Unsung Horror Heroes: Ten Often Overlooked Scream Queens

Jamie Lee Curtis may be known as the original scream queen, but since the term gained popular usage, the horror world has been graced by actors who pop up, again and again, to take on iconic roles in some of our favorite horror movies.

Avid horror fans will be able to spot the regulars in the genre, and certain scream queens top the screen queen polls time and time again. Actors such as Barbara Crampton, Neve Campbell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Heather Langenkamp are sure to feature on any top screen queen list. However, some horror regulars don’t get the love they deserve for their excellent additions to the genre.

To celebrate Women in Horror Month on Nightmare on Film Street, I’ve picked 10 of my favorite often overlooked scream queens who deserve a little more love!


10. Melissa George

She may have started her career in Home and Away (1988), but Melissa George went on to be one of the foremost leading ladies in the world of horror. First appearing as the terrified mother Kathy in The Amityville Horror (2005), Melissa fought to the death to save her children from a murderous Ryan Reynolds.

Melissa then played Stella in 30 Days of Night (2007), who helps her ex-husband fight off a group of hungry vampires as they descend on the town of Barrow.

Melissa’s most recent horror role was in Triangle (2009), where she plays a confused mother stuck in a time loop with a sacked-faced killer. Melissa knows how to play emotion, and her performances are enough to carry a movie and make us form a solid bond with her character.


9. Shannon Elizabeth

Shannon Elizabeth’s first film role was in the killer Christmas movie Jack Frost (1997), where her character (Jill) and her entire family are killed by a vengeful spirit who has taken over the body of a snowman.

She then appeared in Scary Movie (2000) as Buffy, a mixture of Tatum from Scream (1996) and Helen from I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), before going on to star in the remake of Thirteen Ghosts (2001) as Kathy. Kathy has some fantastic run-ins with the ghosts in the killer house, including a brutal attack from The Jackal.

Finally, Shannon briefly stars in the Wes Craven werewolf movie Cursed (2005), before she’s violently snatched from a car wreck and ripped in half while still alive!


8. Jordana Brewster

This isn’t the last time I’ll mention The Faculty (1998) on this list, but for now, let’s talk about Jordana Brewster’s amazing portrayal of Delilah in this alien high school horror. She starts as the type of character we’re meant to hate in horror movies, before quickly transitioning into one of the heroes of the piece. She showed us that the stereotypically pretty girls can be smart and have goals too, they don’t just have to be arm candy for a football player.

In 2006, Jordana starred in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006) as Chrissie. While Chrissie definitely deserved to be a final girl, she’s cruelly snatched away from us in the last moments of the movie, which sours my opinion of this prequel as a whole.

Most recently, Jordanna appeared in Random Acts of Violence (2019) as Kathy, the girlfriend of a comic book creator trying to find the perfect way to end his story.


7. Denise Richards

Tammy and the T-Rex (1994) may have been a movie you missed in the ‘90s, but it has recently found its way into the horror genre with Vinegar Syndrome releasing the ‘gore cut’ in 2019. In the movie, Denise Richards plays the titular Tammy, who helps her boyfriend seek revenge after his brain is implanted into the body of a t-rex.

Soon after this, Denise appeared in a few horror-adjacent movies such as Starship Troopers (1997) and Wild Things (1998), before appearing in the Cupid-themed slasher Valentine (2001). Denise’s character Paige has some of the best lines in Valentine, and one of the best death scenes, which will make you think twice about that dip in the hot tub.

If there’s one thing I can say about Denise, it’s that she full throws herself into whatever role she’s playing, whether that’s the lover of a t-rex or a spaceship pilot-in-training.


6. Dianne Wiest

Appearing as in one of the greatest vampire movies ever has undoubtedly got to cement Dianne Wiest’s place in the scream queens hall of fame. Appearing as Lucy, the slightly clueless mother in The Lost Boys (1987) was a great introduction to the world of horror for Dianne, as she works in a video store and tries to avoid losing her mortal life to her vampire boyfriend.

