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Posts Tagged ‘John Carpenter’

The “scream queen” has been with us as long as cinema itself but became more notable and memorable when they became audible with the invention of sound (a synchronized soundtrack to me more precise). Possibly the and certainly the most famous scream queen was Fay Wray who appeared in many horror movies but is best known for the classic King Kong (1933). By the 1960’s the scream queen was an archetype of Hollywood movies, even Alfred Hitchcock got in on the act giving Janet Leigh one of cinemas most iconic scenes in Psycho (1960). During the 1960’s and 70’s British cinema developed its own batch of scream queens thanks in part to Hammer horror movies; the most notable of these was the Polish born actress Ingrid Pitt. By the end of the 70’s Leigh’s daughter Jamie Lee Curtis had earned the accolade of being the “ultimate scream queen” following her role in Halloween (1978). With Halloween, director John Carpenter and star Jamie Lee Curtis gave cinema a great gift, a scream queen who fought back making them heroines and not just eye candy and amusement. This is a trend that continued through movies like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), The Fog (1980) and A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). The interesting result of this is movies that are empowering when they appear to be exploitative.

Many people feared (and some hoped) that that Scream (1996) with its self (and genre)-aware characters and a more satirical approach would be the end of slasher movies and the scream queens that inhabit them, fortunately they where wrong. Detractors of the horror genre and the female place within it will dismiss not only the character but the moniker of “scream queen” as sexist or derogatory. I think these people somewhat miss the point of the importance of these characters within the genre. On a side point it is worth noting a lot of the so called scream queens are also noted for playing kick ass action heroines too, for example: Kate Beckinsale, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku.

This leads to the question who are the current scream queens? Thanks to her appearance in the original Halloween franchise (parts 4 and 5 1988/89) and Rob Zombie’s “re-imagining” Danielle Harris is widely regarded as the current scream queen. If you haven’t already check her out in the apocalyptic vampire survival road movie Stake Land (2010), a great low budget movie likely to appear in my top ten movies of the year. There are two other names that stand out for me, hovering somewhere between A list and genre pictures, they are talented actresses who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty (literally at times) in horror movies when they could have take the easy rom-com option.

Amber Heard: Her breakthrough role should have been All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006), sadly it sat on the shelf for two years and remains underappreciated. She also had a small but significant part in Zombie land (2009). More recently she starred in an American remake of And Soon the Darkness (2010). Also little seen, The Ward (2010 ) is the first feature directed by John Carpenter in the best part of a decade and the best for more than two decades. Despite its title and themes Drive Angry (2011) is more an action thriller than a horror but certainly doesn’t harm her credentials.

Melissa George: Following a successful TV career and numerous small parts in movies Melissa George took the starring role alongside Ryan Reynolds in the remake of The Amityville Horror (2005), she followed this with the Americans in peril abroad movie Paradise Lost (2006) also featuring Olivia Wilde. The highlight of her horror career is a choice between 30 Days of Night (2007) and Triangle (2009), the first an innovative and effective vampire movie, the second brilliantly constructed time slip thriller. Later this month sees the release of A Lonely Place to Die, a film I am really looking forward to having recently heard about it.

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