While they may not necessarily be the villains and get all the glory, there’s something to be said for the douchebag characters of the horror genre- they often add to the drama of any given situation, they generally complicate things and they make it oh, so fun to hate them.
That being said, I thought it might be kind of fun to look back at some of my favorite douchebag characters of the horror genre- past and present. The only rule? They aren’t the film’s “big bad.” Be forewarned, though: If you haven’t seen some of these films, this countdown may get a little spoiler-y for you.
So, in the immortal words of Kanye West, “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags” and check out some of this writer’s favorite unsavory characters in the horror genre of all time.
Bennett (Kim Coates) in Resident Evil: Afterlife: It’s no shocker that the post-apocalyptic world is full of rude, arrogant and self-serving douchebags- after all, we’ve seen it time and time again where the end of the world just brings out the worst in humanity. And yet, Bennett in Resident Evil: Afterlife somehow took douchebaggery to an entirely new level by keeping his sense of entitlement in check (such a great analogy to Hollywood) by not only forcing his assistant (Norman Yeung) to continue to “assist” him even after the world had gone to hell but also by deciding to steal the one vehicle – a small plane – that could have gotten everyone trapped inside the prison to safety without even knowing a god damn thing about flying.
His demise is a glorious one and oh, so fitting. While the RE movies have had their share of douchebags, Bennett is by far my favorite of the series and probably one of the most memorable supporting characters from the franchise to date.
Gerald (Judge Reinhold) in Gremlins: As someone who grew up during the 1980’s, I don’t know if there was a more underappreciated comedian than Judge Reinhold; with fantastically funny work in films like Stripes, Running Scared, the Beverly Hills Cop trilogy, Ruthless People, Vice Versa and of course Fast Times at Ridgemont High, for me, Reinhold’s work as Kingston Falls’ resident douche Gerald Hopkins is by far some of his most subtly hilarious work ever. I mean, Reinhold is always great in everything, but there’s just something about his performance here in Gremlins that just really got under my skin, even as a kid.
Maybe it was the way he always sucked up to his boss at the bank, maybe it was the way he talked down to Billy (Zach Galligan) and flaunted his “success” any chance he got or maybe it was the fact that he never stopped trying to hit on poor Kate (Phoebe Cates- maybe Gremlins existed in some kind of parallel universe to Fast Times?); but any way you slice it, Gerald was a perfect representation of a guy who thinks he’s much bigger than the small town he’s stuck in, and for that he’s always been one of my favorite d-bags to root against.
If only Gerald had gotten the Mrs. Deagle treatment instead of managing to safely hide away in a bank vault while Kingston Falls was being overrun by Stripe and his buddies.
Steve (Ty Burrell) in Dawn of the Dead (2004): Ty Burrell is a freaking comedic genius, and his performance in the 2004 Dawn of the Dead made me an instant fan of this Emmy-award winning actor. Pretty much a breakout role for him, Burrell’s turn as smarmy, sleazy womanizer Steve added some levity to Zach Snyder’s Dawn and made for a nice contrast against all the zombie killing going on.
We get some great douchebag moments with Burrell while he’s still alive with his ‘sort of’ love interest Monica (Kim Poirer), but for my money the best parts of his character are revealed during the credits, where we get a sneak peek into Steve’s life pre-zombie apocalypse that shows him partying it up with some bimbos on his boat, living the good life.
I’m not sure whom we need to petition to get Burrell into more movies, but Hollywood should jump on that ASAP; he’s hilarious and entertaining as hell, even when playing a total douchebag.
Teddy (Lawrence Monoson) in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter: The moment he uttered the words “dead fuck” to poor Crispin Glover, Teddy instantly became the resident douchebag of the fourth Friday the 13th installment. Sure, the Friday films have always been a lot of fun because we’ve watched Jason slaughter an endless barrage of moronic teens and twenty-somethings throughout the years, but what made Teddy always stand out for me is the fact that the dude just NEVER GAVE UP. One hot twin doesn’t want to get with you? Well, all right, then try for the other one. She doesn’t want to get with the “Teddy Bear?” No worries- just keep trying until she eventually gives in. Quite simply, “no” wasn’t a word that Teddy and his “computer” were able to comprehend.
