I’m carrying on my Halloween horror odyssey (although who am I kidding, most of the films I watch are horror films) with another list. This time I’m honouring some of my favourite female horror characters. There’s a mix of antagonists, final girls and unfortunate victims, but I love them all.
Ellen Ripley – Alien
Obviously no list of women in horror would be complete without super Sigourney Weaver’s turn as the tough as nails Ellen Ripley. I mean, just imagine being stuck in space, where no one can hear you scream, and being surrounded by killer aliens who want to use you as a giant womb. Thankfully Ripley had the necessary training and skills required to see it through to the sequel. And aren’t we all glad of that? I salute you Lieutenant Ripley.
Mary – American Mary
I’ve mentioned this film before, but Mary is such a brilliant character I thought it deserved another mention. It’s an incredibly unusual, provocative and original film and Mary is a wonderfully complex character. She changes through the course of the film, starting out as a wide-eyed medical student, she is victimized by someone she trusts. And from there on all bets are off. She’s a stone-cold bad ass. Katharine Isabelle does a truly incredible job as Mary, simultaneously portraying Mary’s vulnerability and her murderous taste for vengeance. She’s brilliant and I love her.
Laurie Strode – Halloween
Another mandatory for such a list, the quintessential final girl – Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode. Not a quick-arse heroine like Ripley, Laurie is the all American girl next door who must fight for her life because Halloween.
Ginger Fitzgerald – Ginger Snaps
Before American Mary Katharine Isabelle was Ginger Fitzgerald, a teenage misfit who ends up even more different from her classmates after being attacked by an animal. A wolf, to be precise. You probably know where this is headed, but it really is worth going along for the ride. Elizabeth Perkins also deserves a mention for her turn as Ginger’s equally morbid, down-trodden sister.
Marie – Switchblade Romance
This. Film. Is. Mental. I’ve only seen it once, but Switchblade Romance (or High Tension as it’s often known) is hard to forget. This French horror film is really hard to discuss without giving away crucial information that will only serve to spoil it for the uninitiated.
Tatum – Scream
Rose McGowen’s Tatum is the best friend of Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell), the Scream franchise’s ever-present final girl. She cracks wise, she flirts and she’s always ready with a hilarious put down. Fiercely protective of Sidney, who’s already been through the mill before the movie even begins, this is the kind of best friend any girl would be happy to have.
Mandy Lane – All the Boys Love Mandy Lane
This generic teen slasher (that’s honestly not a put-down, I love these movies) sees a then virtually unheard of Amber Heard as the titular Mandy. Previously a quiet outsider, the popular kids suddenly all want a piece of her now that she’s, umm, started to fill out woman-style. As per generic teen slasher movie template 03 the kids head off to house in the middle of nowhere for some smoking, drinking and sexing, only for things to go awry. I won’t say any more, but I really enjoyed Heard’s understated performance as the quiet girl who suddenly becomes popular.
Erin – You’re Next
Sharni Vinson plays our heroine here, and could be carving out a promising career in horror films (she was also very good in Bait and Patrick). In You’re Next, the Australian actress kicks all kind of shit out of a group of masked home invaders at her boyfriend’s family’s weekend retreat. She’s extremely likeable and you’ll be with her every step of the way.
Sarah – The Descent
One of my very favourite horror films, I’ve talked about this one before, if only briefly. This is a chick flick of a very different kind. It sees an all female group of friends head off into the wilderness on a caving holiday (no, it’s not my idea of a good time, either), when, dun dun dun… it all. Goes. To shit. Sarah is our heroine, a bereaved woman, still reeling from the loss of her daughter and husband. But once she’s in the depths of the caves there’s no time for tears – it will take everything she has just to stay alive.
The Descent is an example of that rare beast – a horror film that I found genuinely scary. I dragged my non-horror fan friend to the cinema to see it with me, not realising it would actually frighten either of us. Bless her, she got a kick out of it, thankfully, and we’re still firm friends!
Cherry Darling – Planet Terror
A second appearance by Rose McGowan, and another wise-cracking, tough cookie. Cherry Darling is more experienced, and luckier than Tatum, although she does undergo one of the weirdest medical procedures I’ve ever seen. Look at the front cover of the DVD and you’ll see what I mean.
McGowan’s tongue is placed firmly in cheek throughout, and she pitches her kitschy performance at just the right level for this funny and knowing grindhouse homage. Go Rose!