Horror’s Three Masterful Women Who’ve Wrapped Their Talons Around the Genre’s Icy Neck

It wasn’t long ago when Sissy Spacek (Carrie), Janet Leigh (Psycho), Mia Farrow (Rosemary’s Baby), and Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween – and yes, she’s still plugging along) were horror’s great female leads creating characters who were easily as dominating and powerful as any leading man could muster.

As the haunted season begins to creep its way around dangerous corners, there are three women in modern horror – thankfully – who’ve easily taken over the reins. And while I agree three is a rigid filter (tough not to include Florence Pugh of Midsommar or Lupita Nyong’o of Us), the case for Jessie Buckley, Rebecca Hall, and Toni Collette was an easy one to make. Personally, of course. But that’s half the fun in such posts or blogs.

Let’s focus on a few movies from each.


The first time I saw Buckley was in the relatively unknown gem, “Beast.” Directed by Michael Pearce in 2017, this psychological treat of paranoia and even-flow insanity, stars Buckley as the 27-year-old Moll who works as a tour guide. She meets Pascal, a local murder suspect who actually saves Mall’s life early in the film. From that moment on Moll and Pascal race through the film creating an eerie tension that ends in a bizarre awakening of their sick love for one another.

But that’s nothing compared to Buckley’s performance in this year’s “Men,” (directed by Alex Garland) one of the most terrifying films I have ever seen. Had it not been for the final 15 minutes of an over-the-top ending of pure gore, “Men” would be a masterpiece. Buckley’s performance is masterful throughout. It must be to keep up with Rory Kinnear’s tour-de-force of 10 different characters.

Check out “Beast” and “Men” to see Buckley’s effortless ability to command the screen.


I first saw Hall in the Ben Affleck directed “The Town” where she was just as memorable as Affleck or co-star, Jeremy Renner. Yet her performance in 2020’s “The Night House” (directed by David Bruckner) showcased her talent in dread and despair. She recreates the trope of abandoned and suffering women with such ease and grace it’s hard to not wonder if the role was autobiographical.

In this year’s “Resurrection,” (directed by Andrew Semans) Hall takes such suffering to a whole new level. Playing opposite Tim Roth (always a challenge), Hall plays Margaret, an HR specialist at a fabulously successful medical technology company. Quickly we see her powerful career-driven opportunist spiral into a woman of absolute fear and torment of Roth’s David, the demonic ex-lover, that you can feel her pain and torment digging into your ribs all through the film’s final hour.

Check out “The Night House” and “Resurrection” to watch how Hall can rip you from your seat.


Collette is horror’s greatest female lead. Rather than spend any time on “Krampus,” or “Nightmare Alley,” or “Velvet Buzzsaw” – all terrific – does much need to be said about her role as Annie, the raging psychopath in Ari Aster’s “Hereditary”?

From her freakishly weird trance when painting lifelike figurines designed as a replica of her daughter’s awful beheading accident, to Annie’s frightening sleep walking, to the unforgettable chaos and insanity drenched conclusion when she’s crawling on the ceiling about to chase down her son to murder him, Toni Collette’s magnum opus is one of the most towering performances in all of film. Period.

And that’s a wrap. If you love the haunted season as much as I do, may it be filled with fright from the likes of these three female leads who now own the horror genre. Thank the devil for them!


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