Archive for February, 2014

The Short Films of DreamSeekers Productions: The New World (2010): WiHM2014 Special.

Posted in The Short Films of Dream Seekers with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Welcome back to the monthly reviews of The Short Films of Dreamseekers Productions exclusively on Hayley’s Horror Reviews. While not strictly a horror short, The New World does deal with notions of the magical and fantastical which is closely linked to the genre. The production company present a versatile and strong female led piece that fits in perfectly with February’s Women in Horror Recognition Month’s celebrations. 

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The New World (2010) was more of an experimental film for Dreamseekers Productions. In this offering, Peter Dukes and his team use the fantasy genre wonderfully to present a captivating visual tale of a wandering fairy (Katy Townsend) enchanted with the human world. The New World truly embodies the power of film as it returns to the silent era, taking it’s viewers on a breathtaking journey of imagery and music. The narrative itself most definitely has a Hans Christian Anderson vibe to it, taking inspiration from the classic fairytale The Little Mermaid (story:1837) featuring a mythical creature discovering a whole new life in which she longs to be part of. Through the POV of the fairy she sees the human world as idyllic and connected, aspiring to belong there. She sees the beauty of the earth that most humans take for granted as everything but her remains still. This evokes notions of not seeing the reality of the true world but also slowing down for a moment in order to appreciate what’s around us. Following a visit to the Fairy Queen (Elyse Ashton) her wish is granted. The short then takes a more ambiguous turn incorporating an intriguing ending which speaks volumes without having to use any dialogue.

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The fairy herself is a determined creature, she knows what she wants and takes action in order to fulfill her wishes. Through giving up a world of magic for an ordinary life she demonstrates that she is aware there is much more out there to explore. Her costume is also another interesting aspect to the film as she displays an earthy look complimented with gothic fashion that could belong in a female-fronted rock band. Other than the narrative, The New World is a film that relishes in its cinematography and embraces it’s stunning locations, notably the beautiful forest. Cinematography is one of Dreamseekers strengths and they certainly take advantage of their surroundings in this instance. The blue lighting used in the fairy world among the trees is nicely done and proves effective, enhancing the mystical elements of the short. Katy Townsend carries the film purely through expression conveying the fairy’s sense of wonder throughout, its an interesting role from an acting perspective in that sense by not working from a dialogue heavy script. Mesmerizing and compelling, using pleasant, dream-like non-diegetic music to compliment its visuals, The New World is another quality and creative short film from Dukes’s company.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Women In Horror Month: Final Girls and Psychotic Women. (3-1)

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Here is part five and the final piece of coverage celebrating the fifth annual Women in Horror Recognition Month. Earlier this month I began a countdown of who I consider to be the bravest final girls in horror as well as the most psychotic and deadly women. Narrowing it down out of a vast range of characters that have made an impact on our blood-splattered screens for decades has been tough and there’s plenty more I’d have liked to have included. A follow-up countdown next year may be a possibility. Now we’re onto the top three, it’s time to analyze my ultimate favorite genre women. The criteria set for these three is down to the impact they’ve had on the genre and on myself, their iconic status within Horror, how they’ve either set up recognizable tropes or challenged them and just for being downright awesome.

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I want to thank everyone for their support in reading my work. For all the shares, likes, re-tweets and comments. Your feedback is always more than welcome and its always brilliant to speak to like-minded fans. Let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices. Who do YOU think should be THE Woman of Horror?

I’d also like to give a personal thank you to Hannah Neurotica who has set up this amazing cause to address the restrictions and prejudices that many women have faced in the industry and to celebrate a genre that has so many phenomenal female contributors. Let’s all keep raising awareness for Women in Horror Recognition Month. Long may it continue…!

WARNING: There will be Spoilers!!

3. Mary Mason, American Mary (2012)

  • Played By Katharine Isabelle
  • Written and Directed By Jen and Sylvia Soska.

amermary01  It shouldn’t come as a surprise that sadistic surgeon Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) slashed her way onto this list. Interestingly, she is the first character included in this countdown who has been written and directed by women, which to a degree emphasizes the lack of strong, iconic female characters written by women for women within the genre. But when Mary splattered onto the Horror scene back in 2012 she certainly made her mark as the fabulous filmmakers Jen and Sylvia Soska (aka. The Twisted Twins) worked incredibly hard to promote the film, generating plenty of interest via social media and the film wound up being one of the most ‘must-see’ events in the horror genre that year. It also resulted in major studio Universal acquiring the rights to the film making it’s female directors a modern day industry success story. The film itself actually laments the disheartening experiences the Soska’s went through as striving filmmakers echoing the negativity and sleaziness they encountered amongst the film system.

One of the most fascinating pieces of horror to emerge this decade, American Mary is a modern day Universal Monster in every sense of the word. She is a deeply complex character with so many layers its hard not to be compelled by her story arc within the film from promising medical student to rogue body modification surgeon to psychotic woman. Mary is the embodiment of a woman who can be both highly intelligent and sexy. With an array of stylish yet provocative outfits, Mary looks amazing whether she’s covered in blood in a PVC apron or in the designer green dress created for her by Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg). She knows what she has to do in order to survive and is not to be crossed with as deadly consequences will arise. The majority of the time Mary is cool, calm and collected which is vital as she carries out some obscure and unconventional methods of surgery in order to either please her clients or torture her victims. When a horrific incident happens to her she takes matters into her own hands enlisting the help of smitten club owner Billy (Antonio Cupo) and gentle giant, bodyguard Lance (Twan Holliday) in order to act out her revenge.

A master at her craft, its evident she relishes in the work she does, which molds her into a creative, beautiful yet feared woman. The majority of the time Mary is sarcastic and deadpan which underlines her disillusion with her unfortunate experiences. Her relationships with the other characters in the film is interesting. She doesn’t quite let them in and deals with her problems mainly alone. Her quasi-friendship with Betty Boop lookalike Beatrice (Tristan Risk) is one of the film’s highlights, with contrasting personalities and attitudes Beatrice tries her hardest to get to know what’s behind Mary’s exterior more so than other characters. Through Billy’s eyes she is seen as sensual yet frightening, comparatively to other women he hires at the club he holds more respect for Mary and there’s a genuine fondness on his part. She also manages to deceive Detective Dolor (John Emmet Tracy) for as long as she can demonstrating how double-crossing she can be while protecting herself and her unique body modification “business”.

