November 2, 2012

Every Horror Film Has an A-Hole: a guest post by Benjamin Kane Ethridge (author of Dungeon Brain)



Here's a guest post from Benjamin Kane Ethridge to help promote his new novel, Dungeon Brain. And be sure to click the link to visit his site and find more stops along his blog tour--including another stop here with an interview. Enjoy!


Every Horror Film Has an A-Hole
by Benjamin Kane Ethridge

One character a horror tale cannot be without is a secondary antagonist. You can make a case for most every story in the genre. Some jerks are more outlandish than others, some subtle, some completely over the top. I submit to you a list of several that immediately came to my mind.

Melissa from Friday the 13th: the New Blood

The A-hole-horror phenomenon goes back a long way. Even in those 1950s alien attack movies that bordered on horror, there was that one doofus who wanted to move in on the lead character’s sweetheart (whether he was relevant to the plot was another matter). However, the Friday the 13th series vaulted this sort of character to heights never achieved before. Since the thrust of this series is to see new and interesting ways of Jason murdering people, the writers must have decided to populate their movie with jerk-offs, whiners, dorks, and of course, A-holes. Emotional investments would spoil the geek show. So you therefore have a plethora of people’s deaths about whom you feel indifferent. The A-hole of course, is a different story (boy I love writing these kinds of sentences). Anyway, with an unlikeable character, you wouldn’t mind seeing die, cinematically at least, this paves the way for more elaborate carnage.

The best slasher example for me was Melissa from Friday the 13th Part VII: the New Blood. She is a nasty, bitter, sluttish force of nature— and those are just her good qualities. As a child, when I watched Jason axe her in the face, my sense of justice in all things horrific, stood up inside and started doing the slow clap that brought thundering applause. Well done, Voorhees. Well done.

Most A-holelish thing said: To Eddie, the guy Melissa led on, “I lied […] about everything, you just don’t turn me on. Really. But c’mon, at least I gave you a chance. You just didn’t come through. Besides, I was kind of hoping Nick would come back and find you with me.”

The Health Club members in The Toxic Avenger

I didn’t get to see the Toxic Avenger until I was in my mid-twenties. As a kid I’d always seen the movie on the shelf in video stores, but I opted for mostly mutant-less horror (I didn’t even see CHUD until later as well). Wisdom finally grasped, I knew I was missing out, as did my friends, and so we sat down and watch the film. The first thing that struck us in the Toxic Avenger— the health club bullies. Not only were they A-holes, but they were murderous A-holes. Running over people and keeping tabs on it? Masturbating to photos of dead people? Yikes. Toxie, have at it.

Most A-holelish thing said: On looking at a photo of a dead kid, “That new camera really captures the moments,” and the other replies, “I know. The reds are so red. It really gets me hot.”

Harry Cooper in Night of the Living Dead

The naysayer. This type of character has morphed into different shapes in a variety of horror movies, and for that, Harry Cooper is a breakthrough character. Cooper is the one who holds everybody back from doing the sensible thing, the one who causes panic through their own mental breakdown and egotistical posturing. In other words, A-hole.

Most A-holelish thing said: “I’m not gonna take that kind of chance when we’ve got a safe place! We lock up into a safe place, and you’re telling us that we gotta come up here and risk our lives just because somebody might need help, huh?”

Evil in Fright Night

I haven’t seen the remake of Fright Night, so I don’t know if Evil Ed has been reincarnated. I don’t know and don’t want to know. Evil is an annoyance, yet funny, yet a douche, yet human. To this day, I have no idea if he survives in the original film—the confusion is caused by the end scene with his voice following a stunt with fake red glowing eyes. Is Evil’s ghost returned to play stupid tricks on Charley? I don’t know. But in the world of A-holes, Evil is a force to be reckoned with.

Most A-holelish thing said: “Charley, that wasn’t the only murder. Second in two days, and get this,” Evil says chuckling, “both of them had their heads chopped off!”

CJ in of Dawn of the Dead remake

CJ is an interesting A-hole, who has gone on to be embodied in characters like Daryl in the Walking Dead. This is an A-Hole you actually end up liking because they are conscious of their flaws. You may have hated to even look at them in the beginning of the story, but they redeem themselves by the end and their churlish ways become more of an endearment.

Most A-holelish thing said: “Well fuck the fucker. I told him not to go downstairs.”

Captain Rhodes in Day of the Dead.

In contrast to the A-hole that redeems his or her self, Captain Rhodes embodies an over-the-top approach at being a jerk just for the sake of being a jerk. He has no reason to be an asshole, other than he’s an asshole. You hate him in the beginning, the middle and might even question whether getting ripped to pieces by zombies is a bad enough death for him.

Most A-holelish thing said: [as his intestines are being eaten] “Choke on ‘em!”

Hudson in Aliens

A completely likeable a-hole coward who gets a smile from us every time he comes on screen? How does that even happen? It must be the magic of Bill Paxton. After all, he also played the douchy jerk Chet in Weird Science and managed to be unlikeable and still solidly entertaining. Hudson has some of the funniest lines in the movie and yet some of the most pathetic displays of cowardice. Paul Reiser is also a jerk in this film, but Hudson, even in his manic breakdown close to his death, manages to do so without being evil about it.

Most A-holelish thing said: In learning the little girl Newt had survived in the colony alone for some time, and with some blubbering indication of seriousness, “Why don’t you put her in charge?”

About the Author: Benjamin Kane Ethridge is the Bram Stoker Award-winning author of the novel BLACK & ORANGE (Bad Moon Books, 2010). For his master's thesis he wrote, "Causes of Unease: The Rhetoric of Horror Fiction and Film." Available in an ivory tower near you. Benjamin lives in Southern California with his wife and two creatures who possess stunning resemblances to human children. When he isn't writing, reading, videogaming, Benjamin's defending California's waterways and sewers from pollution.

2 comments:

  1. Ah, Evil Ed - such a great character, even if he was an a-hole. :)

    From what I remember, Stephen Geoffreys was offered a chance to bring Ed back for the sequel, but turned it down to do 976-EVIL.

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  2. I looked Geoffreys up after writing the article. I guess he only did a couple of other horror flicks then began a string of gay porn films. Now there's a switch!

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