In most horror movies, women seem to do the dumbest things; from ineptly trying to escape their attackers to casually putting their friends in harm's way, horror flick women often act completely irrational. Why is it that women tend to get the short, pointy end of the stick in horror? We're always so helpless and fragile, and sure, the men are kind of dumb too, but at least they try -- and often succeed -- to be a pro-active participant in their own supposed demise. There are, of course, numerous good examples of strong, smart women in horror cinema, from Alien's Ellen Ripley to Hostel Part II's Beth, but more often than not women are given the role of helpless, hapless damsel in distress. Submitted for your approval: a rundown of some of the best (playing fast and loose with that term here) examples of women doing the dumbest things in horror.
Tatum (Rose McGowan) is an easy target for this list. Blonde, perky (obviously), and "adorably" airheaded, Tatum spends every living moment superficially rolling her eyes. More concerned with sex, partying, and unfortunate retro skirt/white boot combos ("Dee-Lite music video extra" is not a fashion term one should associate with their personal fashion style), Tatum doesn't just look dumb, she acts it, too. When the killer corners Tatum in the garage during a party she taunts him like a valley girl; if she isn't begging for death at that point, you'll be begging for it on her behalf. But she's not done acting foolish yet -- next she throws beer bottles at her attacker before acting utterly shocked when he cuts her arm with a shard of glass. When all of that is done, Tatum cartoonishly attempts to squeeze through a doggy door in the garage door, but -- big surprise! -- she can't seem to fit her breasts and her arm through the hole at the same time, resulting in her electrocution by garage door.
Lynda (PJ Soles) is the original airhead of modern horror. Like most women who traditionally make poor decisions in horror movies, our girl Lynda here has sex on the brain. Laurie is the book-smart one (but she's not exactly role model material), while Annie and Lynda are more the troublemaking, peer-pressuring, adolescent slasher stereotypes. Lynda's bad ideas begin with a late night rendezvous with her boyfriend Bob. (Bob's kind of a dork, but that's a dumb mistake that ALL women make, am I right, ladies?) When Lynda's boyfriend gets offed by our friendly neighborhood psychopath, Myers enters the room -- poorly disguised as Bob, covered in a sheet like a ghost with sunglasses on over the sheet. It's ridiculous imagery, sure, but that's part of what makes it so terrifying, and yet Lynda doesn't understand when the giant sunglasses ghost strangles her with a phone cord. Perky, topless, and sweet are fine and good, but if you can't tell the difference between your boyfriend and a psycho killer, you're dumb.
Juno, The Descent
There's always a lot of talk about how strong and fearless the women in Neil Marshall's The Descent are. A group of bad-ass females go spelunking and end up defending their lives against cave-dwelling creatures; there's blood and gore and an exceptional amount of ass-kickery, but what no one talks about is Juno. Sure, by film's end she's proven herself to be fierce (albeit a little disloyal), and while I have a bigger bone to pick with Sarah for letting her pettiness get the better of her in a survival situation, it's Juno that really drops the ball here because she led them into the cave in the first place. Juno, chosen as adventure leader for this trip, led her friends into a cave that had never been charted before. That's not a pro-active woman; that's dumb. Cave-dwelling monsters aside, someone probably would have died in a spelunking accident anyway, forever making them the punchline of a bizarrely specific joke.
Nicole, Dawn of the Dead
In Zack Snyder's remake of Romero's zombies-at-the-mall classic, almost everyone is pretty intelligent, if just a bit contentious and short-tempered. You would be anxious too if you were locked in a mall, stuck between a Bath & Body Works and a horde of flesh-hungry zombies. Nauseating floral scents or getting eaten alive -- it's a tough call. But there is one exception to the relatively smart group, and that's Nicole (Lindy Booth). When her father dies she finds a dog, and within five minutes it's like this dog is the most important thing to ever happen in her life. Grief makes people do strange things, fine, but when the dog runs outside into the zombie horde Nicole tears off after him, putting her life and the lives of her fellow survivors at risk for a dog that doesn't even need saving! There is never a moment where it seems like this dog is in danger, but still she runs off to "save" her new best friend, effectively opening a path for the zombies to kill everyone. What a dummy.
Laurie Strode, Rob Zombie's Halloween and H2
Rob Zombie's version of Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) is the apex of the mountain of women who make dumb decisions in horror movies. In Halloween, Laurie skews more naive than dumb, with her wholesome, white-bread life of abstinence and baby-sitting. She notices Michael Myers stalking her, but isn't too worried about it -- you know, because she's probably just tired from all of her SAT prep (analogies are so hard, you guys). During the climax of the film, Laurie is kidnapped by Michael, who tries to show her that they are siblings by playing slasher charades, but she just looks at him like he's made of calculus equations, clumsily stabs him, and runs away. When he chases after her, she makes it a point to run up the stairs and onto a balcony. Duh.
In H2, Laurie is even worse. Coping with the aftermath of the first film, she's taken to decorating her room with posters of serial killers and, dun dunnn, partying too much. When Michael returns she spends most of the film's running time crying and running around aimlessly. The worst part is when she discovers, through reading Dr. Loomis' latest book, that she is Michael Myers' sister. This seems like information any book-smart teen like Laurie could figure out with some light Googling, especially following the death of her parents. Instead we get to listen to her whine, "I'm Angel Myers! I'm Michael Myers' sister!" while Michael picks off her friends one by one. For the second time. Dumb.