With every horror movie comes a depraved antagonist, and when it comes to female villains, there is a whole feast to behold. Haunting our screens with their seemingly gratuitous acts of violence, each decade has seen a cult female figure with violence on the mind. Whether it’s a warped surgeon, psychotic mother, scorned woman or disturbed spirit, these women have been leaving cinema-goers quivering in their boots. From the enigmatic indoctrination of Margaret White in Carrie, to the disturbing sadomasochistic tendencies of She in Antichrist, we take you through some of the best fright-filled films and the terrifying women at their center.
Here are 12 Great Horror Movies With Female Villains.
12. Lady Lucille – Crimson Peak
Don’t let Lady Lucille’s (Jessica Chastain) decadent dresses and elegant aura fool you — she’s the master at manipulation. After a tumultuous childhood and an abusive mother, Lucille looked for comfort in an incestuous relationship with her brother Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). She callously kills their mother when their relationship is discovered, before plotting to kill all of Thomas’ prospective brides for money and fortune.
Ruthless to the core, Lucille won’t allow anything to get in her way, and what’s more profound about her character is the fact that she seems unprovoked to commit heinous and violent acts. She does not truly love her brother, and does not seem motivated by money — what drives her is a thirst for depravity and destruction.
11. Evelyn – Stoker
When Richard Stoker dies in a horrific car accident, he leaves behind an unstable wife Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) and their 18 year-old daughter India (Mia Wasikowska). His funeral opens a window for his brother Charlie (Matthew Goode) to saunter into the mourning pair’s life, with his charm and charisma winning over Evelyn to the point where she moves him into the house.
Growing intimate with each other, Evelyn expresses her love for Charlie but discovers he has an infatuation with his niece. Cold-hearted and callous, Evelyn lets her desire cloud her judgement, and in a fit of jealousy, she expresses her dream to watch her own daughter suffer.
10. Sarah Carter – The Descent
When six women head out on a potholing trip through an unmonitored route through the Appalachian cave system, what could go wrong? Although the British horror thriller follows the tragic journey of a group who discover cannibalistic monsters that live underground, it is the relationships between the characters that are most disturbing.
Following the death of her unfaithful husband and their six year-old daughter in a rafting accident, Sarah Carter is persuaded to join the group of thrill seekers, despite being haunted with flashbacks of her married life. Mistakenly thinking one of the women had killed her best friend Beth in an earlier scene, she cripples her and leaves her for dead before becoming the only character to escape the caves. Or does she? There’s like 5 alternate endings, so we’re not even entirely sure.
9. Pauline – Excision
Disturbingly dark with smatterings of humour, Excision sees teen outcast Pauline, a strange youth with dreams of becoming a top class surgeon. In an attempt to win the affection of her strict mother, the story joins her on her bizarre journey of attempting to cure her ailing sister.
The viewer enters the twisted mind of Pauline, a visual feast of crimson-coloured delusions and dissecting dreams, intertwined with her underlying hopes to be accepted by society. Although she may seem unassuming, her arousal at thoughts of mutilation and her final decision to make her surgery dreams real transforms her into a true monster.
8. Mary – American Mary
From butter-wouldn’t-melt to butcheress, Mary Benson is a prospective surgeon with vengeance on the mind. Putting her studies to practice during a part time job at a strip club, Benson is paid to save a man’s life, an act that propels her into the world of underground cosmetic surgery.
A brutal drug and rape ordeal by one of her professors at the college transforms Benson, who kidnaps the perpetrator in order to torture him and use him as a guinea pig for a number of her modification experiments. From amputations to horn-installations, Benson is a woman who makes easy money with the skilfull carving of her knife.
7. Margaret White – Carrie
The movie may have been centered around her daughter Carrie, but mother Margaret White (played by Piper Laurie) had so much impact in cinemas that her performance was recognised with a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the Academy Awards, a respectable feat for a small Stephen King horror film. Her overbearing religious beliefs and banshee persona lead her to degrade and abuse the powerless Carrie, before eventually attacking her with a butcher knife.
