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 Cinema: Hush (2016)

by the Bubonic Illiterate

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Mike Flanagan’s 2016 survival-slasher film Hush recycles a killer-at-the-door storyline by giving it an impairment. Though Hush is set against a backdrop of familiar circumstances—girl is home alone, home is a house in the woods, lunatic with unknown motive is trying to kill girl—the film’s heroine, Maddie, can’t be typecast as your typical horror lead. She’s an isolated novelist struggling to surpass her first novel, and, most refreshingly, her greatest non-clichéd quality is this: She can’t hear. And that unusual element is why and how Hush works so effectively at keeping tension taut nearly the entire film. Imagine being unable to gauge the noise you’re making when there’s a murderer on your tracks; unable to hear the patter of your feet—knowing very well that your assailant can—as you attempt to move astutely in and around your house. Hush uses deafness to turn a basic plotline into something more intimate; in lieu of suspense-building string-arrangements, moments of silence are used to depict Maddie’s reality as she struggles to stay alive.

The killer—armed with a crossbow, crowbar, and knife—is ruthless, and his slayings reflect it. As well, unlike slashers/archers in films like You’re Next, The Strangers, or Scream, the man after Maddie is indifferent to his anonymity and willingly reveals his face early into the film. The bulk of the film is a cat and mouse chase, both entertaining and unnerving. The final act, however, is particularly original: Maddie, bleeding out from a leg wound, confronts her writer brain to weigh various courses of action (endings) that she can take. Each scenario is visualized on screen, and all but one result in death. Depending on who you’re rooting for, the ending can be either satisfying or disappointing. Regardless, Hush is an original take on a well-worn genre trope and definitely not a film to keep quiet about.

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Flanagan, Mike. Hush, Blumhouse Productions / Intrepid Pictures, 2016.

Horror Cinema: The Witch (2015)

A horror cinema review of Robert Eggers’ The Witch by new contributor to the Devil’s Muse, the Bubonic Illiterate.
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I’ve always been a fan of witches. Rhea of the Coos, the witch from Stephen King’s The Dark Tower universe, is one of my favourite fictional characters. Many of my favourite films revolve around witches, too—Suspiria, Rosemary’s Baby, even Hocus Pocus, for the matter. Yet rarely in film do we see an accurate portrayal of the true witch of folklore, the Mother Nature turned rotten, the crusty old woman of the woods who relishes in black magic and carries out Satan’s will. Robert Egger’s witch, however, is an exception.

The Witch is a true period piece. It’s evident that a hefty amount of research went into nailing not only the set and costume design but into replicating the Puritan dialect of the time. As a result of the film’s authenticity to its era, the ensuing horror is both believable and effective.

Here’s what makes The Witch frightening:

• The witch works her way at the family from various angles, and the horror increases with each new burden brought upon them: the immediate robbery of their newborn, their inability to produce bountiful crops, the possession of the family’s eldest son, the deterioration of the mother’s faith. The family crumbles.

• There is more than a menacing witch at work here; the devil is along for the whole ride. The movie is satanic, evil as all hell.

• There are some beautiful night shots of the family’s plot of land—set against a gorgeous backdrop of black woods—that will render you feeling entirely vulnerable.

• She isn’t green-skinned or cauldron-tending. She’s what you want her to be: gross.

Some of the scenes are drawn out and uneventful, and you might find yourself wondering when the real scares are coming. Additionally, some of the dialogue can be tricky to understand. While these things might deter some viewers, I found it greatly worthwhile to stick it out ‘til the film’s end; the final scene crams an abundance of evil down your throat. The camera work is chilling, and paired with the anxiety-inducing score and audio effects, the climax administers a nice dose of dread. Not only is it scary, but the final scene puts a unique spin on one character’s happy ending, which I found to be a wicked (pun totally intended) wrap-up.

She’s the witch you’ve been waiting for, and like her—ruthless and horrid—this film is the one you’ve been begging the genre to produce.

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Eggers, Robert. The Witch, A24, 2015.