Last month, while I was analyzing horror films for Halloween, I remarked that librarians show up in quite a few horror films. My husband then posed an intriguing question:
Do reel librarians usually turn out to be villains… or victims?
Based on the horror films and thrillers I have seen so far that feature reel librarians, let’s investigate:
(POSSIBLE SPOILERS THROUGHOUT)
Reel librarian villains:
- Chainsaw Sally (2004): April Monique Burril as Sally Diamon
- Ghostbusters (1984): Ruth Oliver as Library Ghost
- Necronomicon, Book of the Dead (1993): Tony Azito as Monk Librarian
- Personals (TV, 1990): Jennifer O’Neill as Heather Moore
- Weird Woman (1944): Evelyn Ankers as Ilona Carr
- The Wicker Man (1973): Ingrid Pitt as Librarian
Reel librarian victims:
- The Attic (1980): Carrie Snodgress as Louise Elmore
- Ghostbusters (1984): Alice Drummond as Alice
- Horror of Dracula (1958): John Van Eyssen as Jonathan Harker
- The Last Supper (1995): Pamela Gien as The Illiterate Librarian
- Peeping Tom (1960): Anna Massey as Helen Stephens
- Tale of a Vampire (1990): Suzanna Hamilton as Anne/Virginia
- Twisted Nerve (1968): Hayley Mills as Susan Harper
Of the films I’ve designated as featuring reel librarian villains, three are title or central characters: Sally in Chainsaw Sally (2004), a public librarian by day, chainsaw-wielding serial killer by night ; Ilona in Weird Woman (1944), a college librarian who sets mischief in motion due to a spurned love (“hell hath no fury… “) ; and Heather in Personals (aka Personal Ads, TV, 1990), featuring a public librarian who kills unsuspecting men who dare to answer her personal dating ads.
One film boasts both villain AND victim: Ghostbusters (1984); in the film’s memorable opener, one poor librarian gets scared out of her wits by a spinsterish library ghost.
When going through my Master List in search of horror and thriller films, I realized that the “victims or villains” question was too limiting. There are a few reel librarians who turn out to be heroes/heroines:
- The Mummy (1999): Rachel Weisz as Evelyn Carnahan
- It, aka Stephen King’s It (TV, 1990): Tim Reid as Michael Hanlon
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983): Jason Robards as Charles Halloway
Interestingly, the above characters all seem like they will turn out to be victims, or at least weaklings who cannot stand up to the evil forces they come up against — but all find inner strength and come through stronger in the end. Not surprisingly, all three of these librarian heroes/heroines are major characters whose arcs fulfill the role of Liberated Librarians.
There are also several reel librarians in horror films who are Information Providers, serving to further the plot along. This role is not unique to horror films; rather, it is the most common purpose, and role, for reel librarians across all film genres.
Some of these reel librarians are perhaps not-so-innocent bystanders, including Miss Gottschalk in The Seventh Victim (1943), who gives away confidential patron records in exchange for a few flirty glances and innuendos. Louise, a supporting character in The Killing Kind (1973) is NOT the killer the title is referring to, but she is far from innocent. She relates her own violent rape fantasies and reveals a decidedly vengeful streak toward her neighbors.
- Abandon (2002): Melanie Lynskey as Mousy Julie ; Joan McBride as Library Assistant ; Robert Burns as Archivist
- The Amityville Horror (1979): Two uncredited female librarians
- Amityville II: The Possession (1982): Unknown female (most likely Petra Lea as Mrs. Greer)
- Cape Fear (1962): Josephine Smith as Librarian (uncredited)
- Carrie (TV, 2002): Irene Miscisco as Librarian
- The Changeling (1980): David Peevers as Microfilm Clerk; Robert Monroe as Archives Clerk
- Curse of the Demon (aka Night of the Demon, 1957): John Salew as Librarian
- The Killing Kind (1973): Luana Anders as Louise
- The Night Strangler (TV, 1973): Wally Cox as Mr. Berry
- The Ring (2002): Ronald William Lawrence as Library Clerk; Guy Richardson as Librarian
- Scream, Blacula, Scream! (1973): Sybil Scotford as Librarian
- The Seventh Victim (1943): Sarah Selby as Miss Gottschalk
Next week, I have a special treat in store for y’all — an international reel librarian perspective! — so please stop by again soon. 😀