A Bloody Good Time 12.13.12: Top 20 Most Memorable Minor Horror Characters, Part 2 (#10-1)
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
Welcome to A Bloody Good Time.
Last week we looked at how to survive a haunted house movie.
Before I get to this week, I have a plea to my readers. The end of the year is fast approaching and that means the best of 2012 horror column is also coming up. I’m going to be completely honest. This year, Hollywood has not stepped up. I’ve got maybe three to four big budget Hollywood movies that could potentially make the list and then a lot of crap both mainstream and indie. So I need your help. Have you seen a really kick-ass horror film from this year that I need to check out? Let me know in the comments! I’m cultivating a list and will soon marathon these things over the weeks to make this list all the better.
And by the way, if it played at a festival you went to (as I’ve discovered many of the suggestions have), then it’s not going to count as a 2012 film. It has to have had a release in standard theaters this year, or at least went straight to video. Most movies usually hit the festivals before their actual release date. Things like American Mary or the Maniac remake won’t see release until next year, so they’re 2013 films, not 2012. This is how I’ve always done it on ABGT, I go by when the film is released to the general public. This is also how I’ve seen movies listed for award shows and websites I frequent, so I’m not alone.
Also, before we get going…I found something awesome on the Internet for us, the horror fans. It’s called American Horrors, and it’s a free horror channel on the internet! Well, it’s free for now, but otherwise it’s $1.95 a month. Lots of obscure movies and rareities that are hard to find, plus original content. You can watch it at Film On. As always, I’m looking out for you guys and trying to bring you really awesome stuff. Definitely check that out, as it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite places to go on the wild wild web.
With all that out of the way, let’s hit part two of our most memorable minor horror characters list!
Here is the criteria I’m using. I’m going for minor characters, not supporting. There is a difference between Dwight Frye’s Renfield and the maid he scares into fainting. For a non-horror example, think about Jesus from The Big Lebowski. He has a very brief time on screen but he gets quoted a lot by fans. They have to be a character that either has one or two scenes or doesn’t do very much at all with the time they’re given. In some cases, the movie can survive without them. But if you remember them and enjoy the brief moments they were on, then they were worth putting in the film. These characters are interesting, sometimes more interesting than the movie they were placed in.
#10: Marion Chambers (Nancy Stephens) in Halloween
Marion is more of a well-known character, but her collective screen time in the Halloween films has to equal about ten minutes total, and she’s been in three of them. For a character that’s so well-remembered by fans, she doesn’t actual do much or appear for very long when she shows up. But we’re talking about the first film, and in the first film she has exactly one scene. It is, however, a pivotal one. It’s the moment when The Shape escapes Smith’s Grove.
We remember Marion because those of us who love the film remember every character in it. The character would return in Halloween 2 where she doesn’t even get a single memorable moment and in Halloween: H20 where she’s killed off for no real reason. But it’s her one scene in Halloween that sticks with us. At least she knows now not to regard Michael Myers with any sort of compassion. Don’t underestimate it.
#9: Martin the Gravedigger (Bob Larkin) in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
Jason Lives has a lot of memorable characters, but most of them have enough time that they’re upgraded to supporting. You can bet that if we ever do a Supporting Characters countdown here at A Bloody Good Time, Sheriff Garris will make the cut. But right now we’re talking about Martin, who is a grave digger that is a little too smart of the movie he’s in, but not smart enough to get out of the area when strange things are happening.
The reason Martin works so well is that he gets most of the funniest moments of the movie. He only has two real scenes, and one of those was filmed to introduce more kills into the movie. Tom McLoughlin tried to introduce a few meta jokes in the movie. While one of those goes to Lizbeth, the other goes to Martin, who gets the line of the movie. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.
#8: Missy Dandridge (Susan Blommaert) in Pet Sematary
At first glance, Missy Dandridge is not very important at all. But if you really think about it, she’s the one that begins the cycle of death for the Creed family when she kills herself because of her vaguely-defined stomach pains (we’re talking about just the movie here). I know that Pascow dies first, but she is really the first time Ellie Creed encounters death and it begins her entire subplot about dealing with what death means.
It’s implied more in the book than in the movie that the other deaths in the area are the result of Louis using the Pet Sematary to bring back Church the cat. Perhaps it thought by killing Missy he’d use it again. When that didn’t work, Gage was taken. It was never confirmed that the Micmic Burial Grounds had any more power than bringing the dead to life in the film, just hinted at (particularly by Pascow). Missy has no real purpose in the film other than to introduce the rest of the Creed family to death, which Louis was trying to shield them from. I think this gives Gage’s death later a little more impact because everyone (especially Ellie, who was too young to understand before) now knows exactly what death means.
#7: Eddie (Meat Loaf) in The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Eddie is the very definition of one scene wonder. His total screen time is probably about four minutes but he has one of the most memorable scenes in the entire movie. Rocky Horror isn’t a true horror film in the strictest sense of the word, but it does have “horror” in the title and plays on the themes of the genre. Meat Loaf’s performance as Eddie doesn’t last long enough for you to think negatively of it. He’s only there to sing one song in his unique voice before Frank hacks him up with an axe.
He does, however, get an entire song devoted to him later to make him more than just a random moment thrown in for no reason. He was in a relationship with Frank (then Columbia…or maybe the other way around), Frank got tired of him and locked him away in storage to build Rocky with part of his brain. He’s incredibly minor for his screen time but also important to several characters. I also think his song is one of the best, even if it has absolutely no context to the story at all.