A complex and compelling character, Mary continues to gain cult and iconic status providing Scream Queen Katharine Isabelle with another memorable role under her belt next to Ginger from Ginger Snaps (2000). Whether feared or admired, there’s certainly something about Mary!

2. Laurie Strode, Halloween Series (1978, 1981, 1998, 2002)

  • Played By Jamie Lee Curtis
  • Directed By John Carpenter
  • Written By John Carpenter and Debra Hill

laurie strode  Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) is one of the earliest examples and arguably the most famous of the ‘final girl’ trope. Despite not being the first horror heroine to come up against and survive a maniacal killer in the slasher territory (See. Jess, Black Christmas (1974) and Sally, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) as earlier examples) she holds a great deal of significance. Laurie’s character and status as ‘the final girl’ has been famously examined by Carol Clover in Men, Women and Chainsaws and its become pretty much concrete that Halloween (1978) set the standard for the slasher films that came after it and coined several of the tropes that have been recognizable ever since. The term ‘Final Girl’ came from Clover who stated the attributes as being a strong female character and one that was distinct from other females within slashers. As us horror enthusiasts know if you’re the slutty blonde cheerleader your more likely going to die but if you’re the shy, bookish, virginal girl, you’re going to survive! The final girl is the one who realizes the extent of the threat facing her and its even suggested that once she confronts the killer and more than often stabs him with a knife (a penetrative motion) its used as a metaphor for her sexual frustration.

It seems as if ‘Final Girls’ during this period of horror were constructed as masculine, with their feminine qualities suppressed, they were in place more as an experience for cinematic terror. By having a female figure rather than a male the intent was to convey fear as women aren’t viewed as physically strong as men. It created more vulnerability when the final girl would face up against a killer twice her size.

Another attribute of ‘The Final Girl’ is having a gender neutral name which supports this idea that the role of the female in slasher films is for a male audience to be able to identify with. Clover’s theory however has been criticized for being problematic as it doesn’t suggest that the heroine reflects female identity and anxieties. Laurie in fact does display several of the characteristics Clover set out. Despite thwarting the killer at the climax and surviving, Clover’s focus on a male outlet has been argued against as Laurie is ultimately rescued by a male character Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence). Through this she is not entirely an ‘active’ final girl who seeks out the killer herself but she is one step ahead of the other characters as she remains continually cautious and is smart enough to keep herself alive. Laurie is an early reference point for the trope however she does evolve over the years. In the sequel she is hospitalized but still displays more awareness, warning others about the boogeyman who attacked her, the doctors dismiss her fears and continue to sedate her. In Halloween II (1981) Laurie makes the connection that her attacker is in fact Michael Myers and also her brother. With that knowledge she is able to defeat him once more with the help of Loomis. During Halloween IV (1988)V (1989) and The Curse of Michael Myers (1995) she is presumed dead leaving behind a young daughter Jamie Lloyd (Danielle Harris) who becomes Myers next target. In Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998) its discovered that Laurie is alive and living behind a secret identity. Fragile and unable to cope with her past, she is on medication and a shadow of her former self, which makes her more human. This time round she has her teenage son John (Josh Hartnett) to protect as Michael targets his little sister once more. By the end Laurie gains the courage to fight back and finish off Michael Myers once and for all, beheading him with an axe. By this point Laurie had molded from the vulnerable teenager in the first installment to a stronger woman. Unfortunately Halloween:Resurrection (2002) exists, destroying everything the previous film had intended with the evolution of Laurie’s place as a final girl, by having Myers kill her off in an asylum in the films opening minutes. Allegedly Laurie had decapitated a security guard rather than Myers in H20.

As stated Laurie Strode is one of the most emblematic heroines to emerge from the genre. Even though she does fall into several categories that make up the traditional final girl, its not to say that she doesn’t display any feminine qualities. She begins as a teenage girl with insecurities and becomes a strong woman which is plenty for a female audience to relate to. Laurie is without a doubt the first notable final girl in the slasher sub-genre and a huge influence on all the strong horror females that came after her.

1. Sidney Prescott, Scream Series (1996, 1997, 2000, 2011)

  • Played By Neve Campbell
  • Directed By Wes Craven
  • Written By Kevin Williamson

scream4_06  The countdown has now reached an end and its time to finally discuss the feistiest female in Horror and that is Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) from the slick, post-modern Scream franchise.

If Laurie Strode was responsible for evoking ideas about ‘the final girl’ then Sidney Prescott was in place to challenge them. The 90’s were upon us and the horror genre was in dire need of a re-vamp. Precisely everything had been done by this point and filmmakers needed to find a way to keep on terrifying audiences who were now all too aware of the cliches and tropes thrown at them. Enter Kevin Williamson, a complete godsend. Williamson re-invented the genre with his quick-witted, self-aware but also brutal Scream (1996) along with the experienced genre director Wes Craven on board. Instead of re-hashing the same tired conventions, Williamson challenged them by creating a slasher film where the characters were conscious of being in one yet still met a bloody demise at the hands of an all new sinister serial killer, Ghostface (voiced by Roger L. Jackson) who knows these movies inside out and through the knowledge of the conventions is able to outsmart the targeted teens.

As a final girl Sidney on one hand does qualify for some of the attributes Clover discussed. She has a gender-neutral name and has intimacy issues. On the other hand she is clued up on how females in horror are constructed yet when faced with a slasher-type situation she acts on instinct rather than logic. That’s until the sequels where she becomes even more savvy on how to outsmart the knife-wielding masked murderer. The previously mentioned intimacy issues are down to trauma rather than just playing the good girl. Sidney’s mother was brutally butchered before the events of Scream (1996) however she eventually bows down to pressure from suspected boyfriend Billy Loomis (Skeet Ulrich) and sleeps with him right before the blood-curdling climax. Even more of a turning point is Billy does turn out to be one of the killers meaning in this instance rules have changed and Sidney not only has sex, she has sex with the villain which establishes what audiences thought they knew about horror conventions is about to change.

