Saturday, September 18, 2010

Let the Wrong One Live: The 5 Worst Survivors In Horror History

As some of you know and others don't care about, I spent the last year or so contributing to Pop Syndicate, a recently renovated website that lost all its past content (and writers). The following article appeared in 2009 and since you can't find it anywhere else in InterWorld, I'm rerunning it here. Apologies for the deja vu.

Don’t you hate it when the wrong ones get away? While the majority of kill-heavy horror films know the proper hunting formula, every now and then, some undeserving soul smiles triumphantly in the final freeze frame, leaving the audience to scratch their heads and sit through seven minutes or so of badly scored credits, waiting in the hope that the director was saving his final kill for those with patience to spare.
What follows is a spoiler-rich countdown of films that leave us wanting more...blood. Specifically, enough to drain the life out of a survivor or two.
5. Day and Land of the Dead
Some critics have observed that Uncle Romero has softened in recent years, but I take it one step back and argue he’s still burning off the sweetness from eating too many chocolate Bonkers in the 80s. Day of the Dead has a fine collection of Savini packaged blood and guts, but the fact that none come out of the bodies of any ‘good’ character takes a certain depth out of the movie. Likewise, Land of the Dead loses a sympathetic John Lequizamo, but once again, our rather dull heroes get to ride off into the twilight in full force. There’s a reason so many people felt empty at the end of Romero’s quadrilogy finale: very little happened to the people we were meant to care about.  I do realize that Diary of the Dead has a richer body count, but, well...I just didn’t care enough about the living or deceased to really include it here.

4. Kingdom of the Spiders
There's no reason for William Shatner's heroic veterinarian to die in this 1977 tarantula reason, except, say, the fact that he gets bitten by about twenty DDT enhanced arachnids who had previously proved that one nibble was enough to take down a horse. Was there some sort of antidote in Kirk’s far too prominent belt buckle? Did the tightness of his jeans prevent the venom from spreading through his doughy body? Even if his (and quite possibly the rest of the world’s) fate is left tangled up in webs, Shatner’s survival is a cheat.
3. Snakes On a Plane
If you build your marketing campaign around earning an R rating, you have a responsibility to your ticket buying public to provide inventive kills and little mercy. Snakes On a Plane never got that memo, as observed by the surviving characters that include the bland leading man, an obnoxious Beverly Hills brat actually named Mercedes, and worst of all, two bratty little kids who should have been marked for death in the first reel. Even a dud like 1976's Rattlers  had the nerve to knock off a few obnoxious child actors in the pre-credit sequence. Snakes On a Plane, on the other hand, teased us with bad assery and delivered a de-fanged bite.

2. Silent NIght, Deadly Night
As my Catholic school-educated mother has often said, nuns are evil. Mother Superior (Jean Miller), the primary villain in this notorious 1986 Santa Clause slasher, is arguably the least likable character in a film exclusively populated by extremely unlikable characters. You'd think the filmmakers--who so clearly hate everything in this world--would revel in the chance take a few shots at a God-fearing and child-hating Dominican. You'd think wrong. Somehow the woman partially responsible for harnessing little Billy’s psychotic tendencies and mind-boggling confusion over what Santa Clause actually does gets to celebrate another Christmas (probably by slapping the wrists of orphans with a candy cane). The only redeeming factor is that the world’s meanest nun loses her habited head in the gloriously bad sequel.

1. Scream 3
By all accounts, David Arquette’s bumbling Sheriff Dwight Riley should never have survived Wes Craven’s first installment of this meta-slasher. I’ll accept the fact that Dewy was just too gosh darn lovable for test screen audiences to mourn. I’ll even give him a free pass for Part 2 since Randy was sacrificed. But by the third installment, his number was up. Remember the ads that boasted how no one was safe? Apparently they were referring to Jenny McCarthy, the other guy from Felicity, and the token black dude. We loyal fans, who survived Courteney Cox’s bangs and Nev Campbell’s squints, get to end with the lamest double date in horror history. 

So dear bloodthirsty readers, please share your cravings: which last men, women, and children standing would you like to see get a much more exciting alternate ending?


  1. While the nun does get killed in part 2, she was played by a much less evil seeming actress, with her face all burnt up. The director said on the commentary that he burnt the nun's face to try and cover up that they used a different actress. My point is, it's a total inadequate comeuppance for that bitch penguin.

  2. I totally agree Thomas. It's a catharsis that never quite matches the bitchitude of that awful awful woman.

  3. I recall only two character dying... and I won't say WHO... in "Open Waters 2", but after fast-forwarding that piece of shit after taking all that I could of a hour's worth of whiny-ass pretty people, I was hoping sharks, pirhanas, Black Lagoon creatures... hell, even Cthulu itself... would ensure there would've been NO survivors. Not only were they all terribly complainy, but they made some of the WORST survival decisions ever. We're talking "special helmet"-grade choices.

  4. Ooooh, thanks for the warning! I'm totally swimming clear of Open Water 2. Those made-for-DVD/SyFy films are especially bratty when it comes to amassing too many survivors, something I never understand since obviously, the audience ain't watching for other reasons. I hate seeing the wrong survivors make it, but you know what's worse? A film that doesn't get its audience.

  5. I can't disagree more about Day of the Dead. In particular, I love Sarah! She may not be the most charismatic or conventionally likable/heroic survivor, but she's had her shit together and she pulled through when everyone else had either given up or lost their minds. If anyone deserves to survive, it's her.

  6. In some ways, you're totally right. She's heroic, noble, smart and strong. But goodness! So much yelling! And her taste in men is horrid. I know ROmero was trying to make up for Night's Barbra, but Sarah, much like TOmboy in SUrvival, just comes across as so intensely 'I'm a strong woman!' that I get annoyed. It's not all her fault, since she has to spend most of the film arguing with even more pigheaded men. It's a personal preference I suppose.