I love chicks that are truly crazy, not the faux bad-assedness of poseurs like Winona Ryder in Heathers (who express remorse for their murders as if mom and censor are waiting just off camera) but those who are truly liberated, in a way that terrifies even the bourgeois tenured profs who presume themselves beyond knee-jerk anti-feminist patriarchal reactions. It's payback time for the Inquisition with these devilish damsels on the screen.
People come to horror movies to see their deepest, unresolved, pre-empathic infantile anger expressed and cathartically exorcised. Bela Lugosi embodied this rage for my generation, the egomaniacal genius who scorned society and its unconscious banality appeared to us through the fuzzy UHF signal like an alien ruler. We rooted for him even unto the closing credit flames. In his honor I praise the chthonic bitchez in these films, for they stomp all over 'safe' characterizations and trust the audience not to start killing everyone the moment the film's over. They use their claws.
I only wish I could mention the great female killers from certain gialli, but that would be giving away the plots and I would never....
1977I need to see this film about a dozen more times before I'll be able to write about it, but whatever... it's paisley psychedelic strangeness with incessant, nerve-grating piano melody stopping and starting until it becomes torture. Minimada plays demonic doppelganger auntie to a gaggle of schoolgirls who are all devoured by her deadly... house. She's old and in a wheelchair but as the girls are consumed she becomes younger and more empowered until in a final showdown she's a picture perfect soap commercial model. This film may be too out there even for an 'enhanced' audience, but is the kind of thing you can freak out people of all ages with.
If you need to come down afterwards, try AUDITION!
MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD
1973Three things I'm crazy for: nurses, Sue Lyon, and mercy killing; all three are wrapped up in this piece where Lyon is a homicidal nurse who kills patients so they don't have to spend their lives crippled, old, or boring. Meanwhile a bunch of douchebags with tacky helmets, whips, and dune buggys pull some of the old surprise party ultra-violence on random families who are usually watching Clockwork Orange-related programming. You get the impression this Spanish director Eloy de la Iglesia really loves his Kubrick (Sue was, of course, Stanley's LOLITA). She's aged well and if doing cheap Italian horror movies to pay the bills was a common thing for American actresses of the era, she's younger than most all of them, and still hot, especially in white, and red.
The incredible Kimberly Lindbergs champions the film over at TCM's Movie Morlocks thus:
...by making Sue Lyon his muse, Eloy de la Iglesia hijacks Kubrick’s LOLITA and leaves the audience questioning their voyeuristic relationship with the cinema and its effect on our own sexual impulses. Eloy de la Iglesia‘s Lolita isn’t a fictional ideal of feminine beauty or a hapless victim of the male ego and Sue Lyon seems to get a kick out of exploiting her character. By the end of MURDER IN A BLUE WORLD it becomes apparent that Stanley Kubrick’s films have been thoroughly deconstructed and put back together in such an unusual way that Sue Lyon is able to completely redefine her celebrated ’60s role.
1936People remember the monsters and Flash's wrestling tights from the brilliant original 1936 serial but not everyone remembers that at the core of all the derring-do was a hot love quadrangle: Ming's kinky daughter, Princess Aura, lusts uninhibitedly after the earth man, who stays true to Dale (Jean Rogers), the long-suffering earth woman who is desired by Ming (and Prince Baron longs for Aura). Dale is often thrown into very revealing gowns and pawed by hawk men and the a crab-clawed dragon monster while Aura arches her wicked eyebrows and pulls strings behind her father's throne like the Fah Lo Suee of Mongo. It was Princess Aura I had the hots for as a kid and Lawson is pretty solid and awfully kinky. I guess it was okay as far as the code was concerned to lust uninhibitedly in a 1930s serial if you never get your man. If you can see the whole serial, see it. If you can't, see the edited together feature SPACE SOLDIERS. Either way, keep your eye on Priscilla at all times.
ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU
The best parts of this film are not even the hilarious underwater fights (slow motion with a bubble machine and blurry filter to hide the fact they're all shot on dry land under normal gravitational circumstance) but the scenes with Allison Hayes as the bitchy trophy wife of the rich fat cat big game gold hunt gambler Carl Denham x Capt. Kidd whatever come to these voodoo islands to dive for gold. In case you forgot, Hayes is the 50 FOOT WOMAN and a honey for the ages, always looking like she just slithered off the cover of a 1930s pulp magazine. And she turns into a zombie, in this film, and the idiot non-zombie people just won't even... well, let me turn you over to Day of the Woman's Britney-Jade Colangelo, who notes that Hayes, sports quite possibly the GREATEST bra that man has ever known. The hottest moment is when Hayes talks her fatcat boyfriend into insisting the handsome skipper (Gregg Palmer) kiss her! Right in front of him! Fatcat even has to insist!! G'head on Miss Allison! When she gets all zombiefied the film reaches it's big golden stretch (the lighting is almost Lewton-eque as she moves through the dark with her knife, above) but there's never a dull momnt along the way; see it back to back with Ed Wood's NIGHT OF THE GHOULS for yet another army of middle-aged-elderly extras marching through tight spaces as zombie avengers, but no one can compare with Hayes.
