Although horror films have often been thought of as a low-genre, the fact is, there is a large and faithful audience out there, and where there are viewers, there is money to be made. Of the few simple ingredients necessary to make a successful horror film, one of the most important is the Scream Queen. She may often take on the role of the Final Girl, carrying the film as she hides, fights, and – you guessed it – screams her pretty little lungs out. But a Scream Queen does not necessarily survive, and may in some cases be praised simply for her ability to play a believable and beautiful victim.
Janet Leigh rocked this role in Psycho (1960), and then passed the torch on to her daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis. Beginning with Halloween in 1978, Curtis made quite a name for herself in slasher cinema, making her one of the most famous Final Girl Scream Queens of all time. But, sadly she has moved on, and it’s time to dub another.
The genre continued to thrive in the 1990’s and many actresses got to at least touch the torch. Neve Campbell’s role in the ongoing Scream franchise is not likely to ever be forgotten. The same goes for Jennifer Love-Hewitt in, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and its sequel. But the concept of the slasher franchise hardly exists anymore, leaving room for a variety of one-hit wonders within horror cinema. While there are some loyal women in genre, such as Danielle Harris and Katherine Isabelle, a popular trend these days among young stars is to simply dabble in it. In the last decade or so, there have been some very successful hit n’ runs, as actresses step up and prove they can certainly cut loose and scream, while bringing in the big box-office bucks.
10. Jennifer Lawrence in House at the End of the Street (2012)
She stole our hearts in Winter’s Bone and The Hunger Games, so it’s no surprise that she can steal the show in horror as well, although, I wouldn’t count on her taking up permanent residency within the genre – she is a little busy dazzling Hollywood right now. In House at the End of the Street, Lawrence plays 17-year old Elissa, the new girl in a small town. When she befriends Ryan, the town outcast, she soon finds herself taking on the role of the investigative Final Girl. The film received fairly good feedback for its genre and made just over $12 million opening weekend.
9. Sara Paxton in Last House on the Left (2009)
Working on the little and big screens since childhood, Paxton had crossed paths with the supernatural and villains before, on the sets of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction, CSI (twice), and Haunted Lighthouse. But it was not until Last House on the Left that she was able to show what she was really capable of. Kidnapped, violated, tortured, and left for dead, in this role, her character Mari can only be described as having some serious willpower to survive. The film made a little over $14 million opening weekend.
8. Brittany Snow in Prom Night (2008)
In Snow’s only crack at Horror thus far, she plays Donna, a traumatized teen girl who is doing her best to keep it together for Prom night, but her strength is tested when the man who killed her parents escapes the institution to hunt her down. The film is a loose adaptation of a 1980 Canadian slasher by the same title, and among the many differences, is the role of the Final Girl as the victim. Screaming may be one of the only things Snow’s character gets to do in this flick, but she does it quite well. The film made over $20 million opening weekend.
7. Chloe Grace Moretz in Amityville Horror (2005)
In her very first feature film role, Moretz took on the character of Chelsea Lutz, in a remake of one of the most classic haunted-house stories, Amityville Horror. When Chelsea befriends a ghost in the new house, it becomes clear that danger abounds. No doubt Moretz does creepy well, and while she may not exactly be the Final Girl in this film, she can be admired for her recurring successes within the genre in features such as, Let Me In (2008) and Carrie (2013). Whatever she does, she does it well, but it looks like she just may stick around the darkness for a while. Amityville Horror made over $23 million opening weekend.
6. Abigail Breslin in Zombieland (2009)
OK, Zombieland is not strictly a horror but it’s parodic style garnered the film multiple award nominations and wins within both the categories of Comedy and Horror. Moreover, it was a Scream Queen stepping stone for Breslin who has since went on to star in a Final Girl type-role in the Canadian ghost-horror Haunter, as well as two upcoming gores Maggie and Final Girl. She may have started off in heart-warming Dramas, but Little Miss Sunshine just may surprise us as she continues to Scream her way to the top. Zombieland brought in just shy of $25 million opening weekend.
5. Jane Levy in Evil Dead (2013)
From the disenfranchised sarcastic teen of TV’s Suburgatory, to the drug addicted possessed Final Girl of Evil Dead, Hollywood newcomer Jane Levy always shines. In her only horror role to date, Levy is a great addition to this franchise. Since her character didn’t exactly in the original film, her leading role as Mia in the remake is surprisingly fresh, and full of fight – proof that nothing can keep Levy down! The film ranked in nearly $26 million in the opening weekend, giving Levy some serious leverage in the world of Scream Queens.
4. Scout Taylor-Compton in Halloween (2007)
Still a rather unfamiliar face, Taylor-Compton had the privilege of reprising Curtis’s role as Laurie Strode, not once but twice, in Rob Zombie’s recent reboot. However, with the film taking on a completely different angle than Carpenter’s original, the role of Laurie as the Final Girl was reduced to simple Scream Queen status, as she tries to escape her brother’s wrath. Although this may not be a forgettable role, Taylor-Compton may well be soon forgotten herself. Not generating many jobs, it seems she may be best to stay put in horror, screaming as she does so well. The film made just over $26 million opening weekend.
3. Jessica Biel in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
Wow. What a performance. Even while scantily clad, Biel manages to play the role of the Final Girl with such assertion, that she needs to be taken seriously. Coming a long way from 7th Heaven and I’ll Be Home for Christmas only a few years prior, going against the ever popular, spine-chilling, leather face gave Biel a completely new acting role. Her part as Erin in this re-known thriller was a game-changer for the franchise reboot, which is still in action today. The film made an impressive $28 million opening weekend.
2. Katie Cassidy in A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)
With a recurring role on TV’s Supernatural, and starring roles in both, When a Stranger Calls (2006) and Black Christmas (2006), this petite beauty is no stranger to the darkness. Her strongest claim to Scream Queen to date, however, is for her role as Kris in the remake of Wes Craven’s classic, A Nightmare on Elm Street. In the tradition of Psycho, Cassidy carries the plot for some time, before meeting a gruesome demise far too early. Cassidy investigates, reasons, and fights – but eventually there is nothing left to do but scream. The film was a major box-office success, making almost $33 million opening weekend.
1. Sarah Michelle Gellar in The Grudge (2004)
After her wild success as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it was no surprise to see Gellar resurface as the Final Girl, in this sinister ghost movie and its sequel. No stranger to the supernatural then, Gellar carries the plot with apparent ease, but without her slayer super-strength, she quickly takes on the role of Scream Queen. Haunted and taunted by an invisible force, Karen has no choice but to gear up to find answers – before it’s too late. The film cashed in on the contemporary popularity of J-Horror, released just two years after The Ring. Characteristic of J-Horror, it stands out in Hollywood for its rare use of the more mature Final Girl and made a whopping $39.1 million in its opening weekend.