Villains of the horror genre are scary in their own right. Heroes and heroines fight the good fight, but sometimes that just isn’t enough. Sometimes those villains are just so good we can’t help but demand more of them. Can you imagine reaching the point of supposed victory only to find out that the monster you’ve busted your ass to bring down has come back to life?
Sometimes it’s the characters of horror we feel the need to revive, regardless of plot holes, series exhaustion, and logic. Classic and modern horror stories obviously jump the barriers lining fact and fiction, so who’s to say what’s dead should stay dead? Yes, yes, I know. We all should listen to Jud Crandall, but the following few storytellers gracefully ignore all the warnings of resurrection.
“…who’s to say what’s dead should stay dead?”
Some give their characters eternal life for scares and cinematic effect, some as an allegory, and, most times, to cash in on the sweet franchise royalties that naturally add up over time riding the trend of eternal life. The end is not enough for these characters or their conceiving filmmakers.
The following 8 Horror Characters Return from the Dead… Again and Again to let us know that death is just another stage of evolution, an opportunity to power up for the second, third, and, sometimes, the twelfth round of life.
8. The Greaser Gang in Sometimes They Come Back (1991)
The title really says it all: Sometimes They Come Back, with this being one of the times that they do. This unappreciated gem of the 90s brings a local myth to life… over and over again. Surprisingly, Tom McLoughlin’s (Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives) dark made-for-TV film is one of my absolute favorite Stephen King adaptations. Like many of King’s stories, childhood trauma is personified as a reoccurring, threatening manifestation. A murderous teenage greaser gang from the 60’s returns to class when the younger brother, and witness, of their last victim, Jim, moves back to his haunted hometown with his wife and young son. In an effort to stay out of the detentions of Hell, the gang must reenact their killing sequence and have set their sights on tormenting the one who got away.
If one cycle from the dead isn’t enough for you, be sure to follow it up with Sometimes They Come Back… Again and Sometimes They Come Back… For More. Each one is just as spunky and cheesy as their respective titles.
7. Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees in Freddy vs Jason (2003)
Horror is filled with champion slashers, but when two of the best go toe-to-toe, everyone around them is virtually screwed in Ronny Yu’s (Bride of Chucky) heavyweight title card Freddy vs Jason. Freddy Krueger of A Nightmare on Elm Street is already a recurring menace of the subconscious, while Jason Voorhees of Friday the 13th is an uncontrollable force of nature. Neither can be stopped in their respected realm… or can they? That’s up to the group of terrified teenagers to figure out, but we’re not really rooting for them… at all.
We turn up to this show for the main event drawing both of our beloved horror villains out of the grave and into the ring. Whether the war wages in the mind or by land, these classic villains cut their way through death on all fronts, giving us the ultimately ongoing showdown of the dead. How else would they keep all of those franchises from retiring?
6. Tree and Babyface in Happy Death Day (2017)
The premise of Groundhog’s Day is unnerving to begin with. Reliving the same day over and over again could be the most jarring state one would find themselves in, but Christopher Landon’s (Paranormal Activity 4) Happy Death Day manages to throw in an even more horrifying end-game: death. Mean girl Tree finds herself waking up to the same day, the same situations happening over and over again. Each day leads into the (same) one when she is murdered by a stalking stranger donning her college’s Babyface mask.
Interestingly, these two characters cycle through death on opposite ends of the spectrum, one being the unstoppable hunter and the other being the reoccurring hunted. The kills are plentiful as Tree grows frustrated with being constantly murdered, forcing her to look deep inside herself and those that surround her to find out who the real killer is. While we enjoy seeing what kill comes next, you know you look forward to the “Hey, It’s My Birthday” ringtone chime each time she wakes up.
5. Chucky in Child’s Play (1988)
One of my favorite moments in the Child’s Play series occurs when Chucky taking a moment to remind everyone that not only is his soul pretty much immortal, but he’s very self aware that the vessel he inhabits is a sure thing. Tom Holland’s (Fright Night) original Child’s Play film gives birth to one of those brilliant franchises that everyone, and I mean everyone, wants to take part in simply because its literal manufacturer gold. So long as the Good Guy doll can be reproduced, or reborn and rebranded, the spirit of Charles Lee Ray can return.
