If I still cared about being pious in public, I'd be doing something appropriate for February, the month Catholic tradition has dedicated to the Holy Family since the sixteenth century.
At the moment, however, I'm more interested in making a last haphazard stab at Horror Blogger status. That means that what I shall be doing is something appropriate for my first "Women in Horror" Month.
I think that "Women in Horror" is a great theme . . . and yet . . . I can't resist tweaking it a little. After all, Horror is the only genre where religion is real, and I think that I, for whom the best reflection of reality is indeed religion, shouldn't be afraid to say so in a Horror-themed Top 5 List. Let the equation be:
Horror + Woman = Kick Ass Marian Figure
(Didn't I say that my reason for closing Sancta Sanctis down was a desire to stop blogging religiously? I am such a fraud. Just stop reading me. Stop now. I'm not worth it.)
My Top 5 Horror Heroines
1) Emily Rose of The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Now I'm going to be completely predictable and start the list with a young woman whose faith, hope and love proved stronger than the malice of hell.
At the heart of many Horror movies is a mystery--the question of why evil has chosen the targets it has. In one sense, this explanation does not really matter: evil has no method to its madness. The real mystery is why these horrors were allowed by a God Who is supposedly all knowing and all good. Most survivors of Horror plots have to go by faith in what they already know, but the characters in this movie get more of a revelation. That's a good thing, because there is nothing more terrifying than demonic possession.
It takes real courage and a real sense of purpose to be a Horror heroine. There are times when running into the abandoned house or descending into the basement is just dumb . . . and other times when such actions are the only thing to be done.
2) Nancy Thompson of A Nightmare on Elm Street
I admit it: I'm biased. If I were more objective, you'd have Laurie Strode of Halloween in the #2 spot; but as it stands, Laurie isn't listed at all! That's because Nancy just has to be here--and that's all there is to it. I mean, what is a Horror Heroines list without an 80s Princess? (Right?)
What Nancy and her friends don't know is that their parents once secretly killed and burned the body of a child murderer. What their parents don't want to believe is that the soul of the same child murderer has returned for revenge by taking their own children one by one. So now the young must be brave . . . and Nancy is the bravest one of all.
The utter campiness of the sequels have done the original film no favours. This is good Slasher Horror: its theme is not the portrayal of evil, but the triumph of justice. The parents' vigilantism gave even a child murderer a real grievance against them, and now it is up to their daughter to balance the scales once more.
3) Rosemary Woodhouse of Rosemary's Baby
Who doesn't feel for poor Rosemary, cursed among women, whose nightmare turns the beautiful mystery of the Virgin Birth upside down? The scene in which a pregnant Rosemary looks up from a Nativity display she is admiring and sees her gaunt reflection in the glass is expertly filmed . . . and yet the audience is not sure until the very end--probably the greatest, most emotionally harrowing climax in Horror movie history--whether it is truly the work of the devil or just creeping paranoia.
This film was set at a time when the false religion of feminism was peddling its anti-sacrament of accessible, affordable birth control to its greatest generation of converts. In that light, the nod to Pope Paul VI, author of the anti-birth control encyclical Humanae Vitae, is more than merely amusing . . . and the book Rosemary receives from a concerned friend, entitled All of Them Witches, is grimly ironic.
Remember: wherever there have been witches, women have been screwed.
4) Reiko Asakawa of Ringu
The freaky world of Asian Horror gives us the only heroine on this list who likely isn't a Christian by any stretch--and I think that her character arc is the only one even a Jesuit could not defend.
A friend of mine who loves Japanese culture has told me that Japanese myths often feature a cursed object in which a malignant spirit is trapped. The curse rubs off on anyone who comes in contact with that object. Ringu draws from both that deep well of myth and modern-day Japan's culture of gadgets and technology. It is a video tape which tries to claim Reiko, her son and her ex-husband, who then have a mere seven days in which to break its curse before it claims their lives.
The richest theology we have tells us that those who are in an evil world do not also have to be of it--even a world like that of Ringu, where evil rubs off as easily as wet paint. Yet in the end, though the story is left open the tiniest crack, we see that our heroine may have decided to save a life at the cost of a soul.
5) Mary of The Passion of the Christ
Yes, The Passion is a Horror movie--and Mary is a heroine whichever way one looks at her.
It probably would have been better to show her rather than Jesus crushing the serpent underfoot; but I guess that Mel Gibson wasn't going for that level of apocalyptic imagery just yet. On the other hand, he certainly milked Catholic art's Mater Dolorosa tradition for everything he could.
Mary is there every step of her Son's way to Calvary. She may not be directly attacked by the villain of the piece, as our other heroines are, and certainly isn't called to fight back in some hand-to-hand fashion--and yet she is the toughest of them all. It takes a special kind of strength to take seven spiritual swords to the heart.
It's also worth noting that Mary plays an equally crucial role in the first movie on our list. The best mortal response to evil is always the Marian one.
Image Sources: a) The Exorcism of Emily Rose poster, b) A Nightmare on Elm Street poster, c) Rosemary's Baby poster, c) Ringu poster, e) The Passion of the Christ poster