09 February 2016

There have been many faces among all the horror films we've seen. And sometimes we notice an actress who stands out from the rest. Maybe it's a light in their eyes. Other times it might be a unique cadence to their voice. Or a special innocence to their smile.

Such is the case with Lesleh Donaldson.

She was born in Toronto on April 7, 1964. When the acting bug hit and Donaldson decided to try her luck in film, she had the good fortune to land a role in 1979's Running.

It was a Canadian production starring Michael Douglas and Susan Anspach. She played their daughter, Andrea Andropolis, in a story about an American marathon runner (and out of work father of two) who wants to represent his country in the Olympics.

The film was not a success but it gave Donaldson a taste of what filmmaking was like and the chance to work with seasoned actors.

Although she didn't necessarily feel challenged by them, her beauty and charm would be put to good use in a handful of early '80s horror films, starting with Funeral Home AKA Cries In the Night.

It was her first starring role...a PSYCHO-tinged thriller in which she played Heather, a naive young girl visiting her psychotic grandmother.

Grandma is turning her house, once the town's funeral parlor, into a bed and breakfast. Meanwhile, visitors are disappearing. The picture was directed by William Fruet - and both Donaldson and Kay Hawtry (as the crazy old woman) turned in fine performances. In fact, the film became a huge cult hit in Mexico.

In 1981's Happy Birthday To Me starring Melissa Sue Anderson, she was Bernadette, a member of the high school's popular "top ten." She is killed off in the very first scene...but her acting and the exciting cat-and-mouse chase between her and the killer are memorable.

You might think it is easy to be upstaged in a film about killer rats (played by Dachshunds!), but in Deadly Eyes, aka Rats (1982), she once again played the type of character we love... an unassuming and normal teenage girl, exactly the sort of portrayal that is entirely believable.

Donaldson's truest areté was realized in 1983's Curtains (actually filmed in late 1980). As the figure skater terrorized by a killer in an old hag mask, she was candy for the eyes. Practicing her skating alone in an outdoor rink and wearing her soft white hat and gloves, she appears in one of the Terror Trap's all-time favorite scenes.

There were parts in TV movies: The Special People in 1984 and The Undergrads the following year. 1992 saw Donaldson in a small role in Hurt Penguins, a comedy about musicians/lovers facing trouble in their career and relationship.

Today, Donaldson continues a career mostly in the theatre. And you know what? She is not at all embarrassed by her foray into an often underappreciated genre.

Curtains 1983
Deadly Eyes 1982
Friday the 13th: The Series 1987
Funeral Home 1980
Happy Birthday to Me 1981
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