54 Iconic Female Horror Villains

You think you’d be happy with a nice Midwestern girl? No way, baby! I’m it.

Bev Keane is a religious zealot and the antagonist of Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass (2021).

Female villains are usually a surprise in movies due to audience expectations about movie norms as well as the real-life violence gap between men and women. This means that when villains are women, the surprise factor and actresses playing against type can create an especially shocking and entertaining experience. Gathered here are the most vicious, scary, or simply memorable female villains in horror.

Warning: A few of these villains aren’t revealed until the end of the film, so if you aren’t well-versed in horror, you may be spoiled by this list. Scroll carefully!

Here are the most iconic female villains in horror history:

Rhoda Penmark from The Bad Seed (1956)

Rhoda in The Bad Seed is one of the youngest villains in horror.

Played by Patty McCormack, Rhoda Penmark is a seemingly sweet and precocious eight-year-old girl who lives with her mother in Manhattan while her father is away on military duty. Her mother worries when she is unfazed by the drowning death of another student on a school picnic until she realizes Rhoda is the one responsible for his death. Rhoda demonstrates that she is willing to kill again to cover up her crime, and the audience slowly learns that she is descended from a serial killer, hence she is the titular “bad seed.”

Why should I feel sorry? It was Claude Daigle who got drowned, not me!

Rhoda Penmark, The Bad Seed

Asa Vajda from Black Sunday (1960)

Played by Barbara Steele, Asa Vajda is a witch who is sentenced to death by her brother and vows revenge on his descendants. Hundreds of years later, a man accidentally cuts his hand while looking at Asa’s tomb and reawakens her. Asa sets her sights on her lookalike Katia Vajda and seeks to drain her of her youth.

You, too, can feel the joy and happiness of hating.

Asa Vajda, Black Sunday

Jane Hudson from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Jane (left) and Blanche (right) are two actress sisters whose unhinged rivalry ruins both of their lives.

Played by Bette Davis, “Baby” Jane Hudson was a spoiled child actress whose sister, Blanche (Joan Crawford), lived in her shadow growing up. As they grow up, Jane becomes an alcoholic has-been while Blanche is a sought-after actress who tries to guarantee continued roles (and money) for her sister. After an accident leaves Blanche partially paralyzed (and ends her career), the sisters live together in a mansion Blanche owns. When Blanche tells Jane she plans to sell their home, Jane’s mistreatment of Blanche intensifies. She removes the phone from Blanche’s upstairs bedroom, isolating the disabled woman from the outside world, and murders the housekeeper with a hammer.

I don’t want to talk about it! Every time I think about something nice, you remind me of bad things. I only want to talk about the nice things.

Jane Hudson, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

Evelyn from Play Misty for Me (1971)

Play Misty for Me was Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut. He selected Jessica Walter for the role of Evelyn based on her performance in The Group (1966).

Played by Jessica Walter, this was the prolific actress’ most remembered role along with matriarch Lucille Bluth in the comedy series Arrested Development. In the psychological thriller Play Misty for Me, Evelyn was a superfan of local radio DJ Dave Garver (Clint Eastwood). She goes to a bar he mentions on air in a manufactured meet-cute, and Dave recognizes her as a frequent caller who requests the jazz song “Misty“. Evelyn and Dave have sex and begin a casual relationship. Dave becomes put off by Evelyn’s clingy behavior (he was never into her to begin with) and ends his relationship with her, sending Evelyn into an increasingly violent spiral. This dynamic was revisited by director Adrian Lyne with Fatal Attraction in 1987.

Do you know your nostrils flare out into little wings when you’re mad? It’s kinda cute.

Evelyn, Play Misty for Me

Margaret White from Carrie (1976)

By popular reader demand, we’ve revised this article to include Margaret White instead of her daughter, from Carrie. While Carrie technically kills almost her entire high school class, some of them deserved it.

Margaret White is a mentally ill religious fanatic who is, unfortunately, also the mother of Carrie White in Carrie. Played by Piper Laurie, Margaret is such a neglectful mother that she has never told her nearly adult daughter about menstruation. Carrie is humiliated when she gets her first period in a public shower at school and the other girls throw tampons at her, screaming “Plug it up!”. When she gets home, Margaret locks her in a closet for “sinning”. Christine Hargenson, played by Nancy Allen, is Carrie’s main bully at school and another villain in Carrie.

It was bad, Mama. They laughed at me.

Carrie White, Carrie

Helena Markos from Suspiria (1977)

Suzy (pictured) is taunted by an invisible Helena Markos.

Played by Lela Svasta, Helena Markos is the witch who started the prestigious German ballet school where Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) enrolls. She is the coven leader of the schools instructors who are all secretly witches who sacrifice students. When Suzy discovers her, Helena becomes invisible and reanimates her friend’s corpse to kill her. However, Suzy is able to see Helena’s outline during a lightning strike and stabs her, killing Helena and rendering her coven powerless.

You wanted to kill me! You wanted to kill me! What are you gonna do now, huh? Now death is coming for you! You wanted to kill Helena Markos! Hell is behind that door! You’re going to meet death now…the LIVING DEAD!

