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Entries in Great Moments in Horror Actressing (10)


Horror Actressing: Maribel Verdú in "Pan's Labyrinth"

by Jason Adams

As long as there have been haunted houses there have been housekeepers keeping them, and the role of the housekeeper in a horror film is a tried and true one that film-makers can and have spun off a dozen different ways. There's the strange and sapphic Mrs. Danvers (Judith Anderson) in Rebecca; there's the seemingly good-natured but with a hell of a secret Mrs. Mills (Fionnula Flanagan) in The Others; and there's the bluntly unfriendly type typified by Mrs. Dudley (Rosalie Crutchley) in The Haunting who gets to speak the immortal line, "In the night. In the dark."

Guillermo Del Toro, would of course be familiar with all these tropes, which is why I think his spin on the role with the great Maribel Verdú in Pan's Labyrinth is so fascinating...

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Horror Actressing: Charlotte Burke in "Paperhouse"

by Jason Adams

Even though I've already admitted I can get pretty broad on defining movies as "Horror Movies" when other people might not consider them as such, I for some reason always hesitate when it comes to calling Bernard Rose's 1988 film Paperhouse a "horror film." The first two-thirds of the movie, yes, for sure. But -- without getting into spoilers because lord knows how many of you have had the luck to see this extraordinary film a first time yet -- the movie makes decisions, and comes to a point, that ultimately shows its intentions were not horror. 

That said there's enough of a Horror Movie in there for me to justify directing you towards one of the most foundational films and performances of my life, which I've just today discovered is available for streaming on Amazon here in the US. Rose directed Paperhouse two years before Candyman (a film we've already touched upon in this series) and you can see some of the same fascinations -- a female entering a Freudian Netherworld where her darkest fascinations consume her... just think of Paperhouse as Candyman Jr, I guess... 

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Horror Actressing: Judy In Oz

by Jason Adams

Consider this just a half entry in our "Great Moments in Horror Actressing" canon as I'm somewhat waylaid with New York Film Festival screenings at the moment. But I wanted to mark the release of the "Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland!" bio-pic this week with a quick thought. No The Wizard of Oz is not a horror movie. As far as I can suss out Judy Garland never starred in a proper horror movie. (Feel free to set me straight, as I'm not a Judy expert.) But I don't think we really give her enough credit for how fully she sells Dorothy's many many moments of sheer unadulterated terror in The Wizard of Oz, all the same...

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Horror Actressing: Amy Irving in "Carrie"

by Jason Adams

When we talk about Brian De Palma's 1976 horror masterpiece Carrie we talk about Actresses. But we tend to talk about the Big Two -- Sissy Spacek as Carrie White and Piper Laurie as her mamma Margaret, who were both rightfully Oscar-nominated. (They both should have won too, says me!) Then if there's oxygen left in the room after talking those two we'll gravitate towards the showier female roles below the line -- Nancy Allen playing one of cinema's greatest bitches Chris Hargensen, or wondering if Betty Buckley's Miss Collins is, in the grand tradition of P.E. teachers, same-sex-oriented.

What I haven't seen nearly enough love for is Amy Irving, who's celebrating her birthday tomorrow and who gives a truly complicated performance as Sue Snell, the girl whose motivations switch midway through, the one who sees through to the error of her ways but too late, and the one who ends up giving the film's tragedy, Carrie's tragedy, its shape....

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Horror Actressing: Kasi Lemmons in "Candyman"

by Jason Adams

We don't talk enough about Kasi Lemmons, the actress. Maybe it's because she proved herself an absolutely terrific director in 1997 with the wildly underrated Eve's Bayou -- and she's got the Harriet bio-pic with Cynthia Erivo coming out in November -- and maybe it's because Hollywood, per their usual routine when it comes to too many black actresses, never gave her a truly great role to play with. But she's got a two-fer in the early 90s as "the best friend" in seminal horror films that she really managed to inject a lot of life into.

The most prominent one is obviously The Silence of the Lambs, where Kasi played Jodie Foster's fellow FBI recruit and friend Cordelia -- the film doesn't have much time for her but she proves a capable ally to Clarice, and as with any actress Jodie ever co-starred with the two of them had way more chemistry than with any man on the premises...

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Horror Actressing: Joan Allen in "Manhunter"

by Jason Adams

When I first introduced this "Great Moments in Horror Actressing" series a few weeks back I mentioned that my own definition of what makes a "horror" film is fairly loose -- so is Michael Mann's 1986 serial killer flick Manhunter a Horror Film? I think that book author Thomas Harris wrote all of his Hannibal Lecter tomes with enough Guignol to them to say that yes, his intention was to unsettle our fundamental trust in the form of the world -- to violate the borders of what's sane and insane with the explicit intention of horrifying. 

But Michael Mann as a director, he does bring Manhunter back down to earth a bit -- just look at how Bryan Fuller adapted the material of Red Dragon straight into outer space with his gloriously baroque show Hannibal to see how much Mann grounded his movie in contrast. All that genre back and forth aside though, I think it's impossible to argue that the character of Reba McClane -- played by Joan Allen, who's celebrating her birthday tomorrow, in the film -- isn't meant to play explicitly with a standard horror trope...

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