Scream Queens: Why A-List Women Go for B-Rate Scares
From Bette Davis to Dame Helen Mirren, horror movies remain a reliable source of juicy roles.
Who doesn’t want to see Dame Helen Mirren let loose and scream? Now, in the scary movie Winchester, opening Friday, she plays Sarah Winchester, the horrified heiress of the repeating rifle fortune. Embodying a woman convinced she’s haunted by all the souls slain by her family’s eponymous firearm, Mirren yells her tonsils out – in a wig and widow’s weeds while the family’s Northern California mansion attacks its terrified owner, a haunted house hell-bent on revenge. It may seem like a strange career choice for the A-list Oscar-winner and Queen Elizabeth portrayer, but actresses from Bette Davis to Chloe Grace Moretz have prospered in fright-fests on the B-Movie spectrum because the genre remains a reliable source of juicy roles.
Scary cinema has universal appeal – and spontaneously crying out in the dark and clutching a companion’s arm in a theater full of strangers remains a potent reason to get up off the couch for a communal storytelling experience. Horror films are that much scarier when the viewer can’t escape into their smart phone. As an added bonus, a damsel in distress, however strong or complex her character, will never threaten the male audience. Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, who starred in Crimson Peak and Mama, addressed the topic a few years back during an interview for her passion project, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, “There are such great actresses in horror films.”