TROUBLE EVERY DAY
"TROUBLE fulfills the promise of CAT PEOPLE, which told of a race of humans who would turn into black leopards after making love and could turn human again only after taking a life. However in Paul Schrader's 1982 version these killings were kind of tepid, with the panther striking while the victim is lolling around in a post-coitus haze. None of that waiting around for Denis! The way Dalle continues to obliviously whisper and coo in her now dead lovers' ears for example, links to her a real cat, toying with her prey long after its dead. Such scenes are few and far between (a similar one was apparently edited from later cuts of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT), they make producers uncomfortable because they threaten the safety of their model of the cinemagoer as one already dead and presumed therefore impervious to attack, as if the image and the eye are tectonic plates and the idea of cinema is to promise contact yet prevent any actual buckling. Dalle's sexuality buckles it and triggers a simulacratic melt-down; the covetous eye is torn out in a fit of enjoyment that transcends all textual boundaries. "(cont. reading here)
LET'S SCARE JESSICA TO DEATH
1971It's tough being a paranoid schizophrenic when everyone really is out to get you. This is what Jessica learns when she and her husband and some meathead move to an island off New England to get away from the big Apple's 70s crime. They find a squatter named Emily (Costello) living in their big manse, and are about to kick her out, but she's kind of cute and Meathead takes a shine to her. Jessica is just pumped that she didn't hallucinate Emily -- she really is there! And she plays the lute. And her picture is in an old frame in the attic dated in the 1800s. Uh oh... There's a really terrifying scene where Emily makes a pass at Jessica, and then kind of --- well, it's freaky, quiet, fucked up beyond rational thought, and awesome.
All the Ladies on the Isle
THE WICKER MAN
"Many critics label LaBute a misogynist but his remake of WICKER MAN allows him to portray plenty of very powerful, frightening, intelligent women going up against a coarse, unconscious, ineffectual male cop and that's the opposite of what a misogynist would do. A truly liberated, sexually aggressive, snarling female is one of the most terrifying creatures ever conceived of by - and I hesitate to say God because God is suddenly not even a "He" when they're around, and everything gets dark and scary and one's balls shrink and release hormones of queasy dread that hit us like an extra dose of gravity. And without the people of Summers' Isle kowtowing to his manly whims, Nic Cage's "A Child is Missing, damn you!" righteousness is revealed as the macho bullying it's always has been. Cage here is like the sister's boorish boyfriend in REPULSION or the sleazy neighbor in CARNIVAL OF SOULS, only here he's outnumbered and roaring like an old pervert crushed to death under the headlights of a Russ Meyer supervixen. (Where the Wild Wicker Lieutenants Are, 1/7/10)
1968What Polanski dredges out of Ruth Gordon’s clown-cake make-upped old lady smile is an evil against which there is no rational defense if you've been socially conditioned --as a woman in the 20th century--to be nice and decent to friendly elderly neighbors. Since Minnie Castavet is old and perky and adorable there is no defense against her prying, manipulating, and ensnaring because according to the social doctrine old ladies must be obeyed while women Rosemary's age are treated like children too incompetent to know what's best for their own wombs.
"It's great to be rooting for a murderous voodoo priestess and not have to worry she's going to develop a conscience or let love weaken her resolve for deadly reprisal-making via a series of comic book-style death traps involving zombie massages ("Treat me easy, easy,"), a severed chicken foot that hops around on a string (a peak AIP moment), voodoo dolls ("When the doll is enflamed you will pick up the knife and use it on yourself!"), leg cramps, and hungry pigs ("Hope they like white trash!"). When the 'good' guys are the zombies, the bad guys don't have a chance in hell... and I'm in psychotronic heaven. (9/9/10)
LEMORA: A CHILD'S TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL
1973Sweet Lila Lee (Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith) escapes her creepy preacher foster parent and catches a midnight bus to Spookville in this low budget and all the more eerie for it thriller. If you ever used to catch those bizarre, faded color, cheap puppet and bad dubbing-infused German and Swedish 'kid's film' K. Gordon Murray imported on TV or in the local matinees in the 60s-70s then the threadbare theatricality of LEMORA will be like remembering a childhood nightmare. There's some vague lesbian resonance between the evil Lemora and Rainbeux as Lemora introduces her to a lot of weird perverse blood-drinking style shit, and I cannot reveal the awesome ending!
For another great women in horror top ten, check out this from last February's Women in Horror Month.