From Wicked Witches, to Ice Cold Bitches…This is the ITOL countdown of cinema’s greatest and meanest “Bad Girls” as voted by you! Join us for our countdown from Number 10 to Number 6 in our Part 2!
Number 10: Samara from The Ring (1998 & 2002)
“Ring”, one of the highest-grossing Japanese films of the early 2000s, which still spawns remakes and sequels to this day, is another horror film with an awesome female antagonist. Her villainy is one that represents contemporary anxieties we, as a society and culture, may have with the rapid emergence of recent technological advancements and their capabilities (hence, shows like Netflix’s Black Mirror). The themes here deal with Japan’s tradition and its collision with modern-day times and ethos.
The villain here, Sadako, inhabits the traditional Japanese archetype of the female ghost; one usually found in conventional Japanese horror which goes by the name yūrei. It is absolutely delightful and a welcome to have a film which not only depicts real horror (as opposed to films that rely on mere signifiers of horror ala serial killers, possessed dolls, mutant zombies, etc) but presents these anxieties with the kind of antagonist that showcases a different culture’s folklore. Even more interesting, the lore that Sadako represents is one used and fused with the contemporary urban legend this film focuses on.
In this film, Sadako’s (the yūrei) nefarious plot is enacted with the usage of a videotape–the tape, serving as a metaphor for the recent technological advancements which had elicited anxiety in post-war Japanese society. Thematically, one could argue that Ringu depicts the complexities of femininity in the form of motherhood; the protagonist, Reiko is a mother who rejects the traditional Japanese roll of women as subservient housekeepers. She is wholly independent; which makes an interesting depiction with Sadako’s mother in how the former is seen doing anything she can to protect her child, whereas the latter sees her child as a threatening anomaly (the later’s child being, the legendary Sadako).
What is lovely about the film is how it features both a female antagonist and protagonist–both who exhibit genuine human characteristics and behaviors. Reiko, a journalist who investigates a mysterious videotape that had caused the death of her niece, and Sadako whose rage at humanity was responsible for the creation of this supernatural haunted videotape which kills the viewer after 7 days. It is revealed, however, that to save oneself from being killed by the tape, the viewer must make a copy of it and show it to someone else.
Ring’s protagonist, Reiko symbolizes the collective fear and anxiety of technology by the Japanese people in the framework of a contemporary psychological horror film. Her fear is a microcosm for the collective fear of technology in the early 2000s that spawned other Japanese horror films like “Pulse”. Atmospheric as it is, the film’s commendable restraint when it comes to shock effects is used so as not to cheapen the overall message that it conveys; the subtle dread inflicted by Sadako’s looming presence in the story is one that will leave chills down your spine well after the film has concluded.
Sadako may appear only minimally in the film, but the horror she inflicts and presents is one present and relevant to this day; the same fear you get that your iPhone constantly listens to you (think I’m kidding? Look it up!) is pretty much what you’ll feel after having seen this film, and after having spent time with Sadako.
Number 9: Amy Dunne from Gone Girl
By Simon Whitlock
A Great villain is able to convince audiences that their point of view is justified, and “Gone Girl”’s Amy Dunne more than fits the criteria here. In “Gone Girl”, Amy is a victim of grave injustice. Of all the heinous acts she commits toward the film’s latter stages, the crime of which she is most strongly accused from the start of the story is that of being an imperfect woman; a judgment that our society is all too ready to hand down to women every day.
Amy’s lifelong struggle with her perceived imperfections is summed up in her second act monologue when she reveals that her relationship with her husband Nick, played by Ben Affleck, was built on deception: the Cool Girl. She argues that this persona into which she transformed is the ideal created by cis white men for any woman to be considered a viable partner. So bound by this expectation was Amy, that when she tried to stop being a Cool Girl after years married to Nick and trying to elevate him beyond wanting that, he ultimately found Amy wanting and engaged in an affair with another Cool Girl.
Nick’s betrayal in the face of Amy’s efforts to better him is what finally pushes her over the precipice – her parents planted the seed of inadequacy in her as a child by creating a fantasy version of their daughter: “Amazing Amy” – and it’s thanks to Rosamund Pike’s astonishing performance that Amy’s unleashed anger never feels short of righteous, and that the audiences remain sympathetic to her for so much of the story. That isn’t to say that everything she does is justified.
The scene with the box cutter especially, is way out of proportion to what the character effected had deserved, and her final act after returning home to ensnare Nick once and for all is particularly conniving: by getting pregnant using a sperm sample that Nick left at a fertility clinic, Amy knows she has the man she’s always wanted, on no other terms but her own.
