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[THE THIRTEEN] 13 Female Villains & Anti-Heroes in Film

the-thirteen-female-villains

This post will be retroactively published on October 30, 2013. We apologize about the delay but we know you will enjoy the list the same. Thanks for your patience.

With the remake of Carrie being released in a few days, we celebrate this month’s THE THIRTEEN column with our top 13 female villains and anti-heroes! I have culled the staff together and picked the best of all the names given. Caution: There may be spoilers.


angel-blake

Angel Blake from the film The Blood on Satan’s Claw

Played by Linda Hayden

I first saw 1971’s “The Blood on Satan’s Claw” a couple of years ago, as an assignment for a long-running podcast that had a knack for uncovering cinematic, oddball gems. I remember saying that Satan’s Claw is like watching a 90+ minute car crash; impossible to look away from. But let’s get to what makes Angel Blake a great villain.

First of all, if your name is Angel, it’s a pretty safe bet that things are going to turn out bad for you. And that’s true for Linda Hayden’s character, Angel. When the devil comes to her small 17th century English town town, she becomes a pied piper for Lord Satan.

But instead of leading rats to their slaughter, Angel starts killing the town’s kids. Then she blames the town priest for molesting her, and has him locked up. She gives up her best friend to a bunch of hungry dogs, and holds satanic rituals, which lead to more murders and rape. Her appearance becomes the antithesis of purity by the end of the film. After being enlightened by Hayden’s performance in Satan’s Claw, I now see why other rule-breaking female roles like Carrie were possible. So thank you, Linda Hayden, for making me love to hate you. – (Cherry Bombed)


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Mater Tenebrarum from the film Inferno

Played by Veronica Lazar

Let’s talk about the sequel to Dario Argento’s classic horror film Suspiria. It’s called Inferno, and it’s always considered the lesser of the two films. While I don’t necessarily disagree, Argento still managed to, with Inferno, successfully channel the unearthly phantasmagoria that launched his previous films into horror film history, and that’s like winning the lottery twice in a row (he would somehow manage to just barely do it a third time with Phenomena but never again after). Like Suspiria, this film revolves around one of the Three Sisters, a trio of ancient, malefic witches. While Suspiria focused on Helena Markos aka Mater Suspiriorum, Inferno is about Mater Tenebrarum (referred from here on as Tenebra) but also features Mater Lachrymosa, the third Sister.

A girl in New York City sends word to her brother Mark in Rome about her discovery of Tenebra’s lair. Tenebra resides in New York City but her Sister in Rome, Mater Lachrymosa, is called upon by Tenebra to stop Mark from continuing his sister’s investigation. But Lachrymosa is reluctant to kill Mark outright and one of Mark’s classmates picks up on the discovery as a result. Likely fearing Tenebra’s retaliation, Lachrymosa brutally butchers Mark’s classmate plus the friend she fled to for comfort. But by then Mark is on his way to New York to meet his sister, who’s now dead at Tenebra’s hands.

At this point, it’s key to note that none of this would have happened if Mark’s sister had never happened upon by accident the book that revealed the secret of Tenebra’s home. But if we assume that there are no accidents when it comes to the Three Sisters (there aren’t), it implies that Tenebra used Mark’s sister to lure him to New York City and away from his obsessor Lachrymosa. When Mark arrives in New York City, Lachrymosa has to suspect what Tenebra is up to but seemingly does nothing, probably because she’s afraid of her big sister. Rightfully so…

From that point on, anyone who attempts to help Mark becomes Tenebra’s victims. As he explores Tenebra’s home, he is ensnared in the Witch’s trap and is almost kidnapped before a building resident interrupts at the cost of her life. Mark later interrogates a blind shop owner who Tenebra tortures via his own musophobia before executing him. The caretaker that helped Mark out of his earlier predicament falls victim to an “accident” that causes a fire to break out. Eventually, Mark finds his way to the building’s core where he meets the building’s architect. If we again assume that there are no accidents, then the architect’s accidental death must be punishment from Tenebra for choosing not to kill Mark but rather to attempt to sedate him and fail, probably because he fears Lachrymosa’s retaliation. Finally, Tenebra gets what she wants; a confrontation with Lachrymosa’s obsession, Mark.

