Horror always presents a curious dichotomy when it comes to gender. Tradition has it that horror is the preserve of the sweaty, awkward teenage boys of the world, and of course, those men who haven’t quite grown out of that phase too. Moreover, we tend to assume that the killer will be male – we’re so used to seeing the female character as the victim that we often forget that there have been some amazingly terrifying lady killers in the history of horror films too.

Female directors and lead female characters are becoming more prolific within the film industry – arguably more so when it comes to horror. Moreover, it seems that women are far more inclined to go and watch a horror film than ever before – best seller The Conjuring had one of the highest female viewing rates in recent years. Whilst there’s still a long road ahead for equality within the film industry, it’s evident that horror is paving the way for more women in film – and not just as bikini clad bait for the murderous man.

Horror allows directors, producers, writers and actors to push the boundaries like no other genre. In turn, this helps to challenge boundaries and disparage misconceptions we may have surrounding gender. If more female directors are being given a voice, and more females are taking on protagonist roles, audiences are able to break down their misapprehensions of horror.

To celebrate women in horror we take a look at the women who have made audiences blood run cold. Here are ten of our favourite horror roles that seem to be forgotten and lost under the blood soaked splatter of Jason, Freddy, the Droogs et al.

We love a kick-ass girl who fights back and survives against all odds, but what about the ones who are villainous in their own right?

Megan Fox – Jennifer’s Body: A perfect piece of casting and a serious guilty pleasure. Megan Fox takes femme fatale to a new level as a demonic high school cheerleader who eats teenage boys for breakfast, literally.

Jennifers Body movie image Megan Fox


Laurie Metcalf – Scream 2: She may play Sheldon’s mother in The Big Bang Theory, but Laurie Metcalf was revealed as the ruthless and crazy-eyed Debbie Loomis, the killer behind the ghost mask in Scream 2. She may meet a bloody end but she wreaks havoc in the iconic mask before meeting her maker.



Ellen Page –Hard Candy: Ellen lives up to the title of this film as Hayley Stark – the butter-wouldn’t-melt young girl who ends up terrorising and torturing a would-be sexual predator played by Patrick Wilson. Page conveys tough and terrifying whilst simultaneously being sweet and elfish in her looks.



Rie Ino’o â€“ The Ring: She may look wholesome but add the iconic long black hair and make up and Rie is terrifying in The Ring (Ringu). One view of her on that dastardly videotape leaves viewers destined for death.



Leighton Meester – The Roommate: Best known for her uppity socialite character Blair in Gossip Girl – Leighton switches up Blair’s narcissistic tendencies and penchant for macaroons for this portrayal of a girl gripped by depression and obsession. She will go to any length to ensure her roommate [Minka Kelly] is her best friend. Leighton does unhinged psychopathic roommate perfectly.



Isabelle Fuhrman – The Orphan: Isabelle plays Esther, a seemingly innocent young girl who is adopted by a young couple. They prepare themselves for some difficult times with their new family member settling in and all but the chaos which ensues is worse than they could ever have imagined. Isabelle’s performance is flawless – she switches from innocent, to creepy to finally monstrous with utter ease.



Kathy Bates – Misery: Annie Wilkes is an iconic horror figure thanks to the standout ankle-breaker scene in Misery. Kathy Bates is suffocating and teetering on the edge of violence at every step. Her adoration leaves her favourite author cowering and desperate to escape.



Linda Blair – Exorcist: The ultimate scary lady of horror. Blair is best known for her role as the possessed child Regan in 1973 classic The Exorcist. Snarling, snotty, head-spinningly terrifying. Her performance is magnificent particular when you take her tender age into consideration. Blair was just 11 when she took on the demonic role. Of course, here, she is both villain and victim.



Robin McLeavy – The Loved Ones: 2009 Australian horror film sees Lola [McLeavy] take her revenge on her fellow high school students when she doesn’t get a date to the prom. She loves nothing more than a bit of lobotomy and torture to cure her high school romance blues.

Loved Ones - Robin McLeavy


Beatrice Dalles – Inside: Beatrice is ruthless and bloody in her pursuit of Sarah’s unborn child in this French horror film. The violence is relentless and the film is packed with terror from start to finish.



Honourable mentions: Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female, Katharine Isabelle in American Mary, Eihi Shiina in Audition and Harumi Inoue in Freezer/Freeze Me

About The Author

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.