Happy Death Day 2U slashes into theaters today, bringing the luminous Jessica Rothe to the screen once more in the role that showed her abilities off to the greatest degree (a welcome return after playing the bland, sidelined title character in 2018’s January fodder Forever My Girl). I’m already eager to scream her name from the rooftops as our most current Scream Queen, but she’s still blossoming. We shouldn’t jump the gun on crowning a Scream Queen, we must be careful and deliberate who we place in the shoes of somebody like Jamie Lee Curtis.
To that end, I have compiled a list of candidates for this decade’s official Scream Queen (this is how a monarchy works, right?) with a breadth of work that shows their commitment to the genre outside of a single franchise – if you want to be Jamie Lee, you need more than Halloween. You need your Prom Nights and Terror Trains and maybe even your Road Gameses.
Character actress Lin Shaye has been around the block a couple dozens times (she even has appearances in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Critters, and Amityville: A New Generation), but it’s the Insidious franchise that gave her the meatiest role of her horror career. Her ghostbusting medium Elise Rainier was just a side character – basically the Zelda Rubinstein of the original Insidious – but Lin Shaye is such a pro that by 2018’s fourth entry Insidious: The Last Key, she got the gosh darn lead. Maybe it’s not fair to crown someone who worked with Wes Craven twice, but if anybody deserves the first nomination it’s her. Plus, Insidious kickstarted a secondary horror career for her in 2010 and you can catch Shaye in the likes of Ouija, Tales of Halloween, Jack Goes Home, and Abattoir. Never say the woman doesn’t commit.
For my second nomination, I’m going to select someone who’s Lin Shaye’s opposite in almost every way. Lulu is very new to the scene, considering she’s only 13 years old, but she’s already amassed a tremendous body of work in the genre. She has been seen most recently in the Mike Flanagan Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, but she can also be spotted in the series Sharp Objects, Deliver Us From Evil, and – count ’em – TWO horror sequels that improved on the original, Ouija: Origin of Evil and Annabelle: Creation (also featuring Lin Shaye!). I don’t think I’d seen that many horror movies by the time I was thirteen, let alone starred in them!
Now it’s time for the nomination that firmly has my vote. Betty Gabriel joined the Blumhouse stable of actors playing a badass role that singlehandedly made 2016’s The Purge: Election Year watchable, but since then she’s appeared in their films Upgrade, Unfriended: Dark Web, and – most importantly – Get Out. Anyone who has seen her turn as the frightfully restrained maid Georgina knows the raw power of her acting, but she’s got a wide range that I beg for more people to notice and revere.
Bex Taylor-Klaus is just awesome. After appearing in The Killing and The Last Witch Hunter, she landed a major role on MTV’s Scream reboot, a delightfully frothy teen soap/slasher, and has continued on into the horror landscape in last year’s Hell Fest. She’s a delightful presence even when she’s asked to play a supremely irritating character, and her real life online presence is an empowering tale of queer nonbinary success.
This final nominee is a legacy, but she’s certainly earned her keep. Brad Dourif’s daughter Fiona joined his villainous Chucky on the screen back in 2013’s Curse of Chucky, and returned in the 2017 direct sequel Cult of Chucky, both of which are slick films that stretch their direct-to-video budget to the absolute max. They are fun slices of gothic horror, but they would hardly have the power that they do without Fiona’s committed performance. She’s also reached further into the genre with the USA Network’s Purge mini-series. She might not be as wide-ranging as some of the other nominees, but anyone who gets Don Mancini’s stamp of approval to join the ever-vibrant Chucky ensemble is good in my book.
So who do you think should be the Scream Queen of the decade? Please let me know your vote in the comments below, and feel free to nominate anyone you think I might have missed!
Brennan Klein is a writer and podcaster who talks horror movies every chance he gets. And when you’re talking to him about something else, he’s probably thinking about horror movies. You can find his other work on his Dread Central column applying film school theory to silly horror movies, his Ghastly Grinning column pairing the week’s releases with the perfect classic horror double feature, and his blog Popcorn Culture where among other movie reviews, he is running through every slasher film of the 1980’s. Also check out his podcasts, Scream 101, where he and a non-horror nerd co-host tackle horror reviews with a new sub-genre every month, and Attack of the Queerwolf!, an LGBTQ discussion of horror classics that he produces for the Blumhouse Podcast Network.