Helena Markos, Suspiria

Cissy Carpenter from The Mafu Cage (1978)

Carol Kane is the only actress who appears on this list twice. She again played a horror villain in 1997’s Office Killer.

Played by Carol Kane, Cissy Carpenter lives in a dilapidated Hollywood home with her sister Ellen (Lee Grant), who is a successful astronomer. Unlike her sister, Cissy has no career or sense of purpose outside the home. After the death of their father (a famous anthropologist), Cissy is entirely devoted to the pet monkeys (“Mafus”) she keeps in a cage in the living room. Ellen’s life is on hold because of the incestuous and toxic relationships between the sisters, which eventually escalates to Cissy trapping Ellen’s love interest, David, in the titular Mafu cage.

Mrs. Voorhees from Friday the 13th (1980)

One of the creepiest and most memorable female villains in horror.

Played by Betsy Palmer, the reveal of Mrs. Voorhees as the killer in Friday the 13th (1980) is well-known now, but at the time it was one of two shocking twists at the end of this slasher film (the other being Jason’s sudden appearance in the final scene). Final girl Alice embraces Mrs. Voorhees, as she thinks she has finally met an adult who can take her away from the bad place, Camp Crystal Lake. However, Mrs. Voorhees is in no hurry to leave and reveals to Alice that her son, Jason Voorhees, died at Camp Crystal Lake in 1957 when he drowned, unnoticed by his counselors who were too busy sneaking off to have sex.

Did you know a young boy drowned the year before those two others were killed? The counselors weren’t paying any attention….They were making love while that young boy drowned. His name was Jason. I was working the day that it happened. Preparing meals… here. I was the cook. Jason should’ve been watched. Every minute. He was…he wasn’t a very good swimmer. We can go now, dear.

Mrs. Voorhees, Friday the 13th

Ann from Happy Birthday to Me (1981)

Happy Birthday to Me is remembered for its outrageous death scenes like being stabbed to death with a shish kebab, crushed while lifting weights, and strangled by a scarf caught in a motorcycle’s spokes.

The murderer in Happy Birthday to Me appears to be Virginia “Ginny” Wainwright, a wealthy member of the “Top 10,” a clique of the most popular students at Crawford Academy. Ginny suffers from an unspecified mental illness as a result of a tragic accident years earlier. As her 18th birthday approaches, Ginny’s friends begin to drop dead. However, it is revealed that another Top 10 member, Ann (Tracey E. Bregman), is responsible for the murders, having framed Ginny. Ann’s motive is that Ginny’s mother had an affair with her father, which destroyed Ann’s family.

You should have died that night at the canal! You never should have been born!

Ann, Happy Birthday to Me

Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction (1987)

Glenn Close earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for Fatal Attraction (1987).

Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) is a publishing executive who has a steamy weekend with her married coworker Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas). When Dan starts ignoring her and prioritizing his wife and family above her, Alex becomes distraught, and Dan responds cruelly. Alex becomes more unhinged and obsessive the more Dan ignores her and eventually murders his daughter’s pet rabbit. In the film’s original ending, Alex frames Dan for her murder before slitting her own throat.

What am I supposed to do? You won’t answer my calls, you change your number. I mean, I’m not gonna be ignored, Dan!

Alex Forrest, Fatal Attraction

Angela Franklin from Night of the Demons (1988)

Played by Amelia Kinkade, Angela holds a séance during a wild Halloween party at a funeral home which releases a demon that possesses Angela. After Angela kisses her friend Suzanne (Linnwa Quigley), causing Suzanne to be possessed as well, the two seductively (and violently) murder their friends until daylight breaks and the demons are again banished to hell.

A haunted house is a house with ghosts in it, the spirits of people who’ve died, but the spirits living in a house possessed never existed in human form. They’ve only existed in spirit form. They’re pure evil. They’re demons!

Angela Franklin, Night of the Demons

Annie Wilkes from Misery (1990)

Stephen King loved Kathy Bates’s performance in Misery so much, he wrote the character Dolores Claiborne specifically for her.

Played by Kathy Bates, Annie Wilkes is the ultimate “clingy woman” archetype because she is both nurturing and homicidal. At first, famous writer Paul Sheldon is happy to have been rescued from his car wreck, and his superfan Annie nurses him back to health. However, she also holds him hostage in her isolated cabin in the woods. When Annie realizes Paul has killed off her beloved fictional character Misery, she violently hobbles him and forces him to write a new book, Misery’s Return.

I know I left my scrapbook out. I can imagine what you might be thinking of me. But you see, Paul, it’s all okay. Last night it came so clear. I realized you just need more time. Eventually, you’ll come to accept the idea of being here. Paul, do you know about the early days at the Kimberly diamond mines? Do you know what they did to the Native workers who stole diamonds? Don’t worry, they didn’t kill them. That would be like junking your Mercedes just because it had a broken spring. No, if they caught them, they had to make sure they could go on working, but they also had to make sure they could never run away. The operation was called hobbling.

