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Women in horror!

As a society, over the last several decades we have evolved to accept women as more than just the “sammich-making kitchen trolls” that we once were. Mainstream media has had a huge influence over the last several decades in aiding the public’s perception of the standards of female performance. Regarding the horror genre, if you look back on the myriad of titles, you’ll find that the female protagonist (and sometimes antagonist) has evolved in a way that women are no longer simply titties running through a forest, stumbling over our own feet and screaming.

The standard trope of the female character in a horror movie has changed, and I personally believe we may be evolving in a way that the new “trope” will soon be described in the following way: a strong, independent female lead, with an unmatched will to survive and the capability of taking care of herself and others.

Tropes in media, regardless of the type, have become the round-about cliché. When clichés change, they still remain a cliché, but they can change for the better. And I believe the horror genre has helped evolve typical conventions immensely.

Without covering too broad of a spectrum (because oh boy, there are a lot of horror movie titles to cover) I’m going to choose my top ten heroines that have emerged in horror over the course of the last fifteen years or so. But before I start, I feel that if I didn’t somehow pay my respects to Ellen Ripley from the Alien franchise, I would be doing myself a disservice. It is my humble opinion, that Sigourney Weaver helped the evolution of the horror heroine in ways that no other woman could.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Sigourney Weaver is a babe. But with the likes of Lindsay Wagner (The Bionic Woman) and Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) having their sexuality exploited all over the feel good decade of the 70s, Sigourney Weaver brought a different type of feminist swagger to the table. She wasn’t scantily clad, nor did she flaunt any sort of dependency on anyone else. She became Ripley, and did it like no one else could. In 1979, there was no other movie like Alien, and then came the 80’s, and Sigourney Weaver still did it best. In a decade where slasher flicks ruled the screen and women were reduced to “props” of torture and rape porn, Sigourney Weaver still kicked alien ass, and did it with a grace unmatched. Now, as a celebration of Women In Horror, and for February 2017’s Gore Spotlight WiHM feature, please allow me to introduce my personal top 10 leading ladies of the 2000’s…

10. Dana; The Cabin in The Woods (2012)
Now, Cabin in The Woods is probably one of my favorite horror movies to come out in the last ten years. (Not to mention Sigourney Weaver makes a cameo.) Dana makes this list simply because she “defies” the role that she has been chosen for in “the ritual.” Not only does Dana get the crap kicked out of her by a redneck zombie serial killer, but she loses all of her friends, spends a torturous night fighting for her life, and then ends up trapping herself in a facility that houses hundreds of monsters that have one sole purpose: to kill. The movie in itself makes fun of the typical horror movie tropes over the years, pointing out that the “whore always dies first” followed by the jock, the scholar, etc. Dana kicked some serious ass, and when it was all over, she was the one who held the power to “end the world.”

9. Dawn; Teeth (2007)
Teeth was one of my favorite movies at one point in time. The movie takes the myth of the “vagina dentata” and brings it to life. Our female lead, the promise-ring-wearing Dawn, is raped in a cave, but her vagina has other plans, and bites the penis off of her attacker. After surviving a sexual assault, she’s then molested by a doctor and “used for sex” by someone she trusts. These are all real-world examples of things women often, and unfortunately, experience. Dawn, rather than becoming a victim, embraces her “gift” and seeks revenge on the men who wish to cause her harm. In this way, Dawn could be considered a villain rather than a heroine, but I would say Dawn has every right to be the bad-ass heroine of this horror story.

8. Marie & Alex; Haute Tension (2003)
Translated from French to English, the leading ladies of High Tension surely bring the meat and potatoes to the dinner table. (Warning, there will be spoilers) Throughout the film Marie fights to protect Alex from a serial killer who has just murdered Alex’s entire family at their farm home, and just when you think the ladies are safe because Marie has triumphed over the killer, you’re completely wrong and you find out that Marie is the true antagonist in this vicious film. Alex and Marie are both forces to be reckoned with. Marie is hell bent on winning Alex’s love in any way that she can, and Alex has no intentions of dying at the hands of her psychotic best friend and will do whatever it takes to survive.

7. Ana; Dawn of The Dead (2004)
Ana wakes up to find her neighbor’s daughter in her bedroom and within seconds, the girl murders her husband in the comfort of her own home. The problem? Ana’s husband doesn’t stay dead. Ana finds herself thrust into the zombie apocalypse and is, in my opinion, one of the calmest people to experience the undead in the history of zombies. Rather than becoming hysterical, Ana thinks quickly and steps up to the plate. It’s the little things like grabbing car keys off the bedside table even though her husband is trying to rip her throat out or remembering that the keys to the escape boat are in a dead man’s pocket despite a horde of zombies snapping at her heels. Ana not only witnesses people she loves and cares about dropping like flies, but must deal with the collapse of the entire world. And she keeps it together, never breaking stride, and fighting the undead until the very end.


