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Five Female Horror Movie Villains You Might Not Know About

This article, written by Mack Veltman and narrated by Annie Flowers, is now available on Horror Obsessive Radio.

While they may not be as common as their murderous male counterparts, female villains prove time and again that they are just as bloodthirsty and not to be underestimated. The horror genre is full of deadly ladies racking up high body counts and spinning webs of murder and mayhem. Betsy Palmer’s Pamela Voorhees, Jennifer Tilly’s Tiffany, and Sissy Spacek’s Carrie White are some of the more famous figures in horror movies, but the sheer size of the genre means some female villains often vanish into obscurity or are forgotten about entirely.

This list is dedicated to the obscure or forgotten female horror movie villains who deserve praise and attention for their bloodthirsty deeds. So lock your doors and crawl under your beds. Here are five female horror movie villains you might not know about.

Rhonda Johnson – Killer Workout

Marcia Karr as Rhonda in Killer Workout.

Killer Workout (also known as Aerobicide) is pure ’80s slasher trashy fun (although fun might be a generous term for this messy whodunnit) and follows a killer stalking and murdering the patrons of a fitness club run by the sinister and vengeful Rhonda Johnson (Marcia Karr). Her sister, Valerie, died in a tanning bed incident one year prior, and when bodies start piling up around her, suspicion naturally falls on Rhonda. Killer Workout tries to keep the audience guessing by introducing several red herrings and potential suspects, but it’s only a matter of time before Rhonda is unsurprisingly unmasked as the culprit. 

What makes Rhonda unique, other than the oversized safety pin she uses to kill her victims (I’m not kidding, the featured weapon in this film is a giant safety pin), is the high body count she delivers by the film’s conclusion. She also escapes justice in the end and re-opens her fitness club to kill again. It’s too bad Rhonda found herself trapped in such a low-budget trashy film. Her obvious glee in killing as many people as possible and her triumphant ending probably would’ve garnered a sequel or two, but alas, Rhonda’s murderous career was confined to only one film. 

Emma Spool – Psycho II

Norman Bates stands behind Emma Spool in the kitchen.

Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic slasher Psycho ended with the disturbed Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) behind bars and completely under the control of his murderous “Mother” persona, but the story of Bates continued in two sequels. Psycho II, released in 1983, takes place 22 years after the original film and follows a seemingly rehabilitated Norman Bates. After years in a mental institution, Norman is released, returns home to Bates Motel in the fictional town of Fairvale, California, and attempts to adjust to his newfound freedom. While most of the town doesn’t trust Norman, an older woman named Emma (Claudia Bryar) takes a liking to the man and is one of the few people to vouch for his sanity. Norman begins to fear he is slipping back into madness after a series of strange occurrences around the motel and his discovery of several bodies, but in the film’s conclusion, Emma invites herself over for dinner and delivers a shocking revelation: Norman is her son, and she is behind the murders.

According to Emma, she was very young and out of wedlock when she gave birth to Norman. While she was taken away by the state, her sister took Norman and raised him as her own son. Determined to reconnect with Norman, Emma took up residence in Fairvale and began killing anyone who threatened her son upon his release, including the vengeful Lilah Crane, who attempted to drive Norman back into madness. Ah, the things a mother will do for her child. The audience has barely any time to adjust to this twist before Norman bashes Emma in the back of the head with a shovel and stands over her twitching body while she dies. He takes her corpse upstairs to the attic and falls back into his “Mother” persona.

Emma Spool didn’t have a lot of screen-time in Psycho II, and the third film in the series retcons her relationship with Norman by revealing that she’s actually his aunt. Still, Bryar gave a memorable performance as the scheming spinster, and her shocking murder of Lilah Crane is one of the best death scenes in the film.

Evelyn – Mountaintop Motel Massacre

Evelyn kills a man at a motel she manages in the mountains.

Mountaintop Motel Massacre is a low-budget 1983 slasher flick that follows Evelyn (Anna Chappell), a motel caretaker who goes on a killing spree after discovering her daughter practicing witchcraft. There isn’t much to the film other than Evelyn traversing the tunnels that run beneath the motel and trolling her patrons by unleashing snakes and beetles in their presence before fatally striking from the shadows. Evelyn racks up a pretty decent kill count using her signature weapon, a sickle, but the film is a mostly forgettable snooze-fest, and it’s not hard to see why Mountaintop Motel Massacre remains in obscurity. Still, I have to give some credit to the crazed motel-caretaker who delights in the creepy and disturbing and who enjoys messing with her guests before slashing them to death with her sickle.

Patti O’Conner – Curtains

The Hag prepares to kill one of her victims in the horror film Curtains.

Poor, poor Patti. The comedian turned murderess simply wanted to be taken seriously as an actress, but when everyone questions her acting abilities, the seemingly good-natured woman begins viciously killing her competition with a sickle. That’s one way to secure a role of a mentally unstable woman in an upcoming film. Curtains is a 1983 Canadian slasher flick about a group of actresses who gather at the mansion of a wealthy and creepy director, Jonathan Stryker, to land the main role of the protagonist of his film Audra. One by one, the actresses are gruesomely slaughtered by a killer in an unsettling hag mask. The final moments of Curtains see Patti (Lynne Griffin) revealing her bloody crimes to the final actress, Samantha Sherwood (who lands a few kills of her own in a quest for revenge against Stryker) before stabbing her to death. Patti is arrested and institutionalized, but this doesn’t stop her from performing the monologue from Audra in the film’s closing shots.

Critics remained divided over Curtains, but the film boasts some memorable and gory kills, and Griffin steals the show as the funny yet unhinged Patti. Besides, I have to give credit where credit is due: that is a terrifying hag mask.

Renata Donati – A Bay of Blood

Claudine Auger as Renata in a Bay of Blood.

A Bay of Blood (also known as Twitch of the Death Nerve) is a 1971 Italian film directed by Mario Bava following the exploits of several greedy characters attempting to gain control of a beautiful and expensive bay and the surrounding property. Among those is Renata Donati, played by Bond Girl Claudine Auger, who’s determined to get her hands on the bay in whatever means necessary. Unlike the other villainous vixens on this list, Renata prefers to remain behind the scenes, pushing her husband to murder on her behalf and off anyone who might have a claim to the bay. However, Renata demonstrates her willingness to get her hands dirty when she decapitates a woman with an ax and stabs a man in his femoral artery with a butterfly knife. Renata is one clever and scheming dame who uses her good looks and seemingly innocent exterior to trick others into doing her bidding. She doesn’t boast a high kill count, but she’s ruthless, cold, and willing to cross anyone who gets in her way.

Renata’s scheming pays off, and after all the murder and plotting, it seems that she and her husband are the only heirs left alive. However, in the film’s final moments, the villainous duo is gunned down by their young children, who didn’t realize the shotguns they were playing with were real. Too bad Renata…you were so damn close to seeing your plans come to fruition. 

Looking for more about female horror villains? We’ve got you:

“Five Underrated Female Villains in the Horror Genre”

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Written by Mack Veltman

Mack is a pop culture writer and horror movie enthusiast from Oregon who enjoys binging Netflix, listening to Star Wars audiobooks, watching James Bond movies, and reading interesting, behind-the-scenes facts about his favorite movies and TV shows. You can follow him at

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