By Scream 4 (2011) Sidney has encountered and defeated seven serial killers that donne the Ghostface disguise all out for her blood. Sidney achieved somewhat of a sick, celebrity status as ‘everyone’s favorite victim’ even though she yearns for a normal life where she doesn’t have to look over her shoulder. She overcomes more than most, the death of her friends and her only stable boyfriend Derek (Jerry O’Connell) as well as family members attempting to massacre her yet she still comes out on top. There has been rumors over the years that if another Scream installment was to be made there is the possibility that Sidney may be killed off however that would be disrespectful to her character and legacy and would be taking it down the previously mentioned Halloween:Resurrection route, which would just be awful! What’s empowering about Sidney is she isn’t afraid to pull the trigger and takes no second chances when eliminating the threat. There has been criticism that technically Sidney is as bad as the killers in the franchise as in self-defense she murders them in equally bloody measures however given the situation any rational person would react similarly in order to save themselves and remaining friends. She does all she can to protect herself, in the sequel she stays around her friends and is given two bodyguards, in the third installment she is a broken woman who isolates herself in a highly-secured house before deciding to come out and face the danger rather than pushing her surviving friends away. By the fourth and most recent film Sidney is wiser and displays more confidence, she even becomes an author recounting her traumatic experiences as a way of catharsis.

Sidney Prescott is my number one female of horror because she is strong, empowered, determined, will always fight back and has a well-rounded character arc. Sidney is a survivor who has left just as much as an impact as Laurie before her through turning conventions on their head and giving genre audiences much more to expect from what a final girl is capable of.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Ghostface Girls Podcast: Episode One, Women in Horror Recognition Month.

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

As I have mentioned a fair bit recently I have been working on a new collaborative project with Caitlyn Downs (scaredsheepless.com) for a fantastic film site called moviepilot.com. Our first contribution to the site has already been uploaded in the shape of our first podcast which is also another contribution for Women in Horror Recognition Month. We have much, much more on the way and will be keeping our podcast’s as a regular feature. Click here to listen to our first entry where we talk in detail about our new project and what Ghostface Girls is all about. Thanks to Caitlyn for editing this piece, overall I can say I’m very pleased with the outcome.

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‘Like’ our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ghostfacegirls

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reveiws.

Women In Horror Month: Final Girls and Psychotic Women. (6-4)

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 13, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Welcome to part four of my continuation of coverage for Women in Horror Recognition Month. Additionally to this countdown there is plenty more awesome Women in Horror goodness on the way as Caitlyn and I have recorded a podcast focusing on the topic as a whole and it’s importance in terms of raising awareness surrounding the cause. The podcast is part of our new collaboration, Ghostface Girls, which you can read more about here.

Now at number six, I am close to revealing who will be the top feisty female from the genre. The final girl or psychotic woman in question will be a character that I have been able to identify with for a number of reasons and has the repeated watch-ability factor, if she’s a villainous vixen it will be down to the lengths she will go to in order to successfully carry out her motives. But until then here’s some more wonderfully, wicked women that are worthy of the title “Women of Horror”.

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Once again, here is the obligatory **SPOILER WARNING**, I encourage you to check out the films discussed before reading any further.

6. Kate, Inbred (2011)

  • Played By Jo Hartley
  • Directed By Alex Chandon
  • Written By Alex Chandon and Paul Shrimpton

kate inbred From growing cult classic in-the-making Inbred, Kate (Jo Hartley) is one of the toughest women you’ll encounter in British horror cinema. As part of a character-building weekend, care-worker Kate embarks on a trip to the fictional, backwoods Yorkshire village of Mortlake with a group of young offenders and her socially awkward co-worker Jeff (James Doherty). After crossing paths with the deranged locals, events take a brutal and sinister turn as the group must band together in the ultimate fight for survival. One by one they are captured, tormented and tortured through some strange and twisted methods that accumulates in one of the goriest shows you’ll ever see, reminiscent of the grand-guignol with a 70’s nostalgic edge. Kate is strong and feisty, she does what it takes to get out of Mortlake alive while protecting the young teenagers left in her care. She is the maternal figure of the group and despite displaying her down-to-earth personality she doesn’t take any grief off anyone and isn’t afraid to stand up for herself.  In comparison to Jeff who enforces strict discipline she is able to handle the teenagers through engaging on they’re level, with a fun but firm approach. Eventually she influences Jeff to work with them in a similar manner. With the shock and panic that follows the carnage and as the group are killed off one by one, Kate remains determined and holds her own against the endearingly insane landlord Jim (Seamus O’Neill) and the rest of the inbreds! Kate also displays a more human side in one of the film’s most dramatic scenes; while trapped in an isolated cottage, she has an emotional break down as events begin to get to her, which strongly reflects Jo Hartley’s acting range. A fighter until the bitter end, Kate has qualities of a final girl, she keeps on running for as long as she can and is extremely handy with a shot gun. Well-written, brave and fiery, Kate is the ideal modern horror heroine.

5. Carrie White, Carrie (1976)

  • Played By Sissy Spacek
  • Directed By Brian DePalma
  • Written By Stephen King (novel) and Lawrence D. Cohen (Screenplay)

carrie  Stephen King’s groundbreaking, teen novel Carrie has been adapted for the big and small screen on more than one occasion. However this review will focus on the most iconic adaptation of the telekinetic, terrifying teenager portrayed by Sissy Spacek in Brian DePalma’s 1976 classic film. Abused, humiliated and tormented, Spacek’s Carrie generated an undeniable wave of empathy for the character as she plays a naive, young girl unaware of the depths of the power she possesses. Carrie represents teenage insecurities that are present in all of us, it’s the difficult age where we’re all settling into our own skin. Adding onto these troubling years is the extreme bullying Carrie endures at the hands of her more self-aware, pop-cultured peers. Carrie also suffers mental and physical abuse by her mentally ill and fanatical religious mother Margaret (Piper Laurie), a woman so fearful she shields her daughter from the reality of the outside world. Considering all this, it’s a surprise that Carrie didn’t snap before prom night however the development of her powers is in place as a metaphor to reflect her coming-of-age and descendent into puberty. Ostracized for being “different”, Carrie is the subject of public humiliation and cruelty as she experiences her first period unaware of what’s happening to her. Led by the bitchy Chris Hargansen (Nancy Allen), the group of viscous girls maliciously throw tampons at her and make cruel jibes. The only one on her side is her gym teacher Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) who is compassionate and encourages Carrie’s sense of self-worth. She punishes the girls with good intentions, denying them access to prom unless they attend daily detention but ironically it acts as the beginning of Carrie’s downfall when Chris refuses to comply and has an even nastier trick up her sleeve.