Unfortunately for poor Teddy, no one of the female persuasion was ready to give it up to him that weekend so the poor sap was left alone to enjoy vaudevillian porn on an old projector while everyone was busy bumping uglies or getting offed by Camp Crystal Lake’s favorite killer.
Maybe Teddy should have looked up on his old computer some tips on not being such a d-bag and he would have fared throughThe Final Chapter just a little better than he ultimately did (or at least maybe he would have gotten some action before his untimely demise).
Mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) in Jaws: While this writer wasn’t around in 1975 to get a sense of how people felt about political figures at that time, I’m guessing that Amity Island’s Mayor Larry Vaughn wasn’t going to be winning any popular votes after his actions in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. The ultimate spineless coward, Mayor Vaughn was more concerned with economics of the summer season than he was with the safety of the island residents, allowing Amity’s beaches to stay open even after several shark attacks.
I mean, there’s cold-hearted and then there’s a guy who won’t even close down a beach after a small child becomes a floating Happy Meal for Bruce the Shark, and that’s an entirely new level of douchebagginess in my eyes. He even has his own kids at the beach after the shark attacks, further proving that some people aren’t cut out to be politicians- especially cowardly douchebags who only want to serve their wallet, not the people that elected him.
Chris (Nancy Allen) and Billy (John Travolta) in Carrie: Yeah, so most of her classmates were all kind of douchebags to her, but in Carrie I’ve always thought that Nancy Allen’s Chris and John Travolta’s Billy went above and beyond in their douchieness, which earned them both a spot on my countdown. Let’s be honest- we’ve all probably met our share of Billys and Chrises in our time- the attractive kids who live to terrorize the outcasts in their school. For them just making fun of Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) wasn’t enough- they wanted to publicly humiliate her in front of everyone on what was meant to be the most special night of her life. Pranks are one thing; what Chris and Billy concoct for poor Carrie takes things to an entirely new level ,and one bucket of pig’s blood later, Carrie White obliterates almost her entire class in a fiery attack during prom night.
And while Billy and Chris thinks they’ve gotten away with their latest tormenting attack on Carrie, the telekinetic teen has other plans for the pair, causing their car to lose control and explode after they try to escape her wrath.
The horror genre has had its share of bullies over the years, but I don’t know that there were two bigger douchebag bullies ever than Carrie’s Billy and Chris.
Judy (Karen Fields) in Sleepaway Camp: There’s a very good reason that I only ever went to summer camp once in my life- I eventually saw Sleepaway Camp and realized just nothing good could come of spending my summer away from home surrounded by a bunch of kids I didn’t know. After all, one of them could end up a homicidal maniac (and that’s only the tip of the iceberg in regard to the surprises that await viewers inSleepaway Camp).
Growing up a horror (and wrestling) fan, I was all-too-familiar with popular girls who liked to put down other girls around them who were just a bit different so in Sleepaway Camp I could oddly relate to Angela (Felissa Rose) and immediately grew to hate Camp Arawak’s resident Queen Bitch, Judy (Karen Fields), who immediately took to harassing Angela just because she wasn’t like all the other girls. (Man, if only Judy knew!) Eventually, when the apple of Judy’s eye takes a liking to Angela, Judy doesn’t take it lying down (well, not at first) and does everything she can to make Angela’s life a living hell; not only does she constantly hurl insults at the poor girl, but she helps throw Angela into the water even though she can’t swim and even tries her best to seduce Angela’s new suitor Paul (Christopher Collet) just to even the score.
Let’s just say that this writer has always found Judy’s fate in Sleepaway Camp by far one of the more visceral kills of that time and justifiably so- if ever there was a character who had a horribly, painful (and justified) death coming, it was Judy.
Walter Peck (William Atherton) in Ghostbusters: Man, how great is William Atherton in Ghostbusters? Walter J. Peck was the epitome of douche; someone who also didn’t like the word “no,” specifically when Dr. Venkman (Bill Murray) told him he couldn’t tour the storage facility inside the Ghostbusters headquarters which housed hundreds of apparitions, keeping NYC safe from a paranormal takeover that was brewing.
