5 Horror Movie Characters Who Deserve More Credit
Horror movies are all about tricking you into feeling a few simple emotions -- terror of the monsters, empathy toward its victims, love of the plucky survivors who'll save the day, etc. But then there's a whole other curious category of characters out there: the inspiring heroes whom nobody seems to care about. These are the ones who do amazing things, but don't get the screen time, rousing music cues, or acknowledgment from other characters that they deserve. For example ...
Mrs. Peltzer From Gremlins
Gremlins tells the story of a subpar inventor giving his son an adorable creature he bought off the black market which, if not taken care of correctly, could easily cause the death of all living things on Earth. What follows is a near gremlin apocalypse, until the heroes Billy and Kate find a way to take out virtually the entire horde in one fell swoop.
Partway through this Gremlinocalypse, however, there's a scene with Billy's mother that makes you realize the whole movie should have been about her.
Mrs. Peltzer (Frances Lee McCain) is introduced proving just how tough she is by only shedding a couple tears while watching It's A Wonderful Life AND cutting onions. Then her kitchen is invaded by the predators, who easily murder most of the town (it only takes one of them to kill Mr. Hanson, Billy's former science teacher). At this point, this middle-aged housewife unleashes absolute hell.
The fight starts when she sees a gremlin munching on Christmas cookie ingredients inside a blender. Who are these creatures? Where have they come from? She does not care. She punches the "on" button, and the gremlin's head is turned into green salsa. Mrs. Peltzer has no context for anything that is happening, and she doesn't need it. These things are in her home, and for that, they deserve to die. That is her one rule.
As green blood from the first monster is still spraying on the kitchen cabinets from its obliterated stump, she picks up a folding TV tray and uses it like a Spartan warrior from 300, blocking the porcelain plates being thrown at her by another soon-to-be-dead gremlin. She yells "Get out of my kitchen!" while enthusiastically murdering the plate-flinging creature with three Michael Myers-esque stabs of a large kitchen knife.
Before she is able to take a breath, she's ambushed by another gremlin, whom she quickly vanquishes with an improvised spray of flea and tick killer to the eyes before shoving it in a microwave. She turns it on, watching the creature die a slow, horrific death. She stares intently, soaking in every moment of its suffering. This is what she's been waiting for her whole life.
She is eventually overcome (but not totally defeated) by a cheapshotting gremlin hiding inside a Christmas tree, and "saved" by Billy. At this point. the movie forgets about Mrs. Peltzer until the end, when we see her in bandages, being totally chill about her life-or-death battle. You get the sense that this wasn't even her bloodiest Christmas.
The Random Kid Who Saves Brad Pitt In World War Z
World War Z tells the story of a guy named Gerry (Brad Pitt) traveling the world in an effort to find out where their zombie pandemic started and, hopefully, how to cure it. He encounters a string of officials and soldiers who boldly sacrifice themselves to help him achieve his goal. There's Captain Speke (James Badge Dale), Segen (Daniella Kertesz), and the wonderfully named WHO Doctor (Peter Capaldi ... get it!?). And not a damned one of them even deserve to be named in the same breath as Tomas, the child who saves the world in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment.
After the initial outbreak, Gerry and his family find themselves waiting for a military helicopter that will pick them up on the roof of a high-rise. A kind redshirt family let's them inside their apartment to wait. Soon, Gerry realizes it's best to keep moving because the apartment could easily be swarmed, which would trap them inside. He, along with his wife and daughter, start working their way up the zombie-infested hallways and stairs, while the nice soon-to-be-doomed family stay behind and are indeed attacked by zombies.
Gerry is eventually trapped in a stairwell, and is forced to fend off zombies while his family runs to the roof. A zombie overtakes him, blood splattering down onto his face, undead teeth snapping inches away. And then ...
The 13 year-old son of the doomed people Gerry just left behind, Tomas (Fabrizio Zacharee Guido), calmly shoots the thrashing zombie in the back of the head. A single perfect headshot, in the dark, while surrounded by other zombies, seconds after having escaped a cramped apartment in which his beloved family was being horribly torn to pieces by the ravenous undead. Is it weird that he's so good at this? Sure. Would we dare question him about it? Never.
For this, the kid is taken onboard the helicopter and dumped on an aircraft carrier, never to impact the plot again. No, dammit! This is the most badass character in the story. If everyone had one tenth of this kid's resourcefulness, courage, and deadly accuracy, the zombie outbreak would have ended approximately six minutes after it started. Send Tomas after the cure!
Yara From It Follows
It Follows focuses on a college student named Jay (Maika Monroe), who is cursed to be followed by a lethal but slow-moving creature after she has sex with a dude who'd been previously living under the same curse. That's how it works; sex passes it on. The guy gives Jay just enough information about her situation to have some hope of surviving it, then dumps her off on her lawn. From there on, Jay is aided by her sister, Kelly, who has to help because she's family, and her friend Paul, who's in love with her.
And then there's Jay's friend Yara, played by Olivia Luccardi. She's the one who's always using the clamshell e-reader, always just kind of there, hanging out. There are sequences where the movie kind of forgets she's there.
Together, the group tries to defeat this mysterious and murderous force, which is willing to travel far distances on foot to follow its prey. Only Jay can actually see the monster (it's invisible to everyone else), but all three of the companions eventually come to believe her, staging an elaborate trap for the creature in the climax.
