Women in Horror Month: Angela Bettis
Editor’s note: In recognition of Women in Horror Month DecayMag.com will feature a weekly series beginning today and every Friday in March. These publications serve as a glimpse to the ever expanding feminist movement in the Horror genre.
Actress, Director, Producer
- “May” (2002)
- “Girl, Interrupted” (1999)
- “Carrie” (2002)
- “Toolbox Murders” (2004)
- “Bless the Child” (2000)
- “ABCs of Death” (2012)
In the horror industry, for years, men have portrayed the bad guys, the predators, the monsters. Women finally get their “day” in the early 1970’s. With “Play Misty For Me” (1971) The film directed by Clint Eastwood portrays a woman as a psychotic stalker for the first time. Since the release of “Play Misty For Me”, the “game has changed”. This film has paved the way for more female-dominant films and roles.
Angela Bettis is an actress, director and producer. She was born January 9, 1973, in Austin, Texas. She graduated from Westlake High School and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Her cinematic debut was in the 1993 release “Sparrow”, an Italian drama by directed Franco Zeferrelli. Bettis went on to do more work in film and television. She also directed and served as producer. She is most known for her amazing performance in the 2002 release, “May”. The drama-horror-thriller was directed Lucky McKee. Angela Bettis also starred in the 2002 remake of “Carrie” directed by David Carson.
Angela Bettis’ Contributions to Horror
Angela Bettis is certainly a unique woman. Her talents, by far, excel beyond the norm. Let’s take a look at the exceptional Angela Bettis.
“May” is an example of pressure and exhaustion. Something everyone has experienced at one time or another in their lives. The horror industry is full of pressure and exhaustion, especially for women. It is definitely a tough ball game. Women are more likely the victims, the ones who are easily repressed and suppressed. They are expected to portray the “sweet and innocent” and the “good girl” mentality.
In 2002, Lucky McKee introduced us to “May”. The protagonist, May is a young woman who was traumatized by a difficult childhood. She struggles to fit in with society. This is a perfect example that pressure and exhaustion I have described before. When it comes to the horror industry, horror is the “society”, and women are the damsels in distress. Angela Bettis filled the role of May exceptionally well. In a male-dominant industry that preys and thrives on feminine weakness and depravity, Angela has shown how things are on the other end of the spectrum. By taking on the “sweet and innocent girl gone mad”, she astounds us with this witty dark side. Just proving that women can be dominant as well. This whole persona travels with her throughout her career.
“Carrie” is an example of insanity. A lot of times, in horror films, women are driven to the brink of insanity. “Carrie” was first introduced to us in a novel by Stephen King. Director Brian De Palma is the first to make a film adaptation of the novel, which released in 1976. Sissy Spacek starred in the original role of Carrie White. A young woman with telekinetic powers. On the inside, Carrie is sweet and loving and wants to fit in with everyone. Unfortunately, stress and pressure (from her strict, religious mother and her peers), make it difficult for her to adapt to society. Carrie is driven to insanity. She is forced to unleash her powers and vengeance on everyone who has done her wrong.
In 2002, David Carson gives us a new adaptation to “Carrie”. Again, we see Angela as the star role of Carrie White, who starts off as a shy, but sweet young woman, but instantly transforms into a “worst nightmare” due to constantly mental, verbal, and physical abuse from her mother and her peers. Angela doesn’t fail to impress us, yet again, with the good girl gone mad persona. We see this a lot in horror movies; where women are “forced” to be the bad guys for the sake of their sanity.
In 2004, director Tobe Hooper gives us “Toolbox Murders”. About a historic Hollywood hotel that houses and supernatural evil. When renovations start, a series of murders take place, and it’s up to Nell Barrows to solve the mystery. Angela Bettis stars the lead role of Nell Barrows.
“Toolbox Murders” is an example of the detective. In most horror movies, men play the role of the “detective”; the guy that gets down to business to get things done. We are starting to see more of this in strong, dominant female roles. A very good example of this is “Hard Candy” (2005) by director David Slade. A very young Ellen Page (who stars the lead role of Hayley Stark) takes matters into her own hands when she meets a pedophile, who’s twice her age, on the Internet. Instead of letting the real detectives do the work, she takes the badge and brings this pedophile to justice.
When bad things start happening, Bettis takes matters into her own hands to get to the bottom of things. She does what she has to do to save her family. This is a role we are starting to see more and more in dominant women in the horror industry.
“The Woman” and “Scar”
“The Woman” is an example of survival. The horror industry is all about surviving some kind of nightmare. A lot of the time, the nightmare happens to be women captured, imprisoned, and victimized by some madman or psycho. At one point, this was the makeup of the horror industry. This is what audiences thrive on. The thought of a man being at the mercy of a dominant woman was absurd. “The idea what a Woman is to be” is summed into this film.
In 2011, director Lucky McKee, gives us yet another winner, “The Woman”. Chris Cleek, a country lawyer captures and attempts to “civilize” the last remaining member of a violent clan that has roamed the Northeast coast for decades.
Pollyanna McIntosh plays the lead role of The Woman, and does exceptionally well at embracing the full character traits. This character has two personalities that are essential in the horror genre: first, the victim. She is “caught” and treated like an animal in the confinement of this family’s home. McIntosh successfully portrays the role of a victim. It’s this portrayal that this industry thrives on, that female victim mentality that I’ve described earlier. Second, the survivor. Her first chance at payback, McIntosh takes it on full force, turning the tables on this crooked lawyer. The role of victim and dominance is then reversed, just as I’ve described.
Angela Bettis plays the role of Belle Cleek, the wife of Chris Cleek. When she witnesses how cruel her husband can be, she is forced to make a choice. Does she helplessly watch this poor woman be treated so deviously? Does she take a stand against her monster of a husband for the sake of this woman’s life. I’d like to think of this as the “women must stick together” effect.
Another example of survival is “Scar” (2008) by director Jed Weintrob . Joan Burrows returns to her hometown for her niece’s graduation, only to be confronted by the serial killer she thought she offed years ago. Angela Bettis stars the lead role as Joan Burrows.
I’ve just described four personality traits of the dominant woman in the horror industry. The repressed, the insane, the detective, and the survivor. Each of which Angela Bettis has successfully portrayed. “May”, “Carrie”, “The Woman”, “Toolbox Murders”, and “Scar” are just a few of the many examples of her work as a strong dominant woman.