They’re strong, they’re fast, they’re tough, and they’re totally popular. “Jocks” have been a fun, quintessential trope used in a variety of film genres through the ages, but none are more appreciated than the jocks of horror. While our survivors rely on their brain to make it through the perils they face, jocks rely on their biceps and ground tactics to take out the villains. It is, of course, a stereotype that has since been blurred by way of characterization, yet one we still see from time to time in the films we love.
Jocks are usually a secondary antagonist, typically embodying the common bully and meathead. You know the type; big, masculine, visually appealing, cool, athletic, not exactly the sharpest knife in the arsenal. If we look at them as more of a Foil to our other respected roles and how they make those roles stronger, we may appreciate their womanizing, dim-witted, and intimidating ways.
Now, are all jocks made up of negative traits? Absolutely not. A good few players on this list possess some of the most endearing qualities strengthened by their dedicated athleticism. While it may be a tired role, we need “the jock” in horror. Who else is going to move furniture to blockade the door?
Calling all players to the field!
I give you this season’s jocks of horror varsity lineup…
#10 The Faculty (1998) – Coach Joe Willis, Stan Rosado, and Gabe Santora
There is no ‘I’ in ‘T-E-A-M’ and there certainly is no team without a coach. If we’re going to discuss jocks we’re more than likely going to stay within the realm of the scariest place they reside: high school. One of horror’s most nostalgic love letters to adolescence, Robert Rodriguez’s The Faculty, plays on the typical stereotypes and forces them together in this treacherous environment when their greatest fear comes to life: their teachers are, indeed, from another planet.
Coach Willis, played by Robert Patrick (Terminator 2: Judgement Day), heads the swarm of the Harrington High Hornets and Stan Rosado, played by Shawn Hatosy (Animal Kingdom), quarterback, leads the football team to ‘W-I-N’ every Friday night. When the coach begins softening up on his players and Stan begins to drift away towards his academic studies, it’s a coin-toss as to who is being harvested by the alien parasite that has plagued the high school and who is not. The team’s number two man, Gabe Santora, played by Usher Raymond (She’s All That), is eager to take Stan’s spot causing Stan to see even more clear how replaceable his role as the star football player can be. While he tries desperately to be taken seriously as a student rather than the molded player, others like Gabe embrace the stereotype. The kids really aren’t alright, but that’s okay. Coach Willis is there to keep them in line.
#9. The Cabin in The Woods (2001) – Curt Vaughan
Drew Goddard’s (Bad Times At The El Royale) meta-horror The Cabin in the Woods crossed lines and mocked them in a twisted, unique way. The average group of college friends that set out for a weekend getaway to a remote cabin slowly take on the characteristics of predestined archetypes unleashing the wicked world of made-up horror tropes on reality.
The handsome Curt, played by Christ Hemsworth (Avengers: Infinity War) initially comes across as a nice, humble guy but slowly evolves into a horny, shallow, unintelligent meathead. This role within a role is easily recognized the second he puts on a random letterman jacket (Curt doesn’t even play football in college). In the end, it is the exaggerated male bravado that causes Curt to meet his demise when he decides to long-jump his motorcycle from one cliff to another, but collides with the invisible force-field surrounding the woods. Splat! Poor Curt became a real meathead in more ways than one.
#8. Thir13en Ghosts (2001) – Royce Clayton, The Torn Prince
Hey batter, batter, swing batter! My personal favorite jock of all is technically a true villain. Steve Beck’s Thirteen Ghosts gives us a slew of terrifying souls bent on taking their anguish out on the living while being trapped within the spellbound home of a sinister entrepreneur. Again, here, we see certain roles assigned to the characters of a film, with these deaths symbolizing individual tragedies. Though dangerous, each of the ghosts’ stories humanize them in some way and none is more obviously tragic than that of The Torn Prince.
The “star slugger” of a small town baseball team, Royce Clayton, played by Craig Olejnick (The Listener), is on his way to the big leagues when his life is taken during a Grease-style drag race. His entire back story, along with the other 12 ghosts’ are detailed in extra bonus features which are worth a watch if you even slightly like the film. The Prince’s weapon of choice? Why, a Louisville Slugger of course! This lost soul is angry over the dream that was stolen from him and he’s not afraid to knock your ass out of the park.
