Celebrating Women in Horror Month: Luke Walker’s Favorite Female Characters

Horror writer, Luke Walker, is a regular visitor to this blog. He’s previously been interviewed by yours truly and has also given us his opinion on the best zombie movies. This time around he’s telling us about his favorite females in horror movies.  

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When Diane asked me if I’d like to come up with a post about women in horror films for her ‘Women In Horror’ month, a couple of films immediately came to mind. Then a couple more came. Within a few minutes, I had a growing list of films that needed trimming down. The funny thing is, you say “horror film” to a lot of people and they don’t tend to think of women in an assertive role. Women are the victims. At most, we can expect them to have the role of the final victim (or Final Girl, if you prefer). Think of older films such as Halloween, Friday 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, Texas Chainsaw and so on. All featured a Final Girl facing off against the male killer. The issue of whether or not this was support for women or simply a way of putting them through hell and then putting them back in their supposed place isn’t an issue I’m discussing here. I’ve just got a list of some great horror films with some great female characters.

Dog Soldiers: Megan – If you haven’t seen this low budget British film from 2002, you’ve missed a treat. It’s the story of a small group of squaddies on a training exercise in the Scottish Highlands who run into…werewolves. Basically, think Night of the Living Dead but with hairier zombies. Anyway, Megan is the sole female character unless you count references to the Sarge’s wife. Without her, it would be a much different film. In any case, I knew I was going to like this film when I saw this trailer for it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FINKj6HnQ7E

Martyrs: Anna – This isn’t going to be top of everyone’s list of films to watch simply because it’s an extremely hard watch. You know the scene in the original Texas Chainsaw when Sally is at the dinner table? You know how she screams for what seems like three hours? Pretty horrible, isn’t it? Well, Martyrs goes into similar territory during several scenes. Even without the high levels of gore, this is an uncomfortable film but one I recommend. The basic story concerns two childhood friends, Lucie and Anna. As a child, Lucie went through a hellish experience involving abduction and abuse. A few years later, Lucie tracks down the people she believes were responsible and all hell breaks loose.
As I said, this won’t be for everyone, but my way of thinking has always been that as horrible as films can be, the news is always scarier because that’s real.

Carrie: Carrie (obviously) – an oldie but a classic. Everyone knows the story of this one and everyone knows the big jump scene. OK, it’s as dated as hell (dig Travolta’s hair) and the opening scene is shot like it’s about to turn into a very different film, but this still had to go on my list. The Shining is often voted as one of the best King adaptations.  For me, though, The Shining doesn’t have half of the heart Carrie does. It’s not a perfect film by any means and it’s not as close to the book as it could be, but it does have heart. Anyone who can watch this and not feel sorry for Carrie is a bit of a bastard, frankly.

Dawn/Day of the Dead: Fran & Sarah – While it might appear heretical to mention the second two films in Romero’s ever growing Dead series without mentioning the seminal (snigger) Night, I have a good reason for that. Barbra in Night is a victim from pretty much beginning to end. Understandably, of course, but that doesn’t alter the fact she’s catatonic for about an hour and twenty minutes. Fran and Sarah, on the other hand, will not be victims of either the zombies or the men they’re forced to exist with. Look at Fran in the early scenes of Dawn and compare her to Fran in the second half. She can hold her own in the newsroom, but put her outside in a zombie apocalypse and she needs to be rescued by Peter. Then while the boys are going shopping for stuff they don’t need, she’s learning to fly the helicopter, shoot and generally take care of herself. Then Sarah in Day – this is a woman who will take no crap from anyone even in the face of Captain Rhodes and his insanity. You could argue the world of the dead has made her as emotionally dead as the zombies. Or you could argue she knows what it will take to survive.

The Descent: Sarah – Another film from Neil Marshall (after Dog Soldiers) and one of the best horror films of the last ten years. Sarah and her friends are on an adventure holiday after a horrific event ruined Sarah’s life. They’re going underground to explore a system of caverns under the Appalachian Trail. Of course, it all goes wrong when they discover they’re not alone.
If you’re outside the UK and haven’t seen this, get the British version. There’s a small difference between it and the US release which, in my opinion, changes the film into something much smaller than it is. The point of this film and Sarah’s character comes at a very precise point. Removing that point for the US release…well, let’s just say I know which version I’d rather watch.

So these are my film recommendations. Enjoy.

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Thanks for a great list, Luke. By the way, dear readers, Luke’s no slouch when it comes to interesting female characters in horror. Check out his novel, The Red Girl, from Musa Publishing and his blog, Die Laughing.  