With “Gone Girl”, a film with few to no heroic characters, Amy Dunne stands out as the one character whose moral leaning is immediately recognizable and – to an extent – understandable. Pike’s Oscar-nominated performance and Gillian Flynn’s stellar writing of Amy have made her one of, if not the best cinematic villains of the 21st Century so far.
Number 8: Asami Yamazaki from Audition (1999)
If there’s anything we can learn from “Audition”, it’s that looks can be deceiving…very, very deceiving. Based on the novel of the same name by Ryu Murakami, “Audition” is still a twisted and disturbing film to watch. The power of the film’s horror doesn’t lie in the supernatural, there are no ghostly girls crawling out of wells or haunted houses with grudges, just a damaged individual hellbent on seeking revenge.
When we are first introduced to Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), she appears seemingly innocent enough. Asami answers the casting call of single father Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi) who is searching for a new wife. Aoyama’s friend Yasuhisa Yoshikawa, a film producer, has encouraged him to hold a mock casting audition to find a suitable woman.
There’s something not so right about Asami, she lives in an empty apartment, spending days next to the phone waiting for Aoyama to call. A sack lies on the floor next to her…it moves on its own (is there someone inside there?). Asami and Aoyama begin dating, and become closer with Aoyama proposing to the young woman. However, she suddenly disappears without a trace and Aoyama is left to piece together who Asami really is and what dark secrets she is harbouring.
Asami is more than just your generic ‘cute but psycho’ girl; she’s a complex character who has been the victim of abuse by the hands of a ballet teacher, and it is her depth which makes her so mysterious and dangerous. The horrors Asami commits are beyond comprehension, and what is most perverse is the fact that she seems to take delight in drugging Aoyama and placing needles one-by-one at his most vulnerable nervous points, all the while softly cooing at him (Kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri!).
A word of warning “Audition” is a hard watch, and Asami rightly deserves to be on this list as one cinema’s greatest villains, but she’s more than just a villain, Asami is a victim and a lonely woman just looking to be loved.
Number 7: Alien Queen from Aliens (1986)
By Brandon Gregory
The alien queen from “Aliens” is certainly one of the more terrifying female villains, but it’s important to look at why. Yes, her appearance is nightmare-inducing, and her strength is immense—that’s standard villain stuff—but what I loved about her, and one of the scariest things about her, was something that’s often portrayed as a weakness for women: her ability to have and care for children.
When Ripley and the marines step into the settlement, it’s not just slightly infested; it’s completely overrun, and the entire settlement is basically wiped out. The alien nest (that sprang up very quickly, I might add) proves to be too much for these battle-hardened space marines to effectively deal with and they have to nuke the whole settlement. If this was just one or even a few aliens on the loose, it wouldn’t have been nearly as big of an issue.
As it was, though, the queen was so dangerous because she could make more aliens, and she could do it quickly. It took this act that, throughout most of history, has been used to keep women away from the action, and made it an immensely powerful thing. The queen wasn’t powerful despite being female; she was powerful specifically because she was female.
Our heroine, Ripley, isn’t a mother, but the story gives her a child to care for, at least temporarily: Newt. This gives us an interesting parallel. The aliens are monstrous and extremely dangerous, but at their core, the alien queen is just trying to do what’s built into her primal instincts: have children and provide a good home for them.
One thing I love about this film was that it doesn’t show caring for children as something women do when they settle down, nor something that keeps them out of the action. For both Ripley and the alien queen, the more they get involved in the action, the more they care for their children—and the more powerful they become.
Number 6: The Grand High Witch from The Witches (1990)
By Jessica Alexander
The Grand High Witch (Angelica Huston) is, above all else, a unique character. As a small child watching “The Witches” I was transfixed by her. In the form she presented to the world she was beautiful and otherworldly. With her vaguely aristocratic air, piercing eyes, impeccable dress, and undeniable beauty I was instantly under her spell, as were all of the adults in the film.
This made it all the more horrifying when the doors to that conference room closed and she quite literally peeled her face off to reveal her true form. Gnarled, bony, and hairless she was not an easily forgotten sight. I remember being both frightened and supremely disappointed when the very scary, but very pretty, rich lady turned into something out of my worst nightmares.
As a child, I was horrified, but as an adult, I can appreciate that her transformation was not frightening me for no good reason- it was teaching me a lesson. Roald Dahl, in all his wisdom, was showing me that charismatic, attractive, alluring people can be nasty and awful on the inside.
The Grand High Witch is a poignant villain because she’s both beautiful and grotesque. She is the literal embodiment of being beautiful on the outside, but ugly on the inside. Furthermore, her presence in the film serves as a powerful, and timely, a reminder of how influential people can use their charms to cover up the most terrible of deeds, and the darkest of hearts.