Nobody’s got it easy in a horror film. Either you’re getting killed for having a good time, or for being too uptight, or just because you haven’t been given any plot-advancing lines. And if you’re not getting killed, you’re giving birth to the Antichrist or adopting the devil or having your new carpets absolutely ruined by green goo and oatmeal.

But not all Characters in Horror are condemned equally.

Sometimes, for some reason, certain characters are just screwed. Maybe the writer ran out of scotch halfway through the second act. Perhaps someone copped an attitude on set.

Some of us are just doomed to suffer…and suffer…and suffer.

Whatever the reason, here are 13 Characters Who Couldn’t Catch a Break.

 

13. Helen Shivers – I Know What You Did Last Summer

Helen Shivers trapped in the back of a police car. I Know What You Did Last Summer.

She was a beauty queen. Popular. Handsome a-hole for a boyfriend. Dreams of an acting career in New York. Essentially, everything a girl in a 90s teen film needed to be happy.

If only Helen‘s boyfriend hadn’t convinced her that it was like, totally okay to dump a body, maybe things could have been different.

She ends up with no boyfriend, no acting career, a crap job that’s slowly whittling her soul away to nothing, and a horrid haircut. (Which, in true Hollywood fashion, is somehow better than any haircut you or I have ever had.)

What really earns her a rung on this ladder, however, is her death. After being menaced, terrified, and running for her life, Helen escapes the building she’s been trapped in with the killer. A parade is in sight, at the end of a short, open alley. She almost, ALMOST makes it.

Then comes the hook.

You’d think after all those vampires she killed for Sunnydale High, an arthritic old fisherman wouldn’t give her too much trouble. Sometimes a girl just can’t catch a break.

 

12. Lorna Weisenfreund – Hostel Part II

A young woman, hung upside-down from the ceiling.

Poor Lorna. In a film filled end-to-end with disturbing deaths-by-torture, it’s the nerdy blooming wallflower who dies the Most Brutal Death in the Hostel Trilogy. A shy and awkward art student, Lorna is only after a relaxing and enriching vacation in Europe. When her two friends (read: bad influences) drag her out to a festival and get her all sauced up in an attempt to drag her out of her shell, the bookish Lorna takes off her glasses, shakes her hair out, and gets abducted by an agent of the Elite Hunting Club. Who convinces her to wander out into the darkness by flirting with her for a couple of seconds. Luckily, her friends have her back:

Friends: “Hey, you should like, not go off into the woods with that big, scary guy.”

Lorna: “I’ll be fine.”

Friends: “Okay, cool. Forget what I said. See you later.”

The moral of the story? Books are better than hooks. (Okay, she actually gets slowly slashed to death with a scythe while suspended upside-down over a psychotic soccer mom, but that just doesn’t have the same ring.)

 

11. Nora Manning – The House on Haunted Hill

A young girl screams, menaced by an old blind woman.

Nora feels like a bit of a cheat, since we find out at the end of William Castle’s The House on Haunted Hill that the whole conceit of Frederick Loren’s plan to murder his wife was not letting Nora catch a break.

Still. Just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not after you.

Invited by a millionaire to spend a night in a haunted house with a group of people she doesn’t know, Nora is sort of screwed from Go. Subjected to several minutes of the ubiquitous Elisha Cook Jr. mumbling about the house’s history of gruesome murder and suicide, Nora is then handed a loaded handgun and sent on her merry way. From that point on, she’s menaced by terrifying old women, ominous warnings from the housekeepers, and severed heads in her luggage.

Then the hostess, Mrs. Loren, is found hanging in the stairwell, an apparent suicide.

It only goes downhill from there. Nora is grabbed, choked unconscious, and left for dead. She’s menaced by a haunted rope and what appears to be the ghost of Mrs. Loren outside her window. Fleeing the ghost in her room, Nora runs straight into the actual body of Mrs. Loren, strung back up in the stairwell.

Somebody get this woman a Valium, a vitamin water, and five minutes to breathe, right?

A weird, furry monster hand grabs her shoulder, because now this is the Alpha Kappa Delta Phi haunted house on acid, apparently (replete with square-jawed misogynist, babbling drunk uncle with a knife, and annoying one-note grad thesis nerd). This is further evidenced by the self-playing piano that finally drives her into the basement and out of her mind.

Where, surprisingly, this shaking nervous wreck of a girl with a loaded .45 Colt 1911 apparently shoots her millionaire boss/host to death, after he startles her.