Annie Wilkes, Misery

Miss Eva Ernst from The Witches (1990)

Miss Ernst wears gloves and a wig because all witches have claws for hands and are bald.

Played by Angelica Huston, Miss Eva Ernst is the Grand-High Witch, the leader of a convention of witches who hate children. They happen to be staying at a seaside hotel at the same time as an eight-year-old boy named Luke and his grandmother Helga. Luke spies on the witches and learns they plan to use special candies to turn all the world’s children into mice.

You see, girls? He would call the exterminator! Just like any normal human with his head screwed on right, he would exterminate those brats!

Miss Eva Ernst, The Witches

Catherine Tramell from Basic Instinct (1992)

Unfortunately, the famous flashing scene in Basic Instinct was made possible by director Paul Verhoeven lying to Sharon Stone about what would be visible in the final product.

Played by Sharon Stone, Catherine is the killer in Basic Instinct. Detective Nick Curran (Michael Douglas) suspects psychiatrist Dr. Beth Garner (Jeanne Tripplehorn) has framed novelist Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) for the murder of her rock-star boyfriend. Suspicion switches back and forth between the two women, with Garner ultimately taking the fall for the crimes. However, the final scene reveals Catherine as the actual murderer, with an ice pick hidden under her bed.

You know I don’t like to wear any underwear, don’t you, Nick?

Catherine Tramell, Basic Instinct

Mallory Knox from Natural Born Killers (1994)

Juliette Lewis broke an actor’s nose while filming one of the fight scenes.

Played by Juliette Lewis, Mallory Knox is an abuse survivor who goes on a crime spree with her equally sadistic husband. When she is sexually harassed in a diner, the couple murder every patron except one, leaving them alive so they can tell the story. Before their killing spree is over, they manage to amass 52 victims.

How sexy am I now, huh? Flirty boy! How sexy am I now?

Mallory Knox, Natural Born Killers

Sil from Species (1995)

This was the film debut of its star, Natasha Henstridge.

Played by Natasha Henstridge, Sil is a lab-created splice between human and alien DNA. She was created with the mistaken assumption that a female would be a more passive and easily controlled creature. When her creators try to kill her, Sil escapes to Los Angeles and seeks to get pregnant so that an alien race can rise up against humans and control Earth.

Don’t go. Please. I want a baby.

Sil, Species

Santanico Pandemonium from From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Salma Hayek overcame a phobia of snakes for this role.

Played by Salma Hayek, Santanico “The Mistress of the Macabre” works as a stripper at the Titty Twister bar on the U.S.-Mexico border. While her role in the film is small, Santanico leads an unforgettable scene where she dances with a snake and makes Quentin Tarantino’s character drink whiskey from her toes. Santanico then reveals herself as a vampire, and she and her coworkers massacre as many patrons as they can.

I’m not gonna drain you completely. You’re gonna turn for me. You’ll be my slave. You’ll live for me. You’ll eat bugs because I order it. Why? Because I don’t think you’re worthy of human blood. You’ll feed on the blood of stray dogs. You’ll be my footstool. And at my command, you’ll lick the dog shit from my boot heel. Since you’ll be my dog, your new name will be “Spot.” Welcome to slavery.

Santanico Pandemonium, From Dusk Till Dawn

Dorine Douglas in Office Killer (1997)

Office Killer was directed by artist Cindy Sherman, though it is almost never mentioned when people discuss her body of work.

Played by Carol Kane, Dorine Douglas is a magazine editor who has been sent home to work as a result of budget cuts at Constant Consumer magazine. Beginning with the accidental death of the IT guy, Dorine starts killing her coworkers and setting up their bodies in her basement so she doesn’t have to work alone. She goes so far as to kill two Girl Scouts who appear at her door to sell her cookies. Finally the office manager who ordered the budget cuts (played by Jeanne Tripplehorn) wakes in Dorine’s home office surrounded by her dead coworkers and becomes her last victim before the final scene shows Dorine looking for a new office job.

At Constant Consumer Magazine, there is but one constant rule: Get the job done. This can be hazardous, however, when the laws of economics affect our workplace and threaten to downsize us. For those of you who cannot keep pace with such changes, be forewarned: You will be terminated.

Dorine Douglas, Office Killer

Mrs. Loomis from Scream 2 (1997)

Laurie Metcalf later played the mother of Sidney’s Scream 2 boyfriend Derek (Jerry O’Connell) on season 11 of The Big Bang Theory.

Played by Laurie Metcalf, Mrs. Loomis is the mother of Billy Loomis, who is angry at Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) for killing him and because Sidney’s mother had an affair with her husband. Disguised as a reporter named Debbie Salt, Mrs. Loomis works with her partner to kill off Sidney’s friends at Windsor College.

No. I’m very sane. My motive isn’t as “90s” as Mickey’s. Mine is just good old-fashioned revenge. You killed my son! And, now, I kill you and I can’t think of anything more rational.

Mrs. Loomis, Scream 2

Tiffany Valentine from Bride of Chucky (1998)

Brad Dourif says Bride of Chucky is his favorite Chucky movie.

