THE TRUTH ABOUT SCREAM QUEENS
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What is a “Scream Queen”? Well this time last year I was asking the same question and after numerous lead roles in horror films and lots of research, I do believe I understand the term, and what it’s all about, quite well.
The term “Scream Queen” refers to the attractive young damsels in distress. Those that have featured in a number of films in the horror genre, but the term can also be used for the female aggressor too.
Now I would like to stick my fingers up to anyone who believes that all a Scream Queen needs to be able to do is look pretty and scream well. That may have been the case back in the 1930s but the part soon required much more than that. Not only do you have to look pretty and be able to cry, you have to portray pretty much every emotion such as fear, sadness, ecstasy, sadism, anger, illness, romance and much, much more. She is someone who must give an impactful and memorable performance; it must be “iconic”.
Now I’m sorry, but to pull off every emotion and to sell a film through these iconic moments takes a lot of brains and not just beauty.
But a true “Scream Queen” is not the perfect woman. She's sexy and seductive, but most importantly, still 'attainable' to the average guy. Or so it would seem. And although the earlier Scream Queens might be women that only had to look pretty and shriek a lot until the hero of the film got around to saving them, the later Scream Queens showcase women worrying about something other than a guy... unless said guy is the one trying to kill them... with some of them wreaking vengeance by defeating the bad guy themselves.
Modern day “Scream Queens” also nearly always need to bare some flesh in some shape or form, to which critics can imply “model ‘wanna be’s”. STOP RIGHT THERE!! For a serious actress, these roles are challenging and like I said earlier, require an incredible emotional range. The decision to take your clothes off for a role does not come lightly, it takes a huge amount of courage and guts and we are often criticized for doing so, but speaking from my own experience of these roles: I can hand on heart say that I have grown in confidence, it has broken down walls that are a thorn in any actor’s side. I for one will not be “that actress”, the one who demands a body double or the one who is difficult to work with, because I want to push the boundaries. I want to see how good I can get it and I certainly do not want to give a director any worries about whether I will deliver on set or not.
Here is a little history dating back to the 1930s on some of the hottest and most successful Scream Queens of all time.
Arguably the first notable Scream Queen has to be Fray Way (King Kong) she had appeared in many horrors before this, but this film was her “iconic” moment
Although she screamed her heart out the 1950s, critics never did classify actress Beverly Garland a Scream Queen. However, having played roles in The Neanderthal Man (1953), It Conquered the World (1956), Not of This Earth (1957), and The Alligator People (1959), all of which are science fiction-horror films, she is today (and rightfully so) now classed as a “Scream Queen”.
The 1960 film Psycho placed Janet Leigh as a prominent Scream Queen who had begun the change into the modern horror protagonist. The role earned her a Golden Globe, as well as an Academy Award-nomination.
I might add that the female protagonist is my personal favourite in these roles as Janet Leigh demonstrates with her awards, it takes a lot more than just a pretty face, it takes an incredible amount of talent as well.
In the1978 film Halloween, Jamie Lee Curtis, daughter of Psycho actress Janet Leigh, had her first major film role. Portraying Laurie Strode. Curtis established herself as the ‘ultimate’ 'Scream Queen' and was even referenced as such in the horror film Scream (1996). Curtis went on to star in several other horror films after that, two of them being The Fog and Halloween H20, in which both Jamie Lee Curtis and Janet Leigh have roles.
And let’s not forget Sigourney Weaver for her amazing performance in the Alien movies.
The success of Halloween made slasher films popular again, and so that type of film saw a revival during the late '70s and entire '80s. A few films worth mentioning include, but are not limited to, Prom Night - in which Jamie Lee Curtis would again embrace a Scream Queen role, Friday the 13th - the first entry having both a female antagonist (Betsy Palmer) and protagonist (Adrienne King), A Nightmare on Elm Street - now considered a slasher-classic with the introduction of supernatural serial killer Freddy Krueger, had its leading actress, Heather Langenkamp, also dubbed a Scream Queen.
During the 1990s, Debbie Rochon starred in dozens of Troma Production horror films and was voted by Draculina magazine as its "Scream Queen of the Decade". Neve Campbell also began her career in horror with The Craft (1996), and later went on to star as Sidney Prescott in the Scream quadrilogy. Jennifer Love Hewitt was reckoned a Scream Queen after her I Know What You Did Last Summer films. The first film of that trilogy also had a starring role for Sarah Michelle Gellar, who started her career on television as the title character in the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer and went on to appear in other horror films made during the '90s and new millennium, including the second part of the Scream trilogy and The Grudge.
Cassandra Magrath and Kestie Morassi are prime examples of modern Scream Queens for their roles in Wolf Creek. Kate Beckinsale earned the award for "Best Scream Queen" at the Scream Awards for her role in Underworld: Evolution.
Article by Scream Queen Actress Melanie Denholme
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