Written by: Lois Kennedy
In a genre dominated by male horror icons like Freddy Krueger and Jason, it can be hard to find monsters played by women. However, these roles do exist. Not only are the characters here as formidable as those played by men, they are just as scary.
10.) Samantha Eggar (England) as Nola in The Brood
The movie: The Carveth family is having a difficult time coping with wife and mother Nola’s long therapeutic stay at the Somafree Institute. Her therapist is helping her to work through her anger issues in less than orthodox ways, which results in creating monsters that kill whoever she’s mad at.
The creepiness: Nola is a ticking time bomb, a drama queen set off at a moment’s notice. For example, she blames Candy’s teacher Ruth for her husband Frank’s failure to love her—“You bitch! You’re killing my family!” She’s self-centered, used to being her doctor’s “queen bee.” Frank describes his relationship with Nola: “You got involved with a woman who married you for your sanity, hoping it would rub off.” Nola’s certainly the scariest creature in the movie—the brood look like a cross between a little old lady and Ron Perlman on that Beauty and the Beast show from the ‘80s. In a key scene, Nola shows Frank an anger baby in process. It hangs from her in a sac, which she bites open. She then licks the goopy monster like an animal. By this time, it’s clearer than ever that rational, reachable Nora is gone forever.
Best quote: “Are you ready for me, Frank? Are you really?”
9.) Jennifer Ward-Lealand (New Zealand) as Evelyn (Simon’s mum) in The Ugly
The movie: Simon is a serial killer under clinical evaluation to see if he’s fit to stand trial. He explains to Karen, the doctor examining him, that the ghosts of his victims (particularly his mother) urge him to kill, and every time he kills it gets harder to ignore them. Karen is drawn into his story more than she means to.
The creepiness: Evelyn is unstable and abusive to her son. Even her lucid moments barely conceal a menace lurking beneath the surface. Simon is terrified of her, and we are stuck in his point of view with him. She alternates between cruel and smothering, or both at once, like when she literally throws out Simon’s friend Julie. In one scene, when Simon sneaks out to see Julie, we see Evelyn standing in silhouette holding a whip, backlit in red. She’s so horrible that her son killed her when he was only thirteen. And once she’s dead, she’s the leader of the pack of ghosts. At this point she’s deathly white and leaking a black oily substance and even more unearthly.
Best quote: “Kill the bitch.”
8.) Kasia Kowalczyk (Poland) as Demon Creature in Haunt
The movie: The Asher family has just moved into a cheap murder house, which unsurprisingly is haunted. The teenage son Evan and his girlfriend Sam try to contact the ghosts and see what all the supernatural hubbub is about, which promptly makes things worse.
The creepiness: The Demon Creature doesn’t have a name, but she has a nasty reputation in the spirit world. Even ghosts are afraid of her, warning Evan and Sam, “She’ll hear you, and you die.” She has very little screen time, but when she does show up, she looks downright eerie, with her rotting appearance and evil smile. She’s not shy about popping up in the shower or the bedroom (or the bed).
Best (only) quote: “Samantha…”
7.) Nuria Gonzalez (Spain) as Portera in To Let
The movie: Clara and Mario are a happy couple looking for their own place. They check out a prospective apartment in the middle of nowhere, and are assaulted and held hostage by the mad landlady.
The creepiness: Portera is eerie not just because she’s so completely unhinged, but also how much she’s in denial about it. “You’ll be happy here,” she assures. “Everyone is very happy here.” She also states, “I’m not doing anything bad.” In addition, she’s a real force to be reckoned with. The people who live there are terrified of her. As one woman says, “You can’t escape from her.” Everything about her defies reason but happens anyway. She shouldn’t be able to support her “tenants” with food and utilities if she has no money, but she does. She shouldn’t be able to get up and run around after losing a few fingers in the garbage disposal, but she does. She shouldn’t be able to overtake and enslave perfectly healthy young couples by herself, but she does. Gonzalez makes Portera eerily plausible.
Best quote: “I used to be crazy.”
6.) Pollyanna McIntosh (Scotland) as The Woman in The Woman
The movie: The Cleek family is a Father Knows Best clan straight out of the ‘50s, and the seemingly wholesome and likable (but actually psychotic) patriarch Chris goes off the deep end when he kidnaps a feral woman from the woods in an attempt to domesticate her.
The creepiness: The Woman is a wild woods-dwelling gal who doesn’t speak human and is resilient from her primitive lifestyle. The first time we see her, she not only has the gall to growl at a wolf, she kills it singlehandedly. She has no response to being struck but a wicked smile. When Chris taunts her, she bites off a piece of his finger and swallows it whole. She’s distant and unfathomable. She’s not the villain, but she is a vast and powerful Other who doesn’t take kindly to being captured.
Best (only) quote: “Please.”
