One of the reasons we watch horror movies, besides being a little dark and twisted ourselves, is to see others in harrowing situations. While most people do not want to admit it, they do often feel sympathy for victims in horror movies. Most victims in horror flicks are so one-dimensional, you forget their names once the movie is over, and they have made no lasting impact. However, there are some that you feel so bad for, that you couldn’t forget their names. Even if you never see the movie again, you will always remember how you felt while watching it. Here is a list, though not exhaustive, of horror film victims that I felt empathy for. Some may not have died in the film, and some may be from thrillers, not only horror.
- Mari Collingwood – Last House on the Left – 1972 – Of course, Mari epitomizes the ultimate victim. She is young, innocent, naive to the ways of the world, and is just looking to celebrate her birthday. So, automatically, this is a bad situation. Mari (Sandra Cassel/Peabody) may have not been the best in some of the tamer scenes, but when she is crying for her life and her innocence, I feel she is earth-shattering. When she befriends Junior, renames him Willow, and tries to get him to help her, you cannot but for sorry for her. You almost feel her desperation as she attempts to get away from her captors, and begs Junior to side with her and leave Krug for good. She even tries to use his drug addiction as a ploy to get him to help. When she says, “I live over there! I live across the street!”, you can hear the fear in her voice, and I think she did a damn good job eliciting sheer terror.
- Junior Stillo – Last House on the Left – 1972 – Junior’s awful life is really well portrayed by Mark Sheffler, although, like I said, this movie doesn’t have the best acting in the world. But you feel so bad for the guy. I mean, his father hates him and hooked him on heroin on purpose, and now is used by Krug for his own personal gain. This guy didn’t stand a chance. The only thing he did wrong was being born, which obviously, he had no control over. You feel at the end, when Junior kills himself at the urging of his father, that he is finally taking some aspect of his life under control, albeit in an extreme way. That Krug wanted his own son to kill himself I think is absolutely horrible, but I think by doing so, Junior ended his pain and escaped his awful existence.
- Annie Brackett – Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 – 2009 – After surviving the first round of Zombie’s retelling of Halloween, her character becomes more developed, and thus, more sympathetic. When Annie, Laurie’s best friend, is brutally murdered and the scene is so long and drawn out, it makes you really sad. Well, it did me, anyway. How awful! Everyone loves the character of Annie, whether it is the remake or original, and with Zombie allowing her to survive one film, it is sickening when she is slaughtered in the second. She did a really good job in the scene, and you can tell she is terrified and trying so hard to fight for her life. When Laurie and Sheriff Brackett find her, it just nearly breaks your heart. Who would expect Rob Zombie to make you sad in a film?
- Carrie White – Carrie – 1976 – Who hasn’t wanted to destroy the prom and get back at all those who fucked you over? I say, no one. Spacek’s portrayal of Carrie, a girl who, much like Junior Stillo, didn’t do anything wrong, and didn’t mean to be born, is haunting. Carrie is such a pitiful soul; she only wants to be loved and be normal. She doesn’t understand the way the real world works, namely because her mother is a fucking religious psychopath, so she must channel that anger and energy somewhere. Why not on those who deserve it? All those who did her wrong will feel her wrath, and you cheer for Carrie. But the character itself is so depressing and sad, how can you not be happy when she opens up a can of Whoop-Ass?
- Catherine Martin – The Silence of the Lambs – 1991 – Young Catherine Martin is abducted and left to suffer in a dungeon in Buffalo Bill’s basement. Her agony is clearly shown in every scene, and at some point, you actually think she is going to go insane. That shock, horror, fear, and desperation is so well portrayed that it almost makes you feel claustrophobic. You also want them to hurry up and find her because her constant yelling is enough to drive the viewer a little crazy. But she’s a captive, why shouldn’t she be screaming bloody murder? To me, that is the mark of a true, impactful victim. You separate from the vocal suffering so much because you don’t want to feel as if you yourself could ever be in that situation. Excellent acting.
- Cecilia Shepard – Zodiac – 2007 – Whew, Cecilia’s blood-curdling scream as she is stabbed multiple times is enough to give anyone chills or at least make them feel very uncomfortable. To think that this is a true story only adds to the terror. You can almost feel what she is feeling, and while her character is only on-screen about 5 minutes, you will not forget that scene, ever. One minute, you’re enjoying a nice day with your guy, and the next, you’re both being robbed, tied up and stabbed repeatedly. If that would not induce such disturbing feelings, I don’t know what would. I feel that sounds in movies, particularly horror movies, are just as effective as the graphics, and sometimes even more so. This scene proves it, because you really do not see any blood or gore, only her terrified face and writhing body as she attempts to get away from the killer.
- Pet Sematary – Gage Creed – 1989 – Do I really need to explain this one? Who would have thought that this adorable, precious boy will be killed by a semi-truck, only to be brought back into some zombie-like, blood-thirsty beast by his distraught father? Well, Stephen King, of course. His writing would likely be one of the few attempts to have a toddler be killed by an enormous fucking truck, and come back as a mini-serial killer. It is so pitiful, because you know his father is only doing it out of desperation, although he knows the ramifications. When he has to euthanize his own son, and you see the look on Gage’s face, it almost kills ya. How sad can this little undead boy look? You have to feel sorry for him! He didn’t ask to be brought back. Remember, “sometimes dead is better”.
- Sarah – The Descent – 2006 – It is probably hard to imagine the suffering that Sarah’s character has gone through, and she hasn’t even confronted the creatures yet. Losing one’s husband and daughter in a horrific crash is no doubt likely to make you rethink your sanity. This is why it is hard to know at first if the creatures she sees in the cave are real, or figments of her imagination, like a post-traumatic stress thing. Shauna MacDonald portrays this very well, and you have to feel for her, especially after she finds out that Juno was having an affair with her now-deceased husband. Holy shit. Sympathy overload! Don’t lie, you were rooting for her to hurt Juno, weren’t you?
- Milos – A Serbian Film – 2010 – What Milos is put through, in an interesting twist of being the antagonist and protagonist at the same time, is horrifying. There is no doubt as to why what happened at the end happened. He felt he had no choice. His life went from pretty okay to hell in three days. We definitely cannot imagine doing the things he did, even though he was drugged and it was partially not his fault, and we feel for the guy. It’s the same way some people feel sorry for serial killers. Not because of what they did, but because, who would want to live like that and do those things? Like, how could anyone do that? You feel bad for the internal aspect of it. This sadness is apparent in Milos, and the viewer realizes that, damn, this whole situation is so messed up, there are no winners or losers. It just is. And there’s nothing you can do. That’s what’s horrifying.
- Kristen McKay and James Hoyt – The Strangers – 2008 – This film is scary, genuinely scary. That is, as you no doubt know, hard to come by these days. It plays upon the viewer’s psychological fear, much like how Casey’s character in Scream being taunted by phone calls will always be the scariest part of that film. Having to fight for one’s life, mixed in with true psychological fear, is a great mixture for a horror film. That is also a hard part to do well for a director, and that this movie was the director’s first film, shows his promise as a filmmaker. Kristen and James endure so much fear, that if they had survived (it was hinted that Kristen did), they would probably be in a mental institution! I have always believed that what is in your mind is always much scarier than what you are actually seeing on-screen, and this movie plays on that. Especially if you live out in the woods 😉
As I mentioned, this list is not exhaustive, and I may be making another list. What do you guys think?