Psycho-biddy, Hagsploitation, and Grand Dame Guignol are terms for a subgenre of the horror/thriller movie that features a formerly-glamorous older woman who has become mentally unbalanced and terrorizes those around her. The genre officially began in 1962 with the film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (though it had some antecedents) and lasted through the mid-1970s. Renata Adler, in her The New York Times review for the 1968 film The Anniversary, referred to the genre as “the Terrifying Older Actress Filicidal Mummy genre.”
The subgenre features a mentally unstable, dangerous, or insane woman of advanced years with a somewhat glamorous past, living a life of relative wealth. In some cases, the woman may be in jeopardy of some sort, with another party attempting to drive her to mental instability. Often (but not always), there are two older women pitted against one another in a life-or-death struggle, usually the result of bitter hatreds, jealousies, or rivalries that have percolated over the course of, not years, but decades. These combatants are often blood-relatives. The character is often brought to life in an over-the-top, grotesque fashion, emphasizing the unglamorous process of aging and eventual death. Characters are often seen pining for lost youth and glory, trapped by their idealized memories of their childhood, or younger days, and the trauma of a past episode that haunts them.
This subgenre includes elements of many other genres, including gothic, Grand Guignol, black comedy, psycho-drama, melodrama, revenge, camp and even the musical. Science fiction and Western films have also been part of the genre.Réduire