Horror is the perfect genre to look at if you are browsing for films with kickass women in a survival situation. Earlier, the horror films fed the same old sexism where women were brutalised, held as damsel in distress or killed. Most of the horror films has female victims for the sake of getting the audience’s sympathy. Nevertheless, women came out as the survivors in many films, in a way destroying the notion that they can’t take care of themselves or are vulnerable. The result- we have women with perfect character arcs that haunt you in your dreams. Some films show women using their skills and intellect to get the upper hand and finally kick ass.
Here are the list of women who made the horror genre very interesting:
Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is one of the first women to survive in a hostile environment all on her own. The movie ‘Alien’ (1979) scared the audience and added spark to the horror genre. This character is not sidekick but a skilled officer who was initially underestimated and disrespected. She evolved and faced all the challenges that came her way. She fought and killed the Aliens which attacked her ship. She gave the best impression in the sequels as well.
Ellen Ripley has entered several best characters list and is lauded for breaking gender stereotypes. Several mainstream actresses praised her as their source of inspiration. “I remember watching Aliens and it blew my mind that a woman could do all that,” said actress Milla jovovich who played the lead role in ‘Resident evil’ series.
She is one of the first feminists in a horror film. Played impressively by Heather Langenkamp, Nancy Thompson was the favourite character of the 1980s girls. The movie, directed by horror movie master Wes Craven, introduced a teenage girl fighting her way through a scenario where kids are killed in their dreams. The main antagonist Freddy Krueger kills teenagers in their sleep by haunting them in their dreams. When nobody believes and when her friends were being attacked and killed, Nancy takes it upon herself to confront Freddy Krueger with her intellect and learns how to take away his energy.
Without giving much away, the way her character was handled in the sequel met with flak.
Till date Nancy is one of the most memorable girls in a horror film.
Actress Jamie Lee Curtis followed her mother Janet Leigh’s (who played Marion Crane in ‘Psycho’ 1960) footsteps to become a ‘scream queen’ following the success of the film Halloween (1978) . She screams but she is not in distress. Laurie Strode is one of the most popular ‘final girl’ in a horror film and emerges victorious at the end. She fights the main antagonist Michael Meyers with her determinator to keep the kids, she was watching, safe.
Halloween’s success spawned sequels. A direct sequel to the 1978 version was released in 2018 with Jamie Lee Curtis reprising her role as Laurie Strode.
With her performance, Curtis opened a new chapter for old female protagonists, as the woman who is ready to face her old nemesis, Michael Meyers.
Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) is an investigative journalist who discovers the cursed tape that kills people who watch it in seven days. The tape is haunted by a spirit named ‘Samara’ who left to die in a well by her mother. Rachel at first sympathises with the spirit but when she was proved wrong, she fights back with her grit. More than that, she is a mother who will do anything it takes to protect her son. She investigates Samara’s past and finds out the spirit’s weakness and uses it against her. Rachel is strong and is ready to face the worst. Rachel carried the film well as the sequel on her shoulders and the highlight is when she faces Samara in the well.
Mia (Jane Levy) started out as a weak and unreliable person who is addicted to drugs and is paranoid under the intense circumstances. She gets possessed by the spirits and puts her friends in trouble. However, she is an example of someone who turned things around after getting the survival instinct, even if it means losing a limb. She fights the abomination that was about to take over. At the end, it was just her and the abomination.
The conjuring series introduced a happily married couple who hunts and tracks ghosts for a living. Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) is a powerful clairvoyant, who sees the spirits and gets an insight into people’s lives. This gift she had helped her and her husband Ed in many difficult situations. Lorraine is very protective of her husband and daughter, one of the very impressive facets of her as a character. She figures out a way to defeat the nerve racking demon Valak and faces it by herself at the end when her husband and a girl’s lives were in danger.
Age knows no bar for Elise Rainier who was played very effectively by veteran actress Lin Shaye known for having her brush with the horror genre. Elise has the gifts to interact with the spirits and see them. She discovers her abilities as an ‘astral projector’, to come out of her body and enter the spirit world called the ‘further’. Elise helps people who face supernatural problems and courageously finds the solution for the same even if it means costing her life. She is the backbone of the ‘Insidious’ series and gets her own story in the fourth chapter and is one of the most popular characters from the horror franchise.
Rose looks like an innocent and easy prey for the creepy family in ‘Get Out’ but the way she turned out to be is the most impressive twists in the film. As per critics, Allison Williams’s performance in the film gave people nightmares and some felt that her performance makes her worthy of an Oscar nomination. One of the most impressive moments is when she speaks to her boyfriend Chris’s friend Rod, pretending to be all nervous but in person, she looks cold and merciless.
‘Us’ as a film broke the expectation by earning big in the box office on its first day of release, breaking the racist notion that Black people don’t get great box-office returns. Directed by Jordan Peele, the film is about a family facing their doppelgangers in a very creepy and blood curdling circumstances. Played by Oscar winner Lupita Nyongo, Adelaida Wilson and her doppelganger were the highlights of the film. Her compelling nature and survival instincts drove the film. Attention was particularly drawn to her Doppelganger’s voice which sounded spine chilling.
Scream as a film presented all the cliches in a horror film in a satirical manner. The movie was praised for attempting to subvert all the cliches. Sidney Prescott was presented like a typical teenage girl who might end up at the receiving end of the trap set by ‘Ghostface’. She faces it all- attempted murder, trust issues and betrayal. But, she turns the table and fight back the men who tried to kill her. The moments when she dresses up as the ghostface to attack one of the villains is the highlight. She even makes one of the men beg before getting the upper hand. Sidney Prescott is shown in action in the sequels and becomes an ‘icon’ in the scream universe.
Jodie Foster won a well deserved Academy award for her performance in the film ‘Silence of the lambs’ as the FBI trainee who is after the serial killer ‘Buffalo Bill’. She interviews a cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lector in his cell who gave her insights into possibilities of the case, impressed by her persistence. After putting together the pieces, she discovers the whereabouts of the serial killer, although her senior officials failed to do the same. She goes to his home and tries to track him down. Bill, tries to kill her by shutting the lights and finding her using night vision goggles in a chilly scene that shows Clarice struggling in the dark trying to find him with her gun. His mistake is that he should have killed her sooner when he had the chance.