Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Angela Bettis

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“So many pretty parts and no pretty wholes.” That basically sums up the motivation behind the title character of Lucky McKee’s 2002 breakout film, May. And there was no bigger reason that the film and director found success than the unforgettable star of the film, and the newest Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel honoree, Angela Bettis.

Although she had done sporadic film and television work before starring as the lead character in May (including an outstanding supporting role in Girl, Interrupted, the horror film Bless the Child with Kim Basinger and Jimmy Smits, and the little known thriller People are Dead with Jennifer Carpenter and Kristen Bell), this was the film (premiering at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival) that launched Bettis onto the mainstream horror scene. And since her trumpeted arrival, there has been no turning back for this brilliant actress and horror mainstay.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Angela Bettis

May was a stunning film in several ways. Aside from the fact that May Dove Canady was the rare female slasher/murderer, Bettis crafted the transformation of the character marvelously, slowly bringing May’s pain and loneliness to the surface until it erupted in remarkable violence. Her beauty, mixed with her brokenness, made May an incredibly intriguing, unforgettable character and an amazing springboard for Bettis (and McKee) to vault their careers.

Bettis’ next foray into the horror genre came quickly on the heels of May, and it was the portrayal of a legendary horror character. In a made-for-TV remake of Brian DePalma’s classic telling of the Stephen King tale Carrie, Bettis took on the job of re-imagining Carrie White and succeeded in tackling this Herculean task. After hitting audiences with May and Carrie back-to-back, Bettis had truly arrived.

And as if taking on the role of Carrie White wasn’t enough of a challenge, Bettis followed that up with the lead role in the experimental 2005 film The Circle. This 103-minute thriller was shot entirely in one take and in real time. Although we see the one-take cinematic technique attempted from time to time these days (such as in The Silent House), this was an early attempt at the one-shot film.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Angela Bettis

From here Bettis would team with a true horror heavyweight, director Tobe Hooper. (Do we really need to list his credentials? Okay, for you first timers, Hooper has helmed such hall of fame horror films as The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Salem’s Lot and Poltergeist.) She starred in the lead role of Hooper’s 2004 remake of The Toolbox Murders. Following that she would again team with her running buddy Lucky McKee to create one of the most impressive offerings from Showtime’s “Masters of Horror” series, the entomologist’s dream episode “Sick Girl.” Following this she did voice-over work in McKee’s thriller The Woods.

In an impressive move by both participants, Bettis and McKee would switch roles as the actress turned director and McKee became the thespian for the 2006 psychological thriller and the companion piece to May, Roman. Interestingly, Bettis will return to the director’s chair for the first time since 2006 to helm a segment of the highly anticipated upcoming anthology film The ABCs of Death.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Angela Bettis

In 2008 Bettis was part of another groundbreaking feature. She starred in the film Scar. This was the first US produced horror film to be shot in HD 3D and the first Video-on-Demand film released in 3D specifically for viewers with 3D televisions. And if actress extraordinaire and director isn’t enough to impress you, Bettis is also a film producer, operating Mo-Freek Production Company with her husband, Kevin Ford.

And as we rave on about the remarkable horror resume Bettis is putting together, we must not forget her role in one of the best horror series on television today. That’s right… don’t forget she had a recurring role in “Dexter” as Emily Birch, a survivor of the diabolical Jordan Chase’s unspeakable crimes.

Of course most recently you can see Bettis back under McKee’s watchful directorial eye as Belle Cleek in the new film The Woman, an adaptation of a Jack Ketchum novel. The Woman is one of the most talked about new horror films of the year, and Bettis, as it seems she always does, delivers in her role.

Actor, director, producer, heroine and villain, housewife and cold-blooded killer, Angela Bettis can and has done it all. Her acting range is amazing, and she has played characters that are unforgettable, damaged, vicious and sympathetic (sometimes all at the same time). It is because of this that Angela Bettis becomes the much deserving first female to receive a Doctor Gash Tip of the Scalpel. Well done!

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel: A Tribute to Angela Bettis

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Scott Hallam

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  • Terminal

    Yet again, I’ve never seen the big deal with Angela Bettis. She was okay in “May” but I’ve yet to see her in anything else that would sell her as some sort of revelation in my eyes. Bettis is just average.