The Ninjabot

A Side Order of Awesome: The Top 5 Horror Movie Side Characters

Posted on July 21, 2013 at 9:54 am by Jason Byard

Sometimes a steak isn’t a steak without some potatoes. What’s alcohol without a cigarette (be honest)? And, granted, Diana Ross is Diana Ross, but she’s not The Supremes without those other two women, even if you don’t know what the hell their names are. I’m talking about side characters. The overlooked and unappreciated glue that hold together any movie you’ve ever seen. Horror movies, especially. There have been some real beauties in that much maligned genre over the years and it’s high time they got at least some recognition, dare I say. Here’s my list of the top five best Horror Movie Side Characters.


#1.) Fox, Loco & Ali, Friday the 13th Part III (1983):

Apparently even outlaw bikers can suck at their jobs. It’s clear that these three numb-skulls are something special from the moment we first encounter them; when they accost and proceed to bully Shelly (who deserves it, because he’s the absolute worst) and his reluctant companion Vera while they’re buying groceries. Yep, while the real Hells Angels are busy beating people to death with pool cues at Altamont, this goon platoon spends their free time trolling the local Circle K for the opportunity to administer a pink-belly. Obviously this is some mid-life crisis role playing fantasy gone too far. All of which is not to say they’re bad characters. In fact, these half-assed Johnny Strabler’s are the most interesting feature of what is otherwise a pretty standard Jason vs. Teenagers romp. They have a melange of great, dopey scenes. All of which lead up to the single most absurd moment in a film franchise packed to the rafters with absurdity: Ali’s return from seeming death to save the heroine’s bacon at the end (he’s back for around three seconds, then it’s machete time again).


#2.) Dr. Millard Rausch, Dawn of the Dead (1978):

There’s just something about a man with an eye-patch that demands you listen to what ever it is he has to say. After all, he’s got to have at least ONE good story, right (rim-shot!)? Despite his marginal role as a kind of expositor, Dawn of the Dead’s resident mad scientist/TV pundit is easily the most commanding presence in the film. Whereas most of the main characters (both human and zombie) are passive, he is loud. Where they are unsure about how to proceed, Dr. Rausch is certain how to fix the problem: “They must be destroyed on sight!” He’s the Spock-like voice of cold amoral authority and actor Richard France (The Crazies) plays him to the hilt. It helps that he’s got a baritone that sounds like if God did radio spots. Arrogant? Yeah. Unreasonable? You bet. A bit nuts? And how! But once our heroes TV goes out and the good doctor is no longer there to rant about the impending doom of humanity, you know that doom has finally and irreversibly arrived.


#3.) Aunt Martha, Sleepaway Camp (1983):

Let’s just clear up one thing first: this is a terrible movie. A sub-par Friday the 13th knock-off so shot-through with subtle homophobia that watching in nowadays is bound to make you feel at least a tad unsettled. But if we learned anything from John Malkovich in In the Line of Fire every so often a truly crappy film can produce a truly compelling character. We only catch a few glimpses of Aunt Martha, at the beginning and during the big reveal near the end, but the entire plot of the movie hinges on her and her madness. She’s the only clever thing Sleepaway Camp manages to do. At the start Martha’s a figure of fun. A chipper eccentric who evidently thinks it’s still the Eisenhower years. But then we learn she’s not just some harmless oddball. Turns out Martha’s been dressing a little boy like a little girl for about the last decade and treating him as such, precipitating the killing spree he/she later embarks upon at summer camp. But that’s all we ever find out. Just like that the movie flushes it’s most interesting component down the narrative crapper. That won’t do. That won’t do at all.


#4.) Karl, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935):

Of all the great actors who made their bones playing scumbags it is, of course, Dwight Frye who is the scumbaggiest. Sorry, James Woods. Best remembered for his performances as Renfield in Universal’s original Dracula and as the prototypical hunchbacked laboratory assistant Fritz in Frankenstein, Frye excelled as the secondary antagonist. The human monster who was perhaps even more of a menace than the supernatural ones behind whose back he hopped and capered. But it’s his turn as the twisted grave-robber, Karl, in James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein that is his most enchantingly grotesque. He steals bodies. He strangles young women so their organs may be harvested. He kidnaps Dr. Frankenstein’s wife and holds her hostage. And all with a creepiness so resolute it almost borders on humorous. Sure, he’s not a likeable psychopath, along the lines of, say, Patrick Bateman. But there’s no getting around the slimy charm that Frye brings to the role. It’s almost a shame to see the Monster toss him off the top of that castle at the end.


#5.) The Citizenry of East Proctor, An American Werewolf in London (1981):

Now if ever there was a group of ancillary characters deserved their own movie it’s the denizens of The Slaughtered Lamb, the hard-drinkingest, dart-playingest, werewolf secret keepingest little pub on the moors. It’s always been a favorite enduring movie mystery; the question of just what exactly is the nature of things in East Proctor. We know the residents are fully aware of all the lycanthropic goings-on in and around the town, but how? They’re obviously involved in some kind of collective cover-up aimed at keeping this knowledge from outsiders, but why? It’s never explained. But we want to know so desperately. The mystery of East Proctor is all the more compounded by the fact that it’s populated by entertaining collection of loveable local rubes. But that’s all part of the fun and, I would suspect, the main reason for the success of their little disinformation campaign. You’d never believe these superficially simple folks who to be the custodians of a supernatural secret that would knock Fox Mulder’s see-through socks off.

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