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The Best Heroine of Horror

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

by Ella George

The haunting holiday known as Halloween allows teens to scare little kids out of their hard earned trick-or-treating candy, or in some cases, make questionable decisions at parties. However, if you are the type of teen to stay home and watch bone-chilling movies on Halloween, this article is for you.

As a fan of the intersection of horror and comedy, I lean towards slasher films, but made sure to incorporate psychological horror when selecting the ultimate heroine of horror. The nominees include Neve Campbell (best known for her performances in Party of Five and The Craft) for her role as Sidney Prescott in the Scream franchise, Jamie Lee Curtis (who perfectly portrayed Wanda from A Fish Called Wanda) as Laurie Strode in Halloween, Naomi Watts (acknowledged for many genres but most prominently surrealist thrillers such as Mulholland Drive) for her role as Rachel Keller in The Ring, Jennifer Aniston (famous for playing Rachel Green in Friends) as Tory Redding in Leprechaun, and lastly, Tippi Hedren (originally a model before she was discovered by Alfred Hitchcock and cast as the protagonist in Marnie) for the portrayal of Melanie Daniels in The Birds.

Beware of spoilers ahead - the movies listed will be discussed in detail, and you should watch them before reading to gain full understanding. It’s also important to note that some of these movies are rated R, so viewer discretion is advised. The requirements for the best heroine of horror are simple: they must survive to the end, be a strong female lead, and play a key role in their horror movie. They will be judged based on their characters, the movies they star in, and their ability to make smart choices in the face of danger.

To begin the competition for the best heroine of horror, Neve Campbell stars in my personal favorite horror movie, Scream. The stupid simplicity of the movie is what makes it most appealing to me as a viewer. Sidney Prescott, a teen still mourning her mother’s death one year prior to Ghostface’s appearance, is not someone to mess with. She sucker punched Gale Weathers, a relentless reporter who wrote a book about the murder of her mother. She also shot Billy Lumis, one of the killers behind the Ghostface mask, in the head! That has got to be my favorite part of the film: Randy, a horror movie nerd who hangs with Sidney and her friends, says “This is the part where the allegedly dead killer comes back for one final scare.” Then, Billy wakes up, and bang! “Not in my movie,” says Prescott, ending the killing spree of Billy Lumis with a definitive blow to his forehead.

One excessively dumb decision Sidney makes, though, is going to a party with all of her friends while a serial killer is on the loose. Let me tell you, strength in numbers does not apply to a group of wasted teens. Interestingly, despite the movie’s success, Campbell chose not to act in Scream VI due to insufficient pay. This was a respectable choice on Campbell’s part as she was utterly amazing in each Scream film she was part of, and she knew not to feel pressured to settle for less than the true quality of her work deserved.

The second contender for the best heroine of horror is none other than Jamie Lee Curtis. She is best known for her role as Laurie Strode in Halloween, a movie that earned popularity due to the eerie fact that Michael Myers never ran, he just simply walked while chasing Laurie and still managed to catch up to her.

Curtis was also in The Fog, which is a decent horror film, but Halloween is much more popular and iconic, leading Curtis' role as Strode to be up for consideration. Strode is an excellent friend and a genuine person as she covers for her friend Annie by babysitting a little girl and a little boy. I’m confused as to why Strode was so opposed to going on a date with Ben Tramer, who she said she liked, but I guess it was because Annie set it up for her without warning. Regardless of why she was opposed, it was something that influenced her to watch the two kids because Annie hinted that she’d cancel the date for Strode if she watched them. Strode later sends those two kids to get help while the movie’s main villain, Michael Myers, tries to kill her. Every time Strode relaxes, believing that Myers is dead, I can’t help but feel sad, knowing he is going to wake up while her guard is down.

Thirdly, Naomi Watts is a fantastic female lead in The Ring, both for her great facial expressions and the manner in which she speaks and yells. Her character, Rachel Keller, is smart and so fluidly tracks down the story behind the tape that supposedly kills you exactly seven days after you watch it that it looks effortless. Watts’ character is incredibly brave and does not let fear drive her away from figuring out the mystery.

However, one poor decision she made was leaving the tape lying around for her son to watch - she could have locked it in a safe, or put it in a high place where he couldn’t reach it. Despite this, her quick thinking and impressive research capabilities are outstanding. The part of her survival that throws me, in a good way, is the fact that she lived on the dumb luck that she copied the tape. This caught me completely off guard on my first watch, since her whole adventure was undertaken for no real reason. However, it made the movie better because it confirmed the underlying feeling that it wasn’t really over.

The next choice on the list is Jennifer Aniston’s role from Leprechaun, justified by the movie being rated 4.8/10 on IMDB, slightly higher than the original list choice of Prom Night (3.9/10), which led me to select Aniston over Brittany Snow.

Aniston’s character, Tory Redding, is a stuck up girl from L.A. who is disrespectful to her father, calling him a hick and hating on his new house. She also allows Nathan to push her around because she finds him and his large muscles attractive. However, these muscles can’t stop him from wasting five rounds of shotgun ammo in a dimwitted attempt to kill the Leprechaun.

Redding becomes discouraged while looking for the four leaf clover necessary to kill the Leprechaun, which you just can’t easily do when a little green man that can teleport is trying to kill you. Something that she does right, however, is hopping in a Jeep and finding the man who originally stole the gold in order to ask him how to kill the Leprechaun. Another important note, though, is that Redding trips and falls while running from the Leprechaun at one point, a truly cringe-worthy mistake when fleeing from something that is trying to kill you.

Tippi Hedren’s performance in The Birds was phenomenal, but her character, Melanie Daniels, made quite a few questionable choices. The Birds was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, who has made many acclaimed movies but is considered a controversial man due to the fact that he stalked Hedren and sexually assaulted her.

Daniels is a kind-hearted character who risks her life to save children from birds plotting to attack a school. Daniels does not trip and fall while running from the birds, but she fails to avoid them like she should have. After one of the crazy bird attacks, Daniels goes upstairs to investigate some flapping noises, and when she opens the door she unsurprisingly gets swarmed by birds, resulting in injury and her fainting. This was late into the movie, so she knew that the birds were violent - she’d been attacked already and one of her friends had died - making it one of the dumbest decisions I have ever seen a character make. The movie didn't provide a proper ending or explanation at all, but Hedren is gorgeous and the idea of birds launching organized attacks on humans is understandably threatening, so I can see why people love The Birds. A fun, small detail worth mentioning is that Hedren’s signature pays tribute to the movie with the little birds drawn around her name, reflecting her playful personality.

If it isn’t obvious that Aniston is not going to win the title of best heroine of horror, I am sorry to inform you that there is no way she would beat any of the other women I picked, despite my love for her. The contender next to go is Hedren. Her performance was wonderful, but I cannot look past the fact that she willingly walked into a room filled with murderous birds - it was incredibly idiodic. Next, despite Curtis being an amazing actress, I just don’t find Halloween that entertaining, so I don’t feel compelled to have her win. Sorry, not sorry.

The winner was hard to pick, and it took a lot of internal debate to decide. First, Prescott survived based on wit, and although Keller also has impressive smarts, she survived on senseless, fantastic luck - making her necessity for intelligence less important. Second, as I am sure many people who have seen both Scream and The Ring would agree with, if someone wanted to watch a truly scary movie they would go for The Ring, because Scream feels more like a spoof the more times you watch it. Even though I would say Campbell wins for survival strength, Watts’ movie is a far better horror film because of the scare factor and storyline.

And that makes Watts my heroine of horror. Who’s yours?


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