February is Women in Horror Month. To celebrate this auspicious occasion, let’s look at the top ten beautiful female monsters of horror movies. These are the women who terrify us all day (and night) long while still maintaining an impeccable sense of style in the process. And for this one, we’re only counting the ladies who are somehow supernatural. No insult intended to the human beasts out there (i.e. please don’t kill us in our sleep, Baby Firefly), but we want the literal monsters this time around.
The Female Cenobite in the Hellraiser series
Pinhead’s cool, but his female counterpart matches his style with pizzazz. Originally designed by Bob Keen, two different actresses put their spin on the role: Grace Kirby in Hellraiser and Barbie Wilde in Hellbound: Hellraiser II. As the sequel replacement, Wilde inherited Kirby’s costumes, making them a less than perfect fit. But that probably just added to the unsettling aura of her performance. Because as Pinhead taught us, pain truly is pleasure.
Queen Katrina in Vamp
Onscreen and off, Grace Jones has looks that are truly out of this world. Though Vamp is an oft-forgotten entry into the 1980s vampire craze, that doesn’t make it any less of a wild ride. Campy to the max, the film’s Queen Katrina is introduced through a seductive dance of the dead–a full ten years before Salma Hayek followed in her bloodsucking footsteps–thereby cementing Jones’ status as a true cinematic trendsetter. Both before and after the monstrous transformation, this is one vampire who earns her regal status.
Sil in Species
Species is a rather run-of-the-mill entry into the sci-fi/horror hybrid canon except for one thing: Natasha Henstridge’s Sil. However, even a stunning alien creation wasn’t without her behind-the-scenes troubles. After a long creative battle, designer H.R. Giger was ashamed of this beastie, rest his genius soul. And yes, it is almost indisputable that the alien design is far more beautiful, but this list is focused on those monsters that bear more than a passing resemblance to human. So Sil makes the cut, even if Giger wishes she didn’t.
The Woman in the Snow in Kwaidan
From probably the least known film on this list comes an omnibus of Japanese terror, all based on various folklore. Beloved though the film might be among cinephiles, Kwaidan‘s pacing is lethargically slow (the three-hour running time could easily be two hours or less, and you wouldn’t lose anything). But gorgeous cinematography and lustrous set design alone make this one worth a viewing. Add in a dangerously beautiful ghost, and you’ve got a celluloid winner. Just be sure if you make this lovely lady a promise, you keep it.
Helen in Candyman
Spoiler alert: Virginia Madsen’s Helen Lyle is pretty as a human, but she’s out-of-this-world gorgeous as an urban legend monster. Hair burnt off in a nasty run-in with Tony Todd’s Candyman, her sunken eyes and impeccably applied red lipstick add a sense of exquisite menace to an already ethereal look. Helen’s take-home message in the film’s final scene? Don’t be in a rush to replace your so-called crazy wife. She might just come back for a visit.
Lucy in Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Taking a quick nosedive from Mina’s flibbertigibbet confidant to a child murdering monster, Lucy gets more than a raw deal in the Dracula mythos. Under the tutelage of Francis Ford Coppola, Sadie Frost crafts her version of Ms. Westenra into the most fiery redhead that side of the pond. Breathtakingly vicious, the audience doesn’t get to see too much of her monster side, but that porcelain doll getup (what’s with the fan around her neck?) will stay with you long after the credits roll.
Santanico Pandemonium in From Dusk till Dawn
She’s not in the film nearly enough (in fact, you could quadruple her screen presence, and the role would still not be much more than a cameo), but Pandemonium manages to leave her mark anyway. Obviously drop-dead gorgeous before the metamorphosis (she is Salma Hayek after all), even the reptile version of Santanico is still the best looking one in the room. Move over, king of cool George Clooney. You’ve got nothing on this gal.
Shuna Sassi in Nightbreed
With these lists, the intention is always to include only one entry from each director/creator. But what can we say? Clive Barker has a way with creating elegantly scary women. In addition to Helen’s terrifying turn in Candyman (which was based on a Barker short story) and the puzzle-equals-pain beauty from Hellraiser, Barker also gave us Shuna Sassi, a quill-laden dweller of the underground. A survivor with skills unlike any you’ve seen before, Sassi–played with aplomb by actress Christine McCorkindale–is an undeniable enigma. And that’s exactly the way we like her.
Julie in Return of the Living Dead 3
Possibly the prettiest little zombie there ever was. A rare instance of a second sequel actually being good, Return of the Living Dead 3 eschews the campy laughs that made the first two entries such a blast and opts instead for a more somber take on the undead. At the center of the flesh-eating festivities is Melinda Clarke’s Julie Walker, a lascivious and lovesick gal who just wants to escape with her boyfriend. As these things often go, a happy ending is not meant to be. In the meantime, there’s plenty of murder, mayhem, and enough masochism to make Pinhead blush. All in a day’s work for a non-traditional zombie.
The Bride in The Bride of Frankenstein
This is one bride who’s not blushing. The horrifying beauty that started it all, Elsa Lanchester’s the Bride of Frankenstein set a new standard for magnificent female monsters, and nobody has quite been able to surpass her since. With mere minutes of screen time, the audience (and the doctor and the monster) wait the whole film to meet her, only to find that she’s not quite as agreeable as some hoped. But in retrospect, that just makes us love her more. After all, arranged marriages aren’t for everyone.
Who’s your favorite female monster? Let me know in the comments below!