FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Nov 9, 2009

A Field Guide to Horror Movie Jerks

I've talked alot about jerks here at Final Girl. Usually I'm referring to people who disagree with my opinions or don't like the things I like or something- you know, Paul Reiser fans and the such. After all, this is The Internet, and therefore anyone who doesn't think exactly as I do is a jerk.

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.)

#8: Franklin

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!

22 comments:

Sam54 said...

Why the Black Christmas was Barb not on this list?!

"Why don't you go find a wall socket and stick your tongue in it, that will give you a charge?!"

Highly Caffeinated said...

It's the type 7 jerk in Dawn of the Dead (remake) who owns the yacht that has me baking celebratory chocolate fondue cake when he gets his comeuppance!!

Did I say comeuppance? I meant to say having his friggen zombie brain blown to hell!

Wings said...

Spot on post! Jerks take note!

thomwade said...

One of the things that surprised me in the Dawn of the Dead re-make is the Jerk Lead security guard comes around. I like the character because he comes around, as opposed to the other main jerk whose selfish nearly kills half the crew. He's the Paul Reiser of the film...in fact, the one thing left out of the description of # 7 is that these people are often very short sighted and their ambition usually results in their own well deserved demise.

The Grand Groovy Ghoul said...

Personally, I loved SNL's mashup Mad About You Aliens. Starting out with Reiser's death scene in Aliens, it segways into a typical bedroom scene from Mad About You. However, Helen Hunt's character has been replaced by a Xenomorph wearing a nightgown.

Emily said...

Funny, I just rewatched TCM with production commentary and apparently the whole cast found Franklin to be a major Jerk, on and off the camera.

B.E. Earl said...

Hahahah...three things:

1) First character I thought of after seeing the title was Reiser's Carter Burke in Aliens. Maybe my eyes caught a glimpse of his name in the first paragraph and that did it, but Burke is one of the all-time great movie jerks. On a Letterman appearance some time after Aliens came out, Dave asked him about being such a jerk in that film and Reiser responded that he was "merely misunderstood". That made me chuckle a bit.

2) I just knew...KNEW...that Franklin was going to be a category unto himself.

3) Adrienne Barbeau is the tits! Literally.

Jay Clarke said...

"Hey Jerk! Speed Kills!"

Totally awesome article Stacie, great job!

Melanie's Randomness said...

One of my favorite scenes of all time in horror movies, is in Day of Dead when the zombie salutes Captain Rhodes. It was such justice for the Mad bully. Cool post, I haven't seen all of these movies & a horror movie isn't complete without these token jerks.

YM said...

Ironically, this also reads quite like a list of men I've dated...

Stacie Ponder said...

Sam54- Barb is a bit of a jerk, I suppose, but I'd definitely stick her in category #1. I loves me some Barb!

Emily- That's true. Apparently Paul Partain, who played Franklin, decided to go all method and he remained in character off-camera. No one found out until years after the fact that he was really a nice guy!

Emily said...

I wonder if there is a sub category of Jerk #6: the wealthy land/business owner/politician who refuses to risk his profits/reputation despite ample evidence of increasingly deadly danger? I'm thinking the mayor in Jaws, grandfather in Frogs, mall owner in Eight Legged Freaks, etc. It's usually male, white, wealthy, and, by the end of the film, dead.

Stacie Ponder said...

Ha, nice. Yeah, it's almost always the Mayor, who refuses to cancel the Parade Festival which brings the town so much money, despite the imminent shark attack or earthquake or rampaging, car, etc.

I thought about some sort of Wealthy Jerk, like Kaufman (Dennis Hopper) in Land of the Dead...oh, there are so many varieties out there...

MaxTheSilent said...

Great article. I got a good chuckle out of it.

And I'll fight anyone who talks smack about Barb from BLACK CHRISTMAS. She clearly just has some issues and needs a hug.

Carrie said...

I just watched The Convent this weekend (thanks - it rocked!) and came across one of the most irritating jerks I've seen. I could not wait until the guy who kept trying to hook up with the goth chick died. I swear, if I had to hear him say "Just give me fiiiive minutes" one more time I was going to fast forward to his death scene.

thomwade said...

The Mayor/Industrialist is also in Piranha and Alligator...

MissRedrum said...

I love when Ethel says "Would you shut the fuck up." The tone of her voice makes me crack up everytime I hear it. Just thinking about it makes me chuckle.

B-Movie Becky said...

Haha, great list of jerks! A very entertaining read. I'm glad to see Franklin on there. He gets a pass too often because he's disabled.

I would love to see the Womanizer Jerk on here...like from the Friday the 13th remake and Trey (I think that's his name) from Freddy v. Jason, who says, "Don't make me ask you twice" and "Babe, you know I don't like to be touched afterwords."

Mike Snoonian said...

Best post ever.

What about Evil Ed from Fright Night? Is there a caregory for jerks that are incredibly annoying and insecure and creepy to look at?

My friends and i used to get extremely wasted every Saturday night then do a double feature of the Invisible Maniac and Texas Chainsaw. We would root the whole movie for Franklin to get killed. We'd shout obscenities at him the whole film that high five one another when he bites it.
Every weekend for six months.

I hated that goddamn cripple.

a.e. said...

Stacie-you make me smile when you say how much you hate Harry Cooper! Who doesn't hate on him? I'm full of hate for Harry Cooper and his sweaty smarmy self-righteous ways. That said, I have to disagree about Franklin from TCM. He may be whiny and annoying, but I think he's coded female (Carol Clover) because of said whining and wimpiness, and thus he dies fairly soon, so I give him a pass. Too much gender coding for me to pass up! I just can't see him as that much of a jerk. Also, I do love me some zombie Bub saluting in Day of The Dead! Right on!

Jen said...

Thank you- this is going to help me deal with the jerks in my life (none of whom are in a wheelchair.)

Robbblog said...

I saw a screening of the original TCM once and the audience cheered when Franklyn got it.... Eithel and Junior should have had their own spin-off movie, they seemed like they belonged in the movie "Mother's Day" more than Friday V. Junior was even wearing Ike's cap!