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Best known as Jigsaw's most secret apprentice in the Saw franchise, Shawnee Smith had a fairly diverse career before the trap-making serial killer came along. Popping up in minor roles in a wide range of comedies and dramas, Smith came to horror largely through television, scoring small roles in genre programs like The X-Files or made-for-cable adaptations of Stephen King's The Stand and The Shining. Her role as the first surviving victim in the original Saw was expanded into an integral part of the series with Shawnee appearing in each of the seven films. Her turn as the beautiful, disturbed Amanda Young earned her the gig hosting the short-lived horror reality-show Scream Queens, cementing her place as one of the true modern vixens.
Not especially known to the mainstream horror crowd, even the most casual of scare-fans might recognize the last name. The daughter of legendary Italian filmmaker Dario Argento - director of genre classics such as Susperia - Asia has appeared in an handful of English-language films while carving out a name for herself in the Italian horror arena, including a few of her father's films, most recently Mother of Tears. She's appeared as the Bond-girl equivalent in action films such as XXX (with Vin Diesel), made macabre cameos in videos by Marilyn Manson and showed up as a kick-ass zombie killer in George Romero's Land of the Dead. Beautiful and exotic, not only does Asia's family ties root her firmly in the horror landscape, but her talents as an actress and her personal love of the morose make her one of the more unique, dark and subsequently sexy-as-hell women working in the horror today.
Danielle Harris is to horror what Danica McKellar (better known as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years) is to TV sitcoms: the young, charming, innocent girl who grew up into a tongue-wagging sex symbol sufficient to make us all feel like dirty, old men. Which, admittedly, most of us are. Originally making her debut as the young Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4 and 5, Harris survived being stalked by Michael Myers only to encounter the iconic killer yet again in both Rob Zombie's 2007 remake and its sequel. In between, Harris bounced oddly between programming for younger audiences and appearances in various horror outings such as Urban Legend. With renewed interest after the latest rash of Myers murders, Harris has shown up in recent horror hits such as Stake Land and Laid to Rest 2 and will soon appear in the third film in the celebrated Hatchet franchise.
Some women don't have to establish a long history in horror to qualify as a vixen, provided their initial splash was big enough to still be rippling. With model-slash-actress Natasha Henstridge, her debut turn as sultry alien Sil in the 1995 sci-fi/horror flick Species still gets mentioned in conversations about some of the sexiest horror films to date. At the time, Species might well have been the Basic Instinct of genre film-making, following a beautiful, sex-crazed, humanoid alien desperately seeking out a potential mate with all the sexual subtlety of a praying mantis. Inter-cutting sci-fi action with gore-filled, sex-heavy mating sequences, Species put Henstridge on the path to a relatively notable career, including appearances in the film's two sequels.
Same goes for Salma Hayek whose vampire queen, Santanico Pandemonium, from Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk 'Til Dawn still rates highly on any list of the most alluring horror fatales. Hayek herself has followed that up with relatively few genre roles, but uber-sensual dance performed for a gawking Quentin Tarantino sufficiently wrung the lust out of audiences everywhere, cementing Hayek has a bone-fide vixen - welcome back to the genre any time she likes - with a single ten-minute turn and a giant snake. No metaphor intended.
With her jet-black hair, striking eyes and an overall tough-girl exterior, Rose McGowan has been steeped in horror since the very beginning of her career, cropping up in the darkly stylized The Doom Generation before her star-making turn in Scream. McGowan added to her genre resume with roles in the 1998 Dean Koontz adaptation Phantoms, as well as a much-discussed part in the black comedy Jawbreaker. Despite a lackluster go-around as the scantily clad heroine in the recent Conan remake, McGowan's most recent horror outing was a duel role in the Tarantino/Rodriguez double-header, Grindhouse. Appearing as both Pam"in QT's Death Proof and the gun-legged, ex-stripper Cherry Darling in Planet Terror, McGowan not only displayed some range, but cemented herself as an effective sex symbol with only one leg and a machine gun.
Even if you don't consider Jennifer Connelly's incredibly dark, yet oddly arousing, role in Requiem for a Dream an outing into horror, the classically beautiful actress is hardly a stranger to the genre. Early turns in Labyrinth and Dario Argento's Phenomena - and later roles in Alex Proyas' Dark City and the 2005 J-horror remake, Dark Water - Connelly has proven that she can offer up a strong presence against any supernatural or extra-terrestrial threat while simultaneously classing up what might otherwise become just another ordinary genre affair.
The explanation for the inclusion of Kate Beckinsale on this list might be as simple as "skin tight leather Underworld costume" were it not for her appearance in the raw, disturbing thriller Vacancy. Proving that she both appreciated, and could act within, the genre, Vacancy paired nicely with the schlock action/horror combo of the Underworld franchise to cement Beckinsale as an ass-kicking, name-taking talent among horror's most beautiful femme fatales and potential victims.
While she might not be a household name quite yet, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is rapidly carving out her niche as a bona fide horror vixen (or, at the very least, a legitimate geek gal) after a series of roles in some of the decade's more recognizable releases: The Ring Two, Black Christmas, Death Proof and Scott Pilgrim, as well as the upcoming prequel to The Thing and the horror-storical fiction piece, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Balancing an every-woman femininity with the rough-and-tumble physicality of any great horror heroine, Winstead is as attractive as she is compelling to watch and root for...
In fact, Winstead reminds us somewhat of the one woman who might, in fact, be considered the mother of the modern horror vixen: Halloween's Jamie Lee Curtis. Ushering in the strong, lovely heroine that the 80's and 90's would continue to develop well into the new millennium, Curtis survived her way through three Halloween films directly into a place in horror history. Any and all female leads over the last decade owe a great deal to her grounded performance in that single, classic film.
This week's premier film on Chiller marks the very height of exploitation horror with Zombie Women of Satan, a title that essentially sells itself. In light of a group of darkly beautiful and blood-covered women, we here at Chiller got to thinking about some of our favorite modern horror vixens. Here's a quick look at the ten we found the most appealing. And if not these, which horror fatales appeal most to you?
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