Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Jill Schoelen: The Scream Queen Next Door

I read a book the other day that said that female serial killers will often pick their victims based on what they can see in them as a reflection of themselves. I think this probably rings true for more than just serial killers, when I watch a film with actors I'm not familiar with, I'll always gravitate to the ones that remind me of ME. The Winonas, the Mary Liz Winsteads, it's more than just that we look kind of similar, it's a vibe they own that I hope I put into the world half as much as they do. It's so important for us all to have reflections of ourselves in our media, which is of course why representation matters so much, because that's the truly subversive part of film, when you can look at what is happening to a character on screen and think "this is a connection". It doesn't need to be in physical likeness but it's definitely the first thing that will draw me in. That's how I first noticed Jill Schoelen, my favourite Scream Queen.

Amazing and talented actor with a string of low-key hits in the late 80s/early 90s. And Brad Pitt.
 Scream Queen is like, the highest honor I could ever bestow on someone's career personally. I wish I could be a scream queen, I wish I could have that kind of energy and the ability to scream on cue (I have only screamed once and it was on the Harry Potter ride at Universal when my feet got hot when the dragon blew on them). Most Scream Queens are totally untouchable, perfect, tank top wearing, permed and manicured, which is a whole different fantasy all together than my Girl Next Door, my favourite Jill Schoelen.

Popcorn (1991)
I first got to know Jill in The Stepfather and I found her instantly captivating. She was sassy, she wore 80s jeans, she had bangs and she hated her stepdad. It was a match made in heaven. That lightning bolt moment when you think I will watch every thing you have ever been in so help me god because no one has really summed up your aesthetic and your fantasy self so well. Can we just talk about this film for a second? Despite an entirely inappropriate shower scene (Jill is meant to be 15 in the movie) The Stepfather is an underrated gem of the late 80s, Terry O'Quinn is a scene chewing piece of shit in it and only the street-smart Stephanie (Schoelen) can see through his bullshit. Jill really gets to try out her Scream Queen talent with a final showdown that leaves your heart racing, forget the final chase between Laurie and Michael Meyers, The Stepfather is the most legit in-house chase ever put to film.

Cure II: The Bite (1989)
You would not be blamed for thinking this might just be a one-hit wonder, horror films are full of amazing actresses who make one film then disappear into the ether, but man with Jill we got lucky. I have to admit that I haven't seen her entire body of work, but I've seen enough to know that she can basically make or break a film. Have you ever seen Curse II: The Bite? There is absolutely no reason for that film to be good. It's about a human-snake hybrid transformation but Jill plays a long-suffering girlfriend in big hoop earrings and her descent into the slime covered sewer hell that is the finale is SO LEGIT it's riveting. Don't ever even try and tell me that Scream Queens can't act because it simply is not true, if you cannot see the mastery in writhing around, screaming in tons of special effects gloop then honestly what are you even doing here?

Phantom of the Opera (1989)
You get to a point when you truly love an actor that you will convince yourself they can save anything. Not always the case. Phantom of the Opera is basically a bit shit, but that doesn't mean you can't find the good. That's the cool thing about appreciating someone beyond their appearances and if they get nude in a film, because even if a film is shitty you can still appreciate their work. With her raspy voice and warmness on screen you could watch a truly shitty film and still come away feeling like you've had a head massage.

The Stepfather (1987)
Schoelen's film picks between 1987 - 1995 are really interesting to me because maybe it was a happy accident but she seemed to just pick these fantastic films that ended up flying under the mainstream radar. Popcorn was basically Scream 3, hell even Scream, before there was even New Nightmare. Popcorn is a subversive masterpiece set in a theatre and poking fun at every horror trope you could imagine. I love an actor who is able to rib their own profession, it shows a fondness and genuine passion for the genre than someone who just ~settles~ for a horror film as they're starting out. I feel like me and Jill would get on, you know? 


Jill mysteriously quit acting only a few years after she'd started, and although I like to think about the kind of films she would be choosing to be a part of now I also kind of like the mysticism, kind of like American Football making a perfect album and then disappearing for a decade and a bit. She may not be making new material but it's a good job her filmography is full of weird and wonderful films. I want to thank her for making me feel good about myself, about being a pessimistic teenager and for fueling my horror obsession. She's just the best.


Robyn is one half of Bimbo Movie Bash, an avid fan of Angel Delight and a Pee Wee apologist.


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