Horror films over the last 100 years have churned out the demise of so many characters, some we couldn’t give a fuck about, perhaps wanted them dead, even if they were on the side of good. Some we loved, admired, were drawn to like magnets, and perhaps pumped our own blood faster in the fear that they too may die in this movie. We never wanted Paul Sheldon to have his legs snapped. I bet many of you craved the survival of Frankenstein’s monster. Nor did we dare imagine that Ellen Ripley could not get Jones the cat to safety. And please, please werewolf David, you really are not going to rip a chunk out of Alex Price are you? You love her! Tense stuff. One of the many elements of a damn good horror is that emotional investment in a character and the utter dread that we could lose them. I wanted to quickly throw a few out there of my own choosing, but alas, gave the whole thing so much thought I almost lost my creative spontaneity – which is scary in itself. Here are 15 of the more memorable characters to me for which I had a soft spot for in a bloody terrifying world.
Amanda Young (Shawnee Smith) Saw (2004) Saw II (2005) Saw III (2006) Saw VI (2009)
Other than Jigsaw’s man behind the madness, the most fascinating character journey in the Saw series is that of Amanda Young. A kind of apprentice serial killer, helping perform acts of methodical, unimaginable human brutality, Amanda suffers her own personal pain. I wonder if I am the only one who really felt it when Amanda was faced with her own end.
Jenny (Kelly Reilly) Eden Lake (2008)
How can you not sympathize with Jenny, who just wants to have a break away with her boyfriend, and not traumatized by some rather brutal and disturbed youths. Even when her man is being tortured to death you console her, and in the final daunting moments her capture is made all the more stomach-churning as these people are not influenced by anything supernatural or viral but rather pure monstrous human savagery.
Hooper (Richard Drewfus) Jaws (1975)
When the second half of Steven Spielberg’s Jaws sets three men off into the waters to kill the shark that has left terror on the New England coastal community, you ponder on the probability they are all doomed. Well, maybe not the main man Brody. Following the surprising loss of Quint you are fairly certain Hooper could be next – especially in that nerve-racking cage attack.
Uncle Red (Gary Busey) Silver Bullet (1985)
Not often I will say this these days, but I agree with something very observant Quentin Tarantino said, this time with a reference he made many, many yeas ago about Silver Bullet. He felt he had to root for Uncle Red, as it was much less plausible to fear for wheelchair-bound Marty or his sister Jane, I mean, she was narrating the story so how could she die?
Amelia (Essie David) The Babadook (2014)
As well as successfully utilizing classic haunted house ingredients, Jennifer Kent’s deeply psychological and eerie spooky story also managed to give the mother at the center of the chills further layers of vulnerability by way of her disintegrating mental health trough her enduring grief, the torment of her son’s erratic behavior, and the enigmatic storybook frights. Her strength as it turns out is her glory.
Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) The Exorcist (1973)
You have to feel for Regan’s hard-working, highly-strung mother even before her daughter is paid a visit from the devil. In the middle of the multi-layered awfulness taking place in the house, it has to cross your mind that Chris may well see her own demise at the hands of her own possessed daughter. That is more than a scary thought to add to the movie’s already peaking tension.
Dale (Tyler Labine) & Tucker (Alan Tudyk) Tucker & Dale Vs Evil (2010)
Although a very smart and effective in-the-woods horror satire, this still has all the chiller components in all the right places. Our hapless protagonists Dale and Tucker are hindered by their character’s stereotyped perceptions as well as some truly awful, consequential bad luck – the more blood is spilling the more you fear for their survival.
David Mann (Dennis Weaver) Duel (1971)
The relentless killer truck, so iconic the vehicle is the villain not the unseen driver, pesters unknowing David Mann for the film’s duration along open American roads. You have to come to the conclusion that this will only ever end by one of the parties being taken off the road – both literally and figuratively if you like.
Ángela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) [Rec] (2007)
Although all perfectly innocent at first, the camera keeps rolling, as the determined Vidal demands the importance of the deadly virus events be captured on film. No longer for ratings perhaps, we get to know Vidal through all manner of horrific real-time bloodshed until she is seemingly the only one left, being famously dragged away into the darkness in night-vision green.
Erin (Jessica Biel) The Texas Chanisnaw Massacre (2003)
The 70s original was pivotal in the continuation of the horror genre using screaming, helpless women being chased by big, bad men. That’s still a formula that works, sure, but Jessica Biel’s Erin emerges from that cliche and somehow shakes up that notion as she is driven to become some kind of lone vigilante doing what she has to do to stay alive.
Jim (Cillian Murphy) 28 Days Later… (2002)
A likable lead, a regular guy in the midst of a digitally shot zombie apocalypse, a modern sub-genre were survival is the name of the game. What makes Jim vulnerable is that he is clueless and lost just like we would be. We are never really sure if he will indeed make it through this humanity downfall, he has to take a bullet and pop a man’s eyes into his sockets with his thumbs to give it a damn good go.
Claudia (Kirsten Dunst) Interview With The Vampire (1994)
Your heart is with Claudia only in her status as a child, corrupted and done for, although there is also a compelling intrigue in her vampire education. The bottom line is she is a blood-sucker and reasoning with Claudia at her most bratty and hungry is going to result in your own downfall – and it likely won’t be cute.
Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) & Eli (Lina Leandersson) Let the Right One In (2008)
An unlikely love story as a bullied kid befriends a girl his age who happens to be a vampire feeding on locals. Two of society’s misfits to say the least, sweet little Oskar looks to be drowned to death until Eli rescues him in a naturally-to-her gruesome manner. What is mercifully saved here is the innocent loving companionship you seldom see in adults let alone young ones.
Phew! While I let my heart settle down please feel free to bombard the comments section with your own horror film characters you didn’t want to be left for dead. Happy Halloween. Boo!