Barbara Steele then and now


Over 50 years after her first starring horror role in Mario Bava’s Black Sunday, horror icon Barbara Steele is back in The Butterfly Room—and she’s better than ever.


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One of the earliest films of Italian horror director Mario Bava, Black Sunday is old school black and white haunted house fun with Barbara in a dual role! First she’s a witch/vampire hybrid burned alive after having a nailed mask hammered to her face back in the 1600s.

Flash ahead like 200 years and Barbara plays a chick (who’s also a dead ringer for the witch) living with her brother and father in a big castle. So it’s a great time for the witch-vamp to rise from the dead (thanks to a happy accident) and use her zombie assistant to take over the body of her living doppelganger.

Black Sunday has everything a 1960s haunted house flick should. Thunder. Lightning. A graveyard. A hand clawing out of a grave. A hand reaching out from behind a curtain. Creepy portraits of people from the past. Secret passages. A coffin. And angry villagers with torches.

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The best part of the movie is really witch-vamp Barbara Steele, because when her mask is removed, she has huge nail holes all over her face. Eek! And the other best party is the living Barbara Steele’s love interest, a handsome young doctor.

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The biggest disappointment about the film is that witch-vamp has her minions do all her dirty work while she just stays in her coffin. I would have loved to see this bitch floating around the castle!


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It has been decades since Barbara has starred in a horror flick, but The Butterfly Room was worth the wait. She is fantastic in this one, as an evil fucked up bitch from hell! Her chilling performance sucks you into this horror thriller.

Barbara plays a woman living alone in an apartment in which she has a secret room devoted to pinned butterflies and dolls. And she also befriends two very different little girls. The daughter of the single mom living next door is a sweetheart, but the girl Barbara tutors seems just as fucked up as Barbara and their relationship is passive-aggressive…to say the least.

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The Butterfly Room has a classic, stylish gothic mystery feel, playing slightly with its timeline and introducing subtle, unpredictable WTF twists along the way. You want to know what the frick is going on, you wait for that moment when Barbara is going to crack and do something awful to another victim…and you really want to know what the hell she’s hiding in the butterfly room.

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While Barbara is the highlight in her role, there’s another reason any self-respecting horror fan should check this one out. The cast is a who’s who of horror icons: Heather Langenkamp (original A Nightmare on Elm Street), Ray Wise (Jeepers Creepers), P.J. Soles (original Halloween), James Karen (Return of the Living Dead), Adrienne King (original Friday the 13th), Camille Keaton (original I Spit on Your Grave), and newer scream queen Erica Leerhsen (The Blair Witch 2, Texas Chainsaw remake, Wrong Turn 2, Mischief Night).

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at
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