Fun Fact: Did you know this guy has a pretty heavy fandom following? There is fanfiction galore online, not that I’ve read it or anything…
#7. Christine (1983) – Dennis Guilder
Stephen King wrote an interesting character in Dennis Guilder of his 1983 novel, Christine, later adapted for the screen by John Carpenter (Halloween) in the same year. Dennis, played by John Stockwell (Kickboxer: Vengence) is a wholesome, nonchalant high school student with three things on his mind: girls, football, and his friend Arnie, not necessarily in that order. When Arnie goes from ‘not’ to ‘hot’ after purchasing his first car, Dennis becomes suspicious of his friend’s newfound object of affection.
While Dennis would typically be the kind of guy to pick on Arnie, he is the exact opposite. He sincerely cares about his friend no matter how varied their status is on the social spectrum of high school. He stands up for Arnie against the school bullies, his belligerent boss, and his overbearing parents. Dennis doesn’t even begrudge Arnie dating the new pretty girl and the physical loss he suffers after seeing them together, though it does ruin his football career.
Dennis portrays the one important quality a true athlete should always posses: loyalty. After all, it’s easier to stand by your friend than it is to outrun a jaded ’58 Plymouth Fury.
#6. Carrie (1976) – Tommy Ross
We all know him: the dream guy, the boy next door, the one we crush on so intensely it’s hard to concentrate on which ashtray we want to flip over with our minds. The epitome of pristine athleticism and character is manifested in Tommy Ross, another character written by Stephen King in his 1974 coming of age novel, Carrie, later adapted by Brian De Palma (Scarface). Carrie is the outcast of her high school, tormented and ridiculed by the other girls and boys for being strange. However, the object of her affection, Tommy Ross, played by William Katt (House), played by asks her to prom. It’s a night we know neither of them will forget.
Tommy is the archetypal golden boy of the school, always earnest and eager to be the nice guy. Out of guilt his steady girlfriend Sue forces him to ask Carrie to the prom and although he is apprehensive, Tommy puts on a good face and shows Carrie the time of her life… while he can. Instead of being repulsed or indifferent to the odd girl he’s forced to court on the biggest senior night of the year, he is charming and kind.
Give up a round of applause for the Prom King and ‘Player of the Year’, Tommy Ross.
#5. Final Destination (2000) – Carter Horton
If we’ve learned anything from our beloved horror films its that death is not a picky foe. He comes for all of us eventually, even the untouchable jocks. Actually, he usually comes for the jocks around the second act. Regardless, no matter how popular or jacked you are, death will find you. It’s a harsh lesson Carter Horton has to learn in James Wong’s Final Destination.
Carter, played by Kerr Smith (My Bloody Valentine 3D), takes the flight approach when faced with a certain staggering situation, like that of inevitable death. When classmate Alex warns him about the cycle they’ve escaped, his initial reaction is to act tough and doubt him all the way through. He doesn’t even keep it at speculation. Out of fear, Carter’s instinctual aggression turns his doubt in to anger, much of which is aimed toward the alarmist. The two clash for a majority of the film as Carter believes he’s “never going to die”, a godlike mentality among the most obnoxious of ‘Jockdom’. In the end he realizes the weird guy at school is the only chance he has at skipping the rotations and throwing death off completely. However, if only he truly saw the signs (pun!) throughout their ordeal even his jock brain would be able to comprehend, no matter what you do or where you go, you can’t cheat death.
#4. The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999) – Jesse, Mark, Eric
Sometimes the jocks are true villains, not in the way that the Torn Prince is a villain. He is a victim of circumstance and, well, supernaturally charged. What I’m talking about are the predatory jocks. The ones who use their status and strength to harm others, specifically women. These kinds of men, the bad jocks, make up the band of evil incarnate in The Rage: Carrie 2, directed by Katt Shea (Poison Ivy). These three football stars, and the other jocks on their team, use the girls of their high school for sex, rate and exploit them, and ultimately humiliate them, some to the point of death. Rachel, the supposed long-lost sister of Carrie White, learns that while her inherited telekinetic gift and family heritage is scary, the teen guys around her are much more of a threat.
While precious Jesse, played by Jason London (Dazed and Confused) is the redeemable, vulnerable one, Mark, played by Dylan Bruno (Numbers) and Eric, played by Zachary Ty Bryan (The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift) remain the sinister bullies who view their school as a playground for the taking. Their disgusting indiscretions fly under the radar of their popular, falsely charismatic ways and are carefully swept under the rug of their impressive state championship playbooks. Men like these are true villains and should be considered the scariest monsters on this and every list of the horror genre. While the validity of ghosts and demons is up for speculation, these self-absorbed, deviant, twisted high school jocks are very much real.