In Bride of Chucky, when the homicidal doll is finally cornered he threatens, “Fine! Kill me! I’ll be back. I always come back!” and he will. Like a popular, mass produced children’s toy hot off the factory line, Child’s Play is one of those series that can’t stay dead. Chucky will reanimate his plastic parts for years to come… on multiple platforms. However, like Chucky adds, dying is such a bitch.
4. Church and Gage Creed in Pet Sematary (1989)
Sometimes dead is better. Sometimes not? When the entire plot line revolves around an Indian burial ground created with the purpose of bringing back the dead, it’s hard to ignore the constant themes of rebirth in Mary Lambert’s (The In Crowd) film adaptation of Stephen King’s taboo novel, Pet Sematary. Not all cats have nine lives, but the Creed family cat, Winston Churchill has a few to spare after he exits the stony ground of his supposedly permanent burial spot. As if the cat making its way through a plastic trash bag packed deep within the ground isn’t scary enough, the human toddler of the family, Gage Creed, meets a grizzly end only to return fresh from his little coffin in a blood-thirsty and malicious state, scalpel in hand.
Yeah… sometimes dead is better. Most times dead is better.
3. mother in mother! (2017)
I realize that unlike almost all of the characters on this list, mother in Darren Aronofsky’s (Black Swan) artistic, elite horror mother! is not exactly a villain. She does burn down the house of existence, but I think we can all agree she deserved the right to act out against her egomaniac husband, Him, and her incredibly invasive, antagonistic, destructive houseguests. Once the blaze consumes mother and everything inside of the home she built, we’re shocked to see a brand new one rise from the ashes and a brand new woman to awaken in her stead.
The reincarnation of mother in the end is Aronofsky’s ultimate ending plot device to drive home the themes of purpose and existence. While we see her as a replaceable, flavor of the week for Him, she is truly acting as a persevering personification of nature. Viewers realize the story they’ve just watch unfold has happened many times before and will happen many more times in the future. The death of mother is just an ironic part of the cycle of everlasting life. At least I think it is…
2. Christine in Christine (1983)
An automobile can be the epitome of eternal love, but is ultimately nothing more than a distraction… unless it’s a ‘58 Plymouth Fury named Christine. Her parts run on romance and revenge. John Carpenter’s (The Thing) adaptation of the Stephen King classic proves that love and obsession conquers all, even death (King really likes bringing things back from the dead, huh?).
This car will always pull herself back together to keep the one she loves securely in the driver’s seat. Who could forget that iconic scene of the beautifully broken car literally pulling herself back into place after being attacked by her lover’s bullies? She can be dented, smashed, and even incinerated, but the unstoppable force within her shiny, cherry red exterior lives on. Christine defies logic… and mileage.
1. Michael Myers in Halloween (1978)
I really wanted to refrain from putting The Shape on this list as John Carpenter’s Halloween is sort of an obvious choice, but… I couldn’t help myself. We know why Chucky, Freddy, and Jason all come back from the underworld, be it supernatural attachment, a score to settle, or the will to live fueled by the fear of children. Michael Myers began the trend of slashers mysteriously surviving and returning from the ‘dead’. There is not enough that can be said about this prolific film and the iconic ever-living, knife-wielding force that drives it.
Originality is a key element to crafting a perfect horror story, only making its way back to life from a dead slumber every so often. Carpenter established a lot of ‘firsts’ with Halloween, one of the most important factors being that Michael Myers still holds the genre’s most terrifying explanation for his ability to return from the dead: He just does.
“Horror isn’t going anywhere soon and if it does, it will be sure to come back… again and again.”
Resurrection is a theme that clearly runs the gamut of horror, but one that is an ironically solid method to satisfy the feeling of wanting more from characters. Bringing villains, heroes, and even ideas out of the grave and back from the point of nonexistence is a strange way these filmmakers portray a sense of hope. Knowing that when the credits roll and the curtains drop its not the ultimate, final, end-all, be-all to the elements we enjoyed is both comforting and unsettling.
Bringing characters back from the dead may be a plot device for most stories, but it is truly a means to recycle the horror we know and love, to reign in the terror of these characters for as long as our mortal lives will allow us.
Which of these returns from the dead are your favorite? Who is your favorite horror character that just won’t die? Let us know over on Twitter, Reddit, or in the Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!