And we even had to leave out Linda Blair in The Exorcist, Natasha Henstridge in Species, Marilyn Chambers in Rabid, Rhada Mitchell in Pitch Black and cool piercee punk Julie Walker in Return of the Living Dead 3.
10 .Candyman (1992) Virginia Madsen
Go on, admit it. You’ve stood in front of a mirror and tried to say the word Candyman five times. Whether or not you paused at four, or dared all five, the fact that you’ve tried it at all is down to the terrific performance by Virginia Madsen in Candyman. Virginia plays Helen Lyle, a researcher investigating the urban myth of the Candyman, who is slowly drawn into the terrible and true terror beyond the mirror. Apparently Madsen was hypnotised for some scenes (bees anyone?), but her performance still displays amazing depth, dimension and genuine emotion in her character. Candyman, candyman, candyman, candyman…
9 .The Descent (2005) Shauna Macdonald
This year’s The Descent is destined for great things we’re sure, and with an excellent all-round all-female cast, it would be just rude not to include it in this list. Of the girls, it’s tough to pick (sorry) a ‘best’ performance from such a great ensemble, but if we had to nominate, we’d plum for Shauna Macdonald (just about) over a feisty Natalie Jackson Mendoza. As Sarah, Shauna gets the best character journey, from loving mother and white-water rafting action girl to sceptical potholer, right on through to blood-drenched crawler-slaying survivalist and is never unconvincing. Just don’t betray her.
8 .Switchblade Romance (2003) Cecile de France
Cecile de France shot into horror fan’s consciousness last year with the stunning (dual?) role in Alex Aja’s no-holds-barred French smash, Switchblade Romance (Haute Tension). Cecile de France’s Marie travels back with her friend Alex to stay for a few days at Alex’s parent’s home, but soon encounters a whole lot of trouble when a cold-blooded killer shows up, killing everyone in sight. Innocent becomes victim, before victim fights back and slowly turns attacker, and even if the ending doesn’t quite convince, Cecile de France never once allows us to disbelieve in her character. Vive de France.
7 .Cujo (1983) Dee Wallace
With her horror credentials secured in Hills Have Eyes and The Howling and her acting credentials secured in E.T., Dee Wallace then moved on to one of her finest roles ever in 1983 as Donna Trenton in Cujo. Suffering from marriage and car problems, matters are not helped when the car breaks down, trapping Donna and her son Tad in the car, with a rabid killer Cujo prowling around outside. Donna does not take things lying down however, and goes on to single-handedly defend her asthmatic son from the dog for almost the entire film, and possibly save her marriage in the process. Car’s probably a write-off though.
6 .The Fog (1981) Adrienne Barbeau
Adrienne Barbeau's characterisation of radio DJ Stevie Wayne in Carpenter's 1981 ghost masterpiece The Fog remains one of the most likeable females in movie history. She's a strong woman with a history, a loving mother to her son Andy, has a gorgeous husky voice, good taste in tight red jumpers and is in a good position (a lighthouse) to see an unearthly fog which defies the laws of physics. She becomes the unofficial narrator of the film, guiding us through a terrible night for the quiet coastal town of Antonio Bay, CA. She was so good that John Carpenter fell in love with her.
5 .May (2002) Angela Bettis
She's only been in a couple of major horror movies, but Angela Bettis is already becoming the latest darling of the scream scene. And with good reason; whether she's running around L.A. apartment buildings scribbling symbols on her arms, chopping the best bits off her friends, or doing a Spacek (she's also in the Carrie remake), Bettis is always great value for money. And we haven't heard the last from her either - her next project involves stepping behind the camera to direct the guy who directed her in the seminal May. It's only a shame that that lucky guy - Lucky McKee - is also her boyfriend. Oh well, you can't have it all...
4 .Halloween (1978) Jamie Lee Curtis
With a father like Tony Curtis, let's face it; you're never going to be conventionally good-looking. But Jamie Lee definitely has something, especially after you've seen that scene in Trading Places. Carpenter gave Curtis her first movie break by casting her as the vulnerable Laurie Strode in Halloween, and she won viewers over with her sensitive portrayal of Michael Myers' unlucky sister. She doesn't smoke, drink, or have sex, so survives the first instalment to return in the inferior sequel, dressed in a nightie, being equally scared by her white-faced brother and Donald Pleaseance's clearly unbalanced psychiatrist.
3 .The Silence of the Lambs (1992) Jodie Foster
Yes, The Silence of the Lambsis a horror film (grisly murders, gothic atmosphere) and it swept all top 5 Oscars in 1992 to boot. Hopkins’ Hannibal Lector is legend by now of course, but this is Jodie’s film, good bag, cheap shoes an’all, as the young FBI agent Clarice Starling in perhaps what is the pinnacle of a career full of high peaks. Student, detective, action woman and tease – “are you flirting with me, Doctor?” – Jodie fought for the part originally intended for Michelle Pfeiffer and subsequently brought strong women’s roles to the forefront in the early 90s. Hope the lambs have stopped screaming by now Clarice.
2 .Carrie (1976) Sissy Spacek
Perhaps one of the most iconographic images of women in horror (at least equally up there with Fay Wray and The Bride of Frankenstein) is Sissy Spacek standing crowned queen at the Prom, drenched in pig’s blood. Tormented by her over-religious mother and being the most bullied girl in school (period), Spacek made sure she would forever remain a film legend for her spell-binding performance in the titular role of Stephen King’s novel adaptation. The pig’s blood itself was karo syrup and food colouring, although Sissy was so in character, she was apparently willing to have real blood dumped on her. Far from the sissy her name suggests.
1 .Aliens (1986) Sigourney Weaver
But Top Modern Horror Woman undoubtedly must go to Sigourney Weaver’s four quite different, but always believable roles as Ellen Ripley in the Alien series. Which film to plum for though: Alien (nervously over-authorative, but ultimately herooic), Aliens (full-on action mother figure), Alien 3 (shaven-headed, yet sensitive hard-ass) or Alien Resurrection (super clone). Has to be Aliens really, if only for the immortal line "Get away from her you bitch!" Ah, if only the series had ended there. “Can I dream?” Ripley: “Yes honey. I think we both can. Sleep tight”. Affirmative.