5.) Eihe Shiina (Japan) as Asami in Audition
The movie: Aoyama is a widower looking for Ms. Right. His friend has the idea of staging a fake movie audition in order for Aoyama to secretly screen marriage candidates. He falls for Asami, which is ultimately the worst decision of his life.
The creepiness: Asami is cute and sweet on the surface. Her invariably white wardrobe suggests innocence, as does her polite and humble demeanor. When eating out with Aoyama, her shoulders are hunched and she appears nervous. She looks at her plate while they talk. She tells Aoyama, “I hope I’m not asking too much, and you probably can’t, but if you have some free time I’d like to talk to you more […] If I’m good enough, I’d love to.” However, she has a darker side. Later we see Asami sitting slumped on the floor, waiting for the phone to ring. She urges Aoyama to “Please love me. Only me.” Once she perceives that Aoyama betrays her, she turns cold and calculating, and tortures him. She’s very methodical, wearing gloves and an apron; the care she takes with Aoyama shows how much thought she has put into her revenge. The camera lingers on her face while she penetrates Aoyama with needles; she is fascinated and smiling. While she saws Aoyama’s foot with wire, she grins, then tosses the foot aside casually. She is clearly no innocent.
Best quote: “Words create lies. Pain can be trusted.”
4.) Achita Sikamana (Thailand) as Natre in Shutter
The movie: Jane and Tun are a young couple who become the target of an angry ghost that manifests itself through pictures. It turns out that the woman the ghost used to be had a less than happy past with Tun.
The creepiness: Megumi Okina does a fine job as the villain in the American remake of Shutter, but for a truly terrifying performance, one must look to the original. In a sea of pale, angry ghosts with dark hair, Natre stands out. It must be her ability to walk on the ceiling or her dead, colorless eyes. Natre is creepy because she’s the ex who never goes away. She’s the guilty past of a bad relationship; she wanted to be loved but couldn’t handle rejection.
Best quote: “How could you leave me?” (She doesn’t say much.)
3.) Jennifer Carpenter (United States) as Emily in The Exorcism of Emily Rose
The movie: Emily is a sweet young girl just starting her college career. She becomes possessed, which eventually leads to her gruesome death. The priest she was in the care of goes to trial for negligence and gets to tell his side of the story.
The creepiness: Obviously, the creepy thing about Emily is that she’s possessed. And super pissed off. The angry faces that Carpenter conjures are unnerving to say the least. Not to mention the contortions. And the self-destructive behavior: possessed Emily eats bugs and pulls out her own hair. The glimpses the audience gets of healthy Emily are hard to watch in comparison.
Best quote: “And I am Lucifer, the Devil in the flesh.”
2.) Gemma Ward (Australia) as Dollface in The Strangers
The movie: Kristen and James are a couple hanging out in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. They’re accosted by three masked lunatics bent on scaring the crap out of them before killing them.
The creepiness: Of the three eerie killers, Dollface is the only one who speaks. Her inflection is slow and emotionless and muffled by her mask. Dollface is scary because she’s not supernatural—she’s a realistic, cunning villain. She’s totally confident and unflappable. She and her partners are never caught off guard, and always one step ahead of Kristen and James. She is completely without mercy. When Kristen asks why they’re doing this to them, she replies, “Because you were home.” Even when she stands silently staring, she’s scary. She’s not on screen very often, but her presence is palpable. We never see her face. It’s also clear that she plans to continue her killing spree, telling her partners, “It’ll be easier next time.”
Best line: When asked if she is a sinner, she replies, “Sometimes.”
1.) Beatrice Dalle (France) as La Femme in Inside
The movie: Sarah is a young woman who is one night away from giving birth. Her last night of peace and quiet is interrupted by a mysterious woman who knows personal information about Sarah and demands to be let in. When Sarah refuses, she enters anyway—brandishing scissors. A bloody battle ensues over the unborn baby.
The creepiness: La Femme is eerie in several ways. Her face is almost always in shadow; the audience rarely gets a good look at her face. She’s also extremely confident; she doesn’t bother to break in quietly, despite there being a police patrol in the area. When the police do show up, she manages to take out three of them as well as a suspect traveling with them. She does away with Sarah’s friend as well, all with barely a blow inflicted on her. She’s strong, able to punch a hole in Sarah’s bathroom door with scissors, withstand a needle stabbed into her arm, and is barely fazed by receiving major burns to the face. And of course she’s pretty darn crazy.
Best quote: “Your husband’s not sleeping, Sarah. He’s dead. Open the door, Sarah.”
These ladies may not spout obnoxious one-liners or have their own theme songs, but they are awesome in their own right and totally worth our attention.
Author’s note: I owe thanks to Internet Movie Database for providing the countries of origin of the actresses.
About the author: Lois Kennedy is an avid horror movie fan who loves to write. You can find her under her pseudonym Ghoulie Joe on Facebook, WordPress, and YouTube.