6. Lola Stone – The Loved Ones
No-one simultaneously creates the aura of cuteness fused with immense repulsion quite like Robin McLeavy’s portrayal of Lola ‘Princess’ Stone. With all the repulsive torture of Hostel mixed with the prom-time charm of Pretty in Pink, The Loved Ones tells the story of psychotic teenager Lola who asks troubled classmate Brent to prom before being refused. Not content with his answer, she enlists the help of her father to kidnap him and have a prom of her very own.
Wickedly disturbing, Lola destroys all classic cinematic ideals of femininism. From her scrap book filled with pictures of her victims to her pink satin gown splattered in blood, she is both abhorrent and undeniably charming in the same instant. Expect homemade lobotomies and plenty of pink in a prom-themed horror scene that no-one will forget any time soon.
5. Annie Wilkes – Misery
Certainly one to make you reconsider a life of fame and fortune, superfan Annie Wilkes shows a little more than admiration for author Paul Sheldon in Stephen King’s cult classic, Misery. In an unfortunate car crash, Sheldon breaks both his legs but is miraculously rescued by nurse Wilkes who brings him back to her remote home, however it soon becomes clear she has no intention of letting him go anytime soon.
Struggling to grasp the difference between fantasy and reality, Wilkes is enraged by the ending of Sheldon’s latest story and detains him before she tortures him without hesitation. A true monster of modern cinema, Kathy Bates earned the hell out of the Best Actress Oscar she nabbed for this role.
4. Regan – The Exorcist
Linda Blair was just twelve years old when she terrified cinemagoers with her portrayal of Regan in The Exorcist. Regan appears in the story of a mother who grows desperate to win her child back from the clutches of a demon possession by enlisting two priests to carry out an exorcism.
Head-twisting, foul-mouthed, and spider-walking, her force of evil was so undeniable that Blair was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. That greasy hair, those haunting eyes and that iconic night dress will forever be a symbol of one of the most satanic characters in popular culture. Despite her clear talent, it was unfortunate she became forever typecast as Regan.
3. Samara – The Ring
If it weren’t for virtual downloads and DVDs, Samara could definitely have been blamed for the lack of VHS’s these days. Sending shivers down our spines with her screen-hopping exploits, The Ring explored the urban legend of a cursed videotape that kills the viewer seven days after watching it.
Up there with Regan of The Exorcist, Samara is yet another example of a powerful depiction of disturbed youth. With her decadent nightgown, impenetrable cape of black hair and demoniacal face, Samara taunted her victims with their impending doom and left noughties audiences everywhere sleeping with the lights on. The success of this movie made way for a number of American remakes of Japanese originals that included The Grudge and Dark Water, none of which were able to recreate the monstrous success of this 2002 frightfest.
2. She – Antichrist
An experimental horror wrought with sadomasochism and disturbing animal metaphors, Lars von Trier’s Antichrist depicts the mental collapse of a woman after she witnesses her baby falling from an apartment window. The mother and father of the baby, simply named He (Willem Dafoe) and She ( Charlotte Gainsbourg) escape to a cabin in the woods where He, a therapist, plans to nurse his favorite lady back to care.
Instead, the location brings out the worst in the couple, with She particularly affected, manifesting violent sexual behaviour that result in unprovoked onslaughts against her husband. Antichrist is a movie where sex and death are bosom buddies, with She and the film causing a bona fide scandal in the box office. Von Trier wouldn’t have it any other way.
1. Asami Yamazaki – Audition
Dating horror stories reach new heights in Audition, the bewildering story of Asami, who becomes jealous when seeing a picture of her ex boyfriend’s new beau and decides to needlessly torture him in her apartment. Carrying out harrowing acts of violence almost with glee, Asami is determined to show him that she will not be ignored, ever.
A movie that will have you recoiling in disgust from beginning to end, Asami doesn’t flinch when it comes to killing animals and maiming her former lover with her signature wire saw. There’s only three words that will adequately describe this lady: sick, twisted and (oh so) sadistic.
Did we leave out any of your favorite ladies of horror? Be sure to let us hear it in the comments section.