Picking Favorites: Top 5 Female Performances in Horror

The horror genre in my opinion is so underrated in terms of recognition for performances and in some cases the films in general. The Oscars always seem to turn the other cheek towards them, with the exception of a few iconic ones (Misery, Silences of the Lambs, etc.). Besides dramas, I honestly think horror offers the more stronger performances of other genres. The actors and actresses have to convey so much emotion and sometimes really get into the psyche of the characters they play and channel the hell out of them. This isn’t the case for every horror movie of course, but a person can’t deny that there’s a lot of effort to be put into these performances. This is my personal list of my five favorite male and female performances in horror. Some of them are the obvious and iconic performances, and some are performances that definitely deserve to become iconic and ranked with them.

1) Isabelle Fuhrman as Esther in Orphan
With child performances, they can be hit or miss. The performances can be way too “cute” or they can be downright annoying. But with Fuhrman’s performance, it’s mind-blowing how a child turn in such an adult and deranged performance. This another actress who can make you feel unease with subtlety in her performance, and most of it is subtle. With just a look, or how close and in your face she gets in this movie, it’s enough to bring the chills. And when she finally goes full on psycho, you are just in shock of how this little girl is bringing out this psychotic little bitch. Like where the hell does it come from? Fuhrman’s performance is honestly, for me, what makes Orphan such a great movie.

2) Rebecca De Mornay as Mother in Mother’s Day (2010)
Here is yet another performance that, like Goodman’s character in 10CL, is one in which you have no idea what to feel around this character initially. De Mornay first appears as this woman who seems friendly enough, but just has some fucked up kids. And she makes you feel a bit more comfortable despite the chaos that just happened. But her performances takes a gradual turn as you see just how deranged she actually is. She goes full on psycho at the end, and she’s fantastic there, but she’s at her best when she’s punishing or killing these characters for breaking her roles. And the way De Mornay acts like these punishments are justified and reasonable with so much calm and ease is excellent. She makes you fear her calm side more than her full on crazy side.

3) Leah Pipes as Jessica in Sorority Row
This performance is much more different than most because it’s not the villain, nor is it a hero. Leah Pipes plays the queen bee bitch character Jessica so profoundly that she deserves to be in this list. Pipes perfectly balances this line between where you know you’re supposed to hate her character, but yet you fricken love her. Much of Jessica’s character involves many wise-cracks or using her bitch-face. And my god, Pipes nails this. Her comedic timing is so on-point and she perfectly uses bitch face to her advantage. She tackles this character so well, makes you laugh, and often time cheer because of how bad ass she can be that (if you’re like me) you are rooting for her the whole time as opposed to the main lead. And what Pipes brings here is that you know you’re supposed to hate her, and she does make you do that, but she also brings to the table elements where you just can’t help but love the hell out of her. Most actress with this performance would either go one way or the other. But Pipes was a special actress to capture both sides.

4) Neve Campbell as Sidney in the Scream series
It would be unfair to critique Campbell based on just the first film alone. To get a full grasp on Sidney and how Campbell portrays her, you have to look at the series as a whole. In the first film we see Campbell portray Sidney as this pretty tortured girl who had seen her mother murdered. Not only this but also the pressure she feels from Billy. Campbell captures this really well, but there’s more to Sidney than just a tortured character. She has some realism to her character, she’s not Mary Sue nice like Laurie Strode, but she’s a good person who is not afraid to be a bitch when she has to (insert Sidney punching Gale). Even in the moments where we do see Campbell kicking the killer’s ass, you still her conveying the emotional turmoil that Sidney is feeling. This is just the first film. For the rest of the film, we still see the emotional damage that Sidney has, and once again Campbell shows this well, but doesn’t overdo it to where we get annoyed. Campbell shows Sidney’s struggle to try find normalcy in her life but also how she’s haunted and not sure who to trust. When you look at the whole series, you see Neve Campbell showing Sidney’s rise to strength and overcoming all of this emotional barriers she faces and by the forth film she comes character who is willing to chase down her demons instead of running.

5) Rachel McAdams as Lisa in Red Eye
This is one performance I feel is as under-looked as the film itself. McAdams shows Lisa as this workaholic who tries to keep her cool under dire circumstances, but you can also see in her performance how much stress she feels. When Lisa finds herself in the biggest dire circumstance where not only her life, but the life of several others are on the line, this is when McAdams shows her chops big time. The fear and helplessness McAdams shows is pretty heartbreaking and you are waiting for her to reach that moment for her to rise. There are moments sprinkled out where you see Lisa’s cunning and bravery rising in McAdams’ performance, but also her fears are keeping her back. It’s in the final act when McAdams shows Lisa’s courage and anger kick in and we are rooting for her the whole time during the cat and mouse game she plays with Cillian Murphy’s character, and finally when they are in a face to face battle. By the end you are pumped for her character after her ordeal. But then in the very last scene, you know that Lisa has had enough after her ordeal and throwing her calm and collected self out the window by delivering the most epic final line in a movie ever to a couple of characters who totally had it coming. Like Campbell’s portrayal of Sidney, McAdams shows Lisa’s journey into finding strength in herself and overcoming her fears.

–Cody Landman