For mainstream horror fans, a few names come to mind when the term “Scream Queen” comes up. There’s the ultimate Scream Queen Jamie Lee Curtis, most well-known for playing Laurie Strode in several Halloween films over the last forty-four years. There’s Neve Campbell, who five times over twenty-six years played final girl Sidney Prescott in the still ongoing Scream franchise. There’s also Heather Langenkamp from A Nightmare on Elm Street, who is highly regarded even though she hasn’t been in a Freddy Krueger movie since 1994.
A Scream Queen Like No Other
Several more names from the past and present could be given that title as well, but one who is a name both from the past and the present is Linnea Quigley. She doesn’t share the same limelight as Curtis, Campbell, and Langenkamp, and while she wasn’t part of a blockbuster horror franchise, she was a part of many fun B flicks that are still remembered to this day. With almost half a century of acting credits to her name, it’s time to give Linnea Quigley the attention she deserves as one of horror’s greatest Scream Queens.
Quigley got her start in commercials as many actors of the time did, along with working as an extra. Her first roles of note were in smaller erotic films such as Fairy Tales and Audition in 1978. At only twenty years old, Quigley began to receive more attention, partly due to her openness to do nude scenes. She had an uncredited role as a mannequin in 1979’s cult slasher classic, Tourist Trap. She also had a minor role as a sex worker murdered by a sniper in that year’s Stone Cold Dead.
Queen of the B Horror Movies
Then came the 1980s, where Linnea Quigley’s good looks and charm put her in the midst of that decade’s slasher and home video horror boom. In 1981’s Graduation Day, one of the more notable and successful B slasher films of the decade (which also co-starred a young Vanna White), Quigley got her role as the doomed-to-die Dolores when the original actress refused to do nude scenes.
Quigley was cast in a larger role in 1984’s killer Santa Claus classic, Silent Night, Deadly Night. While her character of Denise again appeared topless and served as serial killer fodder, it would be one of the highlights of her career due to her memorable death scene which saw her impaled on wall-mounted deer antlers. Even though Quigley played the victim rather than the final girl, the massive amount of attention the film got, due to protests getting the film pulled from theaters after one week, helped to push her career even further.
In 1985, Quigley would land her most memorable role in Dan O’Bannon’s The Return of the Living Dead. O’Bannon was just a few years removed from writing Alien, and riding the wave of George Romero’s successful zombie films, The Return of the Living Dead became a popular title for years at video stores. Though its lead, Thom Mathews, was great, and the zombies were funny while still being scary, it was Linnea Quigley as the death-obsessed, punk rock vixen named Trash that everyone talked about.
More Than a Pretty Face
For many, it would be their first introduction to Quigley, with her hair now chopped short and bright red and dark makeup zigzagging across her face. Trash is scary without zombies. She’s untamed, a human without inhibition, such as when she shockingly dances fully nude in a cemetery at night. She was more than just a pretty face and a nice body, however. A director in the 80s could find a plethora of young actresses willing to do nude scenes, but Quigley had a presence. She oozed confidence and was completely comfortable in her role. She wasn’t the final girl, but she’d be the one you’d be talking about after the movie was over.
Linnea Quigley ruled the latter part of the 1980s as horror’s B-movie sexpot. There was a demand for nudity in these low-cost schlocky films, yes, but there was also a desire for powerful women. Quigley fit the bill. There were a plethora of cheesy films with even cheesier titles, like Creepozoids (1987), Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1987), and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988). She received a good amount of attention as well for 1989’s Night of the Demons. By the end of the decade, Quigley was quickly cementing her status as “Queen of the B’s.”
Linnea Quigley Did Things Her Way
Even though the horror genre took a hit in the 1990s, Quigley’s career kept on going. She capitalized on this with Linnea Quigley’s Horror Workout in 1990. Pouncing on the popularity of home workout tapes, Quigley’s film was erotic, while also delivering a fun parody that was part exercise video and part goofy zombie film. It epitomized what she was all about. Quigley capitalized on her looks, but more so, she was successful for going all in on being campy. All she really cared about was making the audience laugh and maybe scream a little as well.
The wacky titles kept coming through the 1990s, with attention-grabbing titles like Beach Babes from Beyond (1993) and Curse of the Lesbian Love Goddess (1998), but her status as a B-movie queen even got her a bit of mainstream attention. Linnea Quigley had small roles in John Landis’ 1992 vampire film, Innocent Blood, the direct-to-video Pumpkinhead II: Bloodwings in 1993, and had an uncredited role in the star-studded Phantoms in 1998.
While that is as close as Quigley ever got to mainstream fame, the actress has still succeeded by embracing her niche popularity. She may have never become a household Scream Queen name like Jamie Lee Curtis or Neve Campbell, but for a group of horror fans, she is just as important if not more so for her willingness to go beyond the grain of what a Scream Queen was supposed to be. She showed that you could steal the show without being a trope, not just as a teenager, but also as a woman in her 50s and 60s, which is an extreme rarity in youth-obsessed Hollywood.