SHOCK WAVES director Ken Wiederhorn helmed this clever and (in its unrated version) gory slasher/thriller that features a young Leigh in her feature debut. Here she plays a blind and deaf girl who faces off against a madman in the final reel. Leigh has no dialogue in the film and is stunningly physical. A silent film performance nestled in the body of a "talkie".
Paul Verhoeven's over-the top, almost Ken Russell-esque wallow in medievel sex and death is a masterpiece of excess, with Rutger Hauer as the leader of a gang of pillager's and Leigh his captured lover. Leigh sheds her clothes often in this delirious film and her character is no cut-out. She's a scheming woman in a Lady's skin. Sexual, delicate but dangerous.
More definitive Hauer-sploitation and another great role for Leigh, though here, she's not a troubled character, nor wicked. She's a nice girl who stands by a man and gets torn in half for her troubles. One wonders, perversely, if Leigh took this role in this kinetic road-horror classic just so she could meet one of the genre's most horrific demises.
Another oddly overlooked horror drama, this one from writer/director Bill Condon. It's a smothering Southern Gothic creeper with Leigh in prime unstable mode as one of two sisters (the other played by Judith Ivey) running a Louisiana B&B, deep in the swamp. Once more, Leigh bares all and once more hides some heavy secrets under her skin.
Wildly underrated psycho-horror film that feels like the best film Dario Argento never made. In it Leigh plays a girl whose perverted uncle leaves her a haunted nightclub-cum-apartment in his will. But is it haunted, or is Leigh just insane? Surreal imagery, sexuality and a Polanski-worthy central turn by Leigh as a woman in the thralls of madness.
Uli Edel's devastating adaptation of Hubert Selby Jr.'s even more shattering novel is not a horror film by definition, but who cares about definition. This collection of brutal, damaged characters on the skids of working-class 50's Brooklyn, is hard to watch but gelled together by Leigh's unforgettable turn as Tra-La-La, a rough prostitute who secretly pines for some ray of light in the urban hell that is feeding off her. One of Leigh's most alarming performances (and that's saying something), fearless, physical, frightening and heart-breaking.
Ice-cold horror-noir made by a pre-SHAWSHANK Frank Darabont sees Leigh at her most diabolical. Here she's a lovely housewife who is really anything but; rather she's a philandering and homicidal harpy who does the title deed to her poor, unsuspecting hubby (Tim Matheson). A decent TV film buoyed by Leigh's sterling, salacious work.
Leigh's signature role, her apex of mainstream madness, here playing a super-ultra-deeply disturbed sociopath who becomes fixated on her roomate (Bridget Fonda) and tries to not only take over her life, but literally become her. One of those 90s thrillers that came and went and came again, SWF is notable not only for Leigh's wild-eyed turn, but for Barbet (BARFLY) Schroeder's ace direction.
Taylor Hackford's deft adaptation of Stephen King's jet-black morality tale again serves as a showcase for Leigh's talents, here playing Kathy Bates' bitter daughter, who harbors some shattering secrets that she might not even be aware of.
Leigh's "otherness" finds the perfect home in the world of David Cronenberg in this deeply surreal and lively action head trip. And while its initially hard to buy her as a visionary tech guru, it's a joy to watch her essentially "sodomize" Jude Law with a video game. A strange film. A Cronenberg film!