Carrie’s home life is no better. Her mother treats her first period as immoral, “first comes the blood, then comes the boys”. She frequently locks her in the closet, forcing her to pray for her “sins”. Another character that encompasses any kind of empathy for Carrie is her former tormenter Sue Snell (Amy Irving), racked with guilt, Sue comes up with a peace offering. By sacrificing her own dreams of prom, she insists her boyfriend Tommy (William Katt) take Carrie in her place in a bid to bring her out of her shell and experience one night of high school normality. Sabotaging her plans is the bitter Chris who decides to pull the ultimate prank. Armed with a bucket of pigs blood, Chris orchestrates Carrie and Tommy to win the titles of Prom King and Queen, ensuring they’ll be center stage. At the pivotal moment, Chris and boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) pull the chord, unleashing blood all over poor Carrie. One humiliation too far and proving her mother’s fears right, Carrie gives her high school a night of terror to remember. With her powers in full swing, Carrie traps her peers and teachers in the gym, killing them in a series of brutal attacks following a vision of each and every one of them mocking and laughing at her. It doesn’t stop there, when she returns home she wreaks revenge on her mother, literally crucifying her in a symbolic and fitting killing. The house then falls down around them and Carrie meets her bloody demise.

A tragic figure. Carrie’s external influences are the reasons behind her frustration and anger. Had she not been treated like an outsider in all aspects of her life Carrie may have used her powers for positive means. She is a character many can relate to and when I first watched the film aged thirteen it proved a cathartic experience. Despite her destructive end, Carrie proves that bullies need to be stood up to with the homicidal element in place as a metaphor. She is a girl we’ve all been at one point or another trying to find our way in the world amongst the brutality of high school in which she offers a fantastical outlet for.

4. Nancy Thompson, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

  • Played By Heather Langenkamp
  • Written and Directed By Wes Craven

heather-1  Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is arguably one of the most memorable final girls of 1980’s horror movies from one of it’s famous franchises. Nancy was the first final girl to take on the frightening Freddy Kruger (Robert Englund) and proves that the original is superior. A Nightmare on Elm Street was groundbreaking for its time. It reflected 80’s American culture and fears present within society as many films of that era were said to do so at the time. As a horror film, A Nightmare on Elm Street blurred the gap between reality and fantasy or ‘secure’ and ‘paranoid’ horror, a theory developed by Andrew Tudor. This then allowed the character of Nancy to be more of an ‘active’ final girl, instead of waiting for the monster to come and terrorize her, she brings him out herself ready to fight.

Nancy’s character demonstrates a change in how slasher movie heroine’s were written. This was arguably a turning point in the genre and hinting at a more post-modern approach that was on its way, in which Craven experimented with further in the mid-90’s. Resourceful and productive, Nancy is one step ahead of her oblivious parents and ignorant authority figures, as her friends are murdered by the knife-fingered, badly-burned psychopath, she is forced to take matters into her own hands. Nancy must rectify the mistakes of her parents and the adults in the town by restoring the balance of normality. As stated, the film was a reflection of the breakdown of the family unit which was on the increase during this period. Nancy’s role is to literally pick up the pieces and put Kruger to rest once and for all. In comparison to her mother, who is an alcoholic and displays weakness, Nancy is self-reliant and is aware of what she needs to do to survive. That said, she comes up against several hurdles in order to defeat Kruger. The insomnia she develops leads to the assumption that Nancy is physically losing her mind. As she descends further into a state of insanity it becomes questionable as to whether she will come out alive.

We’re all aware that Nancy is in fact successful, drawing Kruger into her environment instead of allowing herself to be killed in his version of reality. In the end she turns her back on him, demonstrating she is no longer afraid, ultimately destroying him. We meet Nancy again in the third installment, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987). Now working as a dream researcher at the Westin Hills Asylum, she returns to help the last children of Elm Street battle Kruger once and for all, drawing on her own experiences. Sadly Kruger does kill her second time round, however her legacy lives on in horror history. Nancy is a well-remembered woman of horror, determined, independent and is one of the first of a new breed of the horror heroine.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Women In Horror Month: Final Girls and Psychotic Women. (9-7)

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Once again I bring you three more women of horror. From the spine-chilling and the sadistic to the tragic heroine.The Horror genre is versatile in terms  of the different types of characters it portrays, I hope that the choices about to be discussed will illustrate the eclectic mix that’s on offer.  Here is part three of my Women in Horror Recognition Month coverage. I am really enjoying working on this mini-project and would like to thank everyone for their support and feedback especially the shares and re-tweets on Twitter. You’re all awesome. **Gory Hugs**

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Oh and here’s the obligatory SPOILER WARNING. Therefore if you haven’t seen the films I’m about to discuss go check them out then return…!

9. Angela Baker, The Sleepaway Camp Series (1983-2008)

  • Played By Felissa Rose and Pamela Springstein
  • Written and Directed By Robert Hiltzik
  • Sequels Directed By Michael A. Simpson & Written By Fritz Gordon

angela  Now this addition to the countdown may be a little complicated for two key reasons. The first is that Angela (Felissa Rose) technically isn’t female. For those of you who are fans of the bizarrely warped 80’s slasher Sleepaway Camp, you’ll be aware that the most iconic aspect of the entire film was it’s shock-tastic ending that not only reveals the sweet, misunderstood Angela as the killer but she is also genetically a boy! The welcome yet fascinating surprise deviates Sleepaway Camp from *just* being the run-of-the-mill slasher like many that emerged that decade even receiving it’s own spoof in the stop-motion animation comedy series Robot Chicken (2005-) where it’s exclaimed “somebody remembered this movie and wrote a comedy sketch about it”. Well myself and Seth Green certainly did! The second problematic element faced when discussing Angela is the subsequent sequels.

