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 Brenda Bates from the 1998 Urban Legend.
Much like Wendy Torrance in The Shining, Brenda does seem to be experiencing an overdue reappraisal. But in Brenda’s case it is for being one of the rare examples of a solo female villain in a slasher movie.
For most of the movie, Brenda seamlessly blends in with Natalie’s friend group as a nice and supportive friend. At the end, it is revealed that Brenda’s murder spree was specifically targeting Natalie as one of the two people who were inadvertently responsible for Brenda’s fiancé’s death.
What I appreciate about Brenda is how normal her motivation to kill is (simple revenge) in comparison to how dramatic her killings are. Urban Legend might be cheesy, but the way it incorporates multiple infamous urban legends in the narrative and murders is incredibly entertaining. This movie was released in the early days of Snopes.com, when it seemed like the internet would help us all easily access factual information vs. just spread false information faster. *sigh*
Brenda is full of contradictions. She has clearly thought through many of her kills, and even has the upper body strength to hang Joshua Jackson from a tree. Yet her killing outfit is a simple parka sans a mask. How does she ensure the hood doesn’t accidently fly off as she chases after someone? No one knows. She is motivated to kill because of wanting revenge on two specific people. Yet she also kills a bunch of additional people in the process just because. Much like James Comey, she seems to just live for the drama of it all after a while.
It is a little disappointing that Brenda’s motivation is a man, but her killer monologue is one of the best. Namely because of its use of the phrase “Miss Thang”.
“You still haven’t figured it out, have you? Well, lucky for you, Miss Thang, I have a visual aid! There I am, Natalie, with my boyfriend. The love of my life. Have you found the love of your life yet, Natalie? Of course not. Too self involved to bother.”Brenda Bates
She is also too smart to fall for Jared Leto’s attempt to sound like he is on her side.
“You’re cute, Paul. But you’re not that fucking cute.”Brenda Bates
The ending stinger elevates Brenda to icon status, and perfectly captures the tone of the movie and its commentary on the circular nature of urban legends.
Hats (parka hoods?) off to Brenda Bates for being one of the most unnecessarily creative and unique slasher villains from start to finish.