What really puts Nora on this list, though, is the Mansplaining. When Nora comes screaming into a room, driven to the point of madness by some new horror, the men all pour themselves a drink, light a cigar, sit back in their chairs, and set to deciding amongst themselves what really happened.

“Hysteria.”

“Classic case of his-teeeee-ria. Poor girl.”

Then they pat her on the head and send her off to face some fresh new hell on her own, while they…I don’t know. Measure their moustaches and talk about what a swell guy Eisenhower is, probably. Meanwhile, bodies are dropping like a SEAL team is in the house.

Honestly. I think what finally breaks Nora isn’t the horror she encounters, but the weight of the condescension.

 

10. The Boyle Family – The House By the Cemetery

A mother clutches her child in a corner of a dark basement, screaming.

1981’s The House By the Cemetery is basically a schlocky, glorious old advertisement for latex and corn syrup.

The Boyle Family, ostensibly our protagonists, consists of hapless mother Lucy Boyle, leering pervert Dr. Norman Boyle, and grating irritant Bob Boyle, their son. Knife-bait all.

Dr. Boyle decides that it’s a good idea to move his family to the house where a colleague of his murdered his mistress, then killed himself. To continue studying the same thing that guy was studying. In the middle of nowhere. Even though there’s literally a tombstone in the floor of the living room.

It isn’t the zombie in the basement that earns the Boyle Family their place on this list, or even their syrupy (or in the case of Bob, vague and metaphysical) deaths. It’s how avoidable their deaths are. It’s how awful they are to each other. The terrorized family is nothing new to horror. The terrorized family who are dicks to each other? Meet the Boyles.

Mom spends large chunks of the film having bad vibes and bad experiences, which Dad largely ignores. (See Nora Manning.) He’s too busy leering at the babysitter (since nobody’s had problems with mistresses in that particular house before, right?). Bob? You want Bob to die from the moment he whines his first line.


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When a bat attacks Mrs. Boyle in the basement, her husband stands on the stairs and watches for nearly a minute. When he finally does shuffle over to gently bat (get it?) at his screaming, hysterical wife, the bat bites into his hand with what must be six-inch, barbed dagger fangs. Does he kill it quietly down in the basement to ameliorate the trauma to his family?

No. Dr. Boyle brings the bat into the kitchen and, in front of his wife, annoying son, and the creepiest babysitter in the history of the world, stabs the bat to death with a pair of scissors. For nearly a minute. Once the bat is good and gored, pouring Karo everywhere, Dr. Boyle decides to include the family by shaking the bat toward their faces, spattering them all with what is most likely rabies-rich, genetically-altered, radioactive nightmare blood.

In the end, when a zombie is literally murdering their son in the basement, Ma and Pa Boyle sort of stand around and looked mildly perturbed for a bit before running around to, I don’t know, maybe do something, or something. Mom’s move is to cower and not make a move. Dad grabs a knife and stabs the zombie. When he realizes that doesn’t work, does he save his family by easily running around the zombie again, as he did when “saving” that screeching idiot he calls Son? No. He decides to stand completely still for thirty seconds while the zombie drunk-walks over to tear his throat out in front of his wife and child. Better to die, I guess, Norman. Ten steps too much work? Sure, just doom your family.

Mom runs up the wrong stairs with Bob, choosing the staircase that ends in a slab of solid concrete rather than–again–just skirting around the slow-moving carcass that’s shuffling aimlessly around the basement like a nonagenarian on ketamine. The zombie grabs her. Bob screams everyone into a migraine. The zombie pulls her down the stairs, and her head hits every single stair on the way down. Because holding your head up or supporting your weight with your arms is way more exhausting than having your brains bashed in in front of your shrieking spawn.

Then the director chickens out and goes all dream-sequence, instead of rewarding the audience with the inevitable onscreen death of Braying Bob Boyle.

Ah, the Boyles. They might’ve lived, if even a single one of them had given a single shit about anything. But they couldn’t catch a break, because they just couldn’t be bothered to, you know, survive.

 

9. Samantha – The House of the Devil

A girl covered in blood, leaning against an oak door. She seems calm.

She’s broke. She takes a babysitting job. From that point on, she’s doomed. What earns her her place on this list is that she never knows that she’s doomed until it’s far, far too late. She never catches a break, and she never knows it until she wakes up tied to the floor in the middle of a pentagram with an old lady dumping old person blood all over her face out of a goat skull.

She tries to call her friend. The pizza guy shot her friend in the face ages ago.

Orders a pizza. See above. She has no idea.