But of the three, Yara has the least skin in the game. She isn't related to Jay like Kelly is, and she isn't pining for Jay like Paul does. She's just there as a friend. She doesn't even get a big scene in which Jay tries to convince her she's being Followed by It. Yet Yara is staying over at the house when Jay is initially upset and confused, she goes along when Jay investigates the lair of the guy she thinks cursed her, and she's there at the hospital after Jay gets injured.
She's always there, every single step of the way, presumably neglecting her own life based on this incredibly implausible story. She even goes along with a patently stupid plan to electrocute the creature in a swimming pool, ultimately getting shot in the leg for her trouble. Yara had nothing to gain and never asked for anything (unlike their neighbor Greg, who happily has sex with Jay to take on the "curse," then reveals he never believed in it). Everyone should have a Yara in their life.
Major Scarlet Levy From 28 Weeks Later
28 Weeks Later tells the story of what happens when the British government allows people to repopulate an area that only six months prior was home to a massive pretty-much-zombie outbreak. The film includes a lot of genre archetypes, such as Jeremy Renner as Delta Force sniper Doyle, and his helicopter pilot friend Flynn (Harold Perrineau). The action kicks off after Don (Robert Carlyle) brings his two children into the supposed safe zone, only for him to get infected and go on a bloodsoaked rampage that causes chaos all over the island. Who could have predicted this?
That brings us to the only voice of reason in the film, Rose Byrne's Major Scarlet Levy. She's watched horror movies, and knows that bringing people back to Britain is a terrible idea. Once Don joins the army of the undead (er, infected), it's Levy who saves the guy's kids, Tammy and Andy, from a military that has decided to just slaughter everyone.
The rest of film features the landscape transforming into a thrashing orgy of death as Levy tries to keep the kids alive and safe. She gets an assist from the badass sniper, but he is killed (in heroic fashion) when he is spectacularly lit up by flamethrowers. If you're guessing that Levy will not get the same hero treatment when she goes down, you've spotted the theme of today's list.
Sure enough, on their way to meet Flynn (who heroically uses the rotors of his helicopter to mow down the infected), Scarlet drives into the London Underground to escape an Apache helicopter that is trying to kill them. Due to the darkness in the tunnel, Scarlet switches on the night vision on her rifle so that she can shakily see through the sites. While leading the kids through the darkness, she is ambushed by Zombie Don, who uses the butt of her rifle to destroy her skull.
Due to the shaky night vision, her death is mostly offscreen, and she is quickly forgotten in the ensuing panic. The kids have to mercy kill their own infected father, and seem a lot more upset about that. The biggest insult is that when the kids make it to the rendezvous point, Flynn asks "Where's Doyle?" multiple times. There is never another mention of Levy, and all of her selfless contributions are forgotten. Well we've got your back, Scarlet. We know what you did.
The Conductor From Train To Busan
Train To Busan is unknown to some of you, and your lives are worse for it. The film (available on whatever streaming service you prefer) is an alternately tense and frantic action-horror movie about passengers trapped on a speeding train full of zombies on a trip from Seoul to Busan in South Korea.
True to the genre, Train To Busan features several music-swelling moments of heroic sacrifice, showcasing characters weeping while their saviors are feasted upon by zombies who look like they're speed-eating an ear of corn. These rousing moments are given to the heroic dad, the heroic husband, and the heroic homeless man (actual name in credits), who all sacrifice themselves for their loved ones or the greater good. Basically, everyone on the poster gets a moment to shine. And then there's the conductor (Jung Suk-yong, who never gets a name, so he will be dubbed "Conductor Awesome") of the titular train.
Conductor Awesome first proves his mettle during a disastrous stop at Daejeon Station mid-apocalypse. As you'd expect, the stop goes horribly awry, as the train is attacked by hundreds of zombies looking for lunch. Instead of taking off immediately to save himself (it's not like he had to worry about getting fired at this point), Conductor Awesome holds the train until the heroes are able to get onboard. OK, maybe that's just basic human decency, but we're not done.
Eventually, the train is blocked at the East Daegu Station, which forces Conductor Awesome to leave the safety of the train so he can scour the zombie-infested station in search of another train that can continue moving the survivors toward Busan. The conductor dodges, dips, dives, and ducks his way past dozens of fast zombies, and eventually finds a working train that has an open track.
As the vehicle is moving, he sees the film's antagonist, the wealthy dickhead Yon-suk (Kim Eui-sung), struggling to make it to the slow moving train. Yon-suk, like the idiot he is, rolls his ankle and falls just short of the moving vehicle. Seeing that zombies are closing in on the injured, awful man, Conductor Awesome once again leaves the safety of the train in an attempt to help. As the conductor is helping the injured man, both get attacked by the swarm. Yon-suk quickly abandons the Conductor to catch the moving train, leaving him yelling "Help me!" while he is eaten.
Thus, Conductor Awesome saves the day by getting the train moving, then is killed unceremoniously and quickly forgotten afterwards. Unlike the film's protagonist, he gets no tearful goodbye from loved ones, no gratitude from witnesses. Instead, he is alone, oddly calm as he patiently lets the zombies eat him, probably figuring that at least he's providing someone with a nice meal.