The Horror Honeys: Who is the Better Killer?

Who is the Better Killer?

A Slasher Honey Retrospective by Chassity

Michael Myers. Jason Voorhees. Jigsaw. Krug. 

There’s an infinite list of notable horror movie killers, particularly slashers. And yet, of that infinite number, the list of notable female horror slashers or killers is so small I probably wouldn’t need all my fingers to count them.  

Isn’t it about time that changed? 

Pamela Voorhees, 'Friday the 13th'
Think about it. Women can run companies and governments, beat men at sports, wrestle, and about a billion other things—both in real life and in the movies. But the idea of a female serial killer seems to still be almost unfathomable, if the number of times we’ve seen one is any indicator. 

Women have come a long way in the horror genre. We’ve now got strong female leads who fight back instead of falling down against the wall crying, women who have sex and still manage to live to see the killer taken down, and badass Final Girls who take on multiple men, while the male potential victims cower in the corner. 

All of this is great. Don’t get me wrong. But, if we can accept that women can survive serial killers just as well as men can, why can’t we take it one step further? Why, after all this time, haven’t we seen more infamous female slashers?

Let’s just take a little inventory. 

Obviously, Mrs. Voorhees comes to mind. But, like most other female horror killers, she’s emotional and her actions are ultimately driven by a man: avenging her son. For most of the movie, we don’t even know the killer is a woman and her place in horror movie history is quickly overshadowed by her son’s. And let’s not forget Mrs. Loomis from Scream 2, who, when you really think about it, is a modern day Pamela Voorhees. Yet another female slasher driven completely by gender-specific stereotypical means: avenging a death of her son. Another reason why Mrs. Loomis is not a step forward as a female villain? Her whole existence creates debate on what a good mother is and what makes a bad mother. Anything that ultimately reduces female characters from everything that makes them strong, to the most basic of gender roles, cancels out her empowerment as a female slasher.

The Mother, 'Mother's Day,' (1980)
Mother, 'Mother's Day,' (2010)
And then there’s Mother from Mother’s Day. Mother is evil incarnate. She is smooth, calm, and eerily charming. She makes a great villain. The problem? Everything she does for the sake of her children. She’s not a mindless killing machine made scarier by the fact that there’s no motive. And her sons do most of her dirty work for her. She never really does all that much. 

More recently, there was Scream 4’s Jill Roberts. A step in the right direction, given how vicious she was for a teenaged, female slasher. But any progress made by having the killer be a young, angry girl was minimized by a crappy motive and the fact that she had to have a guy help her do the killings. By manipulating him with the promise of sex. 

For every strong, scary, female horror villain, there seems to be a man driving the action. Failing that, she is inevitably reduced from “villain” to “sexy vixen,” who uses her physical appearance to lure victims without really being threatening at all. Take Jennifer from Jennifer’s Body and even Tiffany Ray from Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky. For both of these women, their whole existence and strength as female killers comes from them using their sex appeal to gain the upper hand against men. They don’t use their brains or any physical strength they might possess. It’s their physical appearance that hinders their male prey defenseless enough to be victimized.

 The most disappointing of all, which could have been the most promising, is Sleepaway Camp. The reason I say this is because having a badass female slasher who turns out to really be a man is not good enough for me. Despite the fact that we know her as a woman, the film itself and what was a great woman villain, is little more than another male-centric tale. 

The Manipulative Shrew Slasher: Jill Roberts, 'Scream 4'
And, look, I get it: the stereotypes dictate that men are stronger than women (sigh), and such stereotypes exist because there is a layer of truth to them. Sure, even a feminist like me understands that, for some, it would take a healthy amount of suspension of disbelief to buy a woman slasher easily pulling off the same feats that Jason, Michael and company did. I am not one of those people, but I get why it might be difficult for them. At least, I understand it enough to allow me to play devil’s advocate. 

The Sexy Villain Killer: Abby Russell, 'Nurse 3D'
But here’s what I would say to those people: Fine. If you want to buy into gender stereotypes, let’s go all the way with it. What some would argue that women lack in the strength department, is more than made up for in terms of cunning, wit, and manipulation. If men are “stronger," then women are “smarter." And it is always brains that wins out in the end when it comes to a horror movie battle. Why can’t this be the case in a genre where the victims are usually young, naïve, and not at full mental capacity in their current inebriated states? 

Nancy, Alice, Sidney, and Erin from You’re Next all use their brains to take down their attackers. Jill Roberts is ultimately brought down by her own vanity—vanity which limits her thinking and causes her to be outwitted by Gail. So for every time the concept of adding more female villains to horror movies is met with a response of “men are better because they are more athletic and brawny," I’d like to remind that person of this: they are just proving that women would make better killers, because more cunning would allow them to easily eliminate the less-than-brilliant drunken slobs that her male victims would inevitably be. 

At the end of the day, all I’m saying is that what we’ve seen so far is just not enough. I can appreciate these women and their place in horror history for all that it is and all that they are. And any version of improvement is, inevitably, better than nothing. But we need more. I’m waiting for that badass, doesn’t-give-a-crap, ruthless female killing machine with no reasoning behind what she does other than because she can. I’m waiting for a female slasher that is as emotionless as Michael and as relentless as Jason.