6. Marybeth; The Hatchet Series (2010 - 2013)
Who else could end the maniacal reign of Victor Crowley better than Marybeth from the Hatchet series? The answer is: no one. Not only is Marybeth forced to suffer through a night of terror, watching as one by one the people around her fall victim to a crazed killer, but she has to deal with bitter family secrets, betrayals from those who were there to help her, and a killer that just won’t stay dead. Marybeth makes me happy because she always follows the “double-tap” rule. She’s not like these other horror queens who stab a dude once and think the deed is done. Oh no, Marybeth likes to use shotguns, and she uses them well. With each Hatchet movie that continues the story, she proves herself time and again to be a fighter that is truly worthy of survival.

5. Yasmine & Eva; Frontiere(s) (2007)
Not only is our heroine of Frontiere(s) a bad ass, but she’s also a pregnant bad ass. She fights to save her own life while protecting the life of her unborn child. In addition to Yasmine’s unwavering determination to live and escape the clutches of a psychotic family that has taken her hostage and killed her friends, there is another hidden gem in this movie who goes by the name of Eva. Eva is also a captive of the crazed family who has been there since early childhood. She has endured unspeakable horrors and cares for the “rejected children” of the family. While Eva might be obedient to the family members to save her own life, she knows what needs to be done in order to help Yasmine and her unborn child escape with their lives. Frontiere(s) showcases not one, but two hardened female survivors that put a stop to the family’s reign of terror.

4. The Entire Cast of The Descent (2005)
2005’s The Descent spins a claustrophobic, mutant-filled tale of horror, truly putting women on display in a worthy manner. In most movies “the jock” is never the woman, and in the case of The Descent, ALL of the jocks are women. There is true “girl power” to be found here as you have several scenarios that play out. This movie shows the vicious nature of women turning on women, the soft and nurturing ways that women come together to help one another, and the unbreakable will of terrified women fighting (and I mean, damn, do they fight) for their lives. These females are pushed to their absolute limits, and some of them can rough it out, and some of them can’t. But all in all, every single one of the female roles in this film deserves a round of applause.

3. Mary; American Mary (2012)
We have on our hands another film that uses the story of the sexually assaulted woman and ensures she does not fall into the victim role in response to the atrocious act. While I hate to see any female violated on screen, I enjoy watching the female seek her vengeance. Not only does Mary seek her vengeance, but she builds herself an empire. Mary, who was once attending medical school to become a surgeon, finds solace in the underground community of body modification. While she does unspeakable things to the awful man that deserves it, Mary proves to the body-mod community that she is a truly gifted surgeon. The movie boasts that it is about a woman seeking relief from her “financial troubles,” but American Mary should be boasting that it is a dark film that showcases what a woman is capable of accomplishing when she has everything taken from her.

2. Erin; You’re Next (2011)
Most horror movies are filled with people making horrifically stupid decisions, You’re Next is no exception to this rule, however, the character of Erin is. You’re Next gives us the gift of the child raised by extreme survivalists. With the skillset and intellect required to survive the worst-case doomsday scenario, Erin is the perfect surprise protagonist in this home invasion horror flick. She’s a natural born leader who tries her hardest to keep the members of the family safe as they’re hunted and terrorized in their own home, but Erin doesn’t think twice about saving herself and doing what it takes to be the last woman standing at the end of the night, even if her survival comes at the expense of others. If every household had a leading lady like Erin, I’m pretty sure crime rates would plummet.

1. Alice; Resident Evil Series (2002 – Present Day)
No one else but Milla Jovavich and her stunning portrayal of Alice could top my list of Women in Horror: 2000’s. Sure, the Resident Evil film franchise is the cheese atop the cheesiest cheesecake (that’s a lot of cheese), and Alice might be a genetically enhanced weapon courtesy of The Umbrella Corporation, but she is the superhero I wanted to be when I grew up. With strength, skill, intelligence, determination, and the capacity for kindness, Alice embodies all the necessary qualities of a true action/horror heroine. Admittedly, Resident Evil has strayed farther away with each film from the horror genre and into the action category, but sticking to our roots, Alice has been a fighter from the get-go. In the first film, before she was ever experimented on, she was a trained soldier who fought alongside perfect strangers (and fellow bad ass Michelle Rodriguez) to ensure the T-Virus never escaped the underground labs of The Umbrella Facility, The Hive. Hats off to Alice for attempting to save the world, over and over again, no matter how futile it seemed. Not only is she willing to travel to the ends of the earth to right the wrongs of the evil Umbrella Corporation, but she’s willing to risk her own life, time and again, to rebuild the world she once knew. When all hope is lost to humanity, hope is never lost to Alice.

With my top ten now unleashed upon the world, I hope that I’ve done my part in shedding some light on some truly worthy women in horror fiction. Perhaps you’ve seen any of the above mentioned movies and didn’t find the substance that I did when watching. But I hope that you readers will revisit and enjoy as if you were watching for the first time with a fresh perspective.

Strong women in horror is an important theme to support. Without the current changing of the winds, female depictions in horror fiction would simply continue to be farces with only a few Ripleys to fill the gap every couple of years.

Stevie Kopas, HMS

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