Horror is arguably the most subjective and personal genre. While it has been lambasted in former eras for being misogynistic, there are currently many very talented women who contribute enormously to the genre, and they deserve to be celebrated.
As a horror fan, it just made sense that to celebrate Women’s Equality Day I’d bring you 11 terrifying women in film. No matter her role, these artists prove they can bring out the terror you crave, so be prepared to get inspired…to death!
At age 68, Lynn Lowry is still killing it. I had the pleasure of meeting her at this year’s Northwest Horror Show where she gave a Q&A after a screening of her first (uncredited) film, I Drink Your Blood (1970). Initially cast for her striking impish visage, Lynn has appeared in several films from 1970s and onward, most notably Cronenberg’s Shivers and George Romero’s The Crazies. Despite a short respite, her career shows no sign of stopping. She has a whopping 22 titles in various stages of production since the beginning of this year, ranging from female-lead horror like Model Hunger (where she teams up with director Debbie Rochon) to various horror shorts. Lowry is letting us know she’s not going anywhere, and that’s all right with me.
JEN & SYLVIA SOSKA
The Soska Sisters, Sylvia and Jen, don’t shy away from the outrageous, with their directorial debut Dead Hooker in a Trunk flipping the bird to everyone who told them to sit down and behave like ladies. Not only do these sisters direct, they also act. Their 2012 hit American Mary is a gem of a movie that involves two other women on this list, (Katherine Isabelle & Tristan Risk) so the Soskas know talent when they see it. I recently checked out their short, T is for Torture Porn in ABCs of Death 2, and it was both funny and impressive. With the success of Hellevator going into season two, it looks like their careers are on the way up. I put them together as one for this list, but somehow I don’t think they’d mind.
Eva Green makes my list despite her horror experience being limited to TV. I’m throwing her in for her performance in the criminally-underrated Penny Dreadful. Green’s eyes convey an alluring depth that recall the days of belladonna, and she pushes herself in her performances to a place I admire. Not concerned with appearances, Green fully commits to her characters…and their demons. She carries her own dreamy, brooding atmosphere with a voice like melted wax. I’m hoping she gets more opportunities to show us her dark side. Though she turned down the lead role in Von Trier’s Antichrist, I can’t help but wonder what she would have brought to that character.
Karyn Kusama made waves with her first film Girlfight, which starred a then-unknown Michelle Rodriguez. In 2009, she was introduced to the horror genre with Jennifer’s Body. She also happened to direct one of my favourite movies of 2016, The Invitation, a notable film with a million dollar budget shot in only 20 days. Her upbringing by two psychiatrist parents ensured she had an insight into human behaviour, and she uses that knowledge to her benefit in her work. Karyn is currently filming a segment for a killer anthology of female-centric horror called XX, so keep an eye out.
Ah, my true cheat entry. If you’ll allow me to speak briefly about another one of my passions (food), I’ll tell you about Janice Poon. Janice is the brilliant culinary artist behind the food in Hannibal. You might think a vegetarian wouldn’t appreciate her meaty creations, but I can’t shed my foodie side. Anybody who can make (faux) human flesh look tantalizing has a true gift for the macabre. Janice made it so realistic, I avoided eating while watching the show. Fans of Hannibal can even get a themed cookbook coming out this fall so you can recreate your favourite human-shaped appetizer. Spoiler: it’s pork. We all just look like pork inside.
When I saw Rose McGowan in 1999’s black comedy Jawbreaker, I thought she was the real deal. I was 11, and her icy teen queen act chilled me to the bone. While she’s most known for her roles in Charmed and Scream, her machine gun leg in the gritty grindhouse Planet Terror shot her into the throne where she has reigned as Queen Badass ever since. Rose has also stepped behind the camera, directing the short action/drama Dawn and is a known and vocal advocate for several causes. Also, she shaved her head and looks very intimidating.
Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut, The Babadook, was one of my favourite movies of 2014. I loved its darkness and genuine narrative, and I can’t wait to see what she does next. She describes her next feature, the revenge/period film Nightingale, as “not horror, but a pretty horrific world.” She’s also signed on to write/direct an adaptation of the gothic teen romance Alice & Freda Forever. Kent’s ability to highlight the pain of grief and real hidden fears of parenthood earns her a spot on this list.
Katharine is no stranger to the horror genre. She first clawed her way into our hearts as a formidable teen-wolf in the cult classic Ginger Snaps. Anyone who watched it growing up knows what I’m talking about. She also played a Margot Verger in Fox’s Hannibal to become a fan favourite. As the lead for the Soska Sister’s body-horror film American Mary, she was just plain fun to watch. She’s one of my favourite modern-day scream queens who just happens to hail from my blessed home city of Vancouver, BC.
Tristan is a born performer. As one of Canada’s most recognized burlesque artists, it’s no wonder she’s featured in more than one of the Soska’s movies. Her role as surgery-happy Beatrice, a woman obsessed with becoming a real-life Betty Boop, brought her into the spotlight and now she can be seen in several horror flicks – from Vince D’Amato’s gialli throwback Valley of the Rats to beyond.
Jennifer Lynch first began directing at the age of 19. As the daughter of David Lynch, she’s no stranger to the industry. While her first film Boxing Helena was a critical flop, her foray into horror has been relentless. She’s directed episodes for The Walking Dead, Teen Wolf, Damien, not to mention her heady serial killer feature Chained. Lynch’s upcoming Hellfest features a sick horror theme park with a masked killer who’s probably just part of the show…right?
Growing up as a horror fan gave Alex the dream to really let loose in the genre someday. Originating from Saudi Arabia, she first appeared on the scene in 2008 in various smaller parts. Her ambitious performance in the indie horror Starry Eyes was particularly impressive and has established her as a quality actor. Throughout the film she was willing to go to the extreme, reminiscent of Adjani’s frenzy in Possession with a touch of Farrow’s innocence in Rosemary’s Baby. I have full confidence that Alex Essoe can pull off any role required to reach the core of our fears, and I look forward to see where she goes with her unique talent.
Featured Image: Showtime