Editorial: Sympathy for the Devils - Horror Characters I Felt Sorry For
We’re a funny bunch, us horror fans. Of all the emotions we experience watching our beloved freak shows, sadness usually ain’t one of ‘em. It’s hard to want to hug someone when they’re spitting up stage blood all over your screen, but every so often genuine empathy can be aroused in our hardened hearts for certain cinematic victims. So, without getting too heavy about things, I’m in the strange mood to pay tribute to a few:
CHARACTERS I GENUINELY FELT SORRY FOR
Freddy the Photographer – Dead & Buried
Oh, Freddy… I hope wherever you wound up that they’re taking good care of you. Freddy the Photographer visits the funky town of Potter’s Bluff and is almost immediately jumped by a gaggle of villagers and burned at a makeshift stake. Then they trash his car and stuff him in it, upside down. Then when the meat wagon comes to take him away, they realize his crispy remains are alive because he SCREAMS IN THEIR FACE. Clearly in a Grand Canyon of agony, Freddy is wheeled off to the hospital and wrapped in mummy gauze to recuperate. I think Freddy’s had enough. But no… Freddy then gets to watch slowly – with his one “good” eye – while a cupcake in a nurse outfit slowly produces a huge syringe, fills it with bad stuff, then jabs it into his eyeball. You know, so he can suffer a wretched, convulsing death. If any burned person named Freddy should be haunting people’s dreams, it’s this Freddy. My only hope is that he wouldn’t come after me, because I feel absolutely terrible for the guy and I hope he knows it.
Anna – Martyrs
I look back on a weird lifetime of watching people being physically punished on film, and I sincerely think this gal takes the Beatdown Cake. The endless blows that Anna takes throughout this bitch of a film’s third act makes Joe Pesci’s bat-bashing in Casino look like a trip to Dave & Buster’s. If that seems an unfair comparison, it may be because I’m typing this in retrospect with an understanding of what happens to her once the slaps, punches and kicks cease. It’s unseasonably warm here in Louisville as I sit outside and type, but I just felt a full-body shiver.
Everyone – Pet Sematary
Yep. The whole damn cast gets it hard in this thing – from the young to the elderly, from the healthy to the ill… Even the damn cat can’t hide from torture in this flick. There’s more than one way to skin an audience, and Mary Lambert’s adaptation of Stephen King’s bitter novel knows it. Ghosts, zombies, creepy kids, vicious animals, disease – it’s all here, and when The Ramones come blasting over the end credits, I breathe a sigh of relief every time. Some people hate The Ramones and really hate that their song “Pet Sematary” ends the movie, claiming it “takes them out of it.” After watching a family get chewed up, swallowed and shat out of Satan’s ass for 90 minutes, who the hell would want to stay “in it”?
Milos – A Serbian Film
Milos, most definitely. Do I feel for his family? Of course, I do. But they didn’t have to go through all of what poor Milos did. He suffered through his own hell first, then shared theirs with them. Rotten business, I assure you. I realize there are still plenty of people who haven’t seen this rabid creature perform its beastly tricks yet, so I’ll just stop here.
Ben Gardner – Jaws
Shit, man… I didn’t really care for Ben Gardner, but whatever went down on that boat of his must’ve been a horrifying ordeal. Brody and Hooper find Gardner’s boat turned nearly inside out, indicating that Gardner met his toothy end in a feverish bout of mano-a-tiburon. Worst of all, the guy was alone. So whenever, however that one eye of his was relieved of its socket, he probably knew nobody could hear his cries. That is, if he was still alive when that mysterious eye made its exit. I’m still very much interested in that eye. Nevertheless, Gardner’s head was severed from his body, and I don’t think the shark silently snuck up behind Gardner with a garrote rope to make that happen. Nope – the shark scared the hell out of him by trashing his boat, then ate the son of a bitch. And you know how dramatic this shark gets when it eats fishermen. Here’s to ya, Ben – I’m sure you knew exactly what was happening to you and felt every damn one of those teeth.