Now some fans like to disassociate Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989) from the original but for me they are too entertaining and enjoyable to disregard. Felissa Rose was concentrating on her university studies at the time of filming therefore had to decline reprising the role (she does however make a comeback in Return to Sleepaway Camp (2008)). Pamela Springstein stepped in as a more confident, post-sex change Angela, the only similarity being she still has a lust for the blade and now as a camp counselor she rids “Camp Rolling Hills” of the morally corrupt teenagers it inhabits! Now it’s fair that Angela qualifies for this list as she has lived as a female her entire life and eventually underwent reassignment surgery to do so; so it counts!

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The opening of the original Sleepaway Camp introduces young children Angela and Peter on a boating lake with their father. Following a tragic accident that sees their boat flip over, the family attempt to swim to shore but are subsequently wiped out by an incoming motorboat. Due to some clever editing techniques it is presumed that Peter and his Father are now dead! Fast forward a few years later and cousins Ricky (Jonathan Tiersten) and Angela are heading to Camp Arawak for the summer where her murderous rampage begins! Towards the climax the film reveals that Angela’s Aunt was behind transforming young Peter into his deceased sister Angela, creating the “daughter” she always wanted. It’s then heavily implied that Angela’s deviant and anti-social behavior is a product of discovering her father’s homosexual tendencies. Freud would certainly have a field day! However its not difficult to feel empathy for Angela due to her confusing upbringing, leading to a gender/identity crisis as well as the constant bullying she receives from the more well-developed girls at camp that illustrate her insecurities. There’s plenty of symbolism in place that hints at Angela’s true identity in her kills, alpha bitch Judy (Karen Fields) is raped with a hot straightening iron for example. With a cold, icy stare, Felissa Rose plays the vulnerable Angela fantastically bringing in her own youth and innocence to the role. Springstein’s interpretation however is far more campy and menacing but still an incredibly fun performance to watch and she does use some creative methods to murder those who don’t live up to her “moral ideals” namely sexual activity and cursing. The character of Angela is definitely an interesting study of the psychotic female. Sleepaway Camp sets itself apart from other slashers of its time through its use of plenty of underlying subtext relating to gender, creative and well thought through kills and the fact it’s a seemingly innocent thirteen year old girl committing the gruesome murders. Compared to most, Sleepaway Camp demonstrated more authenticity by featuring teenagers portraying their actual ages. On the surface there is a lot of sleaziness but Sleepaway Camp is far more sophisticated than it’s given credit for. Felissa Rose’s performance marks the original film as ahead of it’s time by exploring avenues that the majority of slashers of the time never dared to.

8. The Grand High Witch, The Witches (1990)

  • Played By Anjelica Huston
  • Directed By Nicholas Roeg
  • Written By Roald Dahl (Novel), Allan Scott (Screenplay)

witches-thewitches2-590x350  Now for some kiddie-horror. Like many children growing up in the 90’s, this woman haunted my nightmares! Since watching more Nicholas Roeg films over the years, most recently The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976); I finally have an understanding of the warped, nightmarish vision that’s prominent in his work and he certainly doesn’t tone it down for a film aimed at a family audience. Roeg takes an unsettling approach to the material and uses intense close ups especially in the more frightening moments.

There is nothing redeeming about The Grand High Witch who originally emerged from literature, in Roald Dahl’s twisted, fantasy novel. However it’s sensational actress Anjelica Huston that brings this wicked witch to life in a spine-chilling and unforgettable performance. Her character enters the film later on following a careful set-up that establishes what the witches of this universe are capable of. Once she’s made her entrance her presence is really felt as Anjelica Huston delivers one of children’s cinema’s most scariest performances. I’m pretty sure when this film has been broadcast on television it comes with a content warning. Merging between beautiful and grotesque, The Grand High Witch sets out to achieve one objective, to rid the world of children by introducing a special formula she has personally brewed. She organizes a convention at a picturesque English hotel bringing together a large number of witches to do her bidding of transforming the children into mice then squishing them! The face she displays to the world is actually a disguise, underneath the mask is a monstrous creature that’s incredibly unnerving created with special effects courtesy of Jim Henson’s creative make up department. When willing to reveal her true identity, the Grand High Witch literally peels her face off! Nasty Stuff. She wears a wig in order to hide her bald, bloody scalp, gloves to shield her long, sharp fingernails and flat shoes to disguise her toe-less feet. Fear not though as this evil woman does not succeed in her plans and is thwarted by a young boy named Luke (Jansen Fisher) and his knowledgeable Grandmother (Mai Zetterling). The meddling duo literally give her a taste of her own medicine through slipping the formula into the hotel soup. Before her demise, the Grand High Witch once more transforms into a freakishly over-sized rat that is almost as nightmare-fuel worthy as what’s under her mask! The Grand High Witch is one woman of horror I’ve never, ever forgotten and the film as a whole may be partially responsible for my curiosity of the genre from a young age. Whether in awe of or feared, The Grand High Witch is one sinister creature.

7. Helen Shivers, I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997)

  • Played By Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Directed By Jim Gillespie
  • Written By Lois Duncan (Novel), Kevin Williamson (Screenplay)

helenshivers  Neither a psychotic woman or a final girl, this character is a rarity in the genre, the best friend archetype being preferred over the heroine herself. In this case it’s down to the strong writing and acting that brings the character to life. Helen Shivers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a young woman with her whole future ahead of her. Wavering on the superficial side, Helen dreams of escaping the small town life and venture to New York to become a famous actress. Helen is aware of her looks and uses them to get where she wants to be and is particularly proud of her long, blonde locks. When we are introduced to her she is the winner of the local beauty pageant, the girlfriend of the high school football star Barry Cox (Ryan Phillipe) and best friend of the protagonist Julie James (Jennifer Love Hewitt). However Helen’s life changes forever on that fateful 4th of July night where the four friends including Julie’s boyfriend Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.) accidentally run over a mysterious bystander lurking in the middle of the road. Fearing him dead, the foursome decide to dispose of his body in the ocean. On doing so, the fisherman momentarily comes back to life stealing Helen’s pageant crown which Barry then retrieves for her down the murky depths of the sea.

