Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know
Psycho Females of the Screen

Those who believe in the concept of 'the gentle sex' should bear in mind that there are far more successful serial killers in history than Henry Lee Lucas, Ted Bundy or any similarly boring wimps. According to the Guinness Book of Records, among the all-time champions is Countess Erszbet Bathory (left), who offed about 650 peasant girls in medieval Rumania. Now, obviously she had an advantage living in an era when the ruling class could do whatever they wanted to the rabble - nowadays, they have to hold an election first (hah! Political satire!) - but it's still impressive evidence that psychosis is not purely masculine.

And murderous or otherwise insane women have been a common feature of entertainment since very early days. Greek theatre had its Clytemnestra, wandering the streets, shrieking prophecies and maledictions. Shakespeare has Lady Macbeth and Ophelia, to name but two (I'm using "psycho" here as a generic catch-all, rather than a psychological specific!). But this year, they would seem to be "in". Imminently, we'll get Drew Barrymore psycho-teening as Poison Ivy and we've already had The Hand That Rocks The Cradle (see below) and Single White Female, which stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, who's made a career out of playing variously unstable characters. Most fall into one of four broad groups, though naturally there is an element of overlap. Let's take each of these in turn, and examine a specific example.

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