wicked women

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While keeping my eyes peeled for shirtless (or pantless) men in horror movies, I’m also appreciating the subtle nuances of women portraying the perfect sole survivors. One strong performance can make horror lovers lifelong fans of an actress. Here is a list of women who really pull it off (both the acting and the killer’s mask). Some are seasoned scream queens, others are simply one hit wonders.

Nancy Allen

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What better way to become a scream queen than to marry Brian DePalma? Nancy was the cruel high school bitch in Carrie, a victimized prostitute heroine in the terrifying Dressed to Kill, another victimized heroine in Blow Out, and a feisty reporter in the nostalgic and campy 80s classic Strange Invaders. She also played a motherly-type in Poltergeist III to poor Carol Anne after JoBeth Williams smartly gave up on the series. Nancy returned to horror in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return in 1999.

Adrienne Barbeau

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Adrienne will always be the ultimate Stevie Wayne in the original John Carpenter version of The Fog. She starred with both Jamie Lee Curtis and Jamie’s mom Janet Leigh, yet never appeared on screen with either of them. She followed that with the campy comic bookish Swamp Thing, and was perfect as a drunken ‘C’ word in a segment of Creepshow. She also worked with George A. Romero in a segment of the film Two Evil Eyes in 1990. She appeared in one of the many David DeCoteau homoerotic but straight (and straight to DVD) films called Ring of Darkness in 2004…which also features American Idol Season 1 castoff Ryan Starr. But her role in The Convent isher campiest since Creepshow.

Priscilla Barnes

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Far funnier than anything she ever did on Three’s Company, Priscilla steals the show in the camp slasher The Backlot Murders. She proves herself quite the dramatic actress in The Devil’s Rejects. She’s also done a couple of horror sequels, including Stepfather III.

Julie Benz

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Julie Benz might fall under your scream queen radar because she’s often cast beside more infamous scream queens. Her horror career goes as far back as 1990’s Two Evil Eyes, she played Darla on Buffy and Angel, she was Dexter’s lady, she was in Saw V (that’s like looking for a needle in a hypodermic pit), and she was in the parody film Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday the Thirteenth, which got overshadowed by Scary Movie and its own ridiculous title. Julie also had a streak of films in which she was one of the dastardly be-otches in a clique of schoolgirls: Jawbreaker, Satan’s School for Girls, and Bad Girls from Valley High.

Karen Black

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Karen should get the award for biggest scream queen of all time, even though she has said she was never looking to be one. Once she did the original Trilogy of Terror for television in the mid-70s and battled the Zuni doll, she was in. She appeared with Bette Davis in Burnt Offerings, and with piranhas in Killer Fish. She was in the classic nostalgic 80s sci-fi remake of Invaders from Mars. She made it into one of my favorite bad horror series, the third and last installment of It’s Alive, subtitled “Island of the Alive.” Her slasher Out of the Dark also featured drag queen Divine (in straight drag). Karen went horror crazy in the 90s: Mirror, Mirror; Children of the Night; and even got in on the corn holing with Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering. She appeared in a 2001 ‘horror’ called Soulkeeper, which is loaded with gay stuff. She started off the new millennium in the slasher Miner’s Massacre. And let’s not forget Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses—but she did not reprise her role for The Devil’s Rejects, which doesn’t even count as a horror movie in my opinion, so it’s all good.

Linda Blair

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Linda will forever be scarred by her run-in with a crucifix in 1973. But hey, she knows you have to screw just about everyone to make it in this business. Linda has embraced her Exorcist fame, doing Exorcist II: The Heretic, and then basically reprising her role as the devil in the slapstick Repossessed with Lesley Nielsen. She did Stranger in Our House, a creepy made-for-TV film based on a book by one of my favorite teen authors, Lois Duncan (who wrote the novel that turned into the slasher I Know What You Did Last Summer). After the horror slasher Hell Night, B-movie stood for Blair-movie in the 80s and 90s, with some delicious cheese flix, although most of them not horror.

Ellen Burstyn

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Ellen is not a scream queen, but her role in The Exorcist is absolutely brilliant. Like Sally Field, she’s one of those actresses who can cry on demand. She also appeared in a film about psychic powers in 1980, entitled Resurrection. I’d prefer not to mention the remake of The Wicker Man….

