Thursday, February 17, 2011

WIH Recognition Month - My top 10 memorable performances - Part 1

Howdy horrorphiles! It's the Ratman, here once again to deliver a safer injection. Today I have decided to contribute an article in honor of Women in Horror Recognition Month and all the wonderful women that make horror so fantastic and eternal. I have been waiting in the wings this month, but after reading an awful piece listing 10 great "Scream Queens" (a list which seemed to judge its winners by how strong an erection they gave the author) I had to create balance in the Force by publishing my own list of 10. 

My list is actually about horror films and memorable performances by women in these films. Films that are essential viewing for anyone who appreciates true method acting, and wants to understand just a little about what it might take from within to create moments of true terror. All of these films sit among my all time favorites thanks to such wonderful actresses. So ladies, I tip my hat to thee. There is no order as they are all superb.

Barbara Hershey in The Entity 

Whether they liked the film as a whole or not, no critic could ever deny the strength of Barbara Hershey's performance in The Entity. The supposedly true account of a woman who was sexually assaulted by spirits would be laughable without something truly convincing from the lead actress. What we get is just that, Hershey immersed herself in the role of Carla Moran, and lay herself bare for the camera, and I speak not of her clothing. This is a true example of a film that trusted in a stellar performance to make it work.

Shelley Duvall in The Shining

Until I saw The Shining (perhaps the first movie to truly terrify me) I always thought of Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl from the much loved childhood favorite Popeye. A strange parallel can even be made between Olive and The Shining's Wendy, at least in the opening of the film - she is the ultimate submissive, vulnerable and "weak" wife character, dominated by her aggressive husband. Her terrifying ordeal is played out to perfection, leaving most viewers as shaken as Wendy is by Jack's explosion into psychotic violence. This is one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema, in one of the finest horror films ever to be made.

JoBeth Williams, Beatrice Straight, Heather O'Rourke, Dominique Dunn, Zelda Rubenstein in Poltergeist

So many thoughts ran back through my head when recalling this film, so many moments and memories and other things connected to this film. Growing up in the 80's, this was a film so talked about, it probably takes the crown as the film I waited longest to actually see. I cannot choose a single performance from a female in this film for the list, in fact all 5 featured roles were delivered wonderfully, including the least developed character of Dana (Dominique Dunn) - after all that happened, it's a shame that some people only got to know this movie through its controversy, rather than its merits.

Sigourney Weaver in Alien

Science Fiction and horror were rarely mixed in equal doses in a film with any success, until Ridley Scott brought us Alien. Female protagonists were rarely the first to pick up the big guns and come to the rescue via serious ass-kicking, until Sigourney Weaver brought us Ellen Ripley. In my opinion, this film is perfect. It has everything I want in a film, and is crafted with the care and design of a formidable list of talent. I can assume almost everyone who will ever read this blog has seen this film many times over. Sigourney Weaver is the ultimate woman, end of story.

Linda Blair in The Exorcist

As this is one of the most written-about films and performances in all of horror, there's really nothing I can say that is original. This performance, along with Jodie Foster's performance in Taxi Driver, should always be seen as the cardinal example of bravery and strength in a performance by a young lady. I could not imagine what went through Linda Blair's mind as she was made up to be the incarnation of the devil, cursing and bleeding and vomiting and screaming her way into the critics' best lists. Though her demonic voice was performed by Mercedes McCambridge, from this footage linked below we can clearly see this young girl is phenomenally good.

Original voice footage:

I have decided, through my sore back and also for the sake of brevity, to make this a two part feature. Now we have the added element of suspense. Who will take out the next 5 spots on my list? Find out in the next installment (spooky noises)


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