All too often, I hear critics lambaste horror for painting women as victims. Whether it was in the heyday of slashers with Siskel & Ebert constantly bellyaching or modern day well-intentioned but painfully incorrect critics like Angelina Dequina, the role of women in horror has been diminished, insulted and painted as misogynistic. In reality, horror has been the most progressively minded genre in terms of true feminism.
Whether an antagonist or a protagonist, female leads in horror are depicted with intelligence, prowess, survivor skills, intuition, sexual ownership, fortitude and a perseverance seen with far more frequency than their male counterparts.
Horror should be celebrated for their continued focus on strong women, and the female characters should be honored. This column intends to do just that!
Fem Goddesses of Horror: La Contessa Dolingen de Vries (Rosalba Neri)
By Melissa Antoinette Garza
Recognizing La Contessa Dolingen de Vries (Rosalba Neri) of THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT (1973) is the perfect way to kick this off.
Rosalba Neri portrays many fierce and cunning women and I’m sure we’ll revisit her quite often. This particular role is by far my favorite for so many splendid reasons.
Sexy vampire, La Contessa will stop at nothing to get what she wants, and she wants to bring her husband back from the dead. She allows others to think they are in command, but is aware of her own power at all times. Everyone else is a mere puppet and she’s pulling the strings, and when need-be handing out a few hallucinogens to do it.
Whether using her sexuality, her magical ring, her innate knowledge of the way others work or her sheer will, she controls and manipulates those around her with ease – and oh she looks so divine doing it! I’m not just referring to her outward beauty which is undeniable, but also her poise and dominating approach. It’s magnetic and keeps me glued to the screen.
In the best scene of the film, she rises from a coffin wearing only the blood of virgins. She then arrogantly and wholly in charge, poses like an evil version of Mother Nature reclaiming the earth as if it sole belonged to her. It’s beautiful and raw and expresses a freedom from the hold of anything and anyone. La Contessa rules the world and damn, I just want to be part of it. As I watch, I completely relate to those who are taken with her. I find myself thinking, “I’ll do anything you want, you wicked Vamp. Just don’t stop being amazing!”
For all the woes about women being portrayed as mere damsels-in-distress in horror, THE DEVIL’S WEDDING NIGHT spits in the face of that notion. Not only is La Contessa not in need of rescuing, she’s the one doing the damage. More than that, she is actually trying to save her man. He’s the damsel, a dead damsel, but a damsel nonetheless. She’s working her magic and charm, to bring him back to her. She’s a driven woman motivated by love, but not enslaved by it.
Her hubby, Dracula doesn’t own her. She likes having him around and misses him, but she still heats up the sheets with other gorgeous fems. She owns herself, her body and her mind. She’s calculated, devious and breathtakingly stunning. Every move she makes is intentional and with thought and preparation. No man’s brawn is a match for her wits. She is the epitome of the bad girl everyone wants to be and be with.
La Contessa Dolingen de Vries is pure fem goddess, and I fucking love her for it. Rosalba Neri’s portrayal is perfection. Nearly every second of the film is a love letter to the dynamic wonders of being a woman, all that it encompasses and why it is so grand.