Saturday, April 23, 2011

Horror Kill Rules

Most of us have seen horror films. Most of us have also noticed certain "rules" typically conformed to, and often even referenced in said movies. In particular, the rules surrounding who will survive and who will die. Perhaps the best known are that the virginal girl survives and the black guy ALWAYS dies. Much has been made of the whole purity issue surrounding the former, while the latter is often written off as racism. That second assessment is, in my opinion, totally missing the point.

The black guy doesn't die because he's BLACK... he dies because he's DIFFERENT. Novelty characters (anybody who isn't a "normal" clean-cut white American) are pretty much always doomed. You'll notice that Asians, for example, die just as sure as blacks do. Religion can do the same thing as race. Two minutes into the movie, we already know that the Wiccan girl and the extremely preachy Protestant she's at odds with are both going to die before the credits roll. Careers, ideologies, activities, fashion choices, economic status, and hairstyles all set you up for death too. The computer hacker, the jock, the cheerleader, the goth, the hippie, the punk, the vegan, the redneck, and that guy with the dreadlocks are all going to get killed. Why? Because they had a recognizable label to separate them from the protaganist, showing that they were different. It extends to the body itself, too. The fat guy? He'll get stuck trying to squeeze though something (like he doesn't know his 300 lbs won't fit through a 6 inch gap). Anybody with thick glasses? They'll get broken or lost, consequently dooming their wearer. As for the unfortunate fellow in the wheelchair, we all know he isn't going to get far. I haven't noted too many homosexuals in horror films, but I'm sure their fate is similar to all the other "different" folks in the movies. All this leads to another visual tool to set a character apart as being "not normal" to the extent that they must die. In fact, it's this trait that lead me to make this post, as I pondered it during a late-night drive with some Master roaring through my car speakers. That trait is, predictably enough when considering my blog's name, having a beard.

I thought about it, and I could not recall a single bearded survivor of a bloody slashfest movie. Granted, there aren't that many bearded characters in the first place, especially since the typical victims are in the age range where many guys still have facial hair growth that's patchy at best, but I still couldn't think of any. Not that I feel singled out or anything; as I've already noted, pretty much anybody who isn't totally vanilla in every way runs the serious risk of dying. Still, I thought it was interesting to note that in a slasher film setting, as a man with a beard, my chances of survival are about the same as those of the slutty cheerleader and the infamously doomed black guy.


  1. It's long been a topic of conversation between myself and my best friend about the black guy always dying in horror movies, even before we were able to see other theories about this on the internet. It's frustrating though, because I often find the black guy to be one of the more interesting characters. The Alien movies in particular follow this (Parker, Frost, Apone, Dillon, Christie). Occasionally you see a black lead (Predator 2, Aliens v. Predator), but not nearly often enough.

  2. I agree, often they are one of the more interesting characters. I've always felt bad for the black guy, since you know the instant the movie starts that he has about a 1% chance of survival. As I pointed out, though, almost anything that defines you as unique from the protagonist dooms you.

  3. My favorite horror movie of all time (and one of my two favorite movies) is John Carpenter's The Thing. The two people who last the longest are (1) the badass black dude and (2) fully-bearded Kurt Russell. So there's one extra reason why it's the best ever.