Fright Club: Mean Girls & Bullies in Horror

Horror is about power versus vulnerability. That’s why bullies and mean girls fit so well into the genre. You always hope the vulnerable will overcome. In this genre, there’s always the real worry that evil will overcome. But somehow, bullies and mean girls never stand a chance.

There are so many great ways to spend time with these high school baddies, but here are our five favorites:

5. Sleepaway Camp (1983)

Meg (Katherine Kamhi) was no picnic, but side-ponytail Judy (Karen Fields) is an all-timer when it comes to onscreen bullies. She hates everyone, is mean to everyone, but she really detests poor Angela (Felissa Rose).

“She’s a carpenter’s dream! She’s flat as a board and needs a screw!”

Like all mean girls in horror, Judy gets what’s coming to her. Still, you have to respect that ponytail.

4. It (2017)

Man, the kids of Derry have it rough long before the circus comes to Derry. Between Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton) and his powerful mullet and the girls dumping wet garbage on Beverly, nobody’s safe. The Losers Club really brings them out of the woodwork.

In fact, they save Mike Hanlon’s life, which bonds the group through the real clown show. Maybe this is what made each of these kids tough enough to withstand he real clown show.

3. Let the Right One In (2008)

Sure, we know Conny learned to be a bully from his older brother, Martin. Maybe Martin learned it from his dad or something. But Oskar’s had just about enough of it.

Unfortunately, Oskar’s not as good at defending himself as he’d like to think he is once big brother shows up. Not that he really needs to defend himself anymore. In one of the greatest bully comeuppance sequences in all horror, Eli shows Oskar what friends are for.

2. Piggy (2020)

Carlota Pereda complicates the mean girl trope in this brutal, moving, amazing Spanish horror film. Sarah is targeted by town mean girl Maca (Clauda Salas). Roci (Camille Aguilar) is almost as bad, but it’s Claudia (Irene Ferreiro) who really breaks Sarah’s heart. It wasn’t long ago, they were friends. Now Claudia is willing to taunt, humiliate, and in one instance, nearly drown “Piggy”.

Maybe that’s why Sarah does what she does when the three girls are taken. That is to say, maybe that’s why Sarah doesn’t do what she doesn’t do.

1. Carrie (1976)

What else? Is there a more tragic scene? Is there a scene that better establishes a character, a context, or horror?

De Palma films the scene in question, appropriately enough, like a tampon commercial, all cheesecloth and beautific music. And then Carrie White (Oscar-nominated Sissy Spacek) desperately claws at her classmates, believing she is dying. It’s the most authentic image of vulnerability and terror you can imagine, matched in its horror by the reaction she receives from those she seeks: laughter, mockery and contempt.

The result is the ultimate in mean girl cinema and an introduction to a nearly perfect horror film.

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