A lot of people think that horror is very cut and dry. The bad-guys are insane or motiveless killing machines. Some of the best written horror movie “bad-guys” are so much more than just the villain. Some have been so well relized that you actually feel pangs of sympathy for them. These Not-So-Bad-Guys may be victims of circumstance, wronged, or they may even just want to be loved. There really is something about an antagonist that makes us feel for them and here’s 10 of the best.
10. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON‘S DAVID KESSLER
David (David Naughton) was just minding his on business on a backpacking trip of Europe with his friend Jack (Griffin Dunne). Their trip takes them to the Yorkshire moors and the village of East-Proctor. It’s a place full of superstition and creepy men telling them to “Beware the moon”. David wasn’t planning on getting lost on the moors, and he certainly wasn’t planning on getting mauled by a lycanthrope. The poor sod doesn’t have much luck on his holiday. His best friend is killed, visits him in the dead of night and tells him that he must take his own life. On the next full-moon he’s informed he’s going to turn into a wolf and kill. My god, they only fancied a walk on the moors! David didn’t deserve any of this. He’s a nice guy, a clean-cut kid, which makes him hugely sympathetic given the horrific transformation he goes through.
9. THE FLY‘S SETH BRUNDLE
Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) wants to change the world for the better. He wants to be the next philanthropic father of a new age in scientific discovery. He certainly doesn’t want to keep his penis and other body parts in the bathroom cabinet. Inventing a teleportation device is one thing, drunkenly testing it on oneself, considering it previously turned a baboon inside-out, probably wasn’t the best idea. Soon he’s sprouting hairs in funny places, loosing appendages with alarming regularity and vomiting on his food to eat it. No one deserves this, especially not someone who wanted to change the world for the better
8. CANDYMAN‘S DANIEL ROBITAILLE
Daniel Robitaille (Tony Todd) was a man guilty of nothing more than falling in love. Because of his race he was beaten, mutilated, smothered in honey and left for the angry bees to do the rest of the work. As far as avenging spirits go, Robitaille has a huge grudge to bear. Resurrected as Candyman, he is an Urban legend manifest. With a hook where his hand once was and a grudge to settle with the world. Robitaille more than due his pound of flesh from anyone foolish enough to call his name 5 times.
7. FRIDAY THE 13TH PART II‘S JASON VOORHEES
Before Jason became a killing machine from beyond the grave, he was just a boy. Born with a birth defect that distorted his facial features, Jason was bullied and tortured by the residents of Camp Crystal Lake to his apparent death. I grant you, in the original film Jason wasn’t the killer, that was carried out by his traumatized mother who could also quite easily be on this list. When Jason finally arrives on-screen in Part II, he has an axe to grind, quite literally. Not only is he mentally scarred from years of psychical & psychological abuse but he is also without a mother, the only person in the world who showed him any kindness. To carry out his revenge on Camp Crystal Lake is all he understands, these people have to pay for what they did to him.
6. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN‘S ELI
It’s tough being a kid, doubly so when you are an eternal kid with a thirst for blood. Eli (Lina Leandersson) may be an undead bloodsucker with a dubious guardian and a penchant from bleeding from her eyes when she doesn’t get her fill. Deep down though, she just wants a friend. She finds just that in bullied loner Oskar. Not only does Eli understand his loneliness but rather than seeing her friend become a killer in enacting his revenge, she dispatches the bullies for her own sustenance and to save her friends soul. A special kind of friend indeed
5. MANHUNTER/RED DRAGON‘S FRANCIS DOLARHYDE
Francis Dolarhyde (Tom Noonan/Ralph Fiennes) may be a sick puppy but he was made that way. Through years of systematic physical and emotional abuse by his Grandmother, Francis psyche shatters in two. On one side we have a quiet, socially awkward man with a facial disfigurement. On the other side there is The Red Dragon. The Dragon is a monstrous persona that tasks Francis with bending to its will. Francis falls in love with a blind co-worker and struggles to control his sick impulses, ultimately faking his own suicide in a skewed attempt to save her from becoming a victim of The Dragon. Francis Dolarhyde may have undoubtedly been a monster but he was made that way. It’s hard to not sympathize with him in some small way.
4. BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA
Dracula has always been painted as a monster in past cinematic outings. He’s a seductive, relentless beast bending others to his will. In Francis Ford Coppola’s take on The Count, the vampire is given a heart. Driven to renounce his Christian faith following the suicide of his wife, Dracula (Gary Oldman) calls upon unholy powers to rise from his own grave and feast on the living. For hundreds of years the vampire lives a cursed life until a course of events unites him with his reincarnated wife, now the fiancé of a solicitor who visits Dracula’s castle. Their love affair is instant, powerful and overpowering for the both of them. What lengths would any one of us go through to be reunited with the ones we love, cruelly taken from us? Dracula’s downfall is that he loves too much, it consumes him. He sells his soul to be with his one true love. It’s pretty much impossible to not feel for this incarnation of The Count.
3. FRANKENSTEIN/BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN‘S CREATION
Frankenstein’s Creation is without doubt one of the most sympathetic creatures in horror literature and indeed, horror cinema. A pitiful affront to the laws of nature, The Creation (Boris Karlof) is spurned by all who confront it, even its own creator. Reviled and unloved, The Creation flees from humanity to live in seclusion making friends with a trusting little girl who The Creation ultimately kills as it has not moral compass, it hasn’t even been taught the difference between right & wrong, life & death. In the films sequel, even The Bride that has been created for companionship spurns The Creation. How could anyone not feel sympathy for this poor bugger?
2. CARRIE‘S CARRIE WHITE
Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is not too dissimilar from any outcast school kid. She’s quiet, sensitive and relatively sheltered from the world. Carrie is also mercilessly bullied by her co-students for being different. When a young woman gets her first period, you’d expect a little sympathy right? No dice. The poor girl, who doesn’t understand what is happening due to her tyrannical mother, is instead pelted with tampons in a moment of abject cruelty. “Creepy Carrie” has something other misfits kids don’t have though, telekinesis. Awoken by her arrival into womanhood, Carrie discovers she can move objects with the power of her mind. After a heinous prank at her prom, the poor girl is doused in pigs blood. Carrie however gets her revenge on those that have wronged her. She unleashed her new powers on the assembled alumni and burnt her school to the ground. Sure, she massacres her tormentors but it’s still hard to not feel sorry for the girl.
1. PSYCHO‘S NORMAN BATES
Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) is a VERY troubled young man, that is without question. He is also entirely a product of his upbringing and environment. Abused by his overbearing mother, Norman has numerous issues relating to women, sex and a intense connection to his mother. Norman murders his mother forcing the emergence of a dissociation identity disorder. Norman’s personality is split down the middle, one half Norman, one half Mother. Mother takes over to do the things Norman can not. Norman Bates isn’t a killer, why “He wouldn’t hurt a fly”. Mother, on the other hand, is a little knife-happy and will do what is required to protect Norman. He is hugely sympathetic due to how little control he has over his actions. He blacks out when committing his crimes only to emerge after the act completely horrified. Poor Norman, trapped forever with Mother and very little control over his own, terrible actions.
This piece was originally written for Nightmare on Film Street.