25 Memorable Slasher Starlets
With Sorority Row in theatres this week, we take a look at the actress-slash-victims of the past, present, and future...
In this week's Sorority Row, the sexy starlets got us thinking about slasher-genre scream queens past, present and future. Why they're cast is a no brainer -- they're cheap, they look good, they can act a little and scream in terror a lot. Why they take the roles is similarly easy to answer -- most slasher movies find an eager and devoted audience and get actresses exposure. But what happens next depends on how well they play their 15 minutes of fright fame. Sometimes, it leads to enduring popularity and even Oscars. Othertimes, to obscurity. And as we'll see, being the "final girl" alive isn't always an advantage.
Alfred Hitchcock's seminal slasher took Janet Leigh, already a star, and made her an immortal -- by killing her off early in the indelible shower scene. Leigh got an Oscar nomination for her work, remained a big star through the 1960s and, importantly for the genre, gave birth to Jamie Lee Curtis, with whom she'd co-star in 1998's Halloween: H20. Meanwhile, Psycho's Vera Miles, who played "final girl" Marion, worked only sporadically in B-grade flicks until she took a role in 1983's Psycho II. A lesson here: sometimes it pays to die big.
Bob Clark's hugely influential slasher flick, which anticipated Halloween's seasonal title and stalker-cam, as well the he's-calling-from-inside-the-house of When a Stranger Calls, offered two lead scream queens. Olivia Hussey, already a star for Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 Romeo and Juliet, played "final girl" Jess. But it was up-and-comer Margot Kidder, as the boozy, foul-mouthed and soon-to-die Barb that audiences remembered. While Hussey's star waned, Kidder's soared, thanks to the Superman movies and The Amityville Horror. Her career derailed in the mid-1990s due to her bipolar disorder, but she returned to acting and popped up recently as Laurie Strode's headshrinker in Rob Zombie's Halloween II. Another lesson: old scream queens never die, they just do cameos.
Arguably the most enduring and liked scream queen in cinematic history, Jamie took a leaf from her mom's book by making her name with her debut in John Carpenter's terrifying Halloween. While Laurie was in danger of being overshadowed by her more sexed-up co-stars, particularly P.J. Soles, her nice-gal virgin status meant she lived to see the end credits. And Curtis wasn't above making more genre flicks -- and for the next five years she did nothing else, with The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, Halloween II (pictured) and Road Games. Realizing she needed to move on, Curtis successfully branched into comedy with hits Trading Places, A Fish Called Wanda and Freaky Friday, and also showed us how good she could look in True Lies. Not forgetting her roots, the actress also returned to the Laurie Strode role in Halloween: H20 and Halloween Resurrection.
By the time Carol Kane made this film, she was a very respected actress who'd starred in The Last Detail, Dog Day Afternoon and Annie Hall, and who'd been Oscar-nominated for 1975's Hester Street. It was an unusual choice, but the film was a minor box-office hit, largely on the strength of its opening 22 minutes. But after that Kane's career trajectory saw her take more supporting roles, and not always in successful films, with Transylvania 6-5000 and Joe Versus the Volcano stinking up her resume. Things weren't helped by Kane reprising the Jill Johnson role in 1993's TV movie When A Stranger Calls Back. Possible lesson: if you've worked with Woody Allen, Sidney Lumet and Hal Ashby, you probably don't need to do a slasher film.
Having seen what Halloween did for Jamie Lee, no doubt Adrienne King had her sights set on stardom when she landed the "final girl" role of Alice in Friday the 13th. She survived the film -- memorably chopping off mama Vorhees' head -- and starred in 1981's Friday the 13th: Part 2. Problem was, her screen presence inspired a deranged stalker, who tried to break down the door of her apartment. The life imitating art angle of this impressed Adrienne not at all, and she instead carved out a career as a voice actress and artist. Her role in this year's horror Walking Distance marks her first screen appearance in 28 years.