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Totally Terrifying Women

A Glut of Actually Scary Females from Cinema

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EMBARRASSING MAYBE, artsy definitely, but I'm sorry, dancing around while lip-syncing is not scary. A host of Portland filmmakers, dancers, and performance artists (including Alicia McDaid, Tanya Smith, and Wendy Haynes) star in a program at the Works titled Terrifying Women, which might feature more than a little lip-syncing—McDaid describes it as "Vagina Monologues on nitrous oxide wearing strap-on penises." But I want violence, domineering personalities, and disturbing pre-teen rage in my evening of hair-raising females. So in the spirit of the Time-Based Art Fest, let's shine a speculum light on the esoteric nooks of cinema's ladyparts-having humans for a brief list* of truly terrifying women.

Vera Cosgrove, Dead Alive (1992)

Long before director Peter Jackson explored the special love between two Hobbits, he pursued zestier relationships in the bloodtastic Dead Alive. Vera Cosgrove, an inhumanly overbearing mother, takes parental love to grotesque new levels when—after being zombified by a Sumatran rat-monkey bite—she stuffs her meek son back into her putrefied womb. Mrs. Bates has got nothing on the dog-eating Vera.

Aughra, The Dark Crystal (1982)

Never mind the stanky hippie Gelflings or the unholy shell-stripping Skeksis monsters in The Dark Crystal, Aughra used to scare the pee out of my peehole. She's like the nightmare baby from an orgy with Miss Piggy, a ram, and Yoda. And don't even get me started on the way she pops out her one eyeball like a pair of ocular dentures. Yuck!

Madame Medusa, The Rescuers (1977)

Trashy redhead Madame Medusa is a jet-ski-exhaust-polluting, orphan-stealing, alligator-wielding harpy—with none of the redeeming fashion sense of either Annie's Miss Hannigan or 101 Dalmatians' Cruella de Vil. The way she turns a gun on pigtailed orphan Penny and shoves her down a dank hole in search of a sparkly diamond is pretty damned coldhearted. I wouldn't want to meet her in a dark bayou.

Rhoda Penmark, The Bad Seed (1956)

Speaking of pigtailed tykes... Rhoda Penmark from The Bad Seed reinforces every instinct I've ever had to permanently seal up my uterus. Ten times creepier than the blonde Poltergeist tot, the clever sociopath Rhoda is willing to kill lots of meddlesome folks to get shiny trinkets. Like shoes. She will totally set your house on fire for a pair of Mary Janes. "GIVE ME MY SHOES!"

Jaws, Jaws (1975)

Okay, I'm about to blow your mind... Jaws was a lady! I'm sure you're thinking, "No way, brah! That scary he-beast thought skinny-dipping chicks were sexy, so he ate them." Well, right you are about the shark's snacking proclivities, but I submit for the court's consideration: female great whites are bigger than males, and Jaws was huuuu-ge! And terrifying! Unlike that yuppie mommy shark who took her baby spawn on vacation to SeaWorld in Jaws 3.

* For sure, it's a non-comprehensive list that blatantly ignores pop culture's most obvious demon women—the ones who boil bunnies, wield clothes hangers, and masturbate with crucifixes.

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Terrifying Women

curated by Alicia McDaid

Washington High School, Tues Sept 11, 10:30 pm, $5-7, pica.org

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