Played by Jennifer Tilly, Tiffany Valentine is Charles Lee Ray’s (Brad Dourif) lover and accomplice before his soul was transferred into a Good Guy doll. Short-tempered but more (arguably) moral than Chucky, Tiffany is sometimes a sadistic murderer and sometimes a devoted girlfriend. In Bride of Chucky, Tiffany’s soul is unwillingly transferred by Chucky into a female doll, and the two set off for Hackensack to retrieve a voodoo amulet so they can both become human again.

My mother always said love was supposed set you free. But that’s not true, Chucky. I’ve been a prisoner of my love for you for a very long time. Now it’s payback time.

Tiffany Valentine, Bride of Chucky

Marybeth from The Faculty (1998)

The Faculty was also the film debut of musician Usher.

Played by Laura Harris, Marybeth is the new girl at an Ohio high school who becomes friends with an eclectic group of students resisting a covert alien invasion. The aliens are a parasitic race that infect humans and use them as host bodies. At the end, it’s revealed that Marybeth is actually the host of the alien’s Queen, the mastermind behind the invasion. While fully nude, she promises survivors Casey, Stokely, and Zeke a life of always “fitting in” before transforming into her monstrous alien form for one final attack.

You know in my world, Casey, there were limitless oceans as far as the eye could see. Beautiful, huh? Till it started to dry out. So I escaped, came here, and I met you, all of you, and all of you were different from the others. You were lost and lonely, just like me. And I thought that maybe I could give you a taste of my world. A world without anger, without fear, without attitude. Where the underachiever goes home at night to parents who care. The jock can be smart, the ugly duckling beautiful, and the class wuss doesn’t have to live in terror. The new girl—well—the new girl, she can just fit right in with anybody. People who are just like her. You see, Casey, even Mary-Beth’s feelings can be hurt by a bunch of pathetic, lost, little outcasts who truly believe that their disaffected lonely life is the only way they can survive. I can make you a part of something so special, Casey, so perfect, so fearless….Don’t you want that, Casey?

Marybeth, The Faculty

Brenda from Urban Legend (1998)

Brenda is one of the best horror villains because she prepared a PowerPoint presentation to explain her motive to Natalie.

Played by Rebecca Gayheart, Brenda is a student at Pendleton University, where students have recently started dying in the gruesome acting-out of various urban legends. It’s not until all her friends except Natalie and Paul are dead that Brenda reveals herself as the killer in a brutal third act where she plans to recreate the “kidney heist” urban legend on Natalie. Brenda’s legacy as a horror villain is thwarted, however, when it is revealed at the end of the movie that the “urban legend” of the film’s events has lived on and Brenda has also survived. In the sequel, Brenda has a cameo where she is hiding out, making new murderous plans.

I have already tried therapy! Obviously, it did me no good, Natalie.

Brenda, Urban Legend

Suzie Toller from Wild Things (1998)

Neve Campbell wanted the role of Suzie Toller to expand her range after playing innocent middle-class good girls in Party of Five and Scream (1996).

Played by Neve Campbell, Suzie Toller is the genius mastermind behind a many-layered plot to extract $8.5 million from local socialite Sandra Van Ryan. Sandra’s daughter Kelly (Denise Richards) is an accomplice, along with high-school guidance counselor Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon) and police Sergeant Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon). Suzie betrays each of her partners as they turn on each other. She ends up in the Cayman Islands, where her only real co-conspirator, Atty. Kenneth Bowden (Bill Murray), delivers her a check.

Before Medea sailed away on the Helios she killed king Creon and the princess, with what? A: A rock. B: Spear-gun or C: a bit of poison.

Suzie Toller, Wild Things

Asami Yamazaki from Audition (1999)

An audience member fainted at the Swiss premiere of Audition.

A widower named Shigeharu Aoyama holds a fake audition for the purpose of finding a new wife. He is attracted to Asami Yamaza (Eihi Shiina) and impressed by her empathy. The two begin dating, and Asami asks Aoyama to love only her. She is enraged when she finds a photo of his deceased wife, realizing that Aoyama still loves her, and she drugs him. When the drug paralyzes Aoyama, Asami takes the opportunity to ruthlessly torture him with needles as punishment for loving someone besides her.

I’ve never had anyone to talk to. You were the first person to support me. Warmly accepting me, trying to understand me. I’m sorry, but it’s hard to forget that.

Asami Yamazaki, Audition

Mitsuko Souma from Battle Royale (2000)

Battle Royale is one of Quentin Tarantino’s favorite movies.

Played by Kou Shibasaki, Mitsuko Souma is the most ruthless girl to play the “Survival Game.” The game, a three-day fight to the death with only one survivor, is used as a deterrent to juvenile crime in the near future world of Battle Royale (2000). Mitsuko is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse arranged by her mother, which has caused her to be a callous and cruel girl, even before the game. When the game starts, she is one of the first to decide she will kill her classmates in an attempt to win.

You just have to fight for yourself; no one’s going to save you. That’s just life, right?

