10 Vainest Characters in Horror Movies

These movies take “pain is beauty” to another level.

Heather Matarazzo becomes a human sacrifice for wealthy woman’s skin care routine in Hostel: Part II (2007).

The pursuit of beauty can take drastic forms in real life but horror movies take it to a much darker and more disturbing place. The characters on this list have invested in extreme beauty regimes involving resurrection, multiple murders, keeping severed heads or preserving their youth via immortality – with horrifying and often fatal consequences. Don’t try these beauty regimes at home.

X (2022)

Pearl (Mia Goth) watches Maxine Minx (also Mia Goth) sleep and gets into bed with her while reminiscing about her beauty and youth.

Ti West’s X is a retro-frightmare that follows a ragtag team of filmmakers who want their money shot and porn cinema infamy. Instead, the small, but sexy crew find themselves on the business end of a pitchfork and a hungry alligator. Viewers have preconceived ideas of a horror movie monster and West pulls the rug out from under us with the creation of the character Pearl (Mia Goth). The iconic villain lives vicariously through the youth and vitality of the young crew, until she takes things much further and emerges as a truly terrifying, all-too-human antagonist. Her voyeurism and isolation are fueled by the need to reconnect with a time and place when she felt beautiful, desired and needed. Her story is unpacked in more detail in the prequel Pearl, and the concluding chapter MaXXXine is slated for release in 2024. 

Return to Oz (1985)

Fairuza Balk finds herself among Princess Mombi’s head collection.

Who needs make-up artists, hair stylists or cosmetic surgery when you have a different head for every day of the week? This is precisely what Princess Mombi does in Walter Murch’s long awaited sequel The Return to Oz. A pre-teen girl, Dorothy Gale (Fairuza Balk), is caught in Mombi’s crosshairs. Locked in the witch’s attic, she enlists the help of a Pumpkin with severe arrested-development issues. With a storage of heads (and therefore brains) at her disposal, you’d think Mombi would’ve given that plan a bit more thought!

Death Becomes Her (1992)

Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn) remains calm, cool and collected despite a gunshot creating a massive hole in her torso.

If you’re an aging starlet at a confidence low, you should probably avoid a referral from a random man who pops up in your local plastic surgery clinic, especially if that referral leads you to a barely-dressed and sultry Isabella Rossellini, who dispenses an immortal youth potion with unforeseen ramifications for those who don’t heed her warning to take care of their bodies. At first, this would appear to be the perfect long-term plan for the actress and homicidally embittered Madeleine Ashton (Meryl Street) in Robert Zemeckis’ 1992 fantastically morbid satire Death Becomes Her. As it turns out, Madeleine’s frenemy, the amusingly deranged Helen Sharp (Goldie Hawn) has also taken the concoction and has conspired with Madeleine’s hen-pecked, “flaccid” husband Ernest (Bruce Willis) to murder Madeleine. When Madeleine is thrown down the stairs by an enraged Ernest and pops right back up with a broken neck and no pulse, much fun body-horror ensues, and a shot-gun reprisal later on Helen Sharp makes poor Ernest only-too-aware it’s no miracle, he must exit stage-left and quick, before he is stuck with both forever.

Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988)

Clare Higgins as Julia Cotton in Hellbound: Hellraiser II.

Self-development through the prism of infernal resurrection is bound to play havoc with a girl’s skincare regime. Just ask Julia Cotton in Tony Randel’s 1988 sequel Hellbound: Hellraiser II: sexually frustrated housewife, cold-blooded, hammer-yielding man-hater and Queen of Hell. Not only do you need to worry about blood under those expensive manicured fingernails, desiccated corpse meat in that elegantly coiffed volume blow-dry. But also have the added bonus of being gutted by your asshole lover, torn apart by demons and resurrected by a power-hungry Mad Scientist and the only way to regain that former flawless complexion: subsisting on women procured by your new madman: Doesn’t really inspire confidence in your own self worth, does it? 

Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)

Sigourney Weaver gazes and her mirror in Snow White: A Tale of Terror.