Neve Campbell

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Neve has no choice but to make the list due to the Scream franchise. She was also in the awesome The Craft, and it seems she basically taught Jennifer Love Hewitt her acting method during their time together on Party of Five. View Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer back-to-back (or better yet, picture-in-picture) and take note of the facial expressions, chin twitches, lip stutters, and dramatic pauses in the middle of a sentence of dialogue.

Charisma Carpenter

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After Buffy and Angel, Charisma Carpenter never left horror behind, appearing in numerous films, including House of Bones, Psychosis, Haunted High, Voodoo Moon, and Girl in Woods.

Veronica Cartwright

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Veronica is an unassuming staple of horror for DECADES! Alien, The Birds, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh, Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978 AND The Invasion 2007 remake, Nightmares, and The Witches of Eastwick.

Ellie Cornell

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Ellie gets credit simply for doing BOTH House of the Dead and House of the Dead 2: Dead Aim. Her horror reign began in Halloween 4 and Halloween 5, she then took a long hiatus from horror, and has now popped up in a new batch of b-movies.

Jamie Lee Curtis

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Need I even say anything? She’s Janet Leigh’s daughter. She basically ignited the slasher genre as we headed into the 80s: Halloween, The Fog, Prom Night, Terror Train, Halloween II, Road Games. Blue Steel is a damn suspenseful stalker flick that has her running scared again. She mixed things up, playing the psycho in Mother’s Boys. She embraced her roots and fans with Halloween H2O, and finished off with a cameo in Halloween: Resurrection. She went somewhat sci-fi for Virus. But I have to say, I think Jamie’s absolute best performance ever was in Freaky Friday with Lindsay Lohan. I truly believe it was the role of her career, stretching her beyond anything she’d ever done before. Too bad the film falls into the ‘family fluff’ category.

E.G. Daily

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They don’t get any fiercer than E.G., the queen of the 80s. She appeared in teen sexploitation films like Valley Girl and No Small Affair, appeared on an episode of Fame, was in Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Streets of Fire, and recorded some hot dance-synth tracks, even working with producing genius Giorgio Moroder (of Donna Summer fame). As for horror films, she was in One Dark Night, had a way too small role in Bad Dreams, and also a small role in The Devil’s Rejects. She took more of the lead again in Cutting Room and Mustang Sally’s Horror House.

Bette Davis

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This legend appeared in two of the first movies to disturb my little mind: Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. She also appeared in Burnt Offerings with Karen Black.

Eliza Dushku

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How can you not love Eliza? Sexy and sassy, tough yet tender. On television, she won all horror fans over as Faith on Buffy, she kept us coming back for more with Tru Calling, which was just getting brilliant when the buffoons who make TV programming decisions opted not to give it a chance. She’s perfect as a strong female lead in horror films like Soul Survivor and Wrong Turn.

Clea DuVall

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Clea Duvall has been doing horror related TV and movie roles for decades! Lizzie Borden Took an Axe, American Horror Story, The Killing Room, Anamorph, Zodiac, Carnivale, The Grudge, Helter Skelter remake, Identity, How to Make a Monster, Ghost of Mars, The Faculty, and Little Witches.

Shannon Elizabeth

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Who do you call when you can’t get Jennifer Love Hewitt? Shannon Elizabeth. And vice versa… Anyway, Shannon scored a bunch of teen flicks in the early 2000s, but has also made a dent in the horror themed genre, including Thirteen Ghosts, Jack Frost, Cursed, Night of the Demons, and honorable mention Scary Movie.

Louise Fletcher

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After winning an Academy-award for One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Louise sold herself to the devil, aka: any horror movie or thriller script that came along: Exorcist II: The Heretic; Mama Dracula; Strange Behavior; Strange Invaders; Brainstorm; Firestarter; Invaders from Mars; Flowers in the Attic; Blue Steel; Nightmare on the 13th Floor; The Stepford Husbands…get the picture?

Rebecca Gayheart

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Rebecca started with a small role in Scream 2, but she totally won me over with her role in Urban Legend, one of my favorite slashers of all time. Earned more bonus points for her uncredited cameo in Urban Legend 2. Loved her in Jawbreaker, and she was also in From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter. Plus, she makes an appearance in the horror comedy Santa’s Slay.

