It’s that time of year that we look past the family oriented DVD’s and seek out the ghost flicks and slasher films.  Although the movies are scary enough as is, many thrills and shocker moments are greatly intensified by the shrill scream from the damsel in distress.  Here are some of my favorite Scream Queens who frightfully took on monsters, psychotic killers, and the walking dead.   

Fay Wray (1933) and Naomi Watts (2005) in King Kong

   Imagine yourself as a young and adventurous buxom blonde woman who is traveling to a mysterious island to shoot a film.  How exciting!  Well, it was exciting for character Ann Darrow until she was kidnapped by the locals and tied to a couple of posts.  The ground shakes and everyone scatters, as the eighth wonder of the world strolls up and beholds the golden-haired beauty.  Both actresses, Fay and Naomi, belt out screams that perfectly tell how it would feel to be snatched by a giant ape and carried into a jungle full of giant bugs and dinosaurs.    

Janet Leigh, Psycho.   
“The Shower Scene” from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is a pinnacle moment not only in horror, but in all cinematic achievements.  Janet Leigh’s character, Marion, was already a bit tense after stealing thousands of dollars from her employer.  A hot shower in a remote hotel run by a smiling and seemingly nice guy (Norman Bates) should help calm her.  Until he donned his dead mother’s threads, tore open the shower curtain and stabbed Marion to death.  The music, the close up Norman’s massive blade, and Janet’s ear-splitting scream put spectators in the shower with the doomed Marion until she falls to the wet tiled floor, blood spiralling into the drain. 

Marylin Burns as Sally Hardesty, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Tobe Hooper’s Chainsaw is one of the most nightmarish movies of all time.  Five college aged kids travel to their grandfather’s gravesite and stumble upon a maniacal family that decorates their house with human bones.  And Sally is the only survivor.  Her expressions of shock and horror mirror the watcher’s own looks while she witnesses her brother and friends fall prey to the squealing Leatherface and his chainsaw.  Her cries resound in our minds when she wakes up nailed to a chair at the Hewitt dinner table.  And in this scene, Marylin belts out a blood-caked, screaming laugh as she escapes.   Also deserving of a Scream Queen award would be actress Terri McMinn as Pam, who met her unfortunate end on the meat hook.  Her agonized face is forever captured on the airbrushed movie poster.

Susan Baklinie, Jaws. 
I don’t care what anyone else says…”the shark is fake,” etc.  Jaws is the scariest movie ever.  The first victim is Chrissie, who gasps, chokes, and sputters when the great white bites a chunk out of her leg.  Then, as Chrissie is dragged to and fro, she cries, shrieks, and begs for help as she is devoured by an unseen monster of the deep.  And, this horrific death is number one on the 100 Scariest Movie Moments. 

Girls, you think your babysitting jobs were horrible?  They were nothing compared to Laurie’s (Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween).  She was stalked by a young masked man who stabbed his sister to death fifteen years ago when he was just six years old.  Jamie is the Scream Queen of the seventies and early eighties in Halloween saga, except for the third installment.  Though it has been many years since I’ve seen the movies, images of her screeching heroine antics as she stabbed and beat Michael Myers still resonate. 

Kim Piorier, Dawn of the Dead, 2004
Okay, so I’m skipping ahead a few years, but the 1990’s were a drought when it came to horror flicks.  So here we are in 2004.  Sure, there’s plenty of shrieks when the dead walk the earth and dine on our flesh.  But in the excellent remake of Dawn of the Dead, one of the mall’s residents does not fall prey to the zombies’ infectious bites.  Monica, seen here holding the door open, meets her demise in a car accident when a horde of zombies topple their van as they attempt their escape.  Car wreck? you say.  Pretty tame for a zombie movie.  Well, the van held people trying to fend off the undead with a variety of weapons, including a chainsaw.  And when the van goes, its wielder sways and the blades sink into Monica’s left shoulder.  In the seconds it chews through her, her face twists in agony and her blood is slung by the running chains.  I recall those seconds seeming to last for minutes and I could not take my eyes off the screen.  And I covered my mouth and screamed right along with Kim/Monica.  

Jennifer Carpenter, Quarantine. 
I really enjoyed this scary flick about a news crew, fire fighters, and residents who are trapped in a building with infected people.  The telephones and cable are shut off, then the lights go.  Jennifer Carpenter (of Dexter and The Exorcism of Emily Rose fame) brilliantly lends her panicky lungs as she hollers at those quarantining the building and tearfully screeches for her camera man to “turn the light on!!!”  In fact, given her background as serial killer Dexter Morgan’s sister and a young woman possessed by the devil, I dub Jennifer Carpenter as this decade’s Scream Queen. 

I am absolutely positive there are plenty more shrieks that ring out in our memories of favorite horror movies.  I may add some more if I think of them.  In the meantime, feel free to suggest others.