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.