Our Five Favourite Women In Stephen King Films
“Now, don’t be afraid,” coos Annie Wilkes to her hobbled “houseguest” (read: hostage), Paul. She’s holding a revolver and a syringe so the request is basically impossible. Yes, Annie is the villain in Misery, but we love her anyway—because how many times have we watched a horror film where the gender roles are reversed and the woman is the prisoner? Let us know when you finish counting. We’ll wait. And that’s what’s so great about the female characters created by Stephen King: they’re evil, weak, flawed, powerful, smart, and terrifying—depending on the moment. The one thing they never are? Boring.
Ahead of our July 25 9ep premiere of Castle Rock (which stars Sissy Spacek, Jane Levy and Melanie Lynskey in undoubtedly complex and interesting roles), here are five of our favourite King-created female characters:
As the visionary tasked with guiding the surviving 0.6 percent of humanity left after a man-made plague wipes the rest of us out, The Stand’s Mother Abigail (played by Ruby Dee in the slightly cheesy mid-nineties miniseries) is a powerhouse. Not only did she outlive everyone who fell to the uber-influenza, she’s also like 108 years old. Her psychic powers save her tiny community time and time again as they fight off an incarnation of the devil itself (stationed in Las Vegas, naturally), and she continues to help them, even when it becomes obvious that it’s killing her. Kick. Ass.
1994 was a good year for King adaptations. Following her role in Misery, Kathy Bates returned to play the title character in Dolores Claiborne. Dolores is maybe the most impressive of all of King’s characters, male or female. Dolores has lived her whole adult life with the weight of the world on her shoulders. She suffers through the violence doled out by her alcoholic husband until, one day, she discovers that he’s molesting their daughter. The actions she takes against him come back to haunt her years later, when her employer winds up dead, too. We know she’s not a killer, but she does deliver some killer lines. “I did not murder that b*$ch any more than I’m wearing a diamond tiara,” stands out in particular.
We’re taking you back to 1976 to celebrate the… protagonist? Anti-hero? Titular character? Yes, let’s go with that—the titular character in King’s Carrie, a high school horror only slightly more terrifying than your own teenage experience. Sissy Spacek had the honour of starring in the very first adaptation of King’s work (there have since been over 100 more). We love her for giving it back to the mean girls as good (okay, way better) than she got—and for the eventual stand she takes against her abusive, religious fanatic mom, Margaret, who, let’s face it, is another one of King’s fascinating female characters.
Sticking with Carrie, we have to give a serious shout out to Amy Irving’s portrayal of Sue Snell, the kind kid with a conscience who tried to right the wrongs her fellow students had committed against Carrie White (pelting a classmate with tampons is never cool—and it’s even less so when, in the 2013 tech-enabled remake, you film it on your phone and put it on YouTube). But Sue is proof that teenagers aren’t all sociopathic monsters, sending her own boyfriend to the prom as Carrie’s date, a sweet gesture that morphs into a bloody sacrifice when the mean girls get their hands on the prom queen ballot box. Sue puts herself at risk one more time in trying to warn her teachers about the impending pig blood bath… her reward? A bunch of dead friends and a lifetime’s worth of nightmares. Hey, it’s a Stephen King movie—what did you expect, a happy ending?
Misery earned Kathy Bates an Academy Award (her first and only) and it’s no wonder. As Annie Wilkes, the obsessed fan turned kidnapper of her favourite romance novel author, she scared the hell out of us. Even though Annie’s clearly a total “psycho” (and a baby killer), it’s still remarkable to see a women in the role of captor and torturer. Way too often, the horror genre leaves the torturing to the men—everyone should get a turn with the sledgehammer, no?