It's a formula we've seen over and over: A defenseless woman is in an unfamiliar place, and then the unimaginable happens. She's attacked by ghosts, or psychopaths, or aliens ... or some other kind of spook.
We call the women who play these roles "scream queens" and, let's face it, it's usually the territory of younger actresses.
But some of our favorite scream queens of yesteryear have matured into beautiful, confident women who would never run UP the stairs when the scary intruder breaks down the door.
Let's review the best moments of our five favorite classic scream queens.
Carrie (1976) isn't your typical horror movie, and Sissy Spacek isn't your typical scream queen. Skinny and a bit gawky, Spacek was perfectly cast as a teenage outcast who gets revenge after being humiliated at her high school prom. This clip gets really good (and REALLY 70's) right about the 3:30 mark.
Spacek was nominated for an Academy Award for Carrie, and she's gone on to a long and successful career. In 2001 she was nominated for another Oscar for In the Bedroom.
Jamie Lee Curtis
Thanks to her role in Psycho, Jamie Lee Curtis' mother, Janet Leigh, was one of the original scream queens. Her daughter was a chip off the old block. Early in her career, Jamie Lee Curtis appeared in Halloween, The Fog, Terror Train and other cheesy scream-fests.
Since then, she's appeared in critically-acclaimed films like A Fish Called Wanda and True Lies.
She's also maintained her connection to the Halloween franchise. In fact, in 1998's Halloween: H20, she appeared onscreen with her mom.
Check out young Jaime starting at about the 1:00 mark of the video above.
Here's another woman who isn't your typical scream queen. Sigourney Weaver is known for playing women with a defiant streak, but she's also been in some very creepy sci-fi movies, including all four of the Alien films.
In the Alien movies, she plays Ellen Ripley, a futuristic warrant officer who ends up face to face with some unfriendly extraterrestrials. Check out the trailer for the original Alien movie from 1979. It's still spooky, and it ends with one of the most famous tag lines ever.
Mia Farrow is an accomplished actress and humanitarian. She was also in one of the spookiest movies of all time 1968's Rosemary's Baby.
In the film, Farrow plays Rosemary Woodhouse, a young woman who has moved into a new apartment building with her husband. When she becomes pregnant, the couple's creepy neighbors offer assistance. The Woodhouse's accept the help, but that turns out to be a very, very bad move. Just watching the trailer for this movie is enough to give us nightmares.
Of course Mia Farrow has done much more in her career. Though her relationship with Woody Allen ended scandalously, she did appear in several of his best films, including the classic Hannah and Her Sisters.
Shelly Duvall's long face, wispy hair and huge black eyes set her apart from most other actresses. Those dramatic features made her a perfect choice to play a wife terrorized by her psychotic husband in 1980's The Shining.
In the film, Duvall plays Wendy Torrance, the wife of a writer (played by Jack Nicholson) who takes a job as the off-season caretaker of a secluded mountain hotel in Colorado. As the winter sets in, strange things begin happening in the hotel, and Jack's behavior becomes more and more erratic. The result is a lot of running, screaming and sobbing for Duvall (the video above shows her doing a little of all three).
The Shining was directed by Stanley Kubrick, and during the 70's Duvall worked with other leading filmmakers as well, including Robert Altman and Woody Allen. She now lives in Texas and rarely makes public appearances.
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