To celebrate Women in Horror Month, I will be highlighting some of my favorite undersung female characters in horror films each day this month. These posts will contain some spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movies mentioned do yourself a solid and check them out before reading all the way through.
Today I’m celebrating Maggie Bess from the 2001 Thir13en Ghosts. I know most people think of Matthew Lillard when they think of this movie and I love him in this too, but Rah Digga’s performance subtly steals scenes and adds much needed levity. Plus once again, this secondary character is largely responsible for saving the day.
Maggie works as a (live-in?) nanny for the Arthur Kriticos’s youngest son Bobby. She is first introduced with hair curlers still in her hair as she helps Bobby pronounce decapitation. Bobby is a morbid young child, but Maggie encourages his passion and doesn’t make him feel weird or bad for his fixation on death. While Arthur and his teenage daughter Kathy are consumed with grief and trying to make ends meet, Maggie helps ensure Bobby isn’t neglected.
Maggie is hilarious in nearly every scene she is in. The moment the family walks into the all glass house Arthur’s late uncle left them, she announces “family, just so we’re all clear, Ms. Maggie does NOT do windows.” She is also quick to correct Bobby when he calls his sister a slut for saying something he doesn’t like. Instead she tells him the word bitch would be better a better word to use given the context.
Maggie is undersung in part because Matthew Lillard is so hilarious and zany as Dennis. But she really holds her own comedically next to him as they explore the house together.
Maggie: “I don’t think you should be teasing the ghosts.”
Dennis: “Shut up!”
Maggie: “You shut up you’re the one that keeps pissing them off!”Thir13en Ghosts
When Kalina tries to tell Arthur the only way to stop Cyrus’s evil plan is to sacrifice himself, Maggie immediately starts arguing with Kalina.
She truly cares for Arthur as a person. She adamantly tells Kalina and Arthur there has to be something else they can do.
During the climax of the film, Kathy & Bobby are trapped and Cyrus is about to kill Arthur. But just as it seems Cyrus will triumph, his spell recording starts sounding like a DJ set – allowing the ghosts to break away from their spell-induced trance. Maggie is in the control room destroying the spell tapes and pulling every lever she can get her hands on in a Hail Mary to stop Cyrus, which allows Arthur to get the upper hand against him. Without Maggie, no one but Cyrus would have been walking out of there alive.
But let’s not get it twisted. The level of deadly ghost-filled nonsense Maggie ends up having to deal with in this film would have anyone ready to demand hazard pay, sue, or quit. The film ends on a memorable comedic beat, with Maggie dramatically announcing her attentions out loud to herself.
“This is it for me. I am on the first fuckin’ plane back to Newark. Uh-uh. I am sorry, family, Kathy, Bobby, uncle, ghosts. I am sick of this nanny shit. I’ve had it. This was not in the job description. I quit!”Maggie, Thir13en Ghosts
Hats off to you Maggie Bess for being a hilarious and welcome addition to this zany movie.