Today, however, I want to focus on horror movie jerks. I've talked about those in the past as well, but never have I written...
A Field Guide to Horror Movie Jerks!
Yes, my friends, there are many varieties. I'd like to get a few guidelines out of the way first: first and foremost, I'm talking about the jerks who are essentially a part of the protagonist's posse. It goes without saying that the bad guys are jerks- I mean, they kill people; and sometimes the villains have lackeys who definitely cross from expected bad guy jerkiness into wicked bad guy jerkiness- Mr. Straker, I'm looking at you. In the interests of this guide, however, the discussion is relegated to secondary characters who are purportedly on the side of "good". There, glad that's settled.
#1: The Jerk You Can't Help But Like
I love Annie from John Carpenter's Halloween. Perhaps it was a steady diet of "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" when I was young, I don't know...but whatever the reason, I generally love a smart and/or sassy mouth, especially when the person wielding said mouth is cranky (see also: Barbeau, Adrienne - Ed.). Mayhaps it's all rebellion against my 5th grade Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Nickerson, who told me that "Nobody likes sarcasm!" as I was getting in trouble for...well, for having a smart mouth borne of a steady diet of "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions". I beg to differ, Mrs. Nickerson! I love sarcasm and I love Annie Brackett, even though she's kind of a jerk to her friends and the children she babysits...although I Lindsay kind of deserved it. Wait, what was I talking about again? Ah yes, the jerk you're smiling at despite the jerkiness, and you're kind of bummed when they die.
#2: The Jerk Who Turns Out Not To Be A Jerk
Friends, this variety of jerk is perhaps the most rare. Moments within their walking onscreen, you can generally tell into which category a horror movie character will fall: The Joker, The Slut, The Final Girl, etc (this is doubly true for slasher flicks). Unless there's a total a-hole making an appearance, The Joker is usually The Jerk. You'd think this was the case with Ted in Friday the 13th, Part 2...but then somehow, the goofy guy ends up not as goofy as you thought he'd be, you realize he's not a jerk at all, and guess what? He lives until the end of the movie. Coincidence? You decide! (the answer is no. - Ed.)
#3: The Jerk Who May Have A Point
Oh lawd, how I loathe that Harry Cooper! He and Ben bicker throughout Night of the Living Dead- each trying to be Alpha Dog, each has wildly diverging ideas on how the group of survivors should deal with the oncoming zombies. Thing is, Ben is all cool and level-headed while Harry is all sweaty and yell-y and mean to his wife....in other words, he's a jerk. However, his plan- that they barricade themselves in the basement and wait for help- wasn't so bad. In fact, the group's numbers whittle down until it's just Ben left alive, at which time he implements Harry's plan and survives the night (and then the posse of jerks kills him anyway, so who are the monsters? - Ed.). Maybe if Mr. Cooper had been a bit nicer about expressing his ideas, none of them would have become zombie chow. That wouldn't have solved The Problem With Karen, but still.
#4: The Jerks Who Are Extremely Irritating
Like the white trash gross family in Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning, this variety of jerk is incessantly annoying. They're loud, or they look like they smell, or they're stupid (or they're some combination of all three), and from the moment they appear you simply cannot wait for them to die so they will just shut the eff up and you will no longer have to look at them. (I like how the teeth of the F13-5 family are only rotten at the gumline. - Ed.)
#5: The Jerk You Feel Bad For Disliking
I think it would probably be misery to hang around with Shelly from Friday the 13th Part 3. Come on- those "practical jokes" would be old before they even start. He's dull and kind of whiny and he's awkward, but I feel bad labeling him a jerk (even though truly, he is one) because he doesn't fit in and he just wants some friends and who's never felt that way at some point in his or her life? (not me, certainly...how dare you insinuate, madame! - Ed.) However, as I start to feel sorry for Shelly, he goes and calls Vera a bitch because she doesn't want to sleep with him, but she was really nice about it and didn't deserve it. Jerk!
#6: The Jerk Who Is A Power-Mad Bully
Oh my, yes. These are the jerks with the guns, or the key to the truck, or something else that gives them the tiniest edge in the fight against whatever horror movie villain everyone's facing. (see also: the security guard in the Dawn of the Dead remake - Ed.) He uses his advantage as a last grasp at power in the face of the coming chaos, torturing and threatening everyone else along the way...sometimes even calling them names! Obsessed with maintaining control, this jerk will often put himself and everyone else in jeopardy with foolhardy actions just because they all said he shouldn't and HE'S THE BOSS. Captain Rhodes of Day of the Dead is such a power-mad jerk that he even tries bossing the zombies around, commanding them to choke on his legs as they eat him.
#7: The Cowardly Jerk Who Dicks Everyone Over
This douchebag jerk will do anything for a promotion or money. When push comes to shove, they'll push and/or shove you out of the way to get to the lifeboat. Resorting to inhumane behavior to save their own skin, they use allies as human shields (see also: Dr. Crews in Friday the 13th Part VII - Ed.), shut doors in people's faces, refuse to open doors no matter how much the person on the other side screams...they'll do anything to survive. They're the slimy snakes of the world of the horror movie jerk, and I CAN'T BELIEVE I PUT A PICTURE OF PAUL REISER ON FINAL GIRL but Burke is a shining example of Jerk #7, so there you go. (I can't believe you put a picture of Paul Reiser on Final Girl. - Ed.) I hate him with the white-hot intensity of a thousand sunburns like the one I got when I went to volleyball camp in 10th grade. (You went to volleyball camp? - Ed.)
Franklin, Franklin, Franklin. The king of all horror movie jerks- he certainly qualifies as several varieties, no? He's extremely irritating, yet for a few moments here and there you feel bad for hating him: the dude is in a wheelchair, clearly envious of the bipedariffic frolicking of his sister and her friends. ("bipedariffic" is a scientific term. - Ed.) He has a miserable life, but then he chooses to make the lives of everyone else around him- including the audience- miserable as well. Plus, he's sweaty and he clearly smells like sausage.
There you go, a little primer on Horror Movie Jerks. What did we learn today, friendos?
- If you have need of a good horror movie jerk, watch any George Romero or Friday the 13th movie. Jerks abound!
- Jerks always get what's coming to them. So much time is spent making the viewer side against this person that they're practically filled with bloodlust by the time the jerk gets killed. Seriously, when people are rooting for the mass murderer instead of you, you may want to rethink how you interact with your fellow human beings.
- Don't be a jerk!