There’s no order to this, just a celebration of my fave characters over the years, largely (but not entirely) ignoring final girls and killers. (Some spoilers though – boooo).
Played by Betsy Palmer
In Friday the 13th (1980)
Why? The mom of all moms – in horror terms at least – woe to the first-time viewer of Friday the 13th who assumed the killer would be grizzly dude in a mask, but turned out to be the kindly middle-aged lady who is part-possessed by the spirit of her ‘dead’ son.
Quote? “Come dear… it’ll be easier for you than it was for Jason.”
Played by Thomas F. Wilson
In April Fool’s Day (1986)
Why? Jocks who just want to get laid in slasher films usually evoke very little sympathy, as they usually have very little character. April Fool’s Day is an irregularity in this regard, giving us a bunch of college kids with added depth and, consequently, likeability.
Quote? “I’m on a mission here, a mission to bed as many women as humanly possible.”
Played by Jennifer Rubin
Why? Of the ‘Dream Warrior’ kids at Westin Hills hospital, recovering addict Taryn was easily my favourite. Edgy and sarcastic, but resolute and determined, she’s ready to take Freddy on.
Quote? “In my dreams I’m beautiful… and bad.”
Played by Jasmine Savoy Brown
In Scream (2022)
Why? As niece of Randy Meeks, Mindy slides effortlessly into his place (and Kirby’s) as the walking Wiki on horror convention, being the one to discern that the new killer is making a ‘requel’ this time, and later getting to be part of a sort of infinity mirror moment as she advises Randy’s Stab character to turn around while he advises Jamie Lee Curtis to turn around, all the while herself needing to turn around…
Quote? “You need to build something new. But not too new or the Internet goes bug-fucking-nuts.”
Played by Alicia Witt
In Urban Legend (1998)
Why? As far as final girls go in the 90s slasher cycle, Alicia Witt gave it a slightly reserved skew to distinguish Natalie from Sidney Prescott’s ass-kickery and Jennifer Love Hewitt’s squealing. As a flawed, slightly self-righteous character, she’s more interesting than most of her contemporaries and a major selling point for the movie.
Quote? “This was someone’s life, Paul. Did you ever stop to think about that?”
Played by Justin Chong
In Hack! (2007)
Why? Gay characters had been sorely absent from horror throughout the 80s (unless they were the killer), so once the 00s came around it was great to see an influx of theatrical boys in the ranks. Ricky camps it up nicely, singing Fame to stave off the scares as he waits alone in the woods on an island with more than one homicidal maniac running around on it.
Played by Marilyn Kagan & Trey Stroud
In The Initiation (1983)
Why? Another film with surprisingly well drawn characters, Marcia is the sex-phobic pledge Ralph the wannabe comedian who eventually shows his sensitive side in a sweet shared scene – and then both are immediately killed.
Quote? “[Sex] again?” / “It’s customary at our age.”
Played by Burr Steers
In Intruder (1988)
Why? As far as horror movie stoners go, Burr has got to be near the top of the stack. Near-continuously zoned out from his duties, he meets a very nasty end, but was hopefully too spaced to really notice.
Quote? “I swear to God. If my brother hadn’t hit him in the head repeatedly with a blender, he would’ve killed me!”
Played by Anna Faris
In Lovers Lane (1999)
Why? Another archetype is the slutty cheerleader character. However, in Lovers Lane, pre-stardom Anna Faris makes Janelle a friendly new-girl whose death-by-hook feels unjustly cruel.
Played by Lois Kelso Hunt
In The House on Sorority Row (1982)
Why? Cranky housemother Mrs Slater rules the Pi Theta sorority with an iron fist – and iron cane. Permanently annoyed, her inflexibility quite literally becomes the death of her. Gotta love these no-bull matriarch types though. Her in a girl group with Mother Superior and Mrs Voorhees would be awesome.
Quote? “If that gun is real, all you girls are going to be in real trouble.”