Let’s compare Mater Tenebrarum to her Sisters. The enfeebled Mater Suspiriorum, as of the film Suspiria, relies entirely on proxies to do her dirty work and faces defeat at the hands of a mere girl. Mater Lachrymosa not only has a weakness for mortal men but also can’t or won’t interfere with her Sister. The middle Sister, Mater Tenebrarum, stands alone as the most malevolent of the trio, nearly omnipotent, manipulative, and bloodthirsty as hell. – (Chris Melkus)


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Le Femme from the film ‘Inside

Played by Béatrice Dalle

No one in film history has ever been as passionate about bringing harm to an expecting mother like Le Femme. In the movie Inside Beatrice Dalle makes her presence know as soon as the the star Alysson Paradis (Sarah) comes home from her last doctor’s visit. Starting off more as a shadow that creates a haunting vision and intrigue. Soon we see Le Femme in full form as she terrorizes Sarah and leads her on a bloody rollercoaster in pursuit of her unborn baby. Sarah is not the only person to feel the wrath of Le Femme as the police also reach their ultimate demise in her hands. Le Femme’s role in horror is so impactful that you dare not show this film to any women during their pregnancy. – (Travis “Nyquill” Brown)


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Sadako Yamamura from the film ‘Ringu

Played by Rie Inō

Sadako and even her American counterpart Samara are one of the most well known characters in recent horror history. Their impact on the supernatural sub genre is still being felt to this day. The whole concept of Ringu could only come to fruition by the ghastly presence of  Sadako. Even though through time her character has taken more of a pop culture role she is still a haunting figure.  No one can not deny the first time they witness her coming out of the television as one of the scariest moments in horror history. The character of Sadako will forever go down as not just one of the greatest female villains but villians overall in horror. One of the best things about Sadako is she takes her victims to the same fate of hers in the well and continues to haunt them even though they think they have escaped her grasp. She is truly an Icon of the genre. – (Travis “Nyquill” Brown)


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Marie from the film ‘High Tension

Played by Cecile De France

I don’t think there has been another movie, horror or otherwise that has scared me as much as the 2003 French slasher flick, “High Tension”. Even watching the trailer to the backdrop of the Carpenter’s classic, Superstar, (done methadone-style by Sonic Youth), is too much for me. But it’s mostly due to Cecile de France’s performance as Marie that causes so much unrest.

Things go downhill quickly for Marie in Tension. She appears ill-at-ease after arriving for a getaway at the parents’ rural home of her gal-pal Alex. Instead of a relaxing weekend, Marie has to deal with two murders, then somehow avoid getting killed herself, and also save her bestie who was abducted by the murderer with a van. Marie follows the van, and dispatches the psycho driver with the skill of a professional serial killer. And as that scene plays out, you once again get that nagging feeling that something just isn’t right about Marie.

Marie’s battle and survival instincts rival Rambo’s. She knows her way around a knife, can see like a cat in the dark. She thinks nothing of using a buzz saw as a weapon. All are textbook bad girl qualities. And Marie’s about as bad as they come. – (Cherry Bombed)


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May Dove Canady from the film ‘May

Played by Angela Bettis

The best thing about the quirky character we know as May is the fact that she could be someone you see everyday. Let’s be honest there are weird women everywhere but none with the fortitude of Angela Bettis as May. Her desire to be liked and her lust for certain body parts is uncanny and leads her down a path of murder and destruction. Add to that the psychological connection with the doll and we have a truly bona-fide serial killer. Not only is the film May a genius effort but the character portrayed by Bettis is spot on. I really don’t think anyone could have played the role any better. May reminds us all to treat people fairly or they may come back and cut off a body part that they desire. – (Travis “Nyquill” Brown)


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Asami from the film ‘Audition

Played by Eihi Shiina

Are you kidding me? Words are not enough to explain the pure grit that is found in Audition by it’s star Asami. The scene where Asmai has the man in a bag and unleashes him to eat vomit is legendary. Such a well done horror film but truly the character of Asami played by Eihi Shiina has haunted men for some time. Films like I Spit on Your Grave gave us the rape/revenge sub genre in horror but films like Audition settle clearly on brutality and torture. When I think female villains it’s hard for me not to hold Asami at the top of the list. What she does to her victims is a thing of beauty and will make any aspiring photographer to  think twice about their craft. Torture in films was revolutionized by the brutality of Asami. If I were to create a horror dictionary the word “torture” would have a picture of Asami’s smiling face right next to it! She is in my opinion one of the queens of female villains in horror. – (Travis “Nyquill” Brown)


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Annie Wilkes from the film ‘Misery

Played by Kathy Bates

Annie Wilkes seems like the perfect savior for author Paul Sheldon (James Caan), who is stranded in the snowy mountains of Colorado after a car crash. She gives him a warm bed, bandages him up, and is more than happy to do so, because she’s his “number one fan”.