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About Diane Dooley

Writer, Mother, Geek
This entry was posted in Guest Posts, Horror and Dark Fantasy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Celebrating Women in Horror Month: Luke Walker’s Favorite Female Characters

  1. Very nice, Luke, I enjoyed your thoughts and film recommendations and must agree whole-heartedly on Descent. Dog Soldiers, I haven’t yet seen, but thanks to the trailer you put up, I believe I’ll be checking it out tonight. Nor have I seen Martyrs. Thanks for giving me some movies to check into. 🙂

  2. Sealey says:

    Ooh, Carrie tops my list. I haven’t heard of Martyrs. Looks like I have something to check out tonight. Great list, Luke!

  3. Luke Walker says:

    Thanks for reading 🙂 I highly recommend Dog Soldiers for sheer entertainment value. Martyrs isn’t what I’d call ‘fun’ but it’s definitely worth checking out if you don’t mind high levels of violence.

  4. Amaleen Ison says:

    Some cracking recommendations, Luke. One of my favourites is Dog Soldiers. I didn’t expect very much from a low budget movie, but I was pleasantly surprised. The descent also exceeded all expectations. In the past, the woman’s role in a horror movie was to provide the screams. We’re now seeing a new bread of women – tough and ready for anything. My favourite all time leading female in a horror movie is Ripley (Sigourney Weaver).

  5. Steve Barber says:

    Totally agree with Carrie. I’m rather fond of Linda Blair in the Exorcist too. The possessed Linda Blair. She reminded me of my ex. 😉

    Enjoyed the post, Luke.

  6. Okay, I have to admit that I can’t watch horror – never could and probably never will. I’m just too chicken. But It’s a great list, and I am familiar with at least a couple of them. My comment is based on the fact that as I read your post, I know I saw that snake slither down that woman’s neck a bit further. Freaked me out!

  7. Laurel says:

    Great picks, Luke!

    Carrie is a true classic. The first version I saw of it was the made-for-TV one with Angela Bettis in the title role. The Brian De Palma version is far superior, of course, but that girl is a real treasure. Have you seen “May?” Another fierce contender for a list like this, I think.

    • Luke Walker says:

      Laurel, I don’t think I’ve seen May. It rings a bell, though. I’ve been hearing about a Carrie remake which I don’t know if I’d watch. Plus there was a Carrie 2, I believe, which was awful by all accounts.

  8. Dale Long says:

    Thanks for the info Luke! I’ve been eyeballing Dog Soldiers. I’m a big fan of werewolf movies, so I think I’ll have to see that one now. Kinda fitting since my second novel is a traditional werewolf horror.

    I have a morbid fasination with Zombie flicks too, but I’ll never write one. I know it was a terrible film, but I enjoyed Mila’s turn in Resident Evil, but that may be classed as SF too.

    I refuse to watch Saw type movies. They are Gorror, not horror. There is no depth to them.

    I remember an old John Capenter film that I found disturbing, I think it was Prince of Darkness? About a canister found in an old church and the lead character seeing visions of the future or something like that. I think there was a strong female lead in that as well. Was it Markie Post?

    Great list Luke!

    • Luke Walker says:

      Dale, thanks for reminding me about Prince of Darkness (yes, that’s the one you’re thinking of). Not seen that in years. Saw etc doesn’t do a lot for me. Being gross is easy. Being scary is hard. And Res Evil was terrible, but I enjoyed it in a ‘brain turned off sort of way’.

      Definitely give Dog Soldiers a go. It’s very British and very good.

  9. Diane Dooley says:

    Sissy Spacek was just brilliant in Carrie. What a role!

    Have added Dog Soldiers and The Descent to my movie list. Thanks again, Luke!

  10. I just remembered: Eli in Let the Right One In. What a fantastic movie, and what a fantastic book. (ROT13 for possible spoiler: V fhccbfr bar pbhyq nethr gung fur qbrfa’g “pbhag” nf n srznyr punenpgre, ohg gb zr gung fbhaqf hapbzsbegnoyl nxva gb gur wrex zbir bs qralvat gung genafjbzra ner jbzra.)

    I have not seen the U.S. remake (“Let Me In”); should I? I’ve heard it doesn’t really do anything new or interesting with the material, so I haven’t really bothered.

  11. Diane Dooley says:

    Just got through watching The Descent. Fantastic! Thanks for the rec.

    • Luke Walker says:

      Glad you liked it. Not a horror film, but the same director’s Centurion is also worth watching. So is Doomsday, for that matter, although it’s not for everyone. It’s an OTT homage to films like Mad Max and Escape From New York.

  12. Pingback: Female Characters in Horror Film and Fiction: Victims or Survivors? |

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