Oct 30, 2009

My Top Five Scream Queens

My Top Five Scream Queens, in no particular order
1. Heather Langenkamp (Nancy) - A Nightmare on Elm Street, Wes Craven's New Nightmare

To me, Heather Langenkamp is unrivaled in the realm of scream queens. I used to frequent a local video store with an extensive collection of horror flicks, and the one I looked at the most was Nightmare. Something about her wholesomeness - or the way she looked on the VHS box at Donna's Video - drew me in. I spent way too much of my mom's money renting that flick, and it's partly about Heather Langenkamp. Freddy might have had something to do with it, too, but without Ms. Langenkamp, it might have been just another mediocre horror flick.

2. Neve Campbell (Sydney) - Scream, Scream 2, Scream 3

It might be controversial to go with another Wes Craven queen so early in the list, but believe me when I say that Neve Campbell deserves the credit. As Sydney Prescott, she is as tough as they come, even for a suburban girl, punching, kicking, and taunting other characters like she was plucked from an action movie. 'Scream' deftly deconstructs the horror genre like no other film, with a killer script from Kevin Williamson and adroit direction from Wes Craven, and Neve Campbell is at the trilogy's center, so its reputation as a pop horror outing is ill-deserved and hardly accurate. It's no teen flick. It's R Rated and witty, something that most horror movies can't pull off without pandering.

And Neve never disrobes, not once. You'll have to go to 'Wild Things' for that kind of (un)coverage.

3. Jamie Lee Curtis - Halloween, Prom Night, Terror Train, The Fog

Even though her mother, Janet Leigh, sort of started the whole "Scream Queen" scene, Jamie Lee Curtis really embodied the idea at the height of its popularity, starring in several of the genre's most long-lasting movies. Even though 'Prom Night' and 'Terror Train' don't hold up as well today, 'Halloween' might just hold up better than it did over thirty years ago.

Beyond having plenty of skin, great music, wonderful cinematography, a great villain, and an unparalleled performance by Donald Pleasance as Dr. Sam Loomis (a reference to 'Psycho' itself), 'Halloween' stars a charismatic Curtis as Laurie Strode, a bookish homebody whose Halloween goes horribly wrong. However, though 'Halloween' proved to be the performance that jump-started her career, getting cast in 'The Fog' as hiker Elizabeth Solley sent her into the scream queen stratosphere.

4. Adrienne Barbeau - The Fog, Swamp Thing, Creepshow, Escape from NY

Adrienne Barbeau had two big things going for her: her brief romance with John Carpenter, who cast her in 'The Fog'...and her breasts. Because of 'The Fog's marginal success, she was cast in other genre flicks, including a turn as Hal Holbrook's drunken wife in 'Creepshow' (I have never enjoyed seeing someone get eaten alive as much as I did during 'The Crate' segment). It is because of her brief run of cultish horror classics in the late 70s and early 80s that earned her a spot on this list.

5. Marilyn Burns - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Though her role as Sally Hardesty did not lead to any real, lasting fame, Marilyn Burns could not be excluded from this list of notable horror ingenues. Her performance does not stand out as superb, but man alive can she scream. The second half of the movie, in fact, is rife with her strained voice, almost as prevalent as the soundtrack itself. Burns must also be given credit for the sheer amount of torture she must have gone through in making the movie, considering that she's literally covered in blood by the end of it. Hats off.

Honorable Mentions:
Danielle Harris - Halloween 4, Halloween 5, Urban Legend, H2
Sarah Michelle Gellar - I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2
Janet Leigh - Psycho, The Fog
Sissy Spacek - Carrie
Linda Blair - The Exorcist
Drew Barrymore - Scream, Cat's Eye, Firestarter,