There are corpses in the house. Doesn’t see them.

Gets poisoned. Thinks it’s crappy pizza sauce.

I mean…come on.

When she finally escapes the pentagram, she kills the pizza guy, kills the pizza guy’s mom, probably kills the guy who hired her, and then, realizing that things have gotten a bit out of hand, she shoots herself in the head…

…only to end up in a coma in the hospital, pregnant with Satan.

 

8. Pretty Much Everybody – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

A girl being attacked by a television with arms.

Nightmare on Elm Street 3 has some of the most brutal, intense deaths in the franchise. A boy being walked like a marionette, for example, with Freddy pulling out his veins for strings. Or a recovering drug addict having ten syringes of heroin shot into her arms all at once. Head jammed into a television set, electrocuted, brain cooking in an electrical fire, hanging by the neck? Yeah. That’s in here.

What makes this Nightmare different from the rest is the batch of youngsters getting quipped and clipped into their early graves.

They’re all adolescent patients at a mental hospital.

Every single one of them starts behind the eight ball and under the garbage heap. Several of them are there because of apparent suicide attempts. One girl habitually burns herself with cigarettes. One boy has been so traumatized that he’s stopped speaking. A boy confined to a wheelchair tried to kill himself by jumping. Our protagonist slashed her wrist with a straight razor. There are drug addicts and street kids. Broken children. All of them are having bad dreams.

You could take Freddy out of this movie, and it would probably still end up a horror film.

 

7. Mark – Friday the 13th Part II

Mark from Friday the 13th with a machete in his face.

Sure, none of the campers in any Friday the 13th film have it very good. But come on:

Paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident. Underdog optimism about his situation that instantly wins over the audience.

Mark eschews the Mortal Sins of Horror. 1) Doesn’t smoke weed, without being judgy about it. 2) Skips the bender at the local watering bar (not that it was wheelchair-accessibly anyway). 3) He spends the night playing the chivalrous long game with a girl who’s totally into him. And right before he’s about to seal the deal, all of us at home applauding the totally above-board romance we’ve been watching?

Jason Voorhees kills him, in what WatchMojo rated the #2 most brutal death in the Friday the 13th franchise. Probably because of the ignobility of the way he goes out: a machete to the face, and his wheelchair rolled backwards down a long flight of stairs.

Others on this list suffered longer and suffered more, but come on. If anybody deserved to make it, it was Mark. Watching him jounce down the stairs, flopping like a ragdoll with a machete in its head…cut the guy a break, huh?

 

6. Henry Frankenstein – Frankenstein

Henry Frankenstein looks at the hand of his monster.

Everybody approaches Frankenstein as a tragedy. The poor monster. He’s so misunderstood. Just wants to be loved. Just needs some Neutrogena and a back brace, and things could’ve been different.

But think about Henry for a second. When we first meet Frankenstein, he’s been booted from a prestigious University for his preposterous ideas about animating dead tissue, which all turn out to be dead-on (get it?). If the stuffed shirts at Closed-Minded White Men University had listened, everyone could be walking around with a spare set of bodies in their closet, and a different head for each day of the week, but noooooooooooo. Instead, Henry has to burn through his school loans renting a freaking windmill and fabricating a bunch of complicated instruments.

Without his lab partner Todd to help sew things onto things, Henry is reduced to hiring a squirrelly little grave-robbing sadist who can’t even get a decent human brain. Good help is impossible to find.

When his fiancée and the guy making moves on said fiancée see his setup, do they applaud his ingenuity and dedication?

“Henry, you appear to be utterly crazy. Why don’t you just give up?” they say.

“Uh, what are you talking about? Look at all this complex machinery I’ve fabricated. I’m just trying to wrap this project up before my lease expires.”

“Well, we’re not leaving.”

“That’s fine. Come watch.”

Then he literally creates life. Like he said he was going to all along. So the professor apologizes, restores his grant money, nominates him for a Nobel Prize, and assures him a tenured position at the University.

Just kidding. He tells Henry to commit murder and continues to insult and belittle him.

Things get way out of hand, mostly because a spooky rented castle is just not a good clinical environment for an experiment of this magnitude, and the Monster kills a couple people. When the massive unruly mob sees that the Monster has Henry in the windmill, they exercise admirable restraint and just burn it down with him inside. So, he’s definitely not getting that deposit back.

Worried about his creator, who is a WORKER OF MIRACLES, the Monster throws Henry off the top of the windmill, breaking him as in half as it is possible to break someone.


