The Backstabbing Girlfriend, The Cheating/Abusive Husband/Boyfriend, The Bully, The Scammer, The Oppressive Step-Parent – otherwise known as the Horror Movie “Jerk”. Josh Millican lists his faves…
No one cries when these dirt-bags get offed.
In horror movies, there’s always a villain and a protagonist to polarize the concept of evil against good. Most of these films also have a supporting cast serving a variety of purposes, both practical and thematic; I’m talking about archetypal tropes like The Jock, The Prom Queen, The Skeptic, and The Stoner. And then there are those characters we love to hate; I’m talking about: The Jerks (yes “Jerk” is a rather mild term for some of the characters I’m talking about, but this is a family-friendly website!).
Jerks must never be confused with villains; while I’m sure Jason’s victims consider him a jerk when he stalking them, interrupting their wanton sex and drug use, but he’s the star of the show, a metaphor for evil that’s crucial to the story’s impact. The Jerk, on the other hand, is a supporting character who is, at least unhelpful and, at worst, downright detrimental.
I’m talking about: The Backstabbing Girlfriend, The Cheating/Abusive Husband/Boyfriend, The Bully, The Scammer, The Oppressive Step-Parent, etc. We all deal with these types of jerks in the “Real World” so they might seem especially unwelcome when we seek entertainment. Not so in the horror genre; here, they serve a specific purpose. While fans most often empathize with protagonists and fear/hate the villain, no one ever cries when The Jerk gets offed. Since we’ve all had fantasies about destroying our personal antagonists with extreme malice, there’s something extremely satisfying about seeing the bad guy dispatch these undesirables. Ah, catharsis!
Since The Jerk doesn’t always meet with an excruciating demise (and since I may or may not reveal this fact), there’s something inherently spoiler-ish about this about this list, so proceed at your own risk. I invite you to weigh in on my selections (in no particular order) for: The Top 10 Jerks in Horror. Enjoy!
Ryan played by Trey Songz and Nikki played by Tonia Raymonde in Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013, Luessenhop)
Ryan and Nikki, you’re a couple of jerks! Ryan is Heather’s boyfriend and Nikki is her best friend; she really needs their support because she just found out that she’s adopted. But after an emotionally overwhelming trip to Newt, Texas, how do Ryan and Nikki support Heather while she’s searching the abandoned mansion she just inherited? By screwing in the barn! It’s that double sucker-punch kind of betrayal, and with friends like these, Heather doesn’t need enemies. Ryan, I’m glad you crashed that van and died! Nikki, I’m glad Officer Marvin shot you by mistakes. Heather deserves better!
Orin Scrivello, DDS played by Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors (1986, Oz)
Orin (no I won’t call you “Doctor”), you’re a jerk! There’s a special place in Horror Movie Hell reserved for jerks who beat-up their sweethearts. And you’re not just a woman-slapper, you’re a complete sadist. We all know about how you tortured animals as a child, you sick fiend. As a dentist, you’re downright evil. I’m glad Seymour chopped you up and fed your bloody limbs to his carnivorous alien plant, seriously. I just wish I could have taken a couple whacks at your corpse with that axe myself!
Ruby Deagle played by Polly Holliday in Gremlins (1984, Dante)
Mrs. Deagle, I was raised to respect my elders, but you’re a jerk! A person who hates dogs is almost unredeemable. What was that you said to Billy? “I want your dog. I’ll take him to the kennel, they’ll put him to sleep. It will be quick and painless compared to what I’d do… Maybe I’ll put him in my spin-drier on high heat.” And with that, Mrs. Deagle, I declare you 100% despicable. I’m glad those Gremlins sabotaged your Stair-Master sending you flying out a second story window at high speed. Go back to Oz you wicked witch!
Capitan Henry Rhodes played by Joseph Pilato in Day of the Dead (1985, Romero)
Say it with me now: Capitan Rhodes, you’re a jerk! Considering the fact that society has crumbled, your war-mongering tendencies are unhelpful in the extreme. Look, I agree that Dr. Logan can be—eccentric, but small bands of survivors need to stick together if mankind has any hope of survival. That coup you threw was nothing but a temper tantrum; if you couldn’t have it your way, you’d just screw it up for everyone else, right? I’m glad those zombies tore you to shreds and ate your guts! I was like, “Hey, grab me a fork!”
