While the horror genre is mainly remembered for its villains, it also has its fare share of heroes. From Van Helsing to Ellen Ripley, some of the best examples of horror have heroes as memorable as the villains they fought. While many people will readily remember such horror heavyweights as Laurie Strode and Nancy Thompson, this list takes a look at some of the more overlooked, but still effective, examples of those who do the right thing when faced with the forces of darkness.
Beware, this article does contain spoilers.
10 – Rodger – Night of the Demons
Night of the Demons on the surface appears to be standard horror fare, basically a remake of Evil Dead in the suburbs. Some impressive make-up effects as well as a light yet moody atmosphere do set it apart from most horror fare of the day. It also has one of the best examples of an unexpected hero in the genre with the character of Rodger.
Rodger is one of a group of teens who unexpectedly stumbles upon a demon infested house. As all of his friends are slaughtered, Rodger climbs up a barbed wire fence with his bare hands to escape. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, when he hears one of his friends is still alive, Rodger climbs BACK over the fence to rescue her. While he may not look like much at first, Rodger is exactly the kind of guy you’d want in your corner when fighting the undead.
9 – Taylor – Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Behind the Mask is a mockumentary film set in a world where people like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Krueger are real. Journalist Taylor goes to interview Leslie Vernon, a man who idolized the mass murderers of the past and seeks to be the next great unstoppable spree killer.
While Taylor initially goes along with Leslie’s fantasies, in the end she can’t stand by and watch as innocent sexed up teens are slaughtered. On the night of Leslie’s killing spree, Taylor gathers her camera crew together and sets out to stop the subject of her latest piece. It’s unusual as Taylor and the hapless Leslie actually have a good rapport initially. In the end, that makes Taylor’s turn against Leslie all the more exciting.
8 – Derek – Bad Taste
Before he was directing the Middle Earth epics, Peter Jackson wrote, directed and starred in this fun little gorefest about aliens coming to Earth to turn the human race into fast food. Jackson himself played Derek, a quirky and clumsy man who turns out to be a very tenacious fighter.
After seemingly dying by losing a piece of his brain, Derek crudely shoves it back in place and goes on a killing spree, brutally taking out the alien menace with whatever he can get his hands on. He ends up slaying the alien leader by messily sawing open his head with a chainsaw before emerging from the creature’s rectum. He hitches a ride on the alien space ship, delivering a threat to the entire alien species he plans to wipe out.
“I’m born again! I’m coming to get you bastards!”
7 – Stevie Wayne – The Fog
John Carpenter has a number of overlooked gems in his library, and one of the absolute best is The Fog. The Fog tells of the sleepy seaside community of Antonio Bay preparing for their centennial celebration. On the night of the festivities, a ghostly fog rolls into town, unleashing vengeful spirits seeking to punish the locals for a long forgotten crime.
Bearing witness to this is Stevie Wayne, local celebrity and owner of the region’s radio station. Stevie spends much of her time at work, and uses her position on the radio to alert Antonio Bay to the coming danger, saving countless lives including her own son. When the try to silence her, Stevie still packs a punch. After being stabbed with a meathook, she actually manages to pull it out and use it against her attackers!
6 – Reggie The Reckless – Friday the 13th Part 5
Friday the 13th Part 5: A New Beginning is one of the most unusual entires in the long running slasher series. It is rather notorious for not even featuring Jason as the killer, instead focusing on the killing spree of a copycat. In spite of this complaint, the film does boast an interesting cast of characters, not the least of which is Reggie the Reckless.
Reggie is a helper at a halfway house for troubled teens. He constantly boasts of how nothing can scare him, which is quickly cast in doubt when the killer shows up. Initially Reggie runs scared from the hockey masked maniac, but eventually comes to his own, running over his pursuer with a tractor and pushing him out the loft of a barn. In a series that features more dead bodies than heroes, it’s a testament to Reggie’s spunk that he’s one of the few to leave Crystal Lake alive.
