Women in horror movies have always been a must. They basically carry the whole film on their backs. The audience identifies and usually empathizes with lead female characters. Seeing a terrified woman remain vulnerable in the face of danger makes you want to yearn for their survival. These actresses starred in horror movies and gave an amazing portrayal, wowing audiences and critics alike. However, even when that’s the case, they still didn’t go home with an Academy Award on their shelves.
7 Oscar-Worthy Horror Movie Performances
Lupita Nyong’o | US
US follows Lupita‘s character named Adelaide Wilson. The movie starts as a young Adelaide goes on a vacation with her parents at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. She wanders off and enters a funhouse where she encounters a doppelganger of herself in the House of Mirrors. After a few years, the memories of the encounter haunts the now-adult Adelaide.
Adelaide goes on a vacation with her husband, Gabe, and their children, Zora and Jason. One night, a family of four dressed in red suddenly appears in their vacation home’s driveway. The family breaks into the house and attacks Adelaide and her family. The intruders turn out to be the Wilson family’s doppelgangers called the Tethered: Red, Abraham, Umbrae, and Pluto.
Nyong’o definitely stole the show with her dual performance as she utilizes a Buffalo Bill-like voice for her demonic self. She remains the movie’s villain and also its hero. Unfortunately, the Academy Awards ignored her remarkable acting feat and made her performance go unnoticed. All moments of genuine suspense in a classical sense comes back to her.
Bryce Dallas Howard | THE VILLAGE
THE VILLAGE follows a village whose population lives in fear of creatures inhabiting the woods beyond it, referred to as Those We Don’t Speak Of. After a funeral of a child, the village’s Elders deny Lucius Hunt’s request for permission to pass through the woods to get medical supplies from the city. The Elders also appear to have secrets, keeping physical mementos hidden in black boxes. Bryce portrays the blind daughter of the Chief Elder named Ivy. That’s when viewers find out about the real reason behind the creatures inhabiting the woods.
The woods turned out to be the Walker Wildlife Preserve as it is the modern era instead of the 19th century as the villagers believe. A park ranger finds the blind young woman coming from the woods. She gives him a list of medicines that she must acquire. Then, she paid him with a golden pocket watch. It turns out that Ivy’s father approached people inside a grief counseling clinic and asked them to join in creating a place where they would sustain themselves and be protected from the outside world. Since Ivy is blind, she didn’t see the modern technology that roams around the city.
The park rangers are paid to ensure that no outside force disrupts the preserve. The park ranger discreetly retrieves the medicine and gives it back to Ivy who returns to the village, left unaware of the truth of the situation. Although it wasn’t one of M. Night Shyamalan’s nail-biter masterpieces, it still has a power that comes from the tension building inside the characters. Howard gives a breakout performance as a blind girl whose radiant innocence can’t hide her independent spirit and scrappy wit.
Florence Pugh | MIDSOMMAR
MIDSOMMAR follows Florence‘s character named Dani. After her bipolar sister kills herself and their parents, she remains in trauma. However, the misery puts a strain on her relationship with her emotionally distant boyfriend. They fight all the time and don’t listen to each other. Learning that her boyfriend and a few of their mutual friends will be going to Sweden for a festival that only occurs once every ninety years.
While in the commune, Dani and her friends find out the horrors within the commune. Then, they finally find out that they find themselves in the clutches of a pagan cult. After winning a maypole dancing competition even under the influence of psychedelic drugs, Dani wins May Queen which makes her a part of the cult. Her mental state deteriorates but people surround her and mimic her cries as if they were feeling the same pain.
The movie defies typical horror conventions with a bright atmosphere and flowery settings. With a transformative and defining portrayal from Pugh herself, it remains an absolute shame that the Academy would dismiss such performance. She anchored the film with her devastation as her face contorts with skepticism, sorrow, and sneers. This also cemented Florence as an award-worthy actress with a masterful performance that definitely holds the film together.
Jamie Lee Curtis | HALLOWEEN
HALLOWEEN tells the story of a mental patient named Michael Myers. As a six-year-old boy, he had already committed a terrible act – murdering his sister on Halloween. Fifteen years later, he had escaped and returned to his hometown where he stalks Jamie‘s character named Laurie, as well as her teenage friends. Ignoring most of the franchise, the 2018 movie explains that Michael goes to prison for all the murders of Laurie’s friends.
Forty years later, Jamie reprises her role as Michael Myers comes back to his old hunting ground. However, he becomes almost as much predator as prey. In a symbolic twist, his foe remains Laurie’s familiar face, the babysitter he failed to kill the first time around. Convinced that Michael will one day return for her, she lives as a recluse in a weed-choked compound, pepper stocked with supplies and mutinies.
Curtis definitely showed us that Laurie is no longer a quavering teenager but a grizzled trauma survivor. We watched as Laurie went from a mortified teenager to an unafraid, fed-up, and badass woman across the span of forty years. The actress lit up every scene whether she appears to be speaking nonsense or prepping to go to war with her nemesis. Aside from her performance, the movie also remains a must-watch due to the simplicity of gruesome murders without resorting to gore.
