Welcome to Women in Horror Month at We Who Walk Here, Walk Alone! Throughout February, we will be celebrating the women who make horror the spooky, scary, and sublime genre that we all love.
Flowers die and conversation hearts taste like chalky sadness, so my Valentine’s Day gift to you is a profile of one of my favorite scream queens: Katharine Isabelle. Starring in over a dozen horror movies and television shows, Isabelle is a captivating screen presence. She exudes a wicked, dangerous intellect, and she has a femme fatale beauty that belies her often wounded vulnerability. I’ve listed a few of my favorite of her roles below, so read on for some love and gore.
I first saw Isabelle in the 2000 film Ginger Snaps, where she played Ginger Fitzgerald, a teenager who is bitten by a werewolf on the same night that she has her first period. She undergoes a violent and confusing change, both in mind and in body, as her sister (played by Emily Perkins) tries to help her navigate the abrupt transformation.
Shape-shifting monsters being used as a metaphor for female sexuality isn’t new (hello, Cat People), but Ginger Snaps cleverly ties lycanthropy specifically to the confusing physical and emotional changes of puberty. The result is a smart horror film that depicts a sweet and realistic relationship between sisters and portrays puberty as the bloody, frightening metamorphosis that many women find all-too-relatable.
Isabelle and Perkins reprised their roles in the sequel Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed and the prequel Ginger Snaps Back: The Beginning, both of which were released in 2004. I haven’t seen either film yet, but with the two main actresses still playing the roles, I have high hopes that they’ll combine with the original to make a great triple feature.
Isabelle played Ava Wilson, one of the Special Children created by Azazel, Prince of Hell, on season 2 of Supernatural. Because Azazel fed her his demon blood when she was a baby, Ava had supernatural powers, which manifested as psychic visions. When they grew up to be adults, Azazel gathered all of his powered-up Special Children and put them in an abandoned town to fight things out, Battle Royale-style, to determine who the strongest Child was so that they could serve as a human vessel for Lucifer. Ava almost ended up on top, having killed dozens of Children over the course of several months, but she was ultimately taken out by our heroes.
Stupid heroes, with their “saving the world” and “not letting Lucifer possess the body of a psychic demon child.” I was really rooting for Ava.
In 2012, Isabelle teamed up with the Soska Sisters for American Mary, where she played a medical student paying off her loans by performing underground body modification surgeries. Mary’s story is a dark one, as she seeks retribution against a man who assaulted her and deals with the fallout from her illegal surgeries, but despite (or maybe because of) the darkness it is often a joy to watch. It’s an intriguing look into the world of extreme body mods, and Mary’s brand of revenge fits the persona she grows into as she becomes more confident in her surgical skills: she’s scary as hell, but that lady has style.
It’s pretty well-established how much I love the Soskas (seen above with their backs to us, showing off their characters’ corset piercings); one of the many reasons for that is because American Mary made me fall in love with Katharine Isabelle all over again.
Playing Margot Verger in the dearly departed Hannibal, Isabelle further demonstrated her ability to portray complex women healing from trauma. Her would-be heiress is calculating and guarded, but she also wants human connection and someone to trust. Like Mary, she seeks revenge against her abuser (in Margot’s case, her brother Mason), and it is just as bloody and satisfying as Mary’s brand of revenge.
Like I said, that lady has style.
That’s it for today, fiends. If I missed one of your favorite Katharine Isabelle roles, tell me all about it in the comments. I’d love to hear from you. And whether you’re going out or staying in tonight, be safe and have fun. I’ll see you tomorrow.