Monday, November 18, 2013

Horror Movie Annoyances: The Unsympathetic/Unlikable Characters

Long time horror fans probably noticed the evolution of the horror genre over the years. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I know older fans of the genre groaned and griped when the emergence of the slasher sub-genre came. For my generation, probably the supposed "torture porn" sub-genre was a grievance. The purpose of this post and the ones that follow will cover the annoyances I have with current horror movies. So please, have an open mind when reading these.

No matter what genre of movie you watch, you're going to run into understandably unlikable characters. I'm not talking about the story's antagonist, but those supporting characters that are minor obstacles in the protagonist's everyday life. It is a reflection of reality, so their existence is necessary in character growth. Obviously, horror movies are no exception to having the element of unlikable characters. One example is the classic Carrie. Carrie's mother and classmates are understandably unlikable characters. Carrie's mother is overbearing over her daughter and tries to protect her from sinful things and her classmates constantly bully her because she's different from them. Because of these unlikable characters, we are suppose to sympathize with Carrie and feel how she feels. Despite Thirteen Ghosts not being that great of a horror movie, it manages to get the understandably unlikable character down right. Even though there's not much background presented to us about our main character Arthur Kriticos and his family, we know enough to feel a little bit of something for him. Arthur is a widower and tries to raise his two children with the help of a nanny, despite their poor financial situation. When he and his family are brought to a glass house that he inherited from his late Uncle Cyrus, there's a tiny bit of betrayal when we see Cyrus' lawyer Ben Moss try to steal from them after playing the nice guy to Arthur and his family. Once it's revealed that Moss has a hidden agenda, he attempts to escape with some money. Unfortunately for him, his escape plan fails when he is suddenly killed off which might cause a feeling of satisfaction (and perhaps a sense of justice) for the viewers.

Somewhere along the way, horror movies have misinterpreted these understandably unlikable characters and just made them downright annoying with no substance. This shift forced audiences to cheer for the villain and the story suffers to cater to increased character deaths. It also makes the villains more of hero by torturing and killing off these annoying characters. The most tragic part about this misinterpreted element is that not only does the supporting characters suffer from being obnoxious and unsympathetic, but the main character that we're supposed to sympathize with and cheer for become insufferable and frustrating. If they weren't the main character, I'm sure they would be killed off like the rest with no hesitation.

As much as I enjoyed the first two installments of the Final Destination franchise, Final Destination 3 was the beginning of the franchise's decline by featuring ridiculously unlikable characters. More than half of the main cast of characters possess disgusting personalities that you can't wait for Death to catch up to them and take them out of the picture. Ashley and Ashlyn, two best friends that fall in the popular girls trope, are shallow, self centered, and unrealistically careless. Lewis, the athlete, is stereotypically cocky and that word pretty much sums up his whole personality. Pretty much his cockiness gets in the way of saving his own life. Ian, labelled as the "goth" by Wikipedia, suffers from the same personality problem as Lewis with a little bit of range thanks to his friend/girlfriend Erin. The least likable character in the bunch is Frankie, a perverted alumni with a camcorder who constantly sexually harrasses the female characters in the beginning of the movie and tries to get upskirt shots sneakily. In Rob Zombie's reimagining of the iconic Halloween, the movie's protagonist Laurie is reduced to a foul mouth, lewd, and obnoxious teenager that no one can relate to let alone root for like the original. She's disrespectful and just plain unlikable. I'm sure this change to an iconic heroine left a bad tastes in many Halloween fans' mouths.

So, Hollywood and feature movie makers, let's go back to having unlikable characters we actually feel something for aside from disgust. Don't make these characters simply bait for the villain. Give them personalities and make their unlikable personalities realistic.

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