Monday, February 4, 2013


For some strange reason or another, people are under the impression that women are not as capable as men when it comes to committing dastardly deeds of violence.  It is almost immediately presumed that the villain of a horror movie is going to be a man.  This has never really sat well with me, because I firmly believe that while men can be the more physically aggressive killers, women have a very particular style within their madness.  The way I see it, women are far more manipulative, calculated, predatory, and conniving.  Where women suffer in the sense of their physical strength (that's not a sexist statement, it's science) in comparison to their male counterparts, women have found a way around this limitation by using the most powerful muscle of all, their brain. Whenever horror films have an unseen killer and it is later revealed to be a woman, this for some reason is incredibly shocking for audiences to handle.  I would argue, perhaps more shocking than the 'man as woman' reveals of Norman Bates in Psycho or Angela Baker in Sleepaway Camp.  Why? Because it becomes far more understandable for a villain to be a man than to be a woman...even if he's wearing women's clothing.

What always struck me as confusing is the way that people reacted to Pamela Voorhees being revealed as the killer in the original Friday the 13th film as being so shocking.  Last semester I took a collegiate level horror film analysis course and this situation was brought to our attention.  The class was asked "who thought the killer was going to be a woman" and I was the only one who raised their hand.  When you really look at it, Pamela Voorhees' tactics throughout the film gave away her gender from the very beginning.  From the get go, camp counselor Annie needs to hitch a ride to the camp and hops a ride with an unseen driver in a jeep. Right away, the fact she gets in the car and is so friendly to the driver makes me believe the driver is a woman.  I'm sorry, I will be gender biased here on this one, I would wait two hours before I would (as a young woman) get in a car with a strange man. Maybe that makes me a misandrist, but so be it. I would trust a sweet old lady in a cable knit sweater before I'd trust some big dude.  Not only that, but instead of just slash and dashing up her victims, Mama Voorhees was very calculated.  She even went as far as impersonating the voice of a child in order to lure out one of her victims, knowing that she wouldn't be able to ignore a crying child.  That's a woman move, right there.

Word to the wise: don't piss off Aunt Jackie.  After the success of the original, Scream 2 needed a bigger shock ending, and what more than making the masked killer a woman?  The more "masculine" actions can be excused by the writing team having to do emergency re-writes do to script leaking, but come on, they killed her baby. OF COURSE MOMMY WAS GONNA COME BACK FOR REVENGE!

In a twisted game of "who-done-it," the horror/murder mystery, Cry_Wolf showcases someone who has to be the most calculated and manipulative human being possible in order to go undetected. A woman scorned, Dodger manages to win a game where the rules are "Avoid suspicion. Manipulate your friends. Eliminate your enemies."  She creates an elaborate trap and convinces everyone to walk right into it.  Dodger uses not only her intellect, but her sexuality as a weapon and ultimately gets away with absolutely everything.

The 90s gets a lot of slack for being a lackluster decade for horror, but the reveal of the killer in the cameo ridden film Urban Legend showcased a manic woman who managed to skim under the radar for a good majority of the entire film.  It isn't until the final moments that the idea of this woman being the killer is even a plausible assumption.  Again, manipulation played a major role, a tactic more frequently shown with women over men. 

Strangely enough, these attributes seem to be solely attached to women in horror films rather than any other genre.  For example, if we take a look at Disney films, another genre notorious for having female villains, their representation is dramatically different.  Although the concept of the female villain being far more intelligent than their male counterparts staying the same, the major difference is that Disney female villains require assistance.  Granted, their assistants are usually bumbling, foolish, men, but they still require assistance nonetheless.  Whereas in horror films, female villains are relentless and just as capable of extreme violence as their male comrades...but in a far sneakier way.  This isn't a criticism of the female strength in any way, shape, or form, this is merely an observation of the different ways the sexes earn their power.  There's a reason men in high school just beat the snot out of each other and girls will spread rumors and psychologically torture their victims.  We think differently, and that is okay!  By taking a closer look at the tactics of unmasked killers, we can always determine whether or not we're dealing with a man or a woman.


7 comment(s):

ragtag_creature said...

Seeing as you were able to identify the killer in Friday the 13th, do you think the screenwriter (male) successfully wrote a female part? or do you think there was still something missing?

And what do you think the difference is between male and female writers' takes on women characters, main villain or not?

BJ Colangelo said...

I will have to tackle those questions another day. That will take far too long to answer!

Unknown said...

It always amazes me when people think that all women are June Cleaver and incapable of even a violent thought. Yet there are women who have done things so horrific that they'd make even the most hardened cop cringe.

Kristi Dorson said...

How about the original April Fool's Day? Muffy St. John lures a group of friends and acquaintances out to her island home, concocts an elaborate story and sets up myriad traps for them, many of them manipulative based on the victims' fears and life experiences. All for the sake of good theater. That's one clever lady.

Gene Phillips said...

"Mrs. Voorhees" is one in a long line of "mature" women who turn out to be deadly, as she follows in the wake of the "scream queen" meme of the 1960s, with psycho versions of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and others. The giallos occasionally went in that direction too, though my impression is that they tended more often to focus on beautiful young things as the demented mystery killers.

Spike Ghost said...

Don'T worry BJ-C, i'm pretty sure most women would think twice before getting in a car with a strange man. It makes you normal. (Also i don't think misandry is actually a thing). There'S also the alien queen in The Faculty that uses manipulation to infiltrate even though if it wants it can use brute force she knows manipulation is more useful.

Marie Robinson said...

Excellent article!!

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