Remembering women who each have made a valid and memorable contribution to the horror scene, isn’t as tricky as it once was with the rise of more notable female stars and filmmakers.
Troma starlet Debbie Rochon said it best when she told GC magazine that :
“A true Scream Queen isn’t the Perfect Woman. She’s sexy, seductive, but most importantly ‘attainable’ to the average guy. Or so it would seem. And although the earlier scream queens might be women that ‘just had to look pretty and shriek a lot until the hero of the film got around to save (them)’, the later scream queens showcase women worrying about something other than a guy…unless said guy is the one trying to kill them, with some of them ‘wreaking vengeance’ by defeating the villain. “
Since the era of Fay Wray screaming as an ape lovingly plucked her and carried her up the Empire State Building, roles for women have increased as both the hapless victims and final girls (last woman standing, who usually defeats the killer in a slasher film).
Between the 60’s and the 90’s we had a slew of scream queens like Heather Langenkamp, Barbara Steele, Adrienne Barbeau, Sandra Peabody, Marilyn Burns, Linda Blair, Lisa Wilcox, Felissa Rose, Barbara Crampton, Janet Leigh, Jamie Lee Curtis, Linnea Quigley, Daria Nicolodi, Debbie Rochon, Danielle Harris, and Neve Campbell.
The scream queens of this eras films varied from the girl next door to the strong feisty young woman determined to survive at any cost!
The films they appeared in were created by hugely adored horror filmmakers like Wes Craven, John Carpenter, William Peter Blatty, Alfred Hitchcock, Dario Argento, Lloyd Kauffman, Tobe Hooper and much more.
In the modern world, names that make fans instantly think of horror include Scout Taylor Compton, Neve Campbell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sheri Moon Zombie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Naomi Watts, Vera Famiga, Chloe Grace Moretz, Abigail Breslin, Julie Strain, ShannonTweed, Kate Beckinsale, Lacey Chabert , Courtney Cox, Eliza Dushku, Jodelle Ferland, Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Erica Leerhsen, Crystal Lowe, Mercedes McNab, Danielle Panabaker, Anna Lynne McCord, and Katherine Isabelle.
This new wave of scream queen is more feisty, and in some cases mocks their situation on screen (much like when Neve Campbell in the 90s film Scream infamously spouted the line that she wasn’t “some big breasted bimbo who runs up the stairs, instead of out the front door”). They fight back strongly and are usually the final girl battered, bruised but still standing proudly.
However it is not just on our screens, that we see women contributing to the horror genre.
It was in 1953 the world began a love affair with filmmaker Ida Lupino and the worlds first female directed film-noir thriller The Hitch-Hiker graced the silver screen.. From that moment on women stepped into more roles within the film industry and other women filmmakers broke tradition and produced their own memorable films and thrilled the horror fans.
This included the likes of Katheryn Bigelow with Near Dark, Katt Shea with Poison Ivy, Mary Lambert with Pet Sematary, Jen and Sylvia Soska’s American Mary, Sofia Copolla’s remake of The Beguiled, Jennifer Lynch’s bizarre but brilliant Boxing Helena, Patty Jenkins (yes the creative director behind the recent DC Wonder Woman film) with the serial killer biopic Monster, Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsey’s chilling We Need To Talk About Kevin, Kimberley Peirce’s remake of Carrie, Karyn Kusama’s Jennifer’s Body, Australian filmmaker Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, Mary Harron’s American Psycho, or even England’s Alice Lowe’s with Prevenge.
Last year saw the release of Finnish Australian filmmaker Saara Lamberg’s first feature film Innuendo. Innuendo has scored well with critics internationally and is a formidable entry for the next wave of filmmakers yet to come. The film is innovative, original and intriguing and Lamberg herself wrote, directed and starred in the film in dual lead roles as twins Tuuli and Suvi.
With films like Saara Lamberg’s Innuendo, French filmmaker Julia Ducournau’s breathtaking movie Raw and even Ana Lily Amirpour’s vampire film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, it is easy to see the increase in female filmmakers within the horror genre and the quality of their work is becoming more and more revered by fans.
Welcome to the new millennium.