A year later and Helen is a shadow of her former self. The pretty, blonde, hopeful actress is now gone and in place is a tormented, lonely girl who’s constantly watching her back. Seemingly just going through every day life, the realization of her part in the hit and run crime is restored when Julie brings the gang back together after receiving a threatening note claiming “I know what you did last summer”. On the surface Helen comes across as the typical, blonde female that is more than often butchered by a hooded killer in films of this nature and in theory she is. However due to some smart writing on the part of Kevin Williamson and a fiery performance from Sarah Michelle Gellar, Helen is more than meets the eye creating a sense of empathy with her. She has always been a far more interesting character to watch over Julie as the audience realize she is more than just a weak victim offered up to the killer. The killer fisherman raises the stakes with Helen over Julie as he cuts off her most prized possession while asleep, her long, golden hair, signifying the depth and change in her character. Gellar’s on-screen chemistry with Phillipe is electrifying, making Helen and Barry a believable couple that genuinely care about each other.

After witnessing Barry’s murder in a room full of people from the stage of the Croaker Queen pageant, Helen is an emotional wreck, stripping away any facade she may have previously had. She struggles to be believed by the police and even up until her final moments, she isn’t afraid to fight back and prove her resourcefulness just like any true final girl would. She runs and takes refuge in her snarky, older sister Elsa’s (Bridgette Wilson) store, hiding from the killer then jumping out of a window and running to safety. Sadly, she is too late, as she gets closer to the 4th of July parade and the comfort of crowds of people, the fisherman catches up with her, slicing her up with a hook. Helen is a tragic victim and her presence is even felt in the not-so-memorable sequel, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) where Julie reminisces about her deceased friend by picking up a photograph of her taken from the pageant as Hooverphonic’s Eden plays non-diegetically. What’s interesting about the character is that she is a product of the post-Scream slasher where it was self-awareness over stereotype. Williamson offered a female, horror movie character who the audience could care about despite killing her off in order to raise the stakes and create suspense. Helen’s death is still considered to be one of the most remembered of this era, despite the film not gaining the popularity that was intended for it.  Well rounded and dynamic, despite not surviving, Helen still deserves a place as a woman of horror.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Women In Horror Month: Final Girls and Psychotic Women. (12-10)

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 5, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

To continue the celebration of the fifth annual Women in Horror Recognition month, here’s some more feisty, fearless and fiendish females to sink your teeth into.

I would like to thank everyone for all your kind comments on Twitter regarding my work on this site and collaborations with Caitlyn Downs, it is very much appreciated and I’m glad you all enjoy the HORROR as much as I do!

Again there will be spoilers included therefore if you have not seen the films that feature these gory girls I’m about to discuss you have been warned!!

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12. Nancy Downs, The Craft (1996)

  • Played By Fairuza Balk
  • Directed By Andrew Fleming
  • Written By Peter Filardi and Andrew Fleming

Nancy-the-craft2  Welcome to the witching hour! This is the first supernatural woman of horror to feature in this countdown. 90’s fantasy/horror The Craft tells the story of four teenage witches who dabble in the occult for their own gain. It has become a  quiet, cult hit over the years and for me was one of the most significant films that dealt with both concepts of witchcraft and female empowerment. I first saw the film during my younger teen years, it proved impressionable and did influence me to dabble a little bit in Wicca without the negative effects of course! As mentioned The Craft featured four, young teenage girls all with their own issues and abilities however the standout character has to be troubled goth Nancy Downs. Fairuza Balk plays this antagonistic character with malice and a side of kookiness in an expressive performance. Nancy is the witch that takes her spell-casting too far, raising her levels of insanity as she loses control of all the destructive events in her life. When we first meet the gothic witch she is reluctant to accept new girl Sarah (Robin Tunney) into her coven which also consists of Bonnie (Neve Campbell) and Rochelle (Rachel True) but caves in when Bonnie insists they require a fourth member and Sarah is definitely “the one”. Nancy’s jealousy of Sarah grows throughout the film especially when her user ex boyfriend Chris (Skeet Ulrich) develops an interest in Sarah. In this case she demonstrates notions of sisterhood warning Sarah of Chris’s notorious reputation, also informing her she contracted an STD from him. When it comes to the crunch she provides him with his just desserts by using her powers of telekinesis and glamouring  to push him out a window. Her home life isn’t much better, her mother’s seedy boyfriend often makes inappropriate remarks toward her and is abusive toward her mother, when enough is enough she uses her powers to cause him to have a heart attack.

Essentially Nancy is a murderer and grows more and more psychotic as the film goes on. Nancy’s hostility is down to rejection from her school mates, broken home life and negative sexual experiences. She is treated like an outsider and does embrace that to a degree by manipulating the elements around her. Nancy grows into a very powerful witch which is presented as a metaphor for a deep addiction. Her complex relationship with Sarah is interesting to watch, in the beginning she uses Sarah as a gateway to explore her own powers, they do bond however Sarah becomes frightened of what Nancy is capable of. Sarah’s only choice is to strip Nancy of her powers leaving her completely insane by the film’s end. The last we see of her is locked away in a mental institution unable to harm again. This is where Fairuza Balk really showcases her acting talents in an unforgettably disturbing scene. Nancy is one of the most feared women on this list and left a trail of destruction behind her. Twisted, stylish and completely derailed Nancy deserves a worthy place as a woman of horror  as an example of a woman who’s perhaps too influential with more than she can handle.

