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Stacie Ponder – C’mon Horror Hacks, Put the “Care” Back in Character!

About ten minutes into the recent remake of Friday the 13th, as I sat munching some popcorn, I had a couple of deep, deep thoughts. First, I questioned why I was eating the popcorn, since I can barely tolerate the stuff (answer: It was free). Then I wondered if all of the characters in the movie were going to be unlikable jerks, as seems to be the trend in modern horror (answer: Yes). I don’t expect deep, rich characterization in all of my horror movies — certainly not in a slasher flick — but I don’t see why, lately, these movies are so riddled with jackasses — characters I can’t wait to see die so I’ll be rid of them forever. I miss that little twinge of sadness that comes when a character in a horror movie meets the business end of something pointy or fangy or evil ghosty and shuffles off his mortal coil. At the risk of sounding all “When I was a girl, bread only cost half a ha’penny,” let me ask — whatever happened to characters we could root for? Characters we wanted to see live to the end credits? Characters like the following, whose deaths gave me a serious case of the sads?

Eleanor Lance – The Haunting (1963)
Poor Eleanor
(Julie Harris). She never had a life of her own, first caring for her
invalid mother, then, after her mother’s death, moving into her
sister’s living room. She answers a letter to participate in a study of
paranormal activity at the very bad, very haunted Hill House and she
finally feels like she belongs. She’s been selected! She’s expected!
Her life, finally, is her own… until Hill House subsumes what little
life she’s found — literally. Though her inevitable death is simply a
sad end to a sad existence, Eleanor is, perhaps, happy at last, joining
the spirits that roam the halls of the haunted house on the hill.

Carrie White – Carrie (1976)
Another heartbreaker! Another sad end to a miserable life! Carrie White
(Sissy Spacek) just couldn’t get a break. The fact that she was raised
by a cuckoo nutso mother who instilled nothing but fear into her and
made her spend many hours praying in the Jesus Closet simply didn’t
prepare Carrie for the brutality of high school. Endlessly picked upon
by virtually all of her peers, Carrie found one small moment of
happiness as Prom Queen right before that bucket of pig’s blood came
crashing and splashing down on top of her, exposing the moment as
nothing but a cruel joke. After unleashing her burgeoning telekinetic
powers and destroying the school, Carrie goes home and is finally
comforted by her mother — but even that moment of solace is revealed
to be a lie when her mother stabs her. Nope, she couldn’t get a break,
which is really too bad… with her powers she would have been a sweet
addition to the X-Men .

Mrs. Kobritz – The Fog (1980)
Characters who get killed in horror movies should be horny teens, not
sweet old ladies in cardigans. Killing grandma-types should simply be
outlawed, and there should be a scene edited into The Fog
where Mrs. Kobritz (Regina Walden) answers that ominous knock only to
find Girl Scouts selling cookies instead of mean, leprous ghost sailors
who wield pointy implements. Poor Mrs. Kobritz.

Dick Halloran – The Shining (1980)
there was ever a character who deserved to bark out a “Are you kidding
me?” upon his own death, it’s Dick Halloran (Scatman Crothers), chef at
the Overlook Hotel. It’s sweet, the way he takes young Danny under his
wing during their brief time together, giving him ice cream and
teaching him all about “the shining.” But Halloran really deserves a
medal for answering Danny’s mental SOS, sent out after Danny’s dad went
more than a little mad. Dick leaves the warm climes of his vacation
spot to return to the snowed-in Overlook, traveling for hours by plane
as well as Snowcat to reach the boy. Within minutes of Halloran’s
arrival, Jack plants an axe firmly in his back, putting an abrupt end
to the noble rescue attempt. I always make sure to shout out an “Are
you kidding me?” in his honor.

Laurie Strode – Halloween: Resurrection (2002)
I want to like Halloween: Resurrection.
Really, I do — it’s got everything going for it that screams “so bad
it’s good.” It stars Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks. It’s about reality
television. One of its working titles was But Halloween: Resurrection
squashed — and I mean squashed hard — any chance at love with me in
its opening moments with the death of Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis).
See, Laurie was one of those very rare horror movie characters who had
a lifetime arc. We meet her as a good girl babysitter enduring the worst Halloween
of her life, as she finds the dead bodies of all her friends before
she’s chased incessantly by a masked psycho who, it turns out, is her
brother. Twenty years later, in Halloween H20 ,
we see the result of those nights on her life: She’s a
barely-functioning alcoholic pill-popper plagued with constant
nightmares and worry that Michael will find her again. He does, but she
manages to finally kill him, and we hope that maybe Laurie will find
some peace at last. Then along comes Resurrection to tell us
that nope, Laurie killed someone else. And now Laurie’s crazy. And now
Michael is back… and now she’s dead. It’s cheap, it’s infuriating,
and no amount of Busta Rhymes could ever make up for it. A pox on your
house, Halloween: Resurrection!

Help me out here- modern
horror characters can’t all be jerks, can they? Who’s out there for us
to care about? Whose death do you lament? Tell me — unless it’s
someone swathed in a cardigan all grandma-like… then I really don’t
wanna know.

A fan of horror movies and scary stuff, Stacie Ponder started her blog Final Girl so she’d have a platform from which she could tell everyone that, say, Friday the 13th, Part 2 rules. She leads a glamorous life, walking on the razor’s edge of danger and intrigue.

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