Mitsuko Souma, Battle Royale

Ginger Fitzgerald from Ginger Snaps (2000)

There is no CGI in Ginger Snaps; everything was created with practical effects.

Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and her sister Brigitte have a pact to move out of their small Canadian town—or die—by their 16th birthdays. Attracted by the scent of blood from her first period, Ginger is bitten by a werewolf. Now superhuman, Ginger kills the school bully and a teacher while Brigitte works with a local drug dealer to create a cure.

I get this ache….And I, I thought it was for sex, but it’s to tear everything to fucking pieces.

Ginger Fitzgerald, Ginger Snaps

Betty/Diane from Mulholland Drive (2001)

Naomi Watts (left) plays a doe-eyed aspiring actress with a secret identity.

Played by Naomi Watts, Betty Elms is introduced as an aspiring actress arriving at her aunt’s apartment in Los Angeles to pursue her dream of making it in Hollywood. Betty is startled to discover a woman with amnesia snuck into the apartment after surviving a car accident on Mulholland Drive. The surrealist neo-noir mystery continues to unfold while Betty ostensibly helps the woman find her identity and is also revealed to be Diane Selwyn, an aspiring actress who may or may not have taken out the hit that caused the woman to develop amnesia in the first place.

It’ll be just like in the movies. Pretending to be somebody else.

Betty Elms, Mulholland Drive

Kayako from Ju-On: The Grudge (2002)

While there were previous Ju-On movies, this is the first that had a theatrical release.

Played by Takako Fuji, Kayako was murdered by her husband as part of a familicide. The family’s vengeful ghosts remain in their home in Nerima, Tokyo, ready to terrorize anyone who moves in. When a social worker is sent to the home to care for the elderly woman who lives there, the truth about the house of horrors comes out.

*Death rattle*

Kayako, Ju-On: The Grudge

May Dove Canady from May (2002)

May’s full name is supposed to sound like “made of candy.”

Played by Angela Bettis, May is a shy, twenty-something woman who was bullied throughout her childhood for her (now fixed) lazy eye. Now desperate to be loved, May falls head-over-heels for a guy named Adam. May’s inexperience and awkwardness causes her and Adam’s relationship to be brief and painful, and May’s dalliance with her lesbian coworker Polly doesn’t end much better. After a disastrous attempt at volunteering with blind children and being called a “freak” by another guy, May snaps and kills him. She then begins killing others in an attempt to make herself the friend she has always wanted by stitching together her victims’ body parts.

So, are we like best friends now that you’ve seen what’s in my freezer?

May Dove Canady, May

Akasha from Queen of the Damned (2002)

Aaliyah’s brother, Rashad Haughton, helped dub her voice in this film after she died in a plane crash. The film was dedicated to her.

Played by Aaliyah, Akasha is the first vampire in this stand-alone sequel to Interview With the Vampire (1994). Akasha kills vampires and humans alike in her quest to find Lestat. When she finds him, the two become lovers and she makes Lestat king of the vampires, ready to fight the Ancient Vampires who disagree.

My children. Warms my blood to see you all gathered plotting against me.

Akasha, Queen of the Damned

Samara Morgan from The Ring (2002)

The Ring (2002) is a remake of the Japanese movie Ring, where the villain’s name is Sadako.

Played by Daveigh Chase, Samara was an adopted girl who lived on a horse ranch on Moesko Island, Washington with her parents. Possessing a gift for putting horrifying images in someone’s head, Samara tormented her mother and drove the family’s horses to suicide. After failing to find psychiatric help, Samara’s adopted mother murders her by pushing her into a well on Shelter Mountain. Samara creates a cursed VHS from beyond the grave that is eventually watched by the niece of journalist Rachel Keller, who sets out to discover the origin of the cursed tape.

Seven days…

Samara Morgan, The Ring

Marie from High Tension (2003)

Cécile and her coworker were running around Romania barefoot in the winter to film this movie.

Played by Cécile de France, Marie visits her friend Alexia’s family farm in the countryside. After arriving at night, Marie is the only one who notices a killer approaching the house. As he kills Alexia’s family, Marie hides. But when the killer abducts Alexia, Marie chases him down and tries to rescue her. It’s not until the film’s bonkers twist ending that the audience realizes the killer isn’t real and Marie is having a violent mental breakdown fueled by her love for Alexia.

I won’t let anyone come between us anymore.

Marie, High Tension

Vera-Ellen ‘Baby’ Firefly from House of 1000 Corpses (2003)

Baby in the process of scalping Jerry.

Played by Sheri Moon Zombie, Baby Firefly is introduced in House of 1000 Corpses and also appears in The Devil’s Rejects (2005) and 3 from Hell (2019). She is one of MANY villains in House of 1000 Corpses, which is about a deranged family of serial killers. Baby uses her looks to lure new victims to the farm by posing as a hitchhiker (a reference to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and delights in torturing and killing them with the rest of her family.

Give me a “B,” give me an “A,” give me a “B,” give me a “Y,” What’s that spell? What’s that spell? WHAT’S THAT SPELL?