Edwin played by Topher Grace in Predators (2010, Antal)
Edwin, you’re such a humongous jerk! You’re a major undesirable, and that’s in a film rife with despicable characters (I’m looking at you, Nolan). You like to act all harmless and meek, but you’re just an opportunistic serial killer who lords power over his victims by paralyzing them. That’s some seriously low ball, Edwin. Strapped with grenades, descended upon by viscous hunters—you get just what you deserved you psycho bastard!
Michael Cera playing himself in This Is the End
Michael Cera, we all suspected you were a fist class jerk! You may be rich and famous, but no one really likes you! I don’t care if you were just trying to be funny, you gave us every excuse we needed to hate you with a passion, you self-entitled Hollywood scum-suck. When Rihanna smacked your dopey face with a crack that resonated into the back of the theater, everyone cheered! I’m glad you fell through a flaming fissure into eternal damnation—and take your sluts with you!
Jeff played by Joey Kern in Cabin Fever (2002, Roth)
Jeff, in a movie filled with jerks where no one comes out clean, you manage to stand out as the biggest jerk in the bunch! Sure, you didn’t shoot that redneck hunter in the woods—or set him on fire. You didn’t cheat on your girlfriend or put Karen out of her misery. All you did was look out for yourself—like the selfish, heartless, soulless, coward you are. You attract friends with your pretty-boy looks and party-boy attitude, but when the shit hits the fan, you hit the road. I don’t care if your demise was really more of a shout-out to Night of the Living Dead, it was absolutely gratifying. Take that you arrogant jerk!
Ash played by Ian Holm in Alien (1979, Scott)
Ash, you’re a jerk! You’re the one who let the Xenomorph on the ship, against Ripley’s orders. Of course, you were actually following the orders of The Company who instructed you to bring an alien back to Earth by any means necessary. And what’s up with trying to suffocate Ripley with a magazine? Rude! I’m glad your robot ass got smashed into a dozen pieces dipping milky viscous. I’m glad Parker hit you with that blowtorch and melted your face off. I hate you!
Margaret White played by Piper Laurie in Carrie (1976, De Palma)
Margaret, you’re a jerk! Okay, so you weren’t part of the plot to humiliate your daughter Carrie (that sick prank that almost resulted in the destruction of an entire town in North Carolina) but you’re a shoe-in for Worst Mother on the Planet. Moms are supposed to support and love their children, not beat them down. Moms certainly aren’t supposed to stab their kids in the back (metaphorically or literally). Not to mention you’re the kind of condescending, proselytizing religious nut-job that drives people crazy. I’m glad Carrie slapped you down with an onslaught of telekinetic bad-assery, jerk!
David played by Michael Fassbender in Prometheus (2012, Scott)
Hey David, am I the only one who can see what an incredible jerk you are? I wonder if Shaw would be so willing to fly off in search if the Engineers home world with your severed head if she knew you we responsible for Holloway’s infection, leading to his mutation and emulation—not to mention her own alien impregnation and subsequent anesthesia-free C-section. What is it with androids is the Alien universe? Is Bishop the only one we can truly trust?
Damn, I just got a lot of hatred off my chest. Feels pretty good actually! Which illustrates that horror movies give us something satisfying: Characters to despise without the physical or mental side-effects of actual hate. We can dislike these assholes fiercely, but it’s not the kind of sustained rage that keeps us up at night. And we can revel in their bloody fates without the guilt of enjoying a real person’s death; we don’t have to feel bad about these jerks’ kids or parents or pets—because they don’t have any! It’s all about a safe and gratifying expulsion of vitriol. Kind of like therapy, but a hell of a lot cheaper!
Join us in celebrating the “horror movie Jerk” – who are your faves?
Written by Josh Millican
See more from Josh Millican on Top 10 Films:
Top 10 Horror Movie Vacations From Hell | 10 More Horror Movie Vacations From Hell | Top 10 Horror Films from France | Top 10 Horror Films from Scandinavia
See Also: The Greatest British Horror Films of All Time