Horror movie villains are traditionally male. While there are slashers where the killer turns out to be female at the end, they’re not entirely common. Even more uncommon, though, is to see female antagonists at the forefront of their own franchise. When you think about it, you may find it takes some time to call any examples to mind.
But a handful of series have done it. They’re usually not in theaters, they typically go straight to video and fly under the radar, but they are out there. Some of them you’ve probably even heard of. Everyone can likely think of at least one example. But just the fact that you have to think about it to come up with a single example should be all it takes to tell you that there probably aren’t enough out there.
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These franchises, whether they originated with their central antagonist or—like Friday the 13th—developed them through the sequels—had great female villains at the forefront. Women who were powerful, funny and legitimately scary, all at the same time.
Angela Baker is a preteen camper when we are introduced to her in the original film. But by the time she makes her comeback in Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers, she’s already a full-fledged counselor. She’s unique in the fact that she is basically the protagonist and antagonist in nearly all of the Sleepaway Camp films, being a human slasher with no supernatural abilities who has to survive from each entry to the next on her wits alone.
Once again, we have a cult classic, low-budget horror franchise driven by an evil Angela. This Angela, though, is a fiery goth who gets possessed in the original entry and returns to terrorize teens in Night of the Demons 2 and 3, as well as the remake. This franchise as a whole is really worth checking out for fans of lower-budget, campy horror and Angela is a big part of the reason why.
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Baby Firefly may not always be the leader in Rob Zombie’s ‘70s throwback horror hits, but she keeps the more outwardly unstable family members together and focused quite a few times. Not to mention the fact that the whole mass-murdering family is led by Mama Firefly, the matriarch of the clan in the first two films. While Doctor Satan has his part to play in things, this is a female-driven enterprise of fear.
It may not be as memorable as the other entries on this list and only watchable for its absolute campiness, but Witchouse does have its own kind of charm. What appears to be an attempt by Full Moon to cash in on the success of the slightly higher-budgeted Night of the Demons, albeit ten years later, Witchouse and its sequels still make for a good laugh and an evening’s entertainment.
One of the more obvious female-driven franchises, Species had two theatrical releases before ultimately going the route of straight-to-video and Syfy Channel original sequels. Still, it’s a watchable franchise with a standout original, centering on an alien who takes human form and is driven to find a mate at any cost.
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While there’s no female killer to speak of in the original Prom Night, the sequel introduces us to Mary Lou Mahoney, a ghostly former prom queen out for revenge. Mary Lou returns for both Prom Night III: The Last Kiss and Prom Night IV: Deliver Us From Evil, making the original the odd man out in a way that is almost similar to Friday the 13th.
People don’t generally think of this one as a series led by a female villain, but it definitely counts. While the Company is the real villain of the Alien franchise, when it comes down to the Xenomorphs themselves, it’s all about the Queen. It’s a hive system. The aliens that are generally encountered are just drones, worker bees, but the Queen is the one who runs the ship and tells them what to do. Even if a Queen doesn’t appear in every movie, they’re responsible for the aliens we see in every movie. And when they do appear, it’s something to behold, as Aliens gives us one of the most iconic final showdowns in horror history.
More than simply being a horror series that happens to have a female antagonist/protagonist at the forefront, Ginger Snaps is inherently about the female experience. Everything about it was catered to what young women encounter during their teenage years, finding an inventive new use of the werewolf metaphor that hadn’t really been explored on film before this. With each entry seeing the return of Emily Perkins and Katharine Isabelle, Ginger Snaps is a more recent trilogy that is definitely worth seeking out.
With only one direct sequel to date, the Carrie franchise is still prominent and Carrie herself is probably the most iconic female villain of all time. Even with everything she does, it’s really hard to call her the true antagonist. But if Margaret White is truly the villain behind each interpretation, well, that still counts. Remade twice, once in 2002 and again in 2013, each new version has its ups and downs but the actresses in the title role have always done a solid job. Outside the original, the best of the bunch is The Rage: Carrie 2, which literally sees the power being passed down to a new generation.