Horror movies are fun to watch because most of the time, the characters are so dumb, you can’t wait to see who is going to die first. It’s very rare to find a horror flick where the protagonists actually make the viewer go, “Way to go!” It was a hard list to make, considering I’ve seen quite a lot of horror movies, but I think I came up with a good top five. What I was looking for were characters that realized their situation and took charge. I’m a firm believer in rooting for the underdog, which some of these characters are. They most often surprise you.
Randy: SCREAM (1996) Directed by Wes Craven
Wes Craven is my all-time favorite horror director, so it comes as no surprise to me that I would choose one of his films for any list. I recently read that this movie is considered to be the “Most 90’s Horror Movie.” There are a lot of characters to account for, but their stereotypes are quite 90’s, thinking back on it now. The one character I want to talk about from this movie is Jamie Kennedy’s character: Randy. Known in the movie as the weirdo who loves horror movies, his knowledge is one of the reasons he is so great. I rooted for him to live, and was quite disappointed that he died in the sequel.
Craven is known for his slasher films, but also the wit and humor tied into the characterization. Randy is our comic relief, but he is a great source of knowledge. Anyone could say he “called it” when he said Billy was the killer in the movie rental store (obsolete in this day). The scene at the party after everyone has left to go see the dead principal is one of my favorite scenes. Randy is sitting on the couch, pretty drunk, watching a Jamie Lee Curtis movie, most likely Halloween. The killer walks in the room and stands behind him, while Randy says, “Jamie. Jamie, look behind you. Behind you!” It’s funny to me because not only should HE be the one looking behind him, but his real name is Jamie, so it was pretty funny in general.
Afterthought: there is a character in the TV series “Scream” that reminded me of Randy a good bit. There’s a reason they made basically re-created the character.
Marty: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) Directed by Drew Goddard
People don’t like watching this movie, and I don’t know why. They’re expecting it to be a scary horror movie, but there’s too much comedy in it. People want to be scared, I get it, but movies like this are awesome for the horror film genre. There’s always a bit of humor in the good ones, in my opinion anyway. Yet again, this film focuses on a group of characters, college kids going out into the woods for a good time. Just about as cliche as it gets.
The characters don’t start out stereotypical, kind of the opposite, but because of the factors within the film, they slowly become more and more like stereotypical horror kids. Which is, lets face it, what the “orchestraters” are looking for. They want a show. The character that I rooted for the whole time was the stoner, Marty, played by Fran Kranz. Not only was he hilarious driving his station wagon smoking out of a huge bong, but he was clearly more in tune with the fact that things weren’t right at the cabin. He finds the camera they are watching him with; he talks back to the eerie voices whispering in the wind. He makes us think he’s dead until the last scene to save the day (although that is kind of cliche). Even though being high was what basically saved him from the sinister forces working against them, he tries to save the day and yet, it is because they won’t die that everyone dies anyway.
Odd Thomas: ODD THOMAS (2013) Directed by Stephen Sommers
This film easily became one of my favorite movies after I watched it the first time. Not because I was (and always will be) in love with Anton Yelchin (rest in peace), but it is a great horror movie overall. After he passed, I couldn’t bring myself to watch it for quite some time. Yelchin plays the title character Odd Thomas. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Odd Thomas can see dead people. He uses his powers for good, trying to right the wrongs of innocent deaths. The film is based on a book series written by Dean Koontz, and although the film is much like the novel, there are many things that would have made it more campy if they had been included. Such as the ghost of Elvis Presley, however, there is a cardboard cut out of Elvis in Odd’s apartment in the movie, a good nod to the novel.
Odd Thomas is such a likable guy, there’s no reason not to root for him. He’s trying to stop some great evil from happening in his hometown. Not everyone with powers like his would do the right thing. This film, I will admit, is’t like most horror movies, considering it is a little more lighthearted than dark. Still, it is considered within the horror genre. There are some scenes that are unsettling, thinking that things like the “bodachs” could be real. Odd Thomas, the character, is the real reason to watch the film. He truly wants to do some good, even though people don’t see the good that he’s doing, except for a few people that know his powers: his girlfriend and a good friend in the police force (Willem Defoe). I feel like a sequel would have ruined the excitement of this film, even though Koontz wrote a series of novels about Odd Thomas.
Ash: THE EVIL DEAD TRILOGY (1981, 1987, 1992) Directed by Sam Raimi
Sam Raimi created a cult classic when he directed The Evil Dead, and with it came the cult following. Originally made as a serious horror film, it got a lot of laughs and screams, and Raimi ran with the idea of making it almost a comedy in Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. Bruce Campbell really brought the character of Ash to life. I don’t know what it is about that man, but he is truly a genius in the Evil Dead trilogy. It might be his chin. Also, who wouldn’t love a man with a chainsaw for an arm? He was a good boy turned in to a warrior man throughout the course of these films. Evil changes him into being what makes him an awesome character. He uses the chainsaw to cut off his own possessed arm. That’s dedication. Bruce Campbell has his own cult following outside the Evil Dead films. Most people these days are mostly associated with the last film, Army of Darkness, then introduced to the earlier films.
Ash, as a character, truly comes into being in Evil Dead 2, where the story kind of starts all over again. However, in the first movie, he shows his skillfulness in blocking doors as well as making other contraptions. Honestly, nothing is more epic or badass to me than the scene where he attaches the chainsaw to his stump in Evil Dead 2, stating, “Groovy.” That sticks in my mind way more than any scene from Army of Darkness, despite it’s awesomeness. Army of Darkness was fortunately produced by Universal Studios, thus giving it much better production value and exposure. It’s hard to argue against the fact that Ash is one of the most badass horror heroes.
Maddie: HUSH (2016) Directed by Mike Flanagan
I was skeptical about this movie when I first watched it a while back. I usually am about “home invasion” type horror. Yet, it was quite a thrilling, edge-of-your-seat kind of film. Maddie is the only real protagonist in this film, the other characters, other than the bad guy, are very minor. I had almost forgotten that the actor that plays Anders from Battlestar Galactica had one of these minor roles. Maddie definitely gives the intruder a fight, considering her disability: she’s deaf. However, the thing that makes her awesome is that she’s a writer. Her questioning mind and her ability to think of different outcomes for her actions. She wasn’t always deaf, which gives her an inner voice that only the audience can hear.
The one thing about the movie that makes it suspenseful is knowing that she can’t hear how loud she’s being when she’s trying to get away from the bad guy. Maddie outwits him several times and it’s her determination and willpower that drives her to survive, the main reason I love her as a hero in a horror film. She knows how to hide and attack when need be. This guy, the intruder character, creates a true warrior of survival when he kills Maddie’s neighbor and uses her dead body to lure Maddie out of hiding. She has a will to live and this guy isn’t going to stop her. She uses sound to her advantage when it really counts