Sarah Michelle Gellar

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Ah. Buffy. That alone keeps her in the heart of horror fans forever. Add to that I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream 2, The Grudge, The Grudge 2, the bizarre The Return and Possession. And hell, why not mention the Scooby Doo films, since any adult into scary stuff usually has a Saturday morning history with Scooby.

Linda Day George

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Partnering in many films with her husband, Christopher George, Linda did a whole lot of made-for-tv horror movies before jumping into some of my favorite bad 80s horror films, like Beyond Evil, Pieces, and Mortuary.

Melissa George

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Any chick who gets to hang with a shirtless Ryan Reynolds is…well, lucky. She’s also a scream queen because she’s starred not only in The Amityville Horror 2005 (with Ryan), but also Stephen King’s Bag of Bones, 30 Days of Night, and the mismarketed non-horror Turistas.

Danielle Harris

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Who else can say they appeared in two Halloween movies in both the original series AND the Rob Zombie remakes???

Alexandra Holden

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Alexandra Holden has the perfect innocent look that psycho killer love. Her movies include A Dead Calling, Dead End, Dark Reel, and Wishcraft.

Laurie Holden

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From playing the butch cop in Silent Hill and starring in The Mist alongside several of her future co-stars, Laurie proved herself a fierce zombie killer in The Walking Dead.

Katharine Isabelle

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Ginger Snaps is one of my absolute favorite werewolf movies. It is so much more than that. It’s about teen angst and the anguish of adolescence. It’s actually a tragic character study and sad at times. Katharine is amazing as the snide Ginger, and reprises her role in two sequels. She’s been in plenty of other horror flix: Disturbing Behavior, Bones, the totally unnecessary television remake of Carrie, and Jason vs. Freddy.

Margot Kidder

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Brian DePalma’s Sisters never quite made sense to me as a kid, but  still freaked me out, with Margot playing the attached then separated twin sisters. She was an alcoholic college student in Black Christmas in 1974, which has been cited as the movie that began the slasher genre. And of course, she topped off her horror career in The Amityville Horror.

Kristina Klebe

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Perfectly sexy and strong, Kristina needs a major breakout horror role. Beyond taking over the role of Linda for Rob Zombie’s Halloween, much of her horror output flies under the radar. She has appeared in many films, such as Tales of Halloween, Slay Belles, Dementia, Chillerama, BreadCrumbs, and Zone of the Dead.

Ali Larter

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Ali Larter kind of sneaks up on you with her wicked ways, but she is no stranger to the scare scene: House on Haunted Hill, Final Destination 1&2, Resident Evil Extinction and Afterlife, The Diabolical, and Obsessed.

Sarah Lassez

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Sarah broke into the scream queen business as the final girl in the 1999 slasher The Clown at Midnight, but didn’t really turn to the seen until almost a decade later, when she put the girl in Mad Cowgirl. Since then, she’s building the horror resume with films like Brothel, Lo, LA Sucks, The Dead Inside, and The Wicked Within.

Bianca Lawson

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Sure, she has horror flix under her belt – Twice the Fear, Boltneck, Bones, Dead & Breakfast, Supergator – but if ever there was a queen of horror TV, it’s Bianca Lawson. Bianca has made her mark on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Horror Story, The Vampire Diaries, Teen Wolf, Witches of East End…dammit someone make her the star of her own horror show already!

Janet Leigh

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The ultimate scream queen in Psycho, Janet was cast in The Fog with her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis—yet they didn’t appear on screen together until the last few moments of the film! They finally reunited on screen for Halloween H2O: 20 Years Later. One of her last roles was a small appearance in the Jawbreaker rip-off Bad Girls of Valley High. Watch it until the end, because Janet owns it.

Jennifer Lyons

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Cherub cheeked Jennifer Lyons has been in Jack Frost 2, Killer Pad, Return of the Killer Shrews, Devil’s Prey, and Transylmania.

Rose McGowan

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Rose was awesome in Scream, was in Dean Koontz’s Phantoms, got all fatal attraction in Devil in the Flesh, and cracked nuts in Jawbreaker alongside Rebecca Gayheart. And she rocked (and hopped) in Grindhouse. Plus, she saved the fate of Charmed, seeing the television show through to its series finale in 2006.

Pollyanna McIntosh

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With her eerily exotic vibe, Pollyanna McIntosh could easily be a dark mistress horror host, but she rules as a horror movie queen. Her growing list of credit includes: Headspace, Bats: Human Harvest, Offspring, The Woman, Let Us Prey, The Blood Lands, and Tales of Halloween, plus a role on The Walking Dead.