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Where does that leave Henry? Probably in a bed for the rest of his short life, hooked up to medical equipment decades behind the stuff he built in a glorified shed, cared for by a wife who never believed in him and a crotchety, bigoted father who thought the only possible reason his son would inconvenience him was to rampantly cheat on the woman he loves.

Yeah, that poor Monster.

 

5. Samantha – Contracted

Samantha from CONTRACTED, open sore on her mouth, eyes completely red.

Samantha sits this high on the list as a sort of Nora Manning to the nth degree. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the protagonist of a body horror film like Contracted is going to suffer. A lot. Horribly. Gruesomely.

What puts Samantha on this list is the differentiation of her decline with something like David Cronenberg’s The Fly. Seth Brundle does what he does to himself, and he makes his own way down the road to his final, grotesque demise. Likewise the wasting away of the protagonist of the Stephen King adaptation Thinner.

Samantha’s decline is so horrific because she never had a choice or chance to avoid it. Worse, once she starts her decline, there is no chance at all for salvation.

Less than fifteen minutes into the movie, Samantha is raped and infected at a party. From there, the film tracks her stomach-churning physical decline. It isn’t the decline itself. It’s the utter powerlessness of her situation, and the utter and complete lack of redemption. There’s no revenge for Samantha. A cure is utterly impossible. Contracted is Samantha suffering on rails, with nowhere to go but further in. There’s not even a shadow of hope. There’s just that moment of absolute darkness, and then the slow, disturbing coming of the night.

 

4. Ash – Evil Dead II

Ash from EVIL DEAD II looking manically at the viewer. Blood on his face.

Anybody who’s seen The Evil Dead knows that Ash has it pretty rough. Having to kill all of your friends is pretty generally a bummer. Worse to bury your dead girlfriend. Even worse to have to decapitate her reanimated corpse with a shovel, then get a bunch of goo and blood all over your totally retro-chic blue button-up. (Not to mention all the blood in your eyes and mouth.)

Now, imagine that you’ve done all that, and then, in Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn, Sam Raimi makes you do it all over again.

In a weird pseudo-recap of the first film, Ash relives the worst of his last vacay at the cabin and only then is allowed to suffer through the rest of the utterly bonkers sequel. More blood, reanimated headless bodies, laughing novelty deer taxidermy, and chainsawing off his own hand. (Which then tries to kill him, before he traps it under the weight of a literary pun.)

Ash has never had a chance to catch his breath, but subjecting him to two horror movies in the space of one? Piling on twice the heap of hell for half the price? C’mon, Raimi. That’s not very groovy of you.

 

3. Eric – Evil Dead (2013)

Eric from EVIL DEAD, holding his hands up in terror.

Evil Dead is rife with folks who are utterly, irrevocably doomed. It would be easy to put Mia on this list: she starts the film trying to kick a heroin habit, then spends the rest of the movie dealing not only with demons, but also with the symptoms of heroin withdrawal. It would be remiss not to point out the obvious. Her brother dies, her friends die, her dog dies. Imagine. You’re itchy and shaky, nerves coming back to life in waves of searing, burning pain. And then it starts raining blood.

But Mia is at least partly culpable for the situation she finds herself in. She sewed some bad seeds.

Nobody reaps the consequences like Eric. This guy literally exists to suffer.

Eric is the first of the doomed youths to get hurt. Adding insult to injury, it’s a paper cut. You just know that throughout everything to come, he kept catching that finger on loose threads. Talk about torture.

He’s also the first of the group to be seriously injured.

But wait, you say. What about David? He gets shot! Sure, but this is Hollywood. Getting shot is like stubbing your toe: protagonists hardly even feel it. A little bit of buckshot barely slows the guy down.

But wait, you say. What about Olivia? She cuts half her face off with a piece of glass! Sure, but she was possessed by a Deadite at the time, and really doesn’t seem that bummed about the fact that she’s got a grin like something out of Hamburger Hill.

Mia’s boiling shower? See above.

So, Eric gets stabbed in the chest with a piece of broken glass by one of his oldest friends. Glass that had been in her mouth, so he’s got all those germs to deal with now. Thanks a lot, Olivia. Really great friend. She does seem to regret stabbing him, though, as she then tries to take the edge off by stabbing him a couple dozen more times in the face and hand, this time with a dirty syringe she picked up off the floor.

Eric pulls a needle more or less out of his eye, and then beats one of his oldest friends to death with part of a toilet tank.

Does he get rushed to a hospital? Handed a margarita and led to a soft bed?

