Film & TV

The Definitive Guide to Anti-Heroine Movies for the Halloween Season

Do these count as bad girls?
Reading time 6 minutes

The horror genre is oversaturated with men. Horror has famously centered around the male population, with women usually playing characters the male audience can relate with. This means that often women in horror films play a damsel in distress (like Laurie Strode from Halloween) or a naive girl who is the last one alive, receiving her shining moment when she finds a weapon, which masculinizes her during her fight with the villain. 

The characters in these movies harness their distinctly feminine powers after shaking off the stiflingly imposed female ideal of purity or goodness. Society conditioned us to think that women are—or should be—innocent and pure creatures, and that’s why it’s so satisfying and terrifying when a woman embraces the power of femininity and sexuality to become a villain or anti-hero. 

We've kept this as spoiler-free as possible as you need to see these films for yourself, but continue at your own (fairly low) risk. See all the best films to spend your Halloween with complex female characters below.

Carrie

This is the origination of what has become an archetype of horror anti-heroines. It's spawned remakes, most recently in 2013 with Chloë Grace Moretz, but it all started in 1976, bringing the Stephen King novel to visual life. Carrie’s experiences that lead to her destructive climax as the story’s anti-hero are poignantly female: boy-related jealousy, starting her period,  and the subsequent teasing and exclusion from the girls in her class. Also, let’s take a moment to appreciate that King’s first book (and first movie adaption of his stories) is about a female character dealing with real female problems.

Image via IMDb / Carrie (1976)

Raw

Justine (Garance Marillier), who comes from a family of lifelong vegetarians, is an incoming student at a veterinary college—a small, tight-knit school. As a hazing ritual, the new students are forced to eat rabbit livers, which Justine does, and she later finds out her older sister also complied with the tradition. As time goes by, Justine starts developing a taste for meat, especially raw. At first, she only eats animal meat, but she soon begins to spiral and develops a taste for something a little more human.

Image via IMDb / Raw (2016)

The VVitch

Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy) is the oldest daughter of a farmer in the American colonies, whose family was exiled from their Puritan community. One day, Thomasin’s not-yet baptized baby brother Samuel disappears from her lap while she’s playing with him. The family is convinced a witch kidnapped him, and soon other strange things start happening. They begin to believe that Thomasin is the witch that’s wreaking havoc on her family.

Image via IMDb / The VVitch (2015)

Teeth

Teeth takes the idea of a girl growing up and harnessing her feminine power to the most literal extreme, which is what makes it amazing. Dawn, a member of her school’s abstinence group, discovers that she has “vagina dentata,” teeth inside her vagina, when a boy she likes tries to force her into having sex, only to have his penis bitten off and be left to die. The movie weaponizes a woman’s fear of powerlessness and sexual assault, and presents a more male fear of losing his masculinity (while sexually assaulting a person—go off, Teeth, that’s commentary).

Image via IMDb / Teeth (2007)

Suspiria

Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) is an American dancer who joins a West Berlin dance school in the 1970s, secretly run by a coven of witches, who take special notice of Susie. Don’t let the witches (or Tilda Swinton playing an old man) distract you: there might be something hiding behind Dakota Johnson’s sweet face.

Image via IMDb / Suspiria (2018)

Midsommar

So far, Ari Aster has proved himself to have a surprising knowledge about the intricacies of womanhood. Hereditary and Midsommar both focus heavily on their female characters. After a horrific family tragedy, Dani (Florence Pugh) reluctantly travels to a commune (read: cult) in Sweden with her boyfriend and his friends. The commune itself is dominated by femininity, with a matriarch and female-led mating rituals, as well as a May Queen who is chosen to elect a human for sacrifice. Dani might not have any supernatural powers like the other characters in this list, but she finds power and sisterhood through the women of the cult.

Image via IMDb / Midsommar (2019)

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Called “Iran’s first vampire spaghetti Western” by director Ana Lily Amirpour, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is a gorgeous black-and-white vampire film. An anti-hero is usually reckless, unpleasant, and self-interested. In this film, our unnamed lead character, the vampire, becomes a protector of women, seducing and then killing men. She might be an anti-hero, but she is definitely a just a straight-up hero in our eyes.

Image via IMDb / A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

Black Swan

Nina (Natalie Portman), a timid but technically perfect ballerina, is chosen to play the Swan in Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake after the prima ballerina retires. The role has two parts: the pure white swan and the darkly sensual black swan, the protagonist and the villain. The stresses of the two roles and the chaos of the black swan begin to weigh on Nina as the performance draws closer.

Image via IMDb / Black Swan (2010)

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