Mercedes McNab

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Camp queen Mercedes McNab was the one and only Harmony from Buffy, and has appeared on other horror shows like Supernatural and Reaper. Her movies include Hatchet, Thirst, Dark Reel, Vipers, and The Addams Family films.

Caroline Munro

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Caroline has been around for decades. She was in the Dr. Phibes films and a couple of vampire films in the 1970s, then in Maniac and The Last Horror Film with Joe Spinell in the early 80s, then continued her streak with Faceless, Slaughter High, and Demons 6, and his since begun to cash in on her horror stardom by doing newer b-movies. She also recorded the awesome song “Pump It Up” in the 80s, produced by Gary Numan!!!

Gina Phillips

gina phillips smallerWhile this adorable actress was good in Jeepers Creepers, she rocks in the hilarious and slapstick Dead and Breakfast. She continues her horror streak with Ring Around the Rosie and Sickhouse.

Jada Pinkett Smith

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Her role as final girl in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight scores her a horror queen crown. Jada also appeared in Scream 2 as the first girl…the first girl dead!

Linnea Quigley

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Honestly, there are just too many trashy B-movies to name. Just check her filmography out on imdb. My favorite role of Linnea’s is in one of my top horror movies of all time, Night of the Demons.

Christina Ricci

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After going goth (and evil) at an early age in The Addams Family movies, then Casper, she appeared in Sleepy Hollow and Cursed.

Emma Roberts

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She may have been overshadowed by the return of Neve Campbell in Scream 4, but Emma Roberts proved to be the perfect horror diva on TV shows American Horror Story and Scream Queens.

Debbie Rochon

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Sultry and sexy Debbie Rochon has a never-ending resume of low-budget horror. She rules!

Michelle Rodriguez

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From BloodRayne to Resident Evil to The Breed, Michelle doesn’t go through a horror movie without putting up a fight.

Jill Schoelen

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Jill gets honorable mention. She’s not in any way one of my favorites, but she’s done a lot of friggin’ horror movies, most of them bad. Love it. Check it out: Wes Craven’s Chiller; The Stepfather; Curse II: The Bite; Cutting Class; The Phantom of the Opera (with Robert Englund!); Popcorn (with Dee Wallace-Stone); and When A Stranger Calls Back.

Lin Shaye

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Lin RULES! She’s the sister of New Line Cinema founder Robert Shaye, who brought us the Freddy movies. And speaking of, Lin had small roles in both the original A Nightmare on Elmstreet and New Nightmare. Very often her roles are almost that of an extra. She appears in the 1982 slasher Alone in the Dark, Critters (with Dee Wallace-Stone) and Critters 2, the comedy-horror My Demon Lover, The Hidden, the thriller The Temp, and Amityville: A New Generation (she wouldn’t be a great b-horror movie actress if she didn’t end up in one of these!). Lin really got her chance to shine with a lead role in the super creepy 2003 film Dead End, and also had a larger than usual role in 2001 Maniacs opposite Robert Englund and the sequel.She’s also in Snoop Dogg’s Hood of Horror (she’s the best part of it), Killer Pad, Snakes on a Plane and Asylum.

Tiffany Shepis

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Tiffany has diva written all over her, and a rough, dyke edge, yet she’s super voluptuous. And she has opted to make campy horror flicks her career. Some of her films include Scarecrow, Death Factory, Bloody Murder 2, Delta Delta Die!, Detour, Home Sick, Corpses, Abominable, Dorm of the Dead, and her most awesome role of all in Nightmare Man. And the list keeps on growing–check her out on imdb, because she’s catching up quickly with Linnea Quigley. Ironically, she had a way too small role in the remake of Night of the Demons. She SHOULD have been cast in the Linnea Quigley role…

P.J. Soles

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Another scream queen who ushered in the streak of 80s slashers. The star of The Ramones flick Rock ‘n’ Roll High School started in the horror anthology called Blood Bath, then saw more red in Carrie with Nancy Allen. She was in a made-for-TV Exorcist rip-off called The Possessed, then moved on to Halloween with Jamie Lee Curtis. She finally returned to the genre she helped make big with Uncle Sam in 1997. She was in Jawbreaker with Rose McGowan and Rebecca Gayheart, had an appearance in The Devil’s Rejects with E.G. Daily, and played a witchy woman in Tooth Fairy. Scraping the bottom of the barrel, she’s also appeared in Alone in the Dark 2.