A truly fantastic character actor, Atherton’s performance as Walter Peck is just one of several truly awesome douchebag performances we’ve enjoyed from him over the years(his role as Richard Thornburg in Die Hard 1 & 2 taking top honors of course), and I can remember the first time watching the scenes when Peck finally gets his way and has the power grid to the storage facility shut off, I actually started crying (let’s just say I was far too young to be sitting by myself in a packed theater for Ghostbusters, but those were much, much different times) because I was so mad at him for being so stupid. His arrogance and infantile fury against Venkman and the rest of the Ghostbusters almost destroys all of NYC, making him by far one of the biggest cinematic douches from the 80’s.
Roach (Thomas Haden Church) in Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight: First of all, let me just get this out of the way, but Demon Knight is hands down one of the best horror flicks of the 90’s. Period. End of story. The entire ensemble is fantastic together, Billy Zane has never been Billy Zane-ier than he is here and the amount of gore, action and real scares that director Ernest R. Dickerson (who’s also done some stellar work on “The Walking Dead”) packs into Demon Knight make it a film that’s always been endlessly entertaining for me to revisit again and again.
Thomas Haden Church, who’s almost made a career out of playing douchebags, portrays a misogynistic cook named Roach in Demon Knight with his douche levels cranked to 11. There just wasn’t one sentence that came out of this guy’s mouth that wasn’t offensive, hurtful, mean or completely derogatory; and the way he “handles” Cordelia (Brenda Bakke), the resident hooker with a heart of gold, once the shit hits the fan is all too indicative that Roach will always be looking out for numero uno.
Of course, his opportunistic ways lead him down some dangerous paths, and Roach ends up getting “squashed” in the end by a horde of flesh-hungry demonic minions who tear him to pieces after he decides to betray the other humans left standing, further proving that if you can’t trust an all-powerful demon (Zane), well then, who CAN you trust these days?
Harry Cooper (Karl Hardman) in Night of the Living Dead: The only thing worse than a douchebag is a power-hungry douchebag bully who is also kind of a racist, and back in 1968 Harry Cooper became THE prototype of horror douchebags for decades to come in George Romero’s quintessential Night of the Living Dead. If looking at the situation rationally, it’s hard to give Karl Hardman’s character much grief over some of his decisions in NOTLD as he was just a scared guy protecting his wife and kid, but ultimately, it was his actions that turned him into a major aggressor against the film’s main protagonist Ben (Duane Jones), solidifying his place in the Douchebag Hall of Fame (not that it’s an actual place or anything, but one can imagine).
Harry’s biggest problem was that he wasn’t the kind of guy to ever take orders, and once he gave in to his own selfishness and need to be the “big man on campus,” he continuously made decisions that put others’ lives in danger throughout NOTLD; whether it was locking Ben out of the house at one point or bickering endlessly with the rest of the survivors or trying to grab Ben’s gun when he didn’t like the way things were going, it would be Harry’s own bullish nature that would end up being the character’s undoing and ultimately led to his demise.
One thing to be said for Harry, though, is that in the end he did end up being (kind of) right; because Ben eventually decides to hide out in the basement after everyone else has been killed, he does end up surviving the night (just not the movie), which makes for some interesting food for thought.
Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) in Aliens: Anyone who knows me knows that I have a long-standing (and mostly unfounded) hatred towards Paul Reiser. I’m sure the actor is probably a nice guy in real life, but after seeing Aliens at the drive-in back in 1986 (three times to boot), I never could shake my disdain for corporate coward and all-out super douchebag Carter Burke, which ultimately ruined me on Reiser for the rest of my life.
It actually got to the point where I’d watch “My Two Dads” as a kid just so I could make fun of him (Greg Evigan on the other hand… yummmm…) and my mom even gave up on watching “Mad About You” a few years later because of my endless harping on Reiser, too. Ultimately, I’ve come to realize why I have disliked Reiser for so long- he was just THAT good as Burke, making him by far my favorite douchebag of the horror genre ever.
Burke embodied everything that you could want in a cinematic douchebag: He was a wanna-be hero who did nothing but lie to everyone in Aliens, he was willing to put lives in jeopardy on LV-426 for the almighty dollar, he didn’t even mind being the Weyland Corporation’s puppet and he wasn’t even above trying to impregnating a little girl (Carrie Henn) or Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) with facehugger embryos in order to make his bosses happy. Burke represented everything that so many of us came to hate about corporations in the 1980’s, and his sheer cowardice made me wish his character could have died 10 times over in Aliens.
And yes, I still hate Paul Reiser.
Got news? Click here to submit it!
Share your favorite d-bags in the comments section below.