History of horror heroines

This weekend’s release of “Scream 4” has Neve Campbell reprising her role as the strong-willed Sidney Prescott in a cast that also includes Hayden Panettiere and Courteney Cox.

With other recent, female-driven horror films such as 2009’s “The House of the Devil” and “Halloween” director John Carpenter’s “The Ward,” the genre seems primed for a return to the feminine heyday of the ’70s and ’80s.

The Oracle looks back at five heroines who stood strong in the face of sheer terror.

Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott – “Scream” series

Before the first “Scream” film in 1996, the horror genre had been stuffed with countless sequels to gory films like “Friday the 13th,” and heroines had been reduced to women too timid to take risks in their daily lives.

While these films perpetuated the idea that promiscuous teens die and wholesome ones live, Kevin Williamson’s screenplay finds a middle ground between the two.

The assertive and intelligent Sidney was in a committed relationship with her boyfriend, but her virginal demeanor wasn’t what prevented her from being slain by the infamous Ghostface.

Her ability to remain calm and collected allowed her to survive three films to see the fourth installment of the film franchise.

Amanda Seyfried as Needy Lesnicky – “Jennifer’s Body”

Though not without its flaws, “Jennifer’s Body” features two complex and well-written female characters – especially Needy Lesnicky, whom actress Amanda Seyfried embodies seemingly without effort.

Needy and Jennifer Check (“Transformers” pin-up Megan Fox) are two lifelong friends until Jennifer becomes possessed by a teenage boy-craving demon known as a succubus.

The timid Needy has long idolized Jennifer for her flawless features and outgoing ways, but realizes she must go from bookworm to demon hunter when Jennifer’s possession causes a riff in their friendship.

“Jennifer’s Body” offers an extreme look at the treacherous friendships that can exist between teenage girls, and how for high school students like Needy, losing a friend can feel like the end of the world.

Sigourney Weaver as Lt. Ellen Ripley – “Alien” series

Starting with director Ridley Scott’s “Alien” in 1979, Sigourney Weaver’s performance as Lt. Ellen Ripley has typified the role of the strong female heroine in horror films.

Though much of the four films take place in space, at its core, it’s the story of a maniac killer taking the lives of unsuspecting victims in a near slasher-film fashion.

While director James Cameron continued to evoke Ripley’s spirit with characters such as Sarah Connor in the “Terminator” series, he can’t duplicate the character whose legacy he helped perpetuate in 1986’s “Aliens.”

We all know Ripley is a trooper, but “Aliens” also showed her softer, motherly side, placing her beside cinema’s most well-rounded female characters.

Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode – “Halloween” series

Jamie Lee Curtis’ performance as the innocent babysitter who becomes one maniac serial killer’s object of obsession is not one that will soon be forgotten.

Setting precedent for everyone from Prescott to more obscure horror movie heroines like Marybeth in last year’s “Hatchet II,” Curtis’ performance as Laurie Strode offered an early example of the meek girl turned heroine seeking revenge.

This role paved the way for Curtis to become the unofficial “Scream Queen” of the ’80s, as well as inspiring future horror heroines.

Yet, Strode remains the most memorable instance where a quiet introvert decided that she wasn’t going to be tormented anymore.

Mia Farrow as Rosemary Woodhouse – “Rosemary’s Baby”

While Roman Polanski’s controversial past has tainted his filmmaking legacy, there’s no denying that he has done a great deal for women in film – foremost Mia Farrow’s performance in 1968’s “Rosemary’s Baby.”

Rosemary and her husband are welcomed warmly into their extravagant New York City home by their neighbors, but for Rosemary, not everything is as it appears.

After she experiences a vivid hallucination where she makes love to a mysterious creature, many strange occurrences make her believe the haunting vision was real.

Rosemary fights to protect her resultant child throughout the film, even when she knows that what is growing inside her may be far more sinister than your average newborn.