Baby Firefly, House of 1000 Corpses

Hayley Stark from Hard Candy (2005)

Hard Candy is based on a real phenomenon in Japan of girls confronting men who prey on children online.

Played by Elliot Page, Hayley is a 14-year-old girl with an elaborate plan to hold a pedophile hostage in his home and torture him into confessing, or at least give him a good scare. While searching his home, Hayley finds a picture of a local girl who has gone missing. The pedophile, Jeff (Patrick Wilson), vehemently denies that he knows the missing girl or has ever sexually abused anyone, until he finally breaks down and confesses that he witnessed another man rape and murder her. Hayley then reveals that she has already paid a visit to the other man, who said Jeff did it before he died by suicide (perhaps under Hayley’s duress). She goads Jeff into suicide and then leaves his home for his body (and the evidence of his crimes) to be discovered.

Was I born a cute, vindictive little bitch or…did society make me that way?

Hayley Stark, Hard Candy

Mandy Lane from All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)

Played by Amber Heard, Mandy Lane appears to be the shy girl at school. She is invited to a weekend party where her classmates die one by one at the hands of Mandy’s friend Emmet, whom the group has been bullying. In the end it’s revealed that Mandy is in league with Emmet and has offered to help him kill his bullies.

I’m gonna go finish high school first.

Mandy Lane, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

La Femme from Inside (2007)

“La Femme” (top) simply means “the woman” in French.

Played by Beatrice Dalle, “La Femme” is one of the most sadistic and violent villains on this list. The day before newly widowed Sarah is due to give birth, a mysterious woman shows up at her home demanding entry. A brutal home invasion follows in which Sarah and everyone who comes to her rescue is attacked by La Femme. Her motive is revealed as wanting to take Sarah’s baby for herself.

I want one.

La Femme, Inside

Mrs. Carmody from The Mist (2007)

Mrs. Carmody (center) believes the mist is caused by God’s wrath and that human sacrifices are needed for some of the group to survive.

Played by Marcia Gay Harden, Mrs. Carmody isn’t the big bad guy in this supernatural sci-fi thriller based on a story by Stephen King. However, for a side character Mrs. Carmody is pretty memorable and scary. As a group of survivors are trapped inside a grocery story as a malevolent mist lingers outside, Mrs. Carmody is a religious nut who whips up paranoia among the group. She trades on this chaos to gain power within the group and begins demanding human sacrifices be offered to The Mist.

I have a friend. God, up above. I talk to him every day. Don’t you condescend me.

Mrs. Carmody, The Mist

Jennifer Check from Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Megan Fox says Jennifer’s Body is her favorite of all her films.

Played by Megan Fox, Jennifer Check is at first an average bitchy popular teen at a small-town Minnesota high school. However, while watching a band with her best friend Needy, Jennifer is targeted by the band, who wish to sacrifice a virgin to Satan in exchange for fame and fortune. Because Jennifer was not even a “backdoor virgin” (her words), the sacrifice fails and she instead becomes a succubus who delights in killing boys from her school.

I am not insecure, Needy. God…that’s a joke. How could I ever be insecure? I was the Snowflake Queen.

Jennifer Check, Jennifer’s Body

Lola Stone from The Loved Ones (2009)

Played by Robin McLeavy, Lola is turned down for the prom by her classmate Brett, who plans to go with his girlfriend, Holly. Instead, Lola and her father kidnap Brett and hold him hostage in their home, which is decorated as a prom. Lola turns out to be a sadistic killer who permanently destroys Brett’s vocal cords and gets off on torturing him.

Bring the hammer, Daddy.

Lola, The Loved Ones

Esther from Orphan (2009)

Fuhrman won the role even though producers envisioned Esther as a blonde.

Played by Isabelle Fuhrman, Esther is a nine-year-old Russian orphan who is adopted by Kate and John Coleman, a couple who have a five-year-old daughter, Max, and a 12-year-old son, Daniel. While settling in with her new family, Esther proves to be a strange and precocious girl who rouses Kate’s suspicions. John is, however, convinced of Esther’s lovability, and their relationship becomes strained. Esther murders a nun from her orphanage to keep her place in the family and begins to contemplate killing Daniel and Max as well. In the end, the family learns that Esther is actually a 33-year-old Estonian woman with a form of dwarfism that makes her appear small and childlike.

I think people should always try to take the bad things that happen to them in their lives, and turn them into something good. Don’t you?

Esther, Orphan

Ernessa from The Moth Diaries (2011)

Lily Cole selected the pieces she played on the piano herself; the director had never heard of Chopin’s Nocturne no. 1.

Played by Lily Cole, Ernessa is a mysterious new student at an all-girls’ boarding school. She befriends Lucy, the best friend of narrator Rebecca. Soon after, Lucy begins to appear frail and becomes so sick she is hospitalized. Rebecca, reading the gothic horror assigned to her in class, becomes suspicious that Ernessa is a vampire and will have to decide how far she will go to save the friend she loves. Prim, proper, and deadly, Ernessa is a scary female villain whose education shows!