Amy Steel

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Amy is one of my favorite scream queens, although her reign was short. She was the ideal heroine in both Friday the 13th Part 2 and April Fool’s Day. She also appeared in the 1992 remake of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? with the Redgrave sisters.

Brinke Stevens

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Brinke has been around since Slumber Party Massacre and Sole Survivor. Once she did Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, it was all downhill from there—in a good way. Decades and decades of trashy b-movies!

Cerina Vincent

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She got her start as a Power Ranger, but Cerina Vincent caught some sort of horror bug when she shaved her legs in Cabin Fever. She’s appeared in movies like Murder-Set-Pieces, Intermedio, It Waits, Sasquatch Mountain, Return to House on Haunted Hill, Freaks of Natures, and Tales of Halloween.

Dee Wallace-Stone

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My absolute favorite scream queen who I follow even outside of her extremely long horror career. Dee can cry on command like Sally Field and Ellen Burstyn. Even a role in a huge Steven Spielberg film known as E.T. never got her to the level she should have achieved. Way back in 1975 she was in the original version of The Stepford Wives. She first showed her incredible ability to go into sobbing hysterics in Wes Craven’s original The Hills Have Eyes in 1977. She was amazing in The Howling (with her hunky late husband Christopher Stone), and absolutely brilliant in Cujo, co-starring with Danny Pintauro. Dee’s streak continued with the thriller Shadow Play, the campy Critters, a sinister role in an Anthony Perkins film entitled I’m Dangerous Tonight, Alligator II: The Mutation (how bad were those alligator-comes-up-from-the-sewer films?), and a small role in Popcorn. She had a role in the creepy David DeCouteau thriller Skeletons with Ron Silver (which has serious social gay themes), a classic role in The Frighteners (not playing someone’s mother for a change!), Black Circle Boys, Killer Instinct, and the atmospheric film Boo. She has a small part in Voodoo Moon, a kind of goofy movie with Charisma Carpenter (of Buffy and Angel fame), an even more fleeting role in the film Headspace (in which ALL of her meaty scenes were deleted, but included on the DVD), and an even smaller role in the movies Abominable and Clive Barker’s The Plague. She also joined the horror veteran cameo cast in Rob Zombie’s Halloween and appeared in The Lost.

Robin Sydney

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Robin Sydney appears in a bunch of b-movies, including many Charles Band/Full Moon movies like Gingerdead Man and Skull Heads. But my favorite Robin performance is definitely in the Evil Bong series!

Rachael Taylor

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I wish TV show 666 Park Avenue had stuck around for a while, because Rachael was the perfect main girl. She has also appeared in movies like See No Evil, Shutter, Ghost Machine, and The Darkest Hour.

Christine Taylor

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The dead ringer for Maureen McCormick may have found fame because of The Brady Bunch Movie, but she’s been in some of my favorite horror flicks: Night of the Demons 2, The Craft, Campfire Tales and Room 6.

Jennifer Tilly

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Jennifer saved the Child’s Play series for me! She’s also appeared in Far From Home, Embrace of the Vampire, The Haunted Mansion, and The Caretaker.

Emmanuelle Vaugier

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Love her. So feminine yet tough. She’s appeared in The Fear: Halloween Night (a sequel), The Demon Within, The Ripper, Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell, House of the Dead 2: Dead Aim, Unearthed, and Saw II.

Sharni Vinson

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A new millennium scream queen, Sharni Vinson rules in movies like You’re Next, Bait, and Patrick.

JoBeth Williams

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JoBeth is right up there with Dee Wallace-Stone when it comes to playing a great movie mom. Her performance in Poltergeist is classic (and yes, she cries on demand). She also did Poltergesit II: The Other Side before calling that series quits…and basically, the entire horror genre. But we’ll always have Poltergeist.

Kari Wuhrer

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Originally on MTV’s game show Remote Control, Kari has done a load of movies, plenty of them horror: Anaconda, Eight Legged Freaks, Final Examination, Hellraiser: Deader, The Hitcher II: I’ve Been Waiting, Killer Love, Thinner…