Mythology has never been so embraced in mainstream entertainment, and it’s pretty awesome to think that kids might get a brief introduction to the subject if they delve into the backstory behind The Avengers heroes. But while figures like Thor, Imhotep, Hercules and Orpheus have been adapted for cinema since it’s creation – the ladies of mythology are not nearly so well represented. But there’s some incredible female figures to be found in mythology and folklore all over the world, many of them just as terrifying as their male counterparts. We’d love to see some of their stories on the big screen where these mythical ladies can terrify audiences. So, as part of Women in Horror Month’s 7th year, here’s 10 women from mythology who need their own horror movie.
10. Harionago (Japanese)
Harionago’s name literally means ‘barb maiden’, and refers to this female demon’s long flowing hair which is tipped with deadly barbs. She was said to wander the roads of Japan’s Ehime on the island of Shikoku and mock traveling young men. If they laugh or frighten Harionago, she drops her long black hair to attack. She’s brutal, merciless and has a spooky appearance – so we’d definitely like to see her take starring role in her own horror movie. With the success of Ring and Ju-On, I could see Harionago being as iconic a villain as Sadako.
9. Black Annis (English)
Black Annis of Leicestershire was based on a real person, Agnes Scott, a late medieval anchoress who lived a life of prayer in the cave in the Dane Hills. She actually cared for victims of leprosy during her life, so it has been suggested that accounts of her terrifying traits were simply created to frighten local children into good behaviour. She is described as a blue-faced crone or witch with iron claws and a taste for humans (especially children) She is said to haunt the countryside of Leicestershire, living in a cave in the Dane Hills, with an oak tree at its entrance. She supposedly goes out onto the glens at night looking for unsuspecting children and lambs to eat, then tanning their skins by hanging them on a tree, before wearing them around her waist. There’s so few great gore-fests with female villains out there, that Black Annis could make a very interesting addition to horror cinema.
8. Tiamat (Babylonian)
In the Babylonian Epic of Creation, Tiamat is an angry goddess who created the other gods, but who exacts revenge of them by raising her own personal demon army. Although defeated by her own son eventually and her corpse being spit in order to create the various dimensions of life, she sounds like a terrifying force. I’d love to see her take on the Deadites from Army of Darkness with her own demonic army.
7. Empusa (Greek)
Empusa is a demigoddess in Greek mythology – the daughter of Hecate. What makes her so terrifying? Apparently she seduced young men as they slept, before drinking their blood and eating their flesh causing sleep paralysis if they struggled. She had flaming hair and had a brass prosthetic leg, with her name said to mean “one-footed” The other leg was said to be that of a donkey and she was also said to have long pointed nails for tearing the flesh from her victims.
6. Gorgons (Greek)
This terrifying female entity from Greek mythology gets its name from the Greek “gorgos” which means “dreadful.” They were women with hair composed of living, writhing, venomous snakes. In addition to this terrifying “hair,” gorgons have a stare that will turn their victims into stone. The number of gorgons that roam the Earth varies in different myths and legends. However, the most common depictions of the gorgons present them as three sisters—two immortals (Euryale and Stheno) and a mortal (Medusa, slain by Perseus). While Medusa might be the best known of the sisters, I’d love to see them team up. The snake hair could make for an interesting new take on body horror.
5. Aswang (Filipino)
An Aswang is a shapeshifting female monster usually possessing a combination of the traits of either a vampire, a ghoul, a witch, or different species of werebeast in Filipino folklore. Aswang or “asuwang” is derived from the Sanskrit word Asura which means ‘demon’. Unlike vampires and other similar creatures, they are daywalkers and not harmed by sunlight. It is said that to spot an aswang at daytime, look at their eyes. The woman in front of you is an aswang if your reflection is upside-down. With vampire films having been a little…lacking in recent years – maybe it’s time to let a new monster have some time in the spotlight.
4. Dziwozona (Slavic)
Dziwożona (or Mamuna) is a female swamp demon in Slavic mythology known for being malicious and dangerous. Dziwożona was said to live in thickets near rivers, streams and lakes and would kidnap human babies just after they were born and replace them with her own children, known as foundlings or changelings. These children’s behaviour was said to be marked by a great spitefulness towards people around it, a fear of its mother, noisiness, reluctance to sleep and exceptional gluttony. We had the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Gil Man is a classic, but a female swamp monster with evil children needs her own movie.
3. Jenny Greenteethc (English)
Jenny Greenteeth was a hag in English folklore who would intentionally drown the vulnerable for sport In some legends, she devours the children and elderly, in others, she’s a sadist who enjoys the pain her victims go through. She’s frequently described as having a green complexion and razor-sharp teeth. As with many creepy characters from folklore, she was probably used to scare children into behaving and staying close to the water’s edge when taking an afternoon swim. But how often do we see a female horror character who – like Freddy or Pinhead is just EVIL. No cheesy flashbacks, no last minute sympathy card (looking at you Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake!) – she’s just a bad witch who you should avoid at all costs.
2. Pontianak (Indonesian)
If you’ve ever smelled something fragrant, followed by something foul or rotten – it’s said that the Pontianak is close by. This one has a particularly gruesome story. Having died during childbirth, the Pontianak returns to earth as an undead being to prey on easily seduced men and pregnant women. These creepy beings take the form of eerily beautiful, long-haired ladies in white gowns whose cries notoriously warn of their presence — if loud, she’s far; if soft, you’re doomed. If she does catch you, she uses her long nails to rip the organs out of your chest and stomach, and removes your genitals. She is also said to inhabit banana trees so…ya know, stay away from those.
1. Manananggal (Filipino)
A Manananggal is a little like a vampire, but with the ability to sever its torso from it’s legs and an appetite for fetus hearts. These bat-winged women climb in windows to kidnap pregnant women and use their long, repulsive tongues to consume the sleeping woman’s blood and her fetuses heart. The best way to defeate them is by tossing salt on the lower half of the body that’s left behind when the Mananggal’s torso is elsewhere claiming victims. That’s right – sometimes just the bloody, severed legs turn up at your door – and that’s considered a fortunate encounter.
Let us know what mythical women you’d like to see star in their own horror movie – and how you’d like to see her killings played out!