My mother, she butchered me. My father, he ate me. My sister, little Anne-Marie, she gathered up the bones of me and tied them in a silken cloth to lay under the juniper. Tweet, tweet, what a pretty bird am I.

Ernessa, The Moth Diaries

Jill Roberts in Scream 4 (2011)

Jill (right) murders her friends in search of fame.

Played by Emma Roberts, Jill is the cousin of Sidney Prescott, who is jealous of her cousin’s fame. With her partner Charlie Walker (Rory Culkin), Jill plans and executes the brutal murders of her classmates, best friend, and even her own mother! She even kept Gale Weathers alive with the hope that they could write a book together about the murders for which she was going to frame her ex-boyfriend.

My friends? What world are you living in? I don’t need friends. I need fans. Don’t you get it? This has never been about killing you? It’s about becoming you. I mean, for fuck’s sake, my own mother had to die, no great loss there, so I could stay true to the original. That’s sick, right? Well, sick is the new sane. You had your 15 minutes, now I want mine! I mean, what am I supposed to do? Go to college? Grad school? Work? Look around. We all live in public now, we’re all on the Internet. How do you think people become famous anymore? You don’t have to achieve anything. You just gotta have fucked-up shit happen to you. So you have to die, Sid. Those are the rules. New movie, new franchise. There’s only room for one lead, and let’s face it, your ingenue days, they’re over.

Jill Roberts, Scream 4

The Girl from A Girl Walks Home at Night (2014)

Director Ana Lily Amirpour is a lifelong skateboarder and stood in for The Girl to perform some of the skateboarding scenes.

Played by Sheila Vand, The Girl is a vampire who roams the streets in a chador, skateboards, and listens to music. She forms a friendship with a local man, Arash, who cares for his addict father. When The Girl kills his father, Arash must decide whether to run away with her.

I’m bad.

The Girl, A Girl Walks Home at Night

Amy Dunne from Gone Girl (2014)

Reese Witherspoon had the rights to make Gone Girl and was planning to play Amy Dunne until she talked to director David Fincher about the film and realized she was wrong for the part.

Played by Rosamund Pike, Amy Dunne is fed up with her charming but selfish husband Nick and decides to fake her own kidnapping to frame him for the crime. Amy is so committed to this revenge plot that she plans to actually kill herself after a month or so of watching Nick suffer, knowing that his fate will be sealed when her body is discovered. Although the men in Gone Girl are bad, Amy Dunne is the baddest bitch of them all.

I’m the cunt you married. The only time you liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone this cunt might like. I’m not a quitter, I’m that cunt. I killed for you; who else can say that? You think you’d be happy with a nice Midwestern girl? No way, baby! I’m it.

Amy Dunne, Gone Girl

Bel and Genesis from Knock Knock (2015)

Bel and Genesis (above) are modeled after Jackson and Donna in Death Game (1977). Colleen Camp, who played Donna, has a cameo in Knock Knock.

Bel and Genesis knock on the door of a stranger, Evan Webber, during a rainstorm and ask for refuge while they figure out which house they are supposed to be attending a party at. Evan is a “happily married family man” who is fairly quickly convinced to have a threesome with the girls. Afterwards the girls refuse to leave, trash his home, rape Evan while roleplaying rape/incest (which they film to look consensual), and eventually tell him that they’ve done this before and plan to kill him at dawn. However, in the morning, the girls reveal that they don’t intend to murder Evan; they were just playing for fun. They leave him buried up to his neck in his backyard and upload the rape video to his Facebook page, leaving the phone unlocked so Evan can helplessly watch the outraged reactions pour in.

Genesis: Knock, knock.

Bel: Who’s there?

Genesis: Cheating Evan.

Bel: Cheating Evan who?

Genesis: Cheating Evan-tually gets you killed.

Bel and Genesis, Knock Knock

Elaine Parks from The Love Witch (2016)

The Love Witch has a dreamy 70s aesthetic.

Played by Samantha Robinson, Elaine is a widower and a witch who moves to a small town in California to start a new life. She performs a spell to achieve her main goal of meeting a suitable man and falling in love. Elaine is frustrated by her first suitor’s clinginess, so she kills him. She subsequently falls for the detective investigating his disappearance. The detective has to decide between doing his job and his lust for Elaine.

Tampons aren’t gross. Women bleed, and that’s a beautiful thing. Do you know that most men have never even seen a used tampon?

Elaine Parks, The Love Witch

Miss Martha Farnsworth in The Beguiled (2017)

Miss Martha Farnsworth (middle right) is in charge of a group of girls left behind at a boarding school during the Civil War.

Played by Nicole Kidman, Miss Martha Farnsworth is the head of an all-girls’ school in Virginia. In 1864, nearly everyone has fled the area due to the Civil War. Only Martha, a teacher named Miss Edwina Morrow (Kirsten Dunst), and a handful of students remain at the school when they discover and decide to hide a Union soldier (Colin Farrell). As a sympathetic villain, Miss Farnsworth is an example of someone who may normally live their entire life without doing something really evil, but in circumstances where they are given too much power over others, they become tyrants.

Bring me the anatomy book!