Three Characters from The Fly Series – Seth Brundle, Andre the Fly, and the Dog
Seth Brundle: Jeff Goldblum made Seth Brundle one of the most interesting and sincerely pleasant characters our genre has ever had the pleasure of housing. In his original state, Brundle is a character that I could watch for hours. Hell, give me a miniseries about how the guy acquires the parts for his telepods. He’s a good guy, so when things get weird, it’s painful to watch. And yet, Goldblum is still so charming and clever under that makeup, it’s a “joy” to watch. Doesn’t mean I still don’t get weepy at the end, though.
Andre the Fly: “Help me! Heeelp meeee! Don’t let it! Dooooon’t let it!” My father sent me the original Fly for my birthday when I turned nine, I think. He knew I loved horror films, and I loved him for the gift. Then the ending crashed into my soul like a flaming helicopter and made me question opening any future gifts he may send me. He made up for the trauma by sending me Spaceballs soon after.
The Dog: In The Fly II, Brundle’s boy, Martin, is kept in Bartok laboratories for observation. He befriends a Golden Retriever, which his wicked father-figure (Bartok, the big cheese himself) decides to mutate for research purposes. The miserable mutation is still cute in an extraordinarily pathetic way, and when Martin discovers the pooch is still alive, he humanely puts it down by (sigh) suffocating it. You can tell in the pooch’s eyes that it doesn’t want to live, but doesn’t enjoying dying slowly at the hands of its old friend either. Just awful, but at least that bastard Bartok gets his later (more on that in the next article).
Susan – Open Water
Yes, another shark film. Why not? I’ll take a machete to the face any day over a feeding frenzy, which is what Susan was required to endure with her husband. For hours and hours. As I presume this is a flick that remains on many folks’ To-See Lists, I hesitate to go into detail. Maybe it’s because so many people have swung through my basement and asked about it, only knowing it’s a dark, dark ride. As such, I also hesitate to screen this for newcomers because it usually requires a long walk in the park afterward, and I have pretty bad allergies.
Michael – The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover
Perhaps not a traditional horror film, but certainly a horrifying film. Michael Gambon plays ferocious gangster Albert Spica, who spends nearly every night in a restaurant he “owns” degrading his henchmen, the patrons, and most of all, his wife. When she falls for a bookstore owner who quietly frequents the restaurant, Spica eventually finds out and has the man cruelly dealt with by force-feeding him pages of books from his own shop. Tim Roth is the thug who does the honors and is chilling as he slowly and coldly spears page after page down the fellow’s shredded throat with a wooden spoon. On paper, the scene seems ridiculous and perhaps unintentionally funny. Wrong.
Arthur Grimsdyke – Tales from the Crypt ’72
Peter Cushing’s turn as the gentle, good-hearted, and ultimately betrayed Grimsdyke is a fantastic bummer. Grimsdyke is the slovenly yet generous neighborhood hermit-widower who makes toys for his neighbors’ children out of trash he finds. His uppity neighbor doesn’t care for Grimsdyke’s blemish of a home on the face of the neighborhood, so he first arranges for Grimsdyke’s collection of stray dogs to be taken away by the city. Then he encourages the parents not to let their children visit Grimsdyke. Then he sends a severely depressed and lonely Grimsdyke a collection of phony Valentine’s Day cards loaded with hateful “love” poems. Peter Cushing’s face is impossible to forget while soaking all of this poison in. His face is equally unforgettable when he returns from the grave after hanging himself to rip the heart out of his evil neighbor. Yesssssss…
Frank – Return of the Living Dead
Who didn’t love Frank? The guy’s hilarious, friendly, and has a wealth of bizarre knowledge that would’ve ensured at least one great story a day for young Freddy, had his career at Uneeda Medical Supply Co. not been so gruesomely cut short. Frank figures out he’s gonna become a ravenous zombie upon being exposed to 245 Trioxin, and rather than race around the city shrieking for brains and murdering people, he decides to do himself in. This sucks hard, because Frank knows the only way to truly kill himself is to burn himself. Guy takes off his wedding ring and kisses it before crawling into a blazing crematorium. Heavy… The worst part? We know Frank doesn’t go into some sort of blessed shock like lobsters do when they’re tossed in a boiling pot because Frank screams his head off. Really – I’ve heard that lobsters don’t feel a thing when they go in the pot, and that rumored “screaming” you hear is pressure seeping through their chitin exoskeleton. Frank did not have a chitin exoskeleton.
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