Her hospitality quickly drains when she discovers that Paul has killed off her favorite fictional character, Misery, in his latest book. Distraught, Annie destroys the only copy of the manuscript and forces him to rewrite the book, ensuring he remains in isolation by rendering him immobile.

Kathy Bates’ performance as Annie Wilkes is legendary. While the character is terrifying in itself–a ruthless monster in the guise of an awkward, ordinary woman–Bates’ brutal and unflinching portrayal is what makes Annie Wilkes truly bone-chilling. Her “whack-a-doody” quips and mannerisms paired alongside violence make Annie even more unnerving. Thanks to Annie Wilkes we learned about the procedure of “hobbling”, and we will never forget it. – (Marie Robinson)


christine

Christine from the film ‘Christine

Played by 1958 Plymouth Fury (technically a few Plymouth Belvederes and Savoys played the part as well)

This girl ain’t just pretty, she’s a companion that’ll help turn your life around.  Then, just when you think she’s changed your life for the better, she slowly turns your heart black.  Christine is a love story between a boy and his car, it just so happens to be his car is possessed with a life of it’s own, and a bloodthirsty one at that.

Obsession has a way of making people go crazy, and Arnie is no exception to this.  He goes from a meek, bullied kid to a leather jacket wearing, arrogant little prick.  And then Christine accidently kills him.  Greek tragedy.  Christine is loveable, and when she’s on the hunt for bullies to make roadkill out of, you root for her to get revenge for Arnie (and herself, of course).  She’s beautiful death on four wheels, and there’s not another one like her. – (Mike Hassler)


audrey-II

Audrey II from the film ‘Little Shop of Horrors

Played by Levi Stubbs

Frank Oz’s schlocky horror-musical-comedy is one very, very close to my heart.  The cast is perfect, the songs are classic, and the sets are fantastic.  Oh, and those cameos –Candy bar!  However the movie would be nothing without the puppet/animatronic wizardry of the antagonist: Audrey II.  She came to life in a way that truly frightened me as a child; those detailed movements are still mind blowing to this day.  Plus she’s a fucking giant, man eating plant.

Sure, she may have the voice of a Four Tops member, but she’s all woman; she’s the whole package, really.  She’ll fix your problems, she’ll improve your life, she’ll get you famous, and she’ll help you get your dream woman.  Then she grows very, very big, and gets these world domination prospects and her minor, homicidal, man-eating habits turn into a much bigger problem.  In the original musical she kills them all, breeds an army, and succeeds in that goal.  It’s the ultimate downer ending to such a happy, dark comedy, and tested so bad that they developed a much happier finale for the film.

Audrey II’s the best alien queen of all time, even Ripley couldn’t take this bitch down.  She’s a mean, green mother from outer space…and she’s bad. – (Mike Hassler)


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Joan Crawford from the film ‘Mommie Dearest

Played by Faye Dunaway

…that kinda says it all right there. – (Mike Hassler)


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Rhoda Penmark from the film ‘The Bad Seed

Played by Patty McCormack

Rhoda is the embodiment of pure selfishness and evil with a sweet & innocent exterior shell. What makes Rhoda so diabolical is the great performance that McCormack gives. There is no wonder why Patty McCormack received an Oscar nomination because she plays bad so good. What’s even scarier is that I see a lot of kids nowadays that have temper tantrums just like Rhoda, I always wonder what happens when they get home. If you have never seen the 1956 adaptation with McCormack, it needs to be seen right away. – (Andy Triefenbach)


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Ruth Chandler from the film ‘The Girl Next Door

Played by Blanche Baker

I read Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door prior to seeing the film adaptation and it is truly a story that haunts you. While I still don’t personally feel that the film had the same impact, there is no denying the fact that what Blanche Baker brings to the table of the sadistic character of Ruth Chandler will forever traumatize you regardless if you read the book it is based on. Also of note, Ruth Chandler is a fictional character that is heavily based on real-life criminal Gertrude Baniszewski. Ruth Chandler is a woman that thrives on inflicting misery and pain. She is definitely someone you don’t want to be near behind closed doors. – (Andy Triefenbach)


That’s it for this month! Tune in next month for another edition of THE THIRTEEN!

Read Last Month’s Edition – ’13 Songs Used in Films That Take On a Haunting Feeling’


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Author: Andy Triefenbach View all posts by
Andy Triefenbach is the Editor-in-Chief and owner of DestroytheBrain.com. In addition to his role on the site, he also programs St. Louis' monthly horror & exploitation theatrical midnight program, Late Nite Grindhouse. Coming from a household of a sci-fi father and a horror/supernatural loving mother, Andy's path to loving genre film was clear. He misses VHS and his personal Saturday night 6 tape movie marathons from his youth.