Miss Martha Farnsworth, The Beguiled

Rose the Hat from Doctor Sleep (2019)

Doctor Sleep is a sequel to The Shining (1980).

Played by Rebecca Ferguson, Rose the Hat is a slightly feral yogi-vampire and leader of The True Knot (a vampire coven) who kidnaps and tortures gifted children to feed on “steam,” their word for The Shining. She is adult Danny Torrance’s main enemy in Doctor Sleep as he tries to protect a young girl named Abra Stone who has a shine even more powerful than Danny’s. Danny and Abra lure Rose to The Overlook Hotel, a building which has a shine of its own, for a final battle between four powerful beings.

Pain purifies steam. Fear, too, so you understand.

Rose the Hat, Doctor Sleep

Sue Ann Ellington from Ma (2019)

The script was written with a white woman as the villain but was updated after Octavia Spencer expressed interest.

Played by Octavia Spencer, Sue Ann “Ma” Ellington is a Ohio vet tech who is asked to buy alcohol by a group of local high-school students. She invites the students to her home and allows them to drink and party in her basement, ostensibly out of loneliness. When she is confronted by one of the boys’ fathers, Ben, it is revealed that in high school Ben arranged for Sue Ann to be raped and publicly humiliated in front of their classmates. Sue Ann has been taking revenge on the children of the people who bullied her.

Some people just fit right in.

Sue Ann ‘Ma’ Ellington, Ma

Cassie Thomas from Promising Young Woman (2020)

Cassie (left) pretends to be drunk to teach predatory men a lesson.

Played by Carey Mulligan, Cassie is an update on the rape/revenge story, as Cassandra is seeking revenge on behalf of her friend. Traumatized by the suicide of her friend Nina, 30-year-old Cassie drops out of medical school. When she learns that Nina’s rapist, Al, is engaged, Cassie decides it’s time for some real revenge. She hires a sex worker to take home a drunk classmate who was complicit in the rape, tells the dean she has left her daughter in the care of a group of drunk college boys, and then poses as a stripper at Al’s bachelor party. However, when she tries to carve “Nina” into Al’s stomach, he escapes and murders her. The film ends with Al’s friends (including the man Cassie was seeing) again covering for him, but fortunately Cassie planned ahead and released evidence that they are all complicit in Nina’s rape and Cassie’s murder.

Who needs brains? They never did a girl any good.

Cassie Thomas, Promising Young Woman

Karen from Karen (2021)

Karen capitalized on the meme-ification of the real phenomena of white women who are obsessed with policing POC.

Played by Taryn Manning, the titular Karen is a white woman enraged that a black couple, Malik and Imani, has moved into her Atlanta neighborhood. Karen is president of the neighborhood’s HOA and the sister of a local police officer and abuses her limited power to harass Malik and Imani. Karen is a critically panned B movie and you shouldn’t expect much more than you see in the trailer. That said, Manning is a compelling villain whose violent (and creepy) obsession and entitlement recalls Jessica Walter in Play Misty for Me.

Bev Keane from Midnight Mass (2021)

If you don’t hate her for being a violent religious fanatic, hate her for being a dog killer.

Played by Samantha Sloyan, Bev Keane is a fanatical member of St. Patrick’s Church on Crockett Island in the Netflix miniseries Midnight Mass. Like Mrs. Carmody in The Mist, Bev uses religion to put herself in a position of power and authority over others, which she uses to put people down. When the events of the miniseries threaten life as normal on the island, we see that Bev’s motivations have little to do with Christianity and everything to do with satisfying her (literal? figurative?) blood thirst.

God loves him just as much as He loves you, Bev. Why does that upset you so much?

Annie Flynn, Midnight Mass

Alexia from Titane (2021)

Played by Agathe Rousselle, Alexia is a car model who has a titanium plate in her head after a childhood car accident. She’s also a cold-blooded killer who has a sexual relationship with a car. After murdering her parents by locking them in their burning home, Alexia begins a new life as Adrien Legrand, a boy who has been missing for some time. Adrien’s father accepts Alexia as Adrien even as he notices that they are now pregnant.

My name is Alexia.

Alexia, Titane

Pearl from X (2022)

Mia Goth played both Pearl (left) and Maxine Minx (right). She will reprise the role of Pearl in Ti West’s prequel, Pearl (2023).

Played by Mia Goth, Pearl is the elderly woman who rents out the bunkhouse on her farm to a group of (unbeknownst to her) aspiring pornographers. Pearl is frustrated by her age and her husband Howard’s refusal to have sex with her because of his heart condition. One of her guests, Maxine, reminds Pearl of herself when she was younger. Pearl used to be a dancer during World War I who, like Maxine, was described as having the “X factor.” Fueled by jealousy and (probably) dementia, Pearl ruthlessly murders young people and disposes of the evidence on her farm.

Recommended Reading:

Horror movies directed by women

Meet The Author

Chrissy Stockton

Chrissy is the co-founder of Creepy Catalog. She has over 10 years of experience writing about horror, a degree in philosophy and Reiki level II certification.

Chrissy Stockton