine, and despite making the wrong choices from the very beginning of the film, we connect with her and even fall for her. It's therefore a shock when her character is stabbed to death in the shower, only about twenty minutes into the film. In this time, however, she's a treat for the eyes and if sex appeal actually had a sound, her voice would be it. She catches the eye of Norman Bates, too, and his mother is none to happy about that. The shower scene was the closest horror came in 1961 to the nude sex scenes that have today become a genre staple.
Memorable Film: Psycho.

Ingrid Pitt- The luscious star of so many Hammer horror films of the '60's. They just don't make scream queens like they used to, and Pitt was one of the best in history, starring in such Hammer classics like Countess Dracula, The Vampire Lovers (in which she played classic literary vampire Carmilla), The House That Dripped Blood and The Wicker Man, amongst others. She had an elegance, a look, and class that is just lost on so many of today's actresses.
Memorable Film: The Vampire Lovers. Of the few adaptions of Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla, this is the best, for Pitt's fiendishly sexy performance if nothing else.

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark- Could one talk about the female icons of horror without talking about Cassandra Peterson's sassy, ridiculously busty late-night horror host. She starred in her own show, Elvira's Movie Macabre before getting her own film in 1988. Her name is known the world over, and few horror hosts can say the same.
Memorable Film: Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

Danielle Harris- Okay, bear with me here. She first appeared as the young star of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers. But now, she's returned to the franchise with Rob Zombie's Halloween remake, and boy has she grown up. Harris carries herself through many a low budget horror movie these days, perfectly comfortable with where she is, offering every new movie a perkiness and a spunkiness that is undeniably sexy and undeniably all her own.

Christina Ricci- Another child star who grew up well. Maybe she hasn't done too much horror, and maybe Cursed isn't too much to brag about, but she has roots in the genre and certainly makes the occasional return. Returns to the genre that are generally much better than Hilary Swank's. Christina was the best (okay, mostly the only watchable) thing about Wes Craven's Cursed, and she was a very soft, Hammer-esque beauty in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, which she starred in opposite Johnny Depp. She was the perfect combination of strong and vulnerable in that film, and one cannot doubt that her next genre hit is likely right around the corner.
Memorable Film: Sleepy Hollow, for all the above reasons, and cleavage.


  1. Jamie Lee Curtis is also an excellent picture book author, ironically!

  2. I remember having a crush on Elvira as a child. I'd walk into the local movie rental place and see posters of her awesome boobage around Halloween and then be sad when my parents wouldn't let me rent that movie.

    Ingrid Pitt + tub + Wicker Man = hot. Super, super hot.