Badass teenagers, curious kids or policeman thrown way out of their depth, Emma Kiely runs us through some legendary horror movie heroes.
The hero. An essential character in any horror film. In recent years, the villain has been the centre point of people’s attention and rightly so, since they’re the source of thrill and fear. The loner serial killer, the hyper-intelligent psychopath or simply the monster in the wardrobe. But these villains wouldn’t be anything without the heroes that take them on. The vigilantes who, when the police ignore their cries for help, take justice into their own hands.
“But, back in the 70s, she was a simple sixteen-year-old babysitter who set the trend for kickass female heroes who knew there was someone hiding in the closet before anyone else.”
The teenage girl has been a massively popular protagonist in the horror genre since the 1970s with John Carpenter’s Halloween, now being known as the ‘final girl’. Teenagers were put at the centre of the horror film as a way of reprimanding premarital sex and substance abuse. The promiscuous teens who are drinking and smoking weed are always the first victims of the killer’s murder spree. It is the virginal pristine golden-girl that defeats or escapes the villain’s wrath. Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode is the quintessential ‘final girl’ as now with the eleventh instalment just released, Laurie and Michael are just as immortal as each other. But, back in the 70s, she was a simple sixteen-year-old babysitter who set the trend for kickass female heroes who knew there was someone hiding in the closet before anyone else.
This trend has continued into the 21st century. With Neve Campbell’s Sidney Prescott leading the path in Wes Craven’s Scream franchise, we’ve seen some badass female heroes in the genre. Teen horror has become one of the most popular horror sub-genres with Scream being adapted for TV and the Final Destination series giving us five films, it’s no lie that teenagers make excellent heroes, just like in the real world.
The policeman and detective is one of the most used hero in various movie genres. But one that stands out is Rob Schneider’s Chief Brody in Jaws. A New York outsider to the Amity community and already afraid of the water, Brody must protect his island against a twenty-five-foot man-eating shark terrorising the beaches. His trusty sidekick comes in the shape of the always vibrant Richard Dreyfuss as the twenty-something ocean expert. The two, with their friendly bouncy relationship yet opposing views on sharks and life, come together to face their fears and look mother nature directly in the mouth. Throw in Robert Shaw’s grizzly Quint and it’s a party. But, despite having the least amount of ocean experience, its Brody that saves the day. He isn’t blinded by pride like Quint, he doesn’t follow the rulebook like Hooper. He sticks to his gut and knows what’s right for the people of Amity. Sometimes heroes don’t wear capes, they wear khaki shorts and aviators.
“What makes kids such brilliant horror movie heroes, is both their innocence and lack of pride.”
With the monumental success of Stranger Things, audiences saw that programmes starring kids don’t always have to be for children exclusively. We see this in the 2017 remake of Stephen King’s masterpiece It, where an evil entity, mostly known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, terrorises a group of kids in Derry, Maine. The group is led by Bill Denbrough played by the emotionally mature and delicate Jaeden Lieberher. Bill’s brother is the first victim of Pennywise and so, leads the group to find out his brother’s fate. What makes kids such brilliant horror movie heroes is both their innocence and lack of pride. Kids are more open to both the wonders and horrors of the world so there’s none of that ‘ghosts don’t exist’ nonsense that slows down the narrative of the film. Kids in times of distress can have more integrity and these kids have tons. They do what is right and defend the African-American Mike, they accept each for what they are, and they stick together to defeat ‘It’ and don’t indulge in the ‘there can only be one real hero’ nonsense.
Yes, the villain is more exciting and more interesting to watch in horror pictures. But it’s the final girl, the outsider, the innocent children, that allows the genre to be termed ‘horror’. Without the victim, there would be no fear and we must admit, we love nothing more than a brave hero coming in and slaying the dragon, just so we can sleep better at night.