Noteworthy Heroines of Horror is a recurring segment on Wicked Horror where we shine the spotlight on a female character from the annals of horror history that has made a significant contribution to the genre. The characters we select may not be the obvious final girls that regularly grace top ten lists, but their contributions to the genre are meaningful and worthy of note.
You have to keep a level head when you’re a character in an early Peter Jackson film. There’s bound to be some craziness happening and more than a few colorful characters to contend with, so being a strong character is key. Jackson’s 1996 supernatural comedy flick The Frighteners is no exception. Among all the wise-cracking ghosts and eccentric FBI agents, there’s one person who stands out as the real heart and soul of the movie. For my latest entry into Noteworthy Heroines of Horror, I have chosen Dr. Lucy Lynskey from The Frighteners, played by Trini Alvarado.
Ray and Lucy’s relationship in the film is an interesting one. It seems like a marriage where the love has been lost, and they are now two completely different people who don’t fit anymore. When Lucy makes the off-handed comment about “falling in love with the wrong guy,” she’s talking about Patricia and Johnny Bartlett, but her face tells us that she’s really talking about her situation with Ray. She is too sweet and too good to be with a guy like him, and she knows it. Later, she admits to Frank that she and Ray don’t have a good marriage. She probably accepts that he can’t change, and deals with his controlling ways, but not as a doormat. His attitude doesn’t stop her from standing up for herself when she wants to be heard. When the ghosts Cyrus and Stuart wreak havoc at their house, Lucy insists on calling Frank to help. While Ray treats him like a swindling con artist (which he admittedly is), Lucy gives him her respect and doesn’t show any doubt. She can trust this stranger much more than her own husband–which we learn is true, when Ray reveals that he lost all her money to a bad investment.
As Peter Jackson says in the extra features for The Frighteners, Lucy is the one person in this crazy cast of characters that keeps the film grounded in reality, and gives the audience somebody with whom they can identify. In turn, it is her trust, understanding, and belief in Frank that keeps the audience on his side. She gains deep sympathy for him after FBI agent Dammers (Jeffrey Combs) tells her about the death of Frank’s wife. And even though Frank says some very harsh things to her at the police station because he has given up on himself (after he has failed to save a woman’s life), she refuses to give up on him. As she becomes more involved with Frank, people tell her over and over again that he is a liar, and he never really gives her a reason to believe anything more than that–from her perspective, he could be lying to her about being able to communicate with Ray. She simply has this blind faith in him and it turns out to be exactly what he needs. When she confronts Frank in his jail cell, she’s very forceful in her approach but it’s because she cares and because she needs him to hear it.
However, Lucy gives much more than just moral support to Frank. The characters have to face off against several antagonists in the film, and through it all, Lucy remains proactive. Her actions are that of a fighter and a survivor, and she uses her head to help Frank with what he needs to get done. When he realizes that he must become a ghost himself in order to defeat the death figure, Lucy uses her medical expertise to allow him to do it in a much safer way to where she can actually bring him back. She is kidnapped by Dammers in the middle of this, and fights like hell to get away and get back in time to revive Frank. Lucy’s concern about the situation with Patricia and her mother helps connect the dots about their possible involvement with the mysterious deaths in Fairwater. Granted, Lucy ends up being very wrong about Patricia, and her kindness towards Patricia backfires on her, but I think she can be forgiven because Patricia is a very convincing sociopath.
The long climax of the film involves a battle against Dammers, Patricia, and Johnny Bartlett. And even though she’s never really given a weapon or anything much to fight back with, she is quick and smart and uses that to get out of several precarious situations. First, she is able to fight off a knife-wielding, and then shotgun-wielding, Patricia in the Bradley house. Dammers catches up with her again after they get inside the sanitarium and holds her hostage for about a minute before she clocks him a good one (or two). She saves Frank from a shotgun blast. She sticks with him because she knows that he will never stop because of the score he has to settle, and she has to help him do that. The only fear Lucy ever really shows through all of this is her fear for Frank when he is in trouble.
The final scene in The Frighteners shows a happy Lucy and Frank, watching the razing of his old home, and in essence his old life, presumably so that they can start a new one together. Lucy lets him in on the fact that she can see spirits now, too. This almost seems like a reward for her actions in the film, because it gives her and Frank another point of connection that will hopefully help in their continued happiness. Lucy is the anchor of The Frighteners. The film may be Frank’s story but he could not have had the arc he did without Lucy. Her unwavering belief in him and her ability to see his goodness pushed him forward. When things got dirty, she was right there with him every step of the way, fighting equally for him and for herself with bravery and tenacity. And that is just the kind of woman I like to call a Noteworthy Heroine of Horror.