Actually, he suffers for a couple of hours, then gets four carpenter’s nails shot through his arm. And about a dozen more shot into his chest. At this point, you’d think he would just quietly die, or at least play possum while Deadite-possessed Natalie killed her boyfriend on the other side of the room. You know, just to get a little breather.

But no, he tries to save his friend (who seems to be doing just fine, despite that gunshot wound in his arm). His reward? In one of the most stomach-churning moments in horror movie history, he gets his hand split in half by a crowbar. Sweetheart that she is, and feeling bad at how long Eric has been in utter agony (it is kind of ridiculous), Natalie gives him several hard blows to the head with said crowbar. Of course, David–selfish dick that he is–won’t let his mutilated friend die.

Down in the basement, saving David one more time, Eric finally gets his coup-de-grace in the form of a dirty boxcutter (which had also been in someone’s mouth) in the guts. Which he’s fine with, just so long as he doesn’t come back as a Deadite.

Then he comes back as a Deadite. And gets burned to death. The end.

 

2. Sarah – The Descent

A woman covered in blood, screaming at the sky. The Descent.

The Descent is almost like a Public Service Announcement against trusting other human beings.

The film starts with Sarah’s husband and child dying in one of the most brutal car crashes in cinema history. A year later, her “friends” (notice the quotes) decide to cheer her up by dragging her under the earth into a labyrinthine cave system, because…that’s…fun.

Except then she finds out that her “friend” Juno, who planned the trip, has led them into an unmapped labyrinthine cave system, and that she didn’t report their whereabouts, and now there’s no chance of rescue. Okay. People make mistakes. And sometimes those mistakes lead to all of your friends dying totally avoidable, utterly horrific deaths miles underground. Sometimes those mistakes include your “friend” Juno stabbing one of your friends in the neck and leaving her to die. And having an affair with your husband, which may very well have been the distraction that caused the car accident that killed said husband and your daughter.

For Sarah, The Descent is just one punch in the gut after another. There’s no respite, no comfort. Just betrayal after tragedy after horror after betrayal. But there’s a silver lining: when you trust another person, you die alone in a cave, hallucinating your dead daughter.

Although I may be misunderstanding the term “silver lining.”

 

1. Sam Raimi’s Oldsmobile 88 – The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, Evil Dead, Drag Me to Hell

Sam Raimi's Oldsmobile 88.

Sure, most of the other entrants on this list are human beings who died horrible deaths.


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None of them are as long-suffering, maltreated, or disrespected as this car, nicknamed “the Classic.” It’s been conscripted into service in several hells over the past several decades by its diabolical owner, Sam Raimi. It’s been beated and battered, nursed back to health and restored…only to be clipped, cut, chopped, and mangled to accommodate cameras and film crews examining its insides from odd, invasive angles.

In The Evil Dead, it’s called “a hunk of junk.” It’s nearly driven into oncoming traffic, whipped and beaten with branches and brush, driven to such exhaustion that it’ll barely start.

Evil Dead II is even worse. After delivering more teens to the Cabin to die at the behest of wicked, evil Raimi, the Classic is sucked through an inter-dimensional portal into the distant past. Once there, it drops from the sky, crashing to the ground far from everyone it’s ever known, and hundreds of years from the nearest service station. None of which stops its arch-nemesis Bruce Campbell from mutilating it in Army of Darkness. He cobbles on extraneous bits of iron and metal until the Classic is little more than a FrankenCar, practically begging to die.

Alas, the sadist Raimi had other plans. In Drag Me to Hell, the Classic had to be the courier of a gross old Romani Lady who hacked up…I don’t know. Cancer and chunks of her own lungs and patchouli, probably, all over the once proud dash and console of the Classic.

In 2013, it was relegated to sit unused and unloved in the backyard of the Cabin, in Evil Dead. Drug addicts sat on it and talked about how sad they were. How far can one faded yellow Oldsmobile fall?

I’ll tell you: it was in the first three Spider Man films.

The tormenter Raimi is one sick animal.

Then there’s Eternal Nemesis Bruce Campbell. Campbell had the Classic cut to pieces during the filming of Raimi’s Crimewave. It’s jealousy: “This damn car has been in more movies than I have!” he says.

The Classic, terrified, is currently in hiding. When asked if he knew where the car was, Campbell responded:

If I ever found out, an army of mechanics would be dispatched to destroy it.

But the fiend Raimi will never let it die. Kept alive and suffering forever by an auteur psychopath.

Hard as you try, you will never kill the Classic.