11. Feral Woman, The Woman (2011).

  • Played By Pollyanna McIntosh
  • Directed By Lucky McKee
  • Written By Jack Ketchum

thewoman  The Woman is undeniably one of the most thought-provoking and disturbing pieces of horror to emerge so far this decade. The character of the feral woman is an interesting and different addition to the countdown as unlike the other characters included she hasn’t been conditioned into being an empowered female through specific gender ideals within society or her relationships with men. She is independent through her own means and has had to be tough through surviving in the wild. She is a fascinating study of a person who lacks social experience, displaying animalistic tendencies and how that contrasts women born into a society dominated by men. Through being known as simply “The Woman” it evokes a sense of ambiguity as to who she is and who she potentially could be. The film’s prime focus is on one middle-class male’s twisted experiment to “civilize” her into being submissive to him just like he’s enforced on his own wife and daughters. Unfortunately for sicko Chris Cleek (Sean Bridges) he may have asked for more than he bargained for! Through tormenting The Woman with torturous devices he only maintains a certain level of control. Cleek can only restrain The Woman but without those means the level of control is reversed and without knowing right from wrong she is not held responsible for what she is capable of. The Woman herself signifies the core of what it is to be a female being by taking away all the teachings and expectations women have been put upon and forced to accept throughout history. For Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), Cleek’s conflicted daughter, The Woman represents an outlet for her to explore her full potential, signifying strength and independence. The Woman is a character that’s so close to the bone as she defines an overwhelmingly strong female, challenging the concepts set out by traditional gender roles and society’s expectations. The Woman certainly entices and welcomes feminist readings as her character construction of what she symbolizes is intriguing in several ways in relation to how she’s compared to the more obedient women within the film.

10. Marybeth Dunston, Hatchet II (2010)

  • Played By Danielle Harris
  • Written and Directed By Adam Green

HATCHET III / Director BJ McDonnell  With Adam Green’s 80’s throwback, splatter-fest Hatchet series, as well as a recognizable new killer, the films have presented the ideal, modernized final girl in the shape of Marybeth Dunston (Danielle Harris). Despite being played by another actress, Tamara Feldman in the first Hatchet installment, it’s legendary “Scream Queen” Danielle Harris’s performance that has shone through in the follow-up sequel as the young woman, tormented and hell-bent on revenge against murderous monster Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder). The strength that lies in Marybeth’s character is that she is self-aware, determined and fearless, willing to go to any lengths in order to defeat her opponent. She originally encounters the grotesque Hatchet-Face when its discovered that her father and brother were brutally murdered following a fishing trip to the murky swamp. With only one culprit in mind, Marybeth enlists the help of the cryptic Reverend Zombie (Tony Todd) and a number of hunters and gunmen to assist her in yet another swamp visit to obliterate Crowley once and for all. When it comes down to the crunch, Marybeth is the one left standing as the bodies pile up. She certainly doesn’t hold back in the badass stakes as she takes Crowley on head first releasing all that pent-up anger by repeatedly bashing his head in with his own weapon. She then fittingly finishes off the job with a shotgun with no qualms about getting covered in blood! Marybeth is always one step ahead and outsmarts Reverend Zombie with his own dark plans to rid the world of Hatchet-Face. This also means that Marybeth has to deal with more than one villain in order to gain what she desires but still emerges the hero. Adam Green has written a final girl who is feisty, sophisticated, resourceful and capable. Marybeth’s character is the embodiment of what audiences need to be seeing from a final girl in recent times. It’s as if she represents a particular stock character who has evolved as the decades have gone on and is horror’s strongest  current example. Instead of hiding from the killer, she takes matters into her own hands, she doesn’t play the victim and has a clear idea about what she wants. Head-strong and smart, Marybeth is the prime reason to watch the Hatchet films, strong women don’t get any better than this. I’d like to note that I’ve yet to see the third Hatchet film. Despite hearing some unpopular opinions it will still be an interesting watch to see what Marybeth does next when she is faced yet again with the gruesomely gore-tastic Victor Crowley.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Women In Horror Month: Final Girls and Psychotic Women. (15-13)

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , on February 4, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

It’s February and that means one thing in the horror community, it’s time to celebrate Women in Horror Month. This gore-geous event showcases the talents of all the ghoulish girls that have made their mark on the genre. However the annual event that is entering it’s fifth year now in 2014 scratches the surface a little deeper than simply fangirling horror’s hottest talent. Women in Horror month is in place to support and highlight the misrepresentations of females in cinema’s bloodiest genre. It’s about equal opportunities and despite facing unfair and harsh criticism mainly from people who don’t believe this event deserves to exist which I don’t plan to delve into, the cause isn’t in place to alienate men in the slightest, it’s here to honor all kinds of female contributions from directors, writers, actresses, presenters, reviewers and festival organizers. That’s not to exclude any male contributions either. If a film was written by a woman but directed by a man or vice versa that maintains inclusion. Women in Horror Month is not the overpowering feminist protest that some people seem to misinterpret it as or one that ignores racial minorities.

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For Hayley’s Horror Reviews, Women in Horror month remains a very special event. Instead of divulging into any particular political or heated debate about the subject, I see it as simply a celebration of my own identity and how I fit into the horror community as a whole. Being a horror fan is one of the greatest elements of my life and its constantly a privilege to be able to share my views with others who maintain a common interest and to gain new insights from supporting others work. Women in Horror Month is a time to reflect on all the hard-working women who keep horror bursting with blood throughout the year.

A calendar was also created this year by production designer Melanie Light in order to raise money for the rape crisis charity and S.O.P.H.I.E which is a fantastic gesture and part of a wonderful cause. The calendar is available to be purchased here: http://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/158679453/calendar-for-2014-women-in-horror-bios

To mark the fifth annual Women in Horror Recognition month, I have complied a list of fifteen of the most psychotic and heroic film characters to ever splatter onto cinema screens. These are characters who I have either identified with over the years or have such a memorable screen presence that they have a repeated watch-ability factor. These fiendish females are influential on the genre and will remain inbuilt in fans brains for many, many years to come! Over the next month I will be bringing you three characters every few days who represent an integral part of me and horror as a whole.