Dianne also utilized the role of a caring mother in Edward Scissorhands (1990) when she adopts the scissor-handed Edward into the family home to ensure he has someone to care for him.

Finally, Dianne plays the margarita-drinking witchy Aunt Jet in perhaps the best witch movie of all time – Practical Magic (1998). Her witchy fashion sense, her insistence on trying to be friendly to everyone in town, and her tequila drinking skills make her the coolest witch around.


5. Shawnee Smith

Shawnee Smith is probably best known for her role as Amanda Young in the Saw (2004) series. Amanda is a complicated character that Shawnee plays incredibly well, first as a victim in the two films, before moving into a villainous role as the series continues.

However, one of Shawnee’s earliest roles was that of Meg in The Blob (1988) remake. I have scenes from this movie seared into my brain after watching it far too young, and Shawnee’s terrified performance throughout as Meg has a lot to do with that.

Shawnee also appeared in the TV miniseries of The Stand (1994), as the unhinged and over-the-top Julie Lawry who torments Tom and Nick when they run into her in a deserted town. There are hints of the malevolence and manipulation here that she would later use to play Amanda Young so convincingly.


4. Lili Taylor

Lili Taylor first came to my attention in The Haunting (1999) remake as the main character Nell. Due to its lack of blood and gore, this was a movie I was allowed to watch frequently as a child, and even though it’s not the best remake in the world, there’s no denying how much you care for Nell’s character as the house starts to eat away at her sanity.

Lili was back in another haunted house in 2013, this time in The Conjuring (2013), as a mother of five fighting a vengeful spirit. While Carolyn starts on the receiving side of the scares, she’s soon the one dishing them out when she ends up possessed.

And in 2017, Lili joined the Sawyer family when she took on the role of Verna in Leatherface (2017). This movie gave us a deeper insight into Leatherface’s childhood and showed just how big a difference a mother’s love can have.


3. Judy Greer

Judy Greer’s recent appearance as Laurie Strode’s daughter Karen in the Halloween (2018) reboot shows that she can play amazing characters in every genre, including horror. However, Judy Greer has made a few iconic appearances in the horror genre already, and that’s all before Halloween Kills (2021) is even released.

If we take it back to 2004, Judy appeared in The Village (2004) as Kitty Walker, the sister of main character Ivy. She also plays Ms. Desjardin in the Carrie (2013) remake, being one of the only people to survive Carrie’s murderous rampage at the prom.

Perhaps Judy Greer’s best horror role, in my opinion, is that of Joanie in Cursed. Joanie is a spurned lover turned werewolf who wants to take her revenge in the most violent way possible. Her character also gives the middle finger while in werewolf form, which is frankly, iconic.


2. Lindy Booth

Lindy Booth may not be a name you instantly recognize, but I guarantee you’ve seen her in loads of your favorite horror movies because Lindy is a genre staple!

I recently watched Lindy in American Psycho II: All American Girl (2002), and realized just now many movies that sit in my horror collection she appears in. Aside from appearing in a questionable American Psycho (2000) sequel, Lindy plays Francine in Wrong Turn (2003), getting a very iconic early death involving razor wire to the face.

You may have also seen her as the super manipulative Dodger in Cry Wolf (2005) or the dog-loving Nicole in the Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake.


1. Clea DuVall

Clea DuVall seemed to pop up in so many of my favorite movies as a teenager, whether they were in the horror genre or not. And yet, it’s her appearance as Stokely in The Faculty which cemented my love for her. She was a goth girl with a love for sci-fi and horror, who wasn’t afraid to put her geeky knowledge to good use to save the world.

As well as a gothy alien hunter, Clea DuVall also appears in Ghosts of Mars (2001), Identity (2003), The Grudge (2004), and Zodiac (2007) to name just some of my favorites.


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