A different kind of horror heroine from a different kind of horror movie. Of course, most would probably argue with me that Red Eye falls under the “thriller” category more so than horror but with the legendary Wes Craven at the helm, that’s enough for me to give it some horror cred. Red Eye is a taut and, yes, thrilling movie about a woman who is terrorized by her seatmate on the titular red eye flight home. The woman in question is my next Noteworthy Heroine of Horror: Lisa Reisert, portrayed by Rachel McAdams.
It’s Lisa’s job at a lush hotel in Miami that gets the attention of assassin Jackson Rippner. A high profile political client, Charles Keefe, is staying at her hotel and Jack needs Lisa to authorize the switching of his room so that his people on the ground can kill him. If Lisa doesn’t make the call, her father will die. A good portion of the film takes place on the plane, so Lisa cannot just run away or even really fight back. She is forced to use her brain and her wits to at least delay the situation as long as she can. She doesn’t immediately make the call because Lisa is not the kind of person that can knowingly allow something like that to happen, even if it will save her life and the life of her father.
Lisa is seemingly the perfect victim for Jack and his cruel taunts and threats. She describes herself as a “people-pleaser.” Her job is all about making other people happy even when they are being verbally abusive to her, like Jack. She does keep her cool as best she can in the situation, but the audience can see how deeply it affects her on an emotional level. Jack, at one point, lets Lisa to go to the bathroom, where she allows herself a quick meltdown. Everything overcomes her and she collapses in tears–but almost as quickly as she falls, she tells herself to get back up again.
What really makes Lisa a true heroine is that her fight in the movie is not just about her immediate survival, or saving her father or Keefe. She is ultimately fighting for herself, freeing herself from the burdens of the past that have been weighing her down emotionally. Early in the film, Lisa is shown to have a large scar on her chest and she tells Jack that “it” happened to her in a parking lot when a man was holding a knife to her throat. She doesn’t outright say what “it” is, but Craven confirms in the film’s commentary that she is referring to the fact that she was raped. Her final line to Jack before making her first real strike back is that she will never let it happen again–meaning that she won’t be a victim of any kind anymore.
Two factors contribute to Lisa’s turnaround: Jack’s physical assault on her in the bathroom (which was probably a reminder of her rape), and the revelation that the call she eventually makes will kill not only kill Charles Keefe, but also his wife and children. Lisa has had enough. When the plane lands and Lisa has her first chance to get away, she does it in a spectacular fashion by stabbing Jack in the neck with a pen. As he chases her through the airport, Lisa is finally the one in control–making quick decisions that allow her to get away and right the wrongs that he’s made her commit. She saves the Keefe family before heading to her father’s house. She sees the assassin standing outside and without hesitation, drives her car straight at him. Then Jack appears, and the two engage in their final showdown. Now he’s on her turf, and she finds ways to outsmart him at every turn during their cat-and-mouse chase.
My biggest complain about Lisa’s character is that she is not the one who finally puts Jack down. But that doesn’t derail the personal progress she makes throughout the film. Through her ordeal on the plane, Lisa not only goes up against a psychotic assassin and wins but she also regains her power and control as a person and a woman. She can finally stand up to those nasty clients at her hotel that take advantage of her, and there is a good indication that she will no longer be the loner doormat that she has previously been. Lisa’s strength and resilience, despite overwhelming obstacles, make her more than worthy of carrying the title of Noteworthy Heroine of Horror.