The “soft girl” aesthetic is yet another viral internet trend, which has arguably been alive long before it made its rounds on social media.
Given the endless TikTok microtrends, the soft girl aesthetic is open to crossovers. Some examples include the soft girl x coquette, soft girl x grunge goth, the Y2K soft girl, the witchy soft girl, soft girl horrorcore, fairy soft girl, the Ethel Cain soft girl, and countless others. What achieves the “soft girl” vibe is completely subjective. For some it’s soft pastels, pearls, frills, ribbons, bows, and lace. For some, it’s soft natural makeup. For others it’s overly done doll-like blush and eyeshadow.
The cohesiveness in the soft girl feel is its dependence on hyperfemininity. This can present itself as a kittenish manner or look, a girly vintage style, or even a femme fatale look. What’s important is its creative expression of softness and girlishness—a woman’s liberty to be who she is. Soft girls are also open and vulnerable, and radiate warmth. They know the importance of caring for others, and that there is no love like self-love.
Collected here are 10 horror movie characters that are undeniably soft girl coded (beware of minor spoilers and a couple of big ones for well-known films).
The Vampire Lovers is a British period gothic horror inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. This was one of the first vampire films to explicitly portray lesbianism versus relying on subtext. While the negative depiction remains—”queerness is perverse and it must be destroyed”—vampire Carmilla (Ingrid Pitt) embraces her sexuality here. The narrative would have you believe that it is Emma (Madeline Smith) who falls under Carmilla’s spell, but it’s the vampire who is ultimately enchanted and bewitched by the young doe-eyed maiden, and for good reason. Emma is soft spoken and tender-hearted. She speaks of her desires of having a handsome man sweep her off her feet and take her away—a true believer of fairy tales. Her delicacy, her dresses in light colors and pastels, her naivete, and her breathless way of speaking make her the ultimate soft girl. She chooses to see the best intentions in her new friend, noting nothing out of the ordinary in Carmilla’s affections until the very end. She’s everything Carmilla is not—everything vampirism has robbed from Carmilla.
The OG final girl of horror Sally Hardesty (Marilyn Burns) demonstrates that it’s often the girls with the softest of hearts who have the most courage and resilience. Her ending is tragic because she may have survived against all odds, but she’ll never be the same again. Before the carnage leaves her transformed into something entirely different, bloodsoaked in the back of a pick-up truck, the viewer meets a caring, soft-hearted sister and friend. She doesn’t get along with her brother, but she’s devoted to him. Throughout the film she concerns herself with the safety of her friends and brother, prioritizing them over romance. When her brother (smartly) suggests they should leave the others behind, she refuses—a true soft girl unable to leave those she cares about behind.
Bob Clark’s horror masterpiece Black Christmas is a slasher revolving around a group of Pi Kappa Sigma sisters who have been receiving menacing phone calls. The calls get more disturbing the night of their Christmas party. They’re stalked in their sorority house by an unknown killer with a dark past intent on hunting them down. Olivia Hussey plays the main protagonist Jess, who becomes worried about her sorority sister Clare (Lynne Griffin) when the latter’s dad shows up to their front door looking for her. Unbeknownst to everyone, sensitive Clare was slain by the murderer the night before. She had run up to her room to pack after having her feelings hurt by one of the other girls.
Before serving as the first on-screen kill, she tenderly pets the house cat. The audience then sees Clare be suffocated with a plastic garment bag. In the attic, her body is posed by the killer in a rocking chair with a doll placed on her lap. In his own sick way the deranged killer acknowledges her softness. Rocking her gently, he whispers lullabies to her and calls her by his little sister’s name—his own baby doll. Clare is a literal soft girl metaphor here.
Darker than Night is a classic Mexican horror written and directed by Carlos Enrique Taboada, part of his renowned gothic tetralogy. A mild ghost story, this one lacks the depth and complexities of his other films, but it still makes for a compelling watch with its atmosphere. The story follows a young woman, Ofelia (Claudia Islas), who inherits a huge house from an aunt with the stipulation that she devote herself to taking care of the deceased’s beloved black cat, Bécquer.
Ever so loving and generous, she invites her three girlfriends to move in. Throughout the film, Ofelia embodies the soft girl feel. No surprise here—the real life actress is labeled in her country as “the Mexican Brigitte Bardot.” Her blonde hair is flawless in every frame, sporting the envious Farah Fawcett-like hair of the decade. She dresses in feminine outfits, using bright shades and gorgeous soft color palettes. Even amid hauntings and death, she makes time to cozy up with her fiancé. A true animal lover at heart, her tenderness is evident when she seems more upset about the death of a cat than those of her friends.
