The term ‘scream queen’ is thrown about these days with about as much thought as the term ‘gay icon’. You only have to get your tits out to be a gay icon now, and to be a scream queen it’s pretty much the same.
But what about the ladies that really put the hours in? Tits in or tits out, there’s no shame in the game. But to me a scream queen is somebody who has grafted, who has proudly become a figurehead of the genre and stuck by it through thick and thin. Granted, the queen of horror Jamie Lee Curtis did turn her back on the genre for all those years, but she came crawling back. And when she got back she’d seen the error of her ways. Speak to anyone who’s been to a horror convention and they’ll tell you she does not leave until she’s signed her very last autograph. So her dedication might have arrived late to the party but she made up for it with gusto… So the question is… who is your scream queen?
Over the coming weeks I’ll be compiling my definitive list. And then we’ll podcast about it so all of your responses will be mentioned on air. Whether we agree with them or not will be another matter, and regular listeners should know by now… if we don’t agree, we’re gonna tell ya.
I’ll get the ball rolling with one of my favourite under-rated ladies of horror and that is (drumroll please)
DEE WALLACE STONE
She put in the hours with The Hills Have Eyes (1977), The Howling (1981) and Cujo (1983). But before that we got her in The Stepford Wives (1975), another genre favourite.
Married three times, the second marriage to her Howling co-star Christopher Stone (who sadly passed away in the 90s), Dee’s also a mother and, as American as can be, a self help author.
But more importantly she’s an expert screamer, and brought a quality to her roles that was both tough and vulnerable. Cast as the heroine in Cujo, you were with her for every sweaty, tense minute as she tried to keep herself and her toddler son alive when trapped in an overheated car by a St Bernard with rabies. Through blood sweat and tears and finally getting her hands on a gun she took that dog on and won, and you felt every bite she took to do it.
In The Howling, she could be accused of being a little ‘wet’. A bit weak by comparison to some of the other women in that movie – the roving reporter or the nymphomaniac she-wolf… But that came with the writing. Dee’s performance elevated the part, infusing scenes that could have been drab with emotion, heart and vulnerability. I particularly love her final scene where she transforms into a werewolf on live television, sacrificing herself to expose the truth – that werewolves walk amongst us.
In more recent years she’s done the rounds with cameos in Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake, Lords of Salem, and she also appeared in Ti West’s House of the Devil. Personally nostalgia has a big role to play in the horror ladies I love. Dee Wallace Stone represents the 80s all American mother. Not just for horror fans – she was famously the mother in ET, too. Not to mention Critters, and she appeared all over TV, everywhere from Murder She Wrote to General Hospital.
I’d personally love to see her do more genre work now, and choose better movies than the Rob Zombie misfires. I live in hope. Maybe I should just write her a vehicle.
You can hear more of my love for Dee in this episode of the podcast looking at The Howling, and, hilariously, the Wes Craven misfire ‘Cursed’. It’s a hoot, give us a listen.
Screaming Queenz – The Howling Podcast
Send me your Scream Queen choices on twitter @jonnylarkin.