I think it’s fair to say that there are far fewer female villains in horror than males. They’re out there, of course, but sometimes people struggle to think of them. The balance here is that women frequently shine as the protagonists of horror films more often than men. But that doesn’t mean they can’t make great villains, as they often do. Some of the most iconic antagonists in horror history are female.
From Annie Wilkes, to Pamela Voorhees, Samara/Sadako and so many others. They all get credit for being chilling icons who have cemented their place in the pantheon of horror.
But there are plenty of other characters out there who don’t necessarily get the credit they deserve. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have fans, but they’re not as widely known, not brought up in everyday conversation. They’re not always discussed as the best of the best, but some of them really deserve to be.
These are the women we’ll be looking at in this list. The ones who should be icons. There are plenty more, without a doubt, but these seven characters immediately come to mind as longtime favorites who haven’t yet planted their lasting legacy. Some of them don’t even get the credit for their own movies, but we’ll get into that.
Some fans look to Tiffany as the character who destroyed the Child’s Play franchise. Once Bride of Chucky happened, suddenly Chucky was too comedic and couldn’t be taken seriously anymore. I will maintain that the original film is actually pretty scary, but the whole franchise has always had a comedic side. Tiffany was a breath of fresh air, a rival and equal for Chucky, a woman almost tragically torn between being independent in her beliefs and co-dependent in her relationship.
Regine is a great villain for Fright Night Part II and after such standout vampires in the original, that’s something the sequel desperately needed. She doesn’t necessarily outshine the first, but she plays her own very different kind of character. She’s not trying to protect her own interests like Jerry. Instead, she’s out for revenge. Her motive is extremely simple and kind of chilling. Regine wants to turn Charley into a vampire, simply because she wants him to suffer for eternity for what he did to her brother.
Brenda, the killer played by Rebecca Gayheart in Urban Legend is sure to be the most controversial choice on this list, but I don’t care. For many people, they’re just completely out of the film once she’s revealed. But I have fun with her bizarre, manic performance. Yes, you could wonder how a girl that small could possibly have done all of that on her own, but I also like the idea of a scrappy, insane co-ed somehow pulling all those murders off by herself. I still wish she would have come back as a presence in sequels beyond her cameo in Final Cut, serving as a framing device to tell new stories.
Mary Lou Mahoney
Mary Lou, the antagonist of Prom Night 2 & 3, is an absolute delight of a villain. She definitely takes some influence from Carrie, but there’s a bit of Freddy in there too, especially given that she’s burned and prone to puns and elaborate kills. But the quirky, sadistic scorned prom queen has a flavor that’s entirely her own. Prom Night II has definitely gained a cult following over time and I’d like to see that continue until Mary Lou is considered to rank among the all-time greats.
My undying affection for this character is well documented and with the recent Vestron Blu-ray, more people are discovering Return of the Living Dead 3 than I’ve ever seen before. She’s more of an antihero. Julie’s our protagonist, but she does some pretty monstrous things, both to people who arguably deserve it and even to people who don’t. Her struggle to control her condition and her striking visual appearance make her a female monster that should never be forgotten.
Even if Eddie Quist is the serial killer who drives the plot forward, his sister Marsha has always been the central villain of The Howling to me. She’s an intense character who makes her passions and her ideals crystal clear. Marsha doesn’t want to adopt to human society, she wants to separate herself from it, to give everything over to primal instinct. For her, this manifests as both hunger for human flesh and overt sexuality. Her survival teased a better sequel than we got, but you can at least see what that could have been in the new Howling: Revenge of the Werewolf Queen comic series.
Julia and Frank are the villains of the original Hellraiser. Julia is the killer at the core of that movie, but also its emotional center. Hellraiser is arguably more her story than Kirsty’s, even though Kirsty is the survivor. Julia’s an unhappy woman in an unhappy marriage who finds a way to have a chance at getting back an experience that filled her with passion by resurrecting her husband’s hedonistic brother. It doesn’t exactly go her way, but Julia’s arc is important nonetheless. She’s a woman who simply wants to feel something again and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. Making a great return in the sequel, Julia was originally planned to be the recurring antagonist of the franchise before it became clear that Pinhead was the one that audiences wanted to see.