Okay, first movie list in my little CatalAugust mini-project, my Top 12 Female Killers. And yes, there will be spoilers.
#12 Charlotte Hollis, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Starting off at the shalllow end of the pool with some women who didn’t exactly go on a killing spree but were still killers and still some of my favorites. In this case, Olivia De Havilland is the true evil. But it’s Bette Davis’s Charlotte Hollis who gets one of the finest revenge kills in cinema by a method that Robert Aldrich cleverly alludes to in the opening confrontation with a demolition crew.
#11 Edith Phillips, Dead Ringer
Bette Davis plays twin sisters. Edith Phillips is a down-on-her-luck bar owner. Her sister, Margaret DeLorca, married rich. Edith decides to switch places with Margaret by killing her and staging her murder so it looks like Edith’s own suicide. Little does she know that Margaret had murdered her own husband, and Edith is now the prime suspect. So really, Edith and Margaret are both my favorite killer in Dead Ringer.
#10 Baby Jane Hudson, What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
Yeah, I know. The Bette-r be the last for Ms. Davis, and it is, promise. But come on. How could I not put Baby Jane on here? Technically she only kills one person, Elvira the housekeeper, but hey, she does it with a hammer. She also effectively starves Blanche (Joan Crawford) to death, but she doesn’t actually die in the movie. The implication is she dies on the beach while Jane dances around for the gathering crowd.
#9 All Of Karen Black’s Characters, Trilogy Of Terror
This is one of my all time favorite anthologies and is pretty damn effective for a TV movie. First is Julie Eldridge is a variation on the classic black widow concept. Also, Eldridge? Eldritch? Anyone? Similarly, Millicent and Therese are another variation, this time on the evil twin/split personality idea. Finally, Amelia doesn’t actually kill anyone in the story, but it’s clear she’s going to at the end.
#8 Carol Cutler, Strait-Jacket
This one starts with Joan Crawford who takes up a weapon as the vengeful Lucy Harbin. She hacks her husband and his mistress to death with an axe. When she gets out of prison, people start dying. Except it only looks like Lucy is killing people. It’s in fact her own daughter, Carol, who’s going all “thanks for the dismemberies.” I mean, come on. Cutler?
#7 Angela Rivers, Berserk!
Yet another Joan Crawford vehicle. If this one seems familiar, look no further than American Horror Story: Freakshow. They even use a couple of the same “accidents.” Joan Crawford runs a small-time traveling circus which her daughter decides to join after leaving/getting kicked out of school. People start dying, and all finger point to, of course, Monica Rivers (Crawford). Again, it’s the daughter vying with the circus for her mother’s attention.
#6 Every Lead, Every I Spit On Your Grave Movie
Rape automatically makes these movies deeply problematic and disturbing. The protagonists don’t exactly have any depth of character either which is equally problematic. Regardless of these movies all having women who hunt down and wipe out their rapists, the overall message, if there is one, remains couched in misogyny. But the bloody, gnarly, squirm-inducing vengeance I dig so much, wowzers, it doesn’t just run through these movies, it practically gallops. Yeah I stole that from Arsenic And Old Lace. And speaking of…
#5 Abby And Martha Brewster, Arsenic And Old Lace
I was gonna make them #5 and 4, but then I remembered Serial Mom. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that this did not age well. But Aunt Abby and Aunt Martha are still fucking adorable, especially the way Josephine Hull trots Aunt Abby across the room. They’re disarming, endearing, and entertaining, and stack up a pretty impressive body count. It’s also a, for lack of a better word, lighthearted change from all the bloodsoaked reprisals (well deserved as they are) on this list. Abby and Martha truly believe they’re doing a good, kind, decent thing..
#4 Beverly Sutphin, Serial Mom
Let’s keep things at least nominally lighthearted for one more minute here and talk about John Waters’s Serial Mom. First of all, show me a parent who hasn’t wanted to at least punch out, if not run over, one of their kid’s teachers at some point during the educational experience. What I love about Kathleen Turner as Beverly Sutphin is the unbridled glee that often accompanies the explosive rage. Plus, how fun must it have been as John Waters to get Kathleen Turner to say “Is this the cocksucker residence?” to Mink Stole?
#3 Carrie White, Every Version Of Carrie
A tragic figure with some seriously fucked up backstory, Carrie speaks to/for any of us whose experiences being bullied in school resulted in an overdeveloped, less than admirable sense of vengeance. I know there was a part of me that wanted to be Carrie all the way up to about 1982. I dunno what changed that year, but one fine, rainy Monday morning, I’d reached my breaking point, throat-punched my nemesis, shut him in a locker, and went to the principal. Fortunate it was, for all of us involved, that I’d never developed telekinesis.
#2 Mary Mason, American Mary
It was a tough call whether or not to make this #1; ultimately I had to go with #2 because, like so many other characters on this list, the motivation comes down to The Big Two: money and revenge. In this case both, but money and revenge nonetheless. It still ranks high for its bloodletting but also for its tragedy. Mary is a remarkably defined and ultimately tragic character, and this keeps the movie from becoming one more in a long list of I Spit On Your Grave retreads. There are, of course, no tears for the victims, and if you don’t know how her rapist ends up, all I can tell you is, well, hang on for shock.
Baby Firefly, Lady Vengeance, Mary Maloney (“Lamb To The Slaughter”), Pamela Voorhees, Thana (Ms .45), Virginia Merrye/Spider Baby
#1 Susie Bannion/Mother Suspiriorum (Suspiria 2019)
Yep, absolutely at the top of this list. The movie itself was acutely polarizing. My beefs with Dario Argento aside (another matter for another day. Another list perhaps), I not only loved it, I kinda prefer it to the original. The twist at the end of this one is fantastic, especially if you like your atmospheric horrors infused with intrigue and subterfuge. It makes Susie’s character possibly the most complex on this list. The complexities of both plot and character plus knowing who Susie really is–all of these combine to create yet another eerie Kuleshov effect that completely changes the movie when you rewatch it.
And there’s the first movie list. Who else should be on here? Let me know in the Comments.