Sure, the Losers Club leaps to mind. But the truth is that horror films are littered with lovable losers – often their corpses. Why? It’s easy to root for an underdog, and nothing packs an emotional wallop like watching that bumbling, vulnerable sweetheart meet a grim end.
We love them all: Sean & Ed, Viago & Vladislav, Melvin Juno and 100 Bloody Acres‘s Reg & Angus Sampson. But these are our favorites.
5. Oskar, Let the Right One In (2008)
In 2008, Sweden’s Let the Right One In emerged as an original, stylish thriller – and the best vampire flicks in years. A spooky coming-of-age tale populated by outcasts in the bleakest, coldest imaginable environment, the film breaks hearts and bleeds victims in equal measure.
Kare Hedebrant‘s Oskar with a blond Prince Valiant cut needs a friend. He finds one in the odd new girl (an outstanding Lina Leandersson) in his shabby apartment complex. She, as it turns out, needs him even more.
This is a coming-of-age film full of life lessons and adult choices, told with a tremendous atmosphere of melancholy, tainted innocence, and isolation. Plus the best swimming pool carnage scene ever.
The unsettling scene is so uniquely handled, not just for horrifying effect (which it certainly achieves), but to reinforce the two main characters, their bond, and their roles. It’s beautiful, like the strangely lovely film itself.
4. Lionel Cosgrove, Dead Alive (1992)
Rated R for “an abundance of outrageous gore,” Dead Alive is everything the early Peter Jackson did well. It’s a bright, silly, outrageously gory bloodbath.
Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) secretly loves shopkeeper Paquita Maria Sanchez (Diana Penalver), but she has eyes for someone less milquetoast. Until, that is, she’s convinced by psychic forces that Lionel is her destiny. Unfortunately, Lionel’s milquetoast-iness comes by way of decades of oppression via his overbearing sadist of a mother, who does not take well to her son’s new outside-the-home interests. Mum follows the lovebirds to a date at the zoo, where she’s bitten (pretty hilariously) by a Sumatran rat-monkey (do not mistake this dangerous creature for a rabid Muppet or misshapen lump of clay).
Braindead is so gloriously over-the-top that nearly anything can be forgiven it. Jackson includes truly memorable images, takes zombies in fresh directions, and crafts characters you can root for. But more than anything, he knows where to point his hoseful of gore, and he has a keen imagination when it comes to just how much damage a lawnmower can do.
3. Katakuri Family, The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)
Takashi Miike is an extremely prolific director. He makes a lot of musical films, a lot of kids’ movies, a lot of horror movies, and then this – a mashup of all of those things. Like Sound of Music with a tremendous body count.
The Katakuris just want to run a rustic mountain inn. They’re not murderers. They’re lovely – well, they’re losers, but they’re not bad people. Buying this piece of property did nothing to correct their luck, either because, my God, their guests do die.
You might call this a dark comedy if it weren’t so very brightly lit. It’s absurd, farcical, gruesome but sweet. There’s a lot of singing, some animation, a volcano, a bit of mystery, more singing, one death by sumo smothering, and love. It sounds weird, truly, but when it comes to weird, Miike is just getting started.
2. Evil Ed, Fright Night (1985)
Fright Night takes that Eighties, Goonies-style adventure (kids on an adult-free quest of life and death) and uses the conceit to create something tense and scary, and a bit giddy as well. The feature debut as both writer and director for Tom Holland, the film has some sly fun with the vampire legend.
Roddy McDowall got much deserved love at the time for his turn as a washed-up actor from horror’s nostalgic past, and Chris Sarandon put his rich baritone to campy, sinister use.
Still, everyone’s favorite character was Evil Ed, the manic, pitiful loser turned bloodsucking minion. Credit Stephen Geoffreys for an electric and, at least in one scene, heartbreaking performance.
1. Tucker& Dale, Tucker and Dave vs. Evil (2010)
Horror cinema’s most common and terrifying villain may not be the vampire or even the zombie, but the hillbilly. The generous, giddy Tucker and Dale vs. Evil lampoons that dread with good-natured humor and a couple of rubes you can root for.
In the tradition of Shaun of the Dead, T&DVE lovingly sends up a familiar subgenre with insightful, self-referential humor, upending expectations by taking the point of view of the presumably villainous hicks. And it happens to be hilarious.
Two backwoods best buds (an endearing Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk) head to their mountain cabin for a weekend of fishing. En route, they meet some college kids on their own camping adventure. A comedy of errors, misunderstandings and subsequent, escalating violence follows as the kids misinterpret every move Tucker and Dale make.
T&DVE offers enough spirit and charm to overcome most weaknesses. Inspired performances and sharp writing make it certainly the most fun participant in the You Got a Purty Mouth class of film.