#6: Burke Dennings (Jack MacGowran) in The Exorcist
Burke is the drunk director of Chris MacNeil’s film who comes by for visits every so often. Eventually his body is found dead outside of the steps near their townhouse and the police suspect Reagan did it. Of course, they can’t prove it and have no real reason to think she did, but they suspect that she did. This is later confirmed whenever the demon takes on Burke’s voice and asks Chris if she knows what her daughter did.
Burke as a character does very little, but I remember him for the line he’s not even around to give. It’s right after one of the most horrifying moments in the film as a little girl’s head rotates 180 degrees and she begins speaking in a voice she couldn’t possibly mimic. Before that, he was just a drunk guy that wore out his welcome. But after that, he became part of an iconic moment. It also showed just how far the demon was willing to go, as it caused a little girl to murder someone.
#5: The Grady Twins (Lisa and Louise Burns) in The Shining
“My girls, sir, they didn’t care for the Overlook at first. One of them actually stole a pack of matches, and tried to burn it down. But I “corrected” them sir. And when my wife tried to prevent me from doing my duty, I “corrected” her.”
I actually find Grady’s ghost casually explaining that he murdered his own children with an axe to be the most frightening moment involving these characters, but everyone else remembers the “come play with us” scene more. That scene works too, but only because of the brief flashes showing their murder. These two have little else to do with the film, and are only there to scare the hell out of poor little Danny as the Overlook tries to get Jack to murder his family.
Horror films are all about moments. You don’t remember a large bulk of the lines for The Shining, you don’t remember specific character-building scenes. You remember the moments. The elevator spilling out blood, the random man-in-a-dog-suit (which narrowly missed the list) and yes, the Grady Twins, who tried to rid the world of evil before they were “corrected”. The fact that they’re supposed to be twins but don’t really look like twins is also unnerving to me.
#4: Grandpa Sawyer (John Dugan) in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Grandpa is one of the biggest scares of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. We are supposed to assume that he’s just a corpse. When Sally goes upstairs to help and he just sits there, you believe that. Of course he’s just sitting there, he’s dead. The people are keeping his body because they are nuts and home to a chainsaw-wielding murderer who wears skin on his face. Then comes the dinner scene, and the family decides they’re going to let Grandpa kill Sally.
The very first time I saw this, I just figured that they’re nuts and going to make it look like a corpse is trying to kill the girl. Then they cut her finger and stick it in the corpse’s mouth. Then the corpse begins to suck. I was fairly young at that point and lost it. The world has certain rules and a corpse sucking blood from a young woman’s finger isn’t supposed to happen. I’m not sure how Grandpa is alive, but the fact that he is remains one of the disturbing moments of this movie. Dugan will play the role again for Texas Chainsaw 3D, which is enough to get me to see it. Hopefully they play him off as dead again so a new generation of movie-watchers can get scared.
#3: Blades (Tom Savini) in Dawn of the Dead
Tom Savini’s performance in this film is remembered by a lot of horror fans when he doesn’t show up for very long and gets killed by Flyboy, of all people. Blades leads a motorcycle gang into the mall to take it over, and they decided to play around with the zombies while there. Blades gets some nice kills, including a machete to the head of one of the zombies, before Stephen (Flyboy) decides he’s had enough and tries to gun him down. He succeeds, and Blades is done in.
Blades is an important minor character because he ushers in the climax of the film. You know that our heroes can’t just live in the mall happily for the rest of the film. There wouldn’t be much of a movie. Something has to happen to interrupt their peaceful existence and the motorcycle gang is that something. By letting the zombies into the mall, it results in the death of one character and two others having to flee for their lives, unsure if they’ll even have enough fuel to get away safely.
#2: Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) in Friday the 13th
He has roughly the same amount of time in both movies he appears in, which is about a minute and a half each. Crazy Ralph is there for one reason: to warn the kids about Camp Blood. You see, he was sent by God to warn them. They’re doomed if they stay, because it’s got a death curse. Ralph is partially there for laughs, partially there to be the harbinger of doom (which I’ll never look at the same way again after Cabin in the Woods). He shows up just long enough to put the fear of God into our characters before he leaves, they ignore him and they all get slaughtered.
Ralph should have left well enough alone, because when he returns in the second film, they still don’t believe him. Not one to take no for an answer, he sticks around just long enough to watch two of the teens getting frisky. In Jason’s woods, just being a voyeur is enough to get you killed, and he gets choked barbed wire. No good deed goes unpunished.
#1: The Bride of Frankenstein (Elsa Lanchester) in The Bride of Frankenstein
Hear me out. Yes, the movie is named after her. Yes, the majority of the plot centers around her. But the Bride herself only appears in the final five to ten minutes and doesn’t do a whole lot while she’s on screen. She’s definitely a minor character. But at the same time, she’s the most important minor character ever. She’s the reason the second film exists. However, for all of the hype and build, she sticks around for the briefest moment of time and then the movie’s over.
She has to be considered the most memorable. Do you even remember anything else about this movie? I do, but I’ve seen it a dozen times. Most people remember the end of the film, when the Bride rejects the Monster’s love and causes him to kill her, himself and the evil Dr. Pretorius with the conveniently-placed self-destruct lever. It’s a heartbreaking moment in a film that shouldn’t have heartbreaking moments. Horror can be emotional too, and The Bride of Frankenstein is proof. For that, The Bride is the most memorable minor character in horror history.
That’s it for me. Leave some comments here on or my Twitter. Next week, it’s a look to next year as we preview the upcoming horror films of 2013!
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