Sue (Amy Irving), guilt-ridden by her involvement in the tormenting of Carrie (Sissy Spacek), shows the viewer her tender heart when she encourages her boyfriend to take Carrie to prom. Before she notices the rope leading to the disastrous pouring of pig blood, Sue’s delight is evident at seeing Carrie be crowned prom queen. She wholeheartedly wanted to do something kind for Carrie, and to allow her the chance to feel beautiful and special. Sue is a soft girl because she truly cares about others and proves it through her redeeming actions. Despite the horrific events taking place around her, Sue approaches Carrie as she is on the verge of dying and holds her in her arms. Her understanding and forgiveness is visceral. Sue takes on the guilt of Carrie’s demise. Even in the brutal dream at the end, Sue holds tenderness for Carrie in heart.
Before 2018’s Suspiria, there was Dario Argento’s visually striking cinematic frenzy about a prestigious dance academy run by a coven of supernatural witches. Students are vanishing into thin air and newcomer Suzy (Jessica Harper) is going to get to the bottom of it. This final girl reminds the viewer that kindness doesn’t mean weakness.
When the audience first meets Suzy, she’s dressed in white from head to toe, sporting a soft pink silk scarf and dainty high heels. Having just landed in Germany, she walks out of the airport into a dark and rainy night. There’s a girlishness contrasted against the storm, painting Suzy as a delicate creature as she’s almost knocked over by the strong winds. When the taxi pulls over, she asks the cab driver to give her a hand with her luggage, even though it consists of only two small easily-carryable suitcases. Throughout the film, she wears soft, romantic curls. Perpetually wide-eyed and possessing an affinity for light colors and pastels, Suzy appears like the quintessential soft girl, especially against the film’s use of primary colors (and in opposition to the school’s teachers).
Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) is the horror soft girl of the 1980s, showing that softness can make for the fiercest of heroines. When the viewer first meets Nancy, her warmth is evident through the screen. Her friend Tina (Amanda Wyss) is distraught by a dream she had the night before, calling it the worst nightmare she’s ever had. Nancy comforts her, displaying her caring, nurturing nature. She wears all white, except for a letterman jacket, a ponytail, and pearl barrettes. Later outfits include a soft pink vest, a light pink set of pj’s, one embroidered with flowers, a pink striped button-up, and a baby blue outfit. A la soft girl, Nancy is taking a cozy bubble bath when she’s visited by Freddy in an iconic scene in the movie. What ultimately puts her on this list is how much she cares about her friends and uncovering the truth behind Freddy. She fights for her survival and those of others. In A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987) the audience sees Nancy doing her best to face each new day and make a name for herself. A true soft girl refuses to ever have her spirit broken, and like Nancy, uses what she learns to help others.
Okay, okay…so hear me out. Tiffany Valentine (Jennifer Tilly) is soft girl coded, beginning with her iconic heart tattoo. Her small whimsy-gothic trailer is adorned in dolls. Later on she graces the screen, an iconic soft girl villainess taking a bubble bath with a glass of champagne in her hand while watching the comforting Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The fact that she takes pride in her hyperfemininity is evident in her clothes, hair, and makeup. Her grunge goth style screams soft girl horror core. Even her manner of speaking has a girlishness to it. It tugs at the heartstrings a little—Tiffany wearing pink eyeshadow and lipstick, cigarette in hand, saying “My mother always said love was supposed to set you free. That’s not true, Chucky. I’ve been a prisoner of my love for you for a very long time.” It’s riveting seeing her snatch back her agency later.
Starry Eyes is a lesser known horror indie starring Midnight Mass’ Alex Essoe as Sarah, an aspiring actress living in Los Angeles. She’s led down a dark, Satanic path towards success when she becomes involved with Hollywood’s elite. Before undergoing her shocking transformation at the end, Sarah is seen as a naive, soft-spoken, and hopeful starlet. She’s sweet and timid, opting for a soft and natural look. Despite not being able to land a role in any of her countless auditions, she’s determined to achieve her dream. Sarah is a dreamer, but one with a goal in mind.
Elaine (Samantha Robinson) epitomizes the witchy soft girl aesthetic with her baby blue eyeshadow, overdone pink blush, and feline eyes winged with liner. She’s introduced to the screen in a red convertible smoking a cigarette, driving away to start a new life “where it’s quiet and clean among the redwoods.” Every girl with a soft heart has at one point felt crushed enough to at least fantasize about starting over somewhere in a place where they’re unknown. The passenger seat of Elaine’s car has a rainbow colored coat, a matching red handbag, and a deck of Tarot cards. Her personal space is filled with Periwinkle blues, stained-glass lamps, and candlesticks. She exudes softness and hyperfemininity in each outfit choice, such as in the iconic tea room scene, wearing lace and a pink oversized sun hat. Although she has murderous tendencies, she does it all in the name of finding a devoted lover.