Women in Horror Presents: The Scream Queen Awards

Welcome to the Women in Horror column where every month we highlight the work of women in the horror genre.

Every awards season, Scream Queens are snubbed with little-to-no recognition. It isn’t until years later, when their films have reached “legendary” status, that you begin to hear things like, “She was the best,” “There’s no other like her,” and whatnot. Well we here at Flip Screen, do not want to wait until the page has turned to honor these amazing Women in Horror. That is what this column is all about. So, we decided to put together a Scream Queen Awards to give recognition to the many powerful performances that have graced the horror genre.

Best Scream

Shelley Duvall as Wendy Torrance in movie still from The Shining.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
Winner: Shelly Duvall as Wendy Torrance (The Shining)

A blood-curdling scream can lift a horror film to legendary heights. It’s not just about the pitch of the scream, but it’s also about the moment, the look of fear, that makes the greatest impact on audiences. Characters like Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, and more have all shown the effectiveness of a good scream, but none have the way Shelley Duval’s Wendy Torrence has. With the release of The Shining on May 23, 1980, Shelley Duval concreted her performance as one of the greatest screams of all time. Literally, because throughout her two and a half hours performance her persistent screaming drones on like it’s embedded into the score of the film.

Best Final Fight/Revenge

Sigourney Weaver holding a girl in movie still from Aliens.
Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox
Winner: Sigourney Weaver as Ripley (Alien and Aliens)

Horror and revenge go hand-in-hand like bread and butter. Every time the heroine prevails against the villain, it is some act of revenge- for herself, for her friends, and the audience. Many of these victories can fill the viewer with a sense of ease and triumph if done right. Like Dani watching Christian burn inside the carcass of a bear or Carrie running John Travolta and Nancy Allen off the road, these moments are the climax that can lead a film to the perfect ending. Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley has an on-going rivalry with the xenomorph of Alien, and the greatest fight any hero has endured in a horror film happens during Aliens (1986.) “Get away from her, you bitch” is one of the most iconic lines of the 1980’s. They say the sequel never lives up to the original, but that’s not the case with this one.

Best Costume

Mia Wasikowska as Edith Kushing in movie still from Crimson Peak
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures
Winner: Mia Wasikowska as Edith Kushing (Crimson Peak)

Costumes transform an entire film, and they transport entire audiences to a world unknown. In a horror film, whether set in a 1980’s summer camp or an 1800s castle, costumes that perfectly fit the Scream Queen are essential to effective story-telling. Directors like Guillermo Del Toro, Francis Ford Coppola, and Michael Rymer understood this in their own horror films. The best, however, would have to be Mia Wasikowska’s Edith Kushing in Crimson Peak. Del Toro’s attention to her delicate character, so out of place in the world around her, relies heavily not just on her performance but her hair and costume as well. She is like a dove flying sightless through a dark cave, and her elegant gowns and knee-length hair accentuate that.

Best Villain

Lupita Nyong'o as Red and Adelaide Wilson in movie still from Us.
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures
Winner: Lupita Nyong’o as Red (Us)

Lupita Nyong’o is such a popular Scream Queen that she won two of our awards! Her dual performance as Adelaide and Red required Nyong’o to develop two completely separate characters with their own voices, mannerisms, and personalities. As Red, Nyong’o speaks in a hoarse voice with frequent pauses since she has damaged vocal cords and hasn’t spoken in years. From the moment she starts speaking, Red makes it clear that she is not happy and will seek revenge on Adelaide and her family. Nyong’o fully commits to the role, diving headfirst into the physicality of Red, who moves quickly and with agility as she carries out her plan. As Red/Adelaide, Lupita Nyong’o showcases her range and ability to act as both a protagonist and a villain. After such amazing performances in Us, we can’t wait to see what she does next in the horror genre.

Best Remake

Chloe Grace Moretz as Patricia Hingle in movie still from Suspiria
Image courtesy of Amazon Studios
Winner: Chloe Grace Moretz as Patricia Hingle (Suspiria)

Luca Guadignino’s 2018 rendition of Suspiria features a new scream queen: Patricia Hingle (Chloe Grace Moretz). In contrast to the colorful giallo original, Guadignino’s Suspiria is full of bleak colors and an ever-present darkness from the start. Though Moretz is only in a few scenes, she makes them count by putting raw emotion and physicality into every line she delivers. Patricia escapes the dance academy and tells her psychologist that the school is run by witches. Shortly after, she disappears and the leaders of the academy attribute it to mental illness. As the film progresses, it’s clear that Patricia knew something she shouldn’t have. Moretz’ performance stands out in the film as the first sign that something is amiss at Markos Dance Academy. With her impactful performance in the Suspiria remake and the Carrie remake (2013), Moretz shows promise as a modern Scream Queen and we can’t wait to see what she does next in the horror world.