Anya Taylor Joy | THE VVITCH
THE VVITCH follows a Puritan family banished from their colony over a religious dispute. Moving to a farm near the secluded forest, William and Katherine bring their family with them: oldest daughter Thomasin, son Caleb, and fraternal twins Mercy and Jonas. Katherine bears her fifth child, Samuel. Anya portrays Thomasin who usually plays and takes care of her younger siblings. One day, she was playing with Samuel and the baby abruptly disappears. Later, they find out that a witch stole the baby and killed him to use his remains for a flying ointment.
Soon after, the whole family would either go missing or die an unexplainable death – except for the oldest daughter. Accused of witchcraft, Thomasin finds herself alone on the farm as she stares at her parents’ bloodied bodies. Then, the family’s black billy goat transforms into a man. He urged her to sign her name in a book, and remove her clothes. She follows his orders and finally joins a coven of witches. They were celebrating a Witches’ Sabbath around a fire. Thomasin finally laughs and together, they ascend to the trees.
Anya’s performance remains perfectly breathtaking. With a feminist narrative, she displays that the movie is about women and the patriarchal stresses that lead to their disenfranchisement. Absorbing the family’s anxieties, she balks at the added pressure – exhibiting the story about the marginalized presence of women in a male-dominated community. Her performance draws you in so well that you won’t realize the film’s biggest clue: albeit through unorthodox methods, it remains a fantasy about empowerment.
Samara Weaving | READY OR NOT
READY OR NOT follows the Le Domas family and their traditions. Samara portrays Grace, a young woman who marries into a successful family who earns their wealth from the Le Domas Family Games company. After the wedding, Grace and the whole family gather as her husband Alex’s parents Tony and Becky explain the initiation they give to every new member of the family. Believing that they are merely playing a game, Grace draws a Hide and Seek card and went somewhere to hide.
When Grace witness a family member killing a maid for mistaking her as the bride, Alex finally revealed that everyone who marries into the family must play the game determined in the Le Bail’s box or die mysteriously. Her hand gets shot and while escaping, she accidentally impales her bullet wound on a nail to do so. The Le Domas family captures Grace and prepares to sacrifice her. However, she continues to fight against them and breaks free.
When the family finds out that dawn has arrived, they explode into nothing one-by-one. Soaked in blood, Grace gets out of the burning mansion as the police arrive. Weaving seized every second of her screentime, showcasing the full-bodied comedy, and crazy-eyed horror that this movie proved to be. She makes for a very likable hero with a broad comedic appeal, an every-girl clumsiness, and a sarcastic comment for everything. In her tattered and blackened wedding dress, she fights for her life against young nephews and scary butlers.
Toni Colette | HEREDITARY
HEREDITARY follows the Graham family as a mysterious presence haunts them after the death of their secretive grandmother. Toni plays the role of Annie, a miniature artist living in Utah with her husband Steve, their son Peter, and their reserved daughter Charlie. A week after her mother’s funeral, Annie finds out that her grave has been desecrated. Going to a support group for the bereaved, she reveals that the rest of her family suffers from mental illness that resulted in their death.
As a close grandma to Charlie, Annie grows very concerned. One night, Peter lied that he was going to a school event but truthfully, he only wanted to attend a party. Annie forces him to take Charlie and together, they go to the party. Unsupervised, Charlie eats cake containing nuts – she’s allergic – and falls into anaphylactic shock. Peter drives her to a hospital and she leans out of the window for air. Swerving to avoid a dead deer, a telephone pole decapitates her.
In shock, Peter silently drives home and leaves his sister’s corpse in the car for their mother to discover the next morning. The family grieves following Charlie’s funeral, igniting a huge fight between Annie and Peter. For some reason, Peter feels as if Charlie’s presence has started to follow him around the house. A woman in the support group, then, befriends Annie and introduces herself as Joan. Her new friend taught her how to perform a seance to communicate with Charlie.
An award-worthy performance.
Hell literally breaks loose as Annie finally finds out the truth about her mother who has joined a cult desperate to awaken a demon named Paimon who wishes to inhabit the body of a male host. Annie throws Charlie’s sketchbook into the fireplace, prompting Steve to burst into flames. Immediately, Annie gets possessed. Then, Peter awakens to find his father’s body as a possessed Annie chases him into the attic where she proceeded to behead herself.
Desperate to get away, Peter jumps out of a window. As he lies on the ground, a light enters his body and he wakes up. He follows Annie’s levitating corpse into Charlie’s treehouse where the decapitated and crowned head rests atop a mannequin. Joan, and other coven members, as well as the headless corpse of his mother and grandmother, bow to him. They address him as Charlie and they all swear an oath to him as Paimon.
Collette brings out the deepest family fears to nightmarish life as her portrayal rattles you to a bone-deep level. Everything about her performance in the movie remains a must-see. However, viewers deeply remember a scene between the mother-and-son duo where sadistic words leave her mouth. The movie boasts the very best performance from Collette, showing us the nerve-rattling horror and the most memorable terror.
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Angela Grace P. Baltan is a Communication graduate from Colegio de San Juan de Letran. She doesn’t hesitate to be opinionated in analyzing movies and television series. As a writer, she uses her articles to advocate for feminism, gender equality, and mental health among others.