There is significant thematic and narrative overlap between horror cinema and fairytales and many would argue the majority of modern horror is very much rooted in these grim tales. Michael Cohn’s revisionist fantasy Snow White: A Tale of Terror is no exception, with explicitly adult content. Sigourney Weaver portrays a wickedly evil iteration of The Evil Queen, Lady Claudia with Monica Keena as the long-suffering Lilli Hoffman, a girl who finds herself on the receiving end of Lady Claudia’s wraith and diabolical witchcraft. Claudia’s actions throughout the movie are triggered by a profound jealousy of Lilli’s youth. 

American Mary (2012)

Katherine Isabelle leaves normal beauty standards behind as she enters the dark world of extreme body mods in American Mary.

The plot revolves around Katherine Isabelle’s (Ginger Snaps) broke-on-the-bones-of-her-arse medical student Mary, who reluctantly auditions at a seedy club. Discovering she has skills with a scalpel, the owner enlists her help – with a cash incentive – in patching up a brutalized thug and her resume ends up circulating around the underground body-mod community. After she is drugged and assaulted by her tutor at a swanky party, she puts those skills to chilling use. Operating outside the parameters of conventional beauty standards, he viewer gains an insight into the world of body modification. And her retribution involves more than just taking a pound of flesh; tongue bisection, multiple amputations and mounted in a harness in a storage locker. A stomach churning way to kill a few hours, but perversely satisfying for Mary, nevertheless. And there really is a lesson to be learned here: the teacher/student relationship should always remain strictly professional. 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1995)

Renée Zellweger just wanted to go to the prom.

In 1995, Texas Chainsaw Massacre mainstay Kim Henkel once more attempted to revive the franchise with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation.  The movie has since become one of the most critically-maligned entries in the franchise. The movie orbits around Renée Zellweger in an early role as Jenny and a group of disposable friends on the way to the prom. They don’t make it, thanks to Matthew McConaughey’s Vilmer Slaughter and his cannibal clan, including Leatherface (Robert Jacks), clad in drag attire and the obligatory human skin mask.

The Chucky Franchise

Chucky and Tiffany are a stylish match made in hell.

Jennifer Tilly’s Tiffany Valentine has become the most stylish serial killer (sorry, Hannibal) in horror entertainment. Dressed in haute couture and criminally insane, Tilly steals every scene she is in. And let’s be honest: any beauty regime involving Tiffany will, in all likelihood to end up in murder. Chucky wouldn’t be as bonkers without her. 

American Psycho (2000)

Patrick Bateman watches himself during sex.

Mary Harron’s adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ source material, American Psycho, excised the graphic content and focused on the satirical elements of the book. Christian Bale’s archetypal psychopath always needs to look his absolute best and will go to extreme lengths to ensure it. Whether it is during an excruciating monologue on the merits of pop ballads or chasing some innocent with a chainsaw – appearances are utterly vital to a man like Patrick. 

Hostel Part 2 (2007)

Heather Matarazzo, about to be sacrificed for a vain client of the Elite Hunting Club’s beauty regimine.

Eli Roth’s pseudo-feminist sequel to his War-on-Terror parable Hostel shifts the focus to a trio of girls (Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo and Bijou Phillips) sold to the Elite Hunting Club murder syndicate. One sequence in Hostel: Part II is an Elizabeth Bathory-inspired blood-bath with a European vamp carving up Matarazzo with a scythe. Horrifying. 

Further reading:

Meet The Author

Alan K is The Next Famous Movie Monster & This is Their Origin Story. Alan K has over a decade of journalism experience with a focus on horror, LGBTQ+ and entertainment. They have contributed to Blumhouse, Rue Morgue, FEARnet, SyfyWire, Collider, Vice, Chiller TV, Gay Times, Polyester Zine, and more. Alan had a book published in 2010 by Pulp Press called ‘Let Me Die a Woman’ and worked as the European Liaison for the Viscera Film Festival. They have ‘Queer Fear: A Film Guide’ forthcoming from McFarland and more. Obsessions include running and swimming.