#3. I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) – Barry Cox
It’s hard to think of jocks, or high school for that matter without including Jim Gillespie’s I Know What You Did Last Summer. It’s a perfect back-to-school flick and has a jock fit for the ages. Barry Cox is impulsive, aggressive, and completely self-absorbed played by the perfectly cast Ryan Phillippe (Shooter). He would rather cover up an accidental murder igniting a string of revenge murders, one of those being his own, than inconvenience his potential cushy, college quarterback lifestyle.
Fueled by petulant testosterone and packing a punch, Barry relentlessly harasses the local loser, has no regard for members of the opposite sex (he pretty much strangles Julie into submission), and continuously thinks he is better than everyone around him in the small fishing town. One obnoxious standout quality this particularly arrogant punk has that sets him high on the jocks meter? No, it’s not his hot minute boxing montage. Barry constantly believes he can outsmart, outhit, and outrun the hooked killer out to get him and his friends even when it’s plainly obvious the man just waiting for the perfect moment to take him out.
Oh, Barry. If you’d take your head out from your own ass long enough you’d see that your type of character is always the second or third character to die in a teen thriller. Maybe try Friday Night Lights, next time.
#2. Signs (2002) – Merrill Hess
One of my favorite characters in all of film is M. Night Shyamalan’s (Split) Merrill Hess played by Joaquin Phoenix (You Were Never Really Here) in Signs. He is a minor league has-been with a heart of gold and a soft spot for his brother, nephew, and niece. Shyamalan writes his average Joe characters with such compassion and empathy that their glow practically leaks through the screen (no, not like Samara). Merrill is one of those characters. Leaving his flailing baseball career behind, Merrill takes up residence with his pastor brother, Graham, and his kids following the sudden, tragic death of his sister-in-law. He supports his family and guides them through the darkness they face as a whole and individually. He is one of those baseball player types that shines in value on the diamond and in the home.
While Graham struggles with his faith, as do the children, Merrill remains the strong backbone they need. I’m not an athlete, but I’m pretty sure on of the appealing factors of ‘making it big’ in any league is become a superhero to young fans. They strive off of the inspiration and hope they instill in others, using their strength and ability to perform. Merrill becomes the true hero of the Hess family in more ways than one. All of their problems are solved in a few swings of his record-breaking bat when a worldwide alien invasion becomes an in-house threat. In a few tough swings, Merrill redefines his purpose and the Hess family story comes full circle in a curveball, one that can only be thrown by the Hall-of-Famer himself, Shyamalan.
Swing away, Merrill.
#1. The Final Girls (2015) – Kurt
Kurt (either with a C or a K) must be the official jock name of this decade! Every final girl needs her not-so-final boy to help her through the strings of deaths and haunting she may experience on her road to destiny. Where would the fierce, courageous, leader find herself without her idiotic, brawny, man-piece? That is one of the questions Todd Strauss-Schluson (A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas) raises in his hilariously dark, meta-horror The Final Girls.
Adam DeVine (Workaholics) Kurt is a player on and off the field. In another role within a role, he is this film’s movie jock. His obnoxious one-liners, suggestive expressions, and overall dick mentality is hysterical and more than accurate in showing audiences, both in The Final Girls’ reality and our own, what happens to the vain, beer guzzling 1980’s jock.
Hint: Turds don’t make it to the end.
And let’s not forget our Second Stringers!
“He’s big and he plays football and he’ll kick the shit out of you!”
We’ll all remember one of Casey Becker’s last few lines of dialogue in Wes Craven’s Scream and her hunky bot-boyfriend Steven Orth, the first dead coed in the series of the Woodsboro Murders. While he’s only on screen for a minute or two of the film’s perfectly cold open, his death and that of Becker are iconic in the genre. We’ll never forget poor Steve’s intestines pouring out from his letterman jacket. The characters who would be the typical lead characters of the slasher that was about to be unleashed are murdered within the first 10 minutes? You can’t duplicate a play like that again.
Finally, one I couldn’t ignore, but another cold open benchwarmer: Jimmy in Halloween H20. He is the overly cocky immature jock known “to get a little crazy with the stick”. His hockey techniques may have equipped him to be a potential match for Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th, but not for the likes of Michael Myers.
No shit, Jimmy.
It’s easy loving to hate the jocks we see on screen as we can see here that as perfect as they think they are, almost all of them a fully flawed. It’s okay to enjoy their dreamy physiques and courageous efforts while rolling our eyes at their ridiculous behavior and outright narcissistic behaviors. They’re jocks. Again, what makes these genre athletes so important? Their ability to elevate the players around them, be it in actual support or technical comparison. These are the prime horror all-stars ready to tackle, sac, and knock-out any treacherous predator the filmmaker throws at them.
That is, if they aren’t the ones preying on others.