**WARNING: There will be Spoilers**

15. Simone, Der Fan (1982).

  • Played By Desiree Nosbuch
  • Written and Directed By Eckhart Schmidt

der fan Der Fan is a recent viewing for me, after being screened at 2013’s Celluloid Screams festival. Obsessed new-wave pop fan Simone is one of the most chilling genre females ever created. The real shock factor is that the audience doesn’t even see it coming! Prior to the unsettling climax, Der Fan incorporates a seedy, low-budget, cult feel featuring amusing British dubbing and comes across as the ideal film to watch as part of a like-minded audience. No one can be prepared for the cruel and calculated twist in Simone’s personality as she goes beyond expectation. What seems like a stroppy teenage girl with delusions about meeting her favorite pop star R (a Gary Numan inspired pop/synth star) escalates into something far more sinister when she finally meets her idol and the reality proves to be far removed from her fantasy. Following the cruel rejection inflicted by R, Simone goes on to murder him. But it’s the way she disposes of his body is the most disturbing aspect. In a slow-paced scene we are treated to every grueling detail of Simone’s actions as she carves up and serves up her dead lover, consuming each last piece of his deceased human flesh. Not to leave any waste behind she grinds his bones and scatters his final remains at the pop studio. It’s unsettling to think that a major pop star at the peak of his fame just vanished and only one psychotic little girl holds the answers to the truth! Back in the 80s, Der Fan sparked up a fair bit of controversy surrounding its young actress Desiree Nosbuch who was already a household name in Germany and had been since the age of twelve through her work on Radio Luxemburg. At sixteen, acting out scenes with graphic nudity and disturbing violence, Nosbuch’s performance would not be accepted in cinema today for such a young actress. Either way the naive innocence her character projects adds a great depth to Simone earning her a place as cinema’s most unhinged females.

14.Clear Rivers, Final Destination (2000).

  • Played By Ali Larter
  • Directed By James Wong
  • Written By James Wong, Glen Morgan and Jeffrey Reddick

FD1stills-0016  The Final Destination films are the franchise that teaches fans that death can’t be cheated. The original installment from 2000 set the stage for a formula that has been replicated four more times since. But let’s face it the later sequels are enjoyable enough just to see what creatively gory death scenes they’ll come up with next, but that wasn’t the case when James Wong’s groundbreaking teen slasher was initially released. Final Destination not only took a stab at challenging the hooded killer concept it displayed a great deal of depth with a cleverly constructed plot and characters an audience were able to connect with. Clear Rivers most certainly fits into this idea and is arguably the best character to emerge from the franchise.  While introverted and mysterious when we first meet her, Clear displays the makings of a post-modern final girl when she trusts the instincts of her class mate and eventual love interest Alex (Devon Sawa) and makes the smart decision to vacate the aircraft that is set to crash and burn. When the duo discover that death’s design is still at play she fearlessly stands by Alex while facing the inevitable. Determined to live another day, Clear does was it takes to save herself and the remaining survivors. The original ending for the film differentiated in tone from the finale that was ultimately chosen for the final cut. The alternate ending that’s available as a DVD special feature sees Alex sacrifice himself leaving Clear and friend/antagonist Carter (Kerr Smith) alive. Clear discovers she’s pregnant with Alex’s child which determines the concept of new life cheating death. This ending suggests that the gift of motherhood is more powerful over death’s plan meaning Clear all along had the ability to save the lives of others. Whereas it can be argued that any of the female characters could have achieved this through pregnancy, Clear was the one who stayed alive the longest. A subversion is also in place as its usually the blonde cheerleader that would find herself in this position not the quiet, reserved girl however it doesn’t devalue her character as being irresponsible.  The equality between Clear and Alex in thwarting the grim reaper represents a strong bond between male and female characters in horror. The original ending which sees Cater killed by an incoming sign meant that Clear returned for the sequel Final Destination 2 (2002) in order to use her experience to help a whole new group of survivors. Clear originally locks herself away in a padded cell to avoid death’s grip but when it counts she dies a hero in a hospital explosion, signifying her original death that would have occurred in the first film. Clear Rivers is a strong-willed, fearless and well-written horror movie heroine of the early noughties.

13. Baby Jane Hudson, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane (1962).

  • Played By Bette Davis
  • Directed By Robert Aldrich
  • Written By Lukas Heller

babyjane  In an iconic performance Bette Davis mesmerized audiences and still does to this day with her portrayal of the unhinged faded actress Baby Jane Hudson. With a case of severe sibling rivalry, Baby Jane bitterly resents her sister Blanche (Joan Crawford) for outshining her when the sisters were both credible actresses. Once a successful child star, Blanche eventually upstaged her by starring in well-liked films, while Baby Jane accumulated a series of flops. Years later, Baby Jane “accidentally” runs her sister down while driving under the influence of alcohol. Flash forward to 1962 where Blanche is wheelchair bound and in the care of her psychotic sister who basically holds her hostage and controls her entire being. In what could be an analysis of psychosis and an insight into the brutal disappointing world of child stardom, Baby Jane is a tragic figure that struggles to keep a hold of her emotions as she is unable to come to terms with the fate she’s been dealt with. From being a huge star as a child with a number of adoring fans, her deviant behavior is explainable as Bette Davis’s phenomenal performance allows a sense of uncomfortable empathy with the her, depicting a woman faced with failure and projecting that jealousy onto the closest person to her. The film’s most memorable and unnerving scene is where Baby Jane disturbingly insists on singing a song from her childhood, “I’ve written a letter to Daddy”. In a childlike manner, there is something creepy about an insane older woman performing something of that nature, making it clear that she is unable to let go of the past however behaves as if her actions are normal.  The character has been parodied and referred to in popular culture on numerous occasions such as The Simpsons (1989-Present), Popular (1999-2001) and music videos from artists including Shakespeare’s Sister and Christina Aguleria. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane is also noted for being responsible for creating the sub-genre titled the “Psycho-biddy”, which was prominent during the 60’s and 70’s for themed films with a dangerous middle-aged woman at the forefront. Other names for the sub-genre include “Hag Horror” and “Older Woman in Peril”. Baby Jane has left a huge influential legacy on the genre and its clear to see why she certainly hasn’t been forgotten.

12-10 CoMiNg SoON…..!

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Hayley Alice Roberts.