Best Black and White Scream Queen

Black and white movie still of Janet Leigh as Marion Crane in Psycho.
Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Winner: Janet Leigh as Marion Crane (Psycho)

Nearly twenty years before the term Scream Queen hit the horror scene, Janet Leigh gave the performance of a lifetime as Marion Crane in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The infamous scene where Norman Bates stabs Marion in the shower is one of the most well-known film scenes of all time. The scene used unconventional filming techniques and over seventy different angles to create the final scene, spliced together to show Marion and Norman’s points of view. After filming, Leigh reportedly avoided showers because it reminded her of the seven days she spent filming the murder scene. Janet Leigh’s hard work portraying Marion Crane paid off: she’s remembered as one of the earliest Scream Queens in one of the most popular horror films of all time.

Best Indie Scream Queen

Movie still of Samara Weaving in The Babysitter
Image courtesy of Netflix
Winner: Samara Weaving

Indie Scream Queens seem to be in a category all on their own. The films they’ve procured and brought to life are something of a true horror fans dream – from Maika Monroe in It Follows, to Imogen Poots, Narges Rashidi, and more. Every Indie Scream Queen deserves her spotlight, but the Scream Queen who has busted down every wall and stated with every fiber of her being, “I Am Here!” is Samara Weaving. She has done horror roles for Ash vs. Evil Dead (2015-2016), The Babysitter (2017), and Ready or Not (2019.) Her comedic timing, animated performances, and ‘cool girl’ persona make her one of the most enjoyable Scream Queens to watch. Her career seems to only skyrocket to newer heights, and we only want more of what she has to offer.

Best TV Scream Queen

Multiple television stills of Sarah Paulson from different seasons of American Horror Story.
Image courtesy of FX Pictures
Winner: Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story)

Sarah Paulson is the natural choice for the best Scream Queen on TV. Over the course of eight seasons of the anthology horror series American Horror Story, Paulson has played a variety of characters including a medium, a lesbian writer committed to an asylum, conjoined twins (yes, she played both of them), and more. Paulson shows range and emotional depth in all her characters, leaving a lasting impact on audiences. Notably, Paulson, a lesbian woman, portrayed the lesbian character Lana Winters (American Horror Story: Asylum), something that we love to see on-screen!

Best Newcomer

Movie still of Lupita Nyong'o in Little Monsters.
Image courtesy of HULU
Winner: Lupita Nyong’o

The film industry will never run out of horror films. Thus, it will never run out of new Scream Queens. As a new generation of Scream Queens makes their headway in the genre, we can’t help but pick out our favorites. Anya Taylor Joy, Riley Keough, Betty Gabriel, and Sophia Lillis – just to name a few – have given some of the best recent performances of any film (with little recognition.) But perhaps the most powerful (and most snubbed) performance comes from Lupita Nyong’o. Her raw power and emotion has created an entity in which her presence only grows stronger. Her two horror films alone leave us to believe that she will soon be one of the greatest Scream Queens of her own generation.

Scream Queen of All Time

Movie stills of Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode in Halloween (1978) and Halloween (2018.)
Image courtesy of Compass International and Universal Pictures
Winner: Jamie Lee Curtis

In her first ever film, Jamie Lee Curtis established herself as the quintessential Scream Queen and is even cited as the first one ever. Her role as Laurie in John Carpenter’s Halloween and its four sequels goes down as one of the best and most well-known characters in the horror genre. As Laurie Strode, Curtis played a scream queen and final girl, combining the best parts of two classic horror archetypes to create her own. Strode is a scream queen that fights back using anything she can, from a wire clothes hanger to knitting needles. She’s crafty and badass, making such a strong impact that Curtis returned to the series for the 2018 Halloween and two more sequels slated for release in 2021 and 2022. The original Halloween is still shown on the big screen every year in October, showcasing the lasting impact Curtis’ debut role has in the horror community.