This movie spotlights several classic camp subcategories, including goth camp, stock villain camp, and “camp but it was all a show.” That’s all well and good, but if I were to teach a class on camp (something my college actually had, and that a few students infamously took thinking it was about camping), Dr. Volumnia Gaul’s picture would be at the top of the syllabus. This woman made a vat of iridescent rainbow venomous snakes for fun, then made sure to match her stylish gloves to the snakes when she debuted them to the world. This woman rebrands the idea of killing teenagers as a delightful experiment, and (admittedly this one’s less of a big deal) has zero sense of personal space.
Given every creatively sadistic element at play in The Hunger Games, it makes sense that the person responsible for gameplay would be the most chaotic, twisted scientist we could imagine. Yet no amount of imagining can prepare us for Davis’ performance here, a wildly off-kilter embodiment of a woman who is a walking series of red flags. As Dr. Gaul, she has one deep blue eye (a bio-hacking experiment gone wrong?), an impressive frizz of hair, bloody-wet looking gloves, and makeup that accentuates the lines of her face like a pop art comic.
Davis could’ve just showed up in this outfit and won top spot on this list by virtue of her character’s aesthetics, but she also went above and beyond in her zany portrayal. Dr. Gaul may not be this movie’s only villain, but she’s certainly the character I’d least like to get trapped in a room with — unless it was for an avant-garde fashion show, in which case she’d deserve an Anna Wintour-level place of honor. That’s camp!
“The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is now playing in theaters.