Horror Character Madness, Part 1

By Andreas

When Stacie Ponder over at Final Girl announced her SHOCKtober plans for this year, she stirred something deep inside Ashley and I. Specifically, she stirred the eternal desire to list off our favorite horror movie characters. So that’s exactly what we’re going to do! Throughout October, we’ll periodically be showcasing each of our top 25 horror characters. It starts now, with my 25-21; stay tuned for Ashley’s first five later this week!

25) The Nursery Owner (Frank Collison in The Happening [2008])

We’re packing hot dogs for the road. You know, hot dogs get a bad rap. They got a cool shape, they got protein… you like hot dogs, right?

For one sweet minute, The Happening changes from a godawful eco-horror movie into a hot dog awareness PSA, and it’s all thanks to “The Nursery Owner.” Played by character actor Frank Collison, he’s a rural Pennsylvanian who keeps calm in times of panic and knows what kind of processed meat to snack on in the midst of a disaster. He may die an ignoble off-screen death later in the movie, but he remains a hero to hot dog lovers everywhere. We salute you, hot dog guy.

24) The Lady in the Radiator (Laurel Near in Eraserhead [1977])

Why is she there? What does she symbolize? Why is she so creepy? With her chipmunk cheeks, ugly wig, and bizarrely amateurish vaudeville routine, Eraserhead’s Lady in the Radiator has burnt herself into our corneas and eardrums. Maybe she’s an imagined source of Depression-era optimism in Henry Spencer’s dismal life. Maybe she’s an eerie audiovisual manifestation of his pent-up psychosexual anxieties. Maybe she’s just a tiny woman who lives and sings in his radiator. I don’t know and, to be frank, I don’t want to know.

23) The Living Torso (Prince Randian in Freaks [1932])

The Freaks ensemble is hard to discuss in “acting” or “character” terms: since it consists primarily of non-actors squeezed awkwardly into melodramatic roles, it’s tough to delineate the borders between performance, reality, and exploitation. This applies especially to the poker-faced Prince Randian (inexplicably credited as “Rardion”), who appears onscreen to do his trademark bit (rolling and lighting a cigarette with his mouth), call out a garbled line, and disappear until the climax, wherein he wriggles along with a knife in his mouth.

Despite (or because of?) the brevity of this role, Randian sticks like a thorn in my mind. A Guianan immigrant in his early sixties, he seems grizzled and professional as he performs for what would become his generation-spanning, worldwide cult audience. Furthermore, it’s especially impressive to see a person of color take center-stage in a Hollywood movie from the early ’30s, if only for a minute.

22) Jenny Hall (Una O’Connor, The Invisible Man [1933])

When I wrote about The Invisible Man last year, I had this to say about Jenny Hall, the innkeeper’s wife who comes face to no-face with mad Jack Griffin: “[S]he’s a hyperactive, thick-brogued scream queen… she’s bitchy, nosy, gossipy, inane, infuriating, and gives a great performance. You’d have to be a great actress to play such a deeply intolerable character.” I stand by it, too. She’s the definitive shrill, British matron, realized with all the brio and exaggeration of a Looney Tunes character.

21) Jean (Chloë Sevigny in American Psycho [2000])

Poor Jean is so cute and so unlucky. She’s working as a secretary at a big Wall Street firm, living the dream, climbing the ladder—but alas, her boss happens to be, at best, a self-absorbed psychopath and, at worst, a mass murderer. I adore how Sevigny plays her: fairly modest and quiet, thrilled just to be sitting in Mr. Bateman’s apartment, cluelessly asking her would-be date, “Patrick, have you ever wanted to make someone happy?” I think we can all sympathize with Jean; recognize that we would be in her position, too. As such, I’m really, really happy that she lives.

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