Five of the Scariest, Most Overlooked Female Characters in Horror

by the Bubonic Illiterate


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It feels like D-Trump has dumped a Washington, D.C.-sized bucket of hot grease on the world’s good intentions, and now most of us are sizzling with rage like freshly fried mozzarella sticks— rigid and cheesed—our faith in humanity starting to feel like Fred Krueger’s face.

In light of all the Women’s Marches that have recently taken place, I’ve decided to give some praise to my favourite, often overlooked female villains of horror—overlooked because, typically, they’re just secondary or tertiary spooks in their respective films. Still, nothing would make me happier than to see any one of these female fiends in a pink knit cap, bringing her fist down on the oval office door.

1: Mrs. Massey – The Shining

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When one thinks of The Shining, a plethora of images comes to mind: Jack Nicholson wielding an axe, Shelly Duval’s bug-eyed, petrified face, the somber Grady twins holding hands in a floral-wallpapered hallway. For me, though, it’s Mrs. Massey. From the mint-green bathtub she crawls out of to the green flesh of her water-soaked sores, Mrs. Massey is the real MVP of The Shining.

2: The Nun – The Exorcist III

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The Exorcist III is a hell of a good sequel, and for a handful of reasons. Most notably, it’s got one of the most effective jump-scares in horror film history: a snow-white nun coming at a nurse with a pair of the largest shears you’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour. Do yourself another and have a change of underwear close by, too.

3: Zelda – Pet Sematary

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“Raaaaaachell!!” Good lord, Zelda freaks me out. It’s not so much her appearance (though her rail-thinness is totally harrowing) as it is her spring-loaded movements. When she flings herself into a sitting position on her bed, her neck all twisted and back all bones … Jesus, I get shivers just thinking about it. And even though Zelda was played by a man, her character is female, and deserves a good chunk of credit for, in addition to ruining my childhood, making Pet Sematary the gem that it is.

4. Patricia Ann Bradley – The Frighteners

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I’ve always loved The Frighteners. It’s fun, dark, and stars Michael J. Fox. What’s not to love? What’s particularly memorable is Dee Wallace Stone’s performance as girlfriend and love-fueled murder accomplice to Johnny Bartlett. Her maniacal dedication to killing is simply awesome, and a large part of what drives the horror into this horror-comedy.

5. Mrs. Kersh – IT

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It seems there’s a Stephen King trend going on here. So sue me. As a Gen Y kid, I was raised on these films, and I’d be denying myself an honest list if I didn’t include her. What’s scariest about Mrs. Kersh is that, initially, she’s a comforting character, one you could love like your own grandmother, what with her tea-cup sweetness and gentle concern—that is, until her teeth begin to rot and her face melts into a gruesome rubbery mask of elderly terror, of course.

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Horror Lit: The Bad Seed

A horror movie that my Mom recommended to me when I was a teenager was The Bad Seed. She recalled how scary it was when it came out, which would have been probably scarier since she was just a little girl herself when it did. Recently, I came across the novel that the movie was based on. When I read on its back cover that the book was an instant bestseller and National Book Award finalist, I knew that I had to give it a try.

Granted, I haven’t seen the movie in over 20 years myself, but I liked the book better. I remember that the movie wasn’t as suspenseful as I had hoped, especially since I was used to watching Hitchcock films at the time. In contrast, the novel was both suspenseful and frightening. The slow build of the main character’s discovery of her daughter’s crimes followed by the deeper discovery of her own identity was gripping. The author, William March, created a  cast of interesting and believable characters, making the book a delight to read.

It wasn’t a perfect narrative—but being a horror genre novel, I could forgive its clumsiness, and it was an overall memorable read, which is something I like when I find one.

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Book
March, William. The Bad Seed. W.E. Campbell LLC, 1954; Vintage Books Edition, 2015.

Film
LeRoy, Mervin. The Bad Seed, Warner Bros., 1956.

Horror Cinema: Hatchet II

As a New Year’s gift to myself, I picked up some new-t0-me horror movies from a secondhand dvd store. One of them was Hatchet II, which I chose because I liked the first Hatchet. I was impressed again by the sequel. The gore was brutal, senseless and violent, making this a perfectly great horror movie for my tastes!
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Green, Adam. Hatchet II, Dark Sky Films, 2010.