5 – Dr. Challis – Halloween III: Season of the Witch
Halloween III: Season of the Witch deserves a lot more love than it gets. In spite of having nothing to do with the saga of Michael Myers, the film is still heavy with atmosphere, has some nice witty satire, and a great lead with Carpenter regular Tom Atkins, who plays the ill fated Dr. Challis.
Challis stumbles upon a conspiracy by a modern druid to sacrifice millions of children on Halloween night, using specially made masks to do the deed. After uncovering the plot and being marked for death, Challis must battle through an army of high tech androids and mad cultists to escape and warn the world. He eventually defeats the druid and his army, setting out to warn humanity before it’s too late. The film leaves it up in the air as to whether or not Challis makes it in time. Even if he did fail, Challis is a fighter, more than enough to earn him a place on this list.
4 – Fool – The People Under the Stairs
One of the late Wes Craven’s most underrated films, The People Under the Stairs tells of a young boy named Poindexter, though most call him ‘Fool’. With his mother ill with cancer, Fool breaks into the mansion of his greedy landlord to steal the money for her operation. When inside, he discovers that his landlords are mad psychopaths who’ve been kidnapping children for decades and imprisoning them in the basement.
With no adults to help him, Fool desperately tries to find a way out of the twisted labyrinth, befriending his landlord’s abused daughter, Alice. Fool not only finds the courage he needs to escape, but helps Alice find the confidence to stand up to her parents and bring her years of abuse to a halt. As far as horror heroes go, few come as cool as Fool.
3 – Good Samaritans – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is relentless to the point of cruelty. We’re forced to endure a ghastly forty long minute sequence following young Sally’s desperate attempt to escape the maniacal Leatherface and his family of crazed cannibals. During this sequence, one of the few glimmers of hope comes in the form of two nameless good samaritans, who work together to end Sally’s nightmare.
The first is the driver of a cattle truck, who saves Sally from being cut to pieces by running over one of her attackers. He then distracts Leatherface so Sally can escape, severely injuring the killer by striking him in the head with a wrench. After that, a random pick-up truck stops on the highway, the driver allowing Sally to hop in the back so she can escape. Though these two will forever go unnamed, this film would have ended very differently without them, earning these two unsung heroes a spot on this list.
2 – Detective Ray Cameron – Night of the Creeps
This zombie film told of a race of alien slugs that crawl into their victims’ mouths, living there while they incubate and reproduce. Carriers of the slugs die instantly, but are then piloted by the parasites seeking new victims until their heads split open, allowing the slugs to seek new hosts. One of the most unusual examples of the genre, it also featured one of its most unusual heroes.
Detective Ray Cameron, again played by genre star Tom Atkins, is a man with a troubled past. He murdered the axe wielding maniac responsible for the death of his high school sweetheart, and proves just as deadly to the invading slugs. Cameron smartly puts duct tape over his mouth to prevent himself from being infected, finding where the slugs are hiding and blowing them to oblivion. Ever quotable, Cameron provides some of the most awesome, and most funny moments in this spooky classic. Spanky, thrill me.
1 – The Beast – The Hills Have Eyes
In this shockingly brutal film by Wes Craven, a family of depraved cannibals attacks a family driving cross country, killing several and kidnapping their infant child. They also kill one of the family’s two German Shepherds, a dog named Beauty. Turns out they should have killed both because the other dog, dubbed The Beast, proves their worst nightmare.
The Beast is the smartest character in the film. He not only scopes out where the cannibals are hiding, he pushes another to their death off a cliff and steals a radio, allowing his owners to listen in on the villains. The next day he leads one of the heroes to their hide-out, setting the stage for a day of brutal retribution. Like the rest of the family, The Beast is able to avenge the death of his loved ones, brutally mauling the very cannibal that killed Beauty. The Beast not only kills the most of the villains in this film, he’s become a series regular, facing off against the cannibals twice more if you count the remake.
In a genre devoted to scaring the pants off you, its sometimes easy to forget that while horror is filled with a lot of evildoers, it also has its share of good guys. Sometimes in the face of great evil, the heroes shine even brighter, and these examples are some of the best, and most overlooked, the genre has to offer.