Category Archives: Stock Background Characters 101

Stock Background Characters 101: The Snooping Reporter

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

Keep a few bills handy, you’re THE SNOOPING REPORTER

sbc-reportersOverview: Murder makes the news. Multiple murders bring the press like bloodhounds and there’s always one reporter trying to get the scoop, even if it means he/she risks endangering themselves to get it!

Linguistic Snapshot: “Can you confirm or deny that the killer’s still out there and that you have the wrong man after last night’s triple-murder at the old mill?”

Styling: In the slasher realm, Snooping Reporters are more often female than not, so power suits and great hair are usually par for the course.

Hallmarks: Pushy and unrelenting, The Snooping Reporter has but one goal: The scoop. It doesn’t matter how many locals might die, in fact the higher the bodycount the better the story. They will stop at nothing to get their exclusive.

Downfall: The Snooping Reporter sometimes dies, sometimes doesn’t, and they can either be an aide or a hindrance to the final girl. Gale Weathers, doubtlessly top of the horror movie reporter tree, is a caustic, self-centered hack who is eventually instrumental in unmasking and reprimanding the killers in Scream and all of its sequels. In Pieces, the nosy journalist is savagely stabbed to, well pieces, on a waterbed; the feminist critic in Tenebrae also meets a bloody end; TV anchor Robert Campbell (below) makes the error of visiting the old Voorhees house and becoming possessed by Jason himself; student reporter Timmy has his throat cut and is shoved into a locker in Cherry Falls.

sbc-jgth-robertGenesis: Lauren Tewes is a TV newswoman who thinks a killer of women lives in the building next door in Eyes of a Stranger in 1980. Next there’s a brief proto-Gale Weathers character in Halloween II, who utters the awesome line “You need their parents permission to make a statement, if you can’t find their parents, get a statement anyway.” She might be the earliest incarnation of an uncaring, career-focused reporter, but is only in the film for a matter of seconds (apparently she is killed in the novelization).

The doomed journo in Pieces came next, and then Tracy, a brash, trenchcoat wearing reporter who is sure Norman Bates is still killing in Psycho III, ultimately becoming the de facto heroine. By the 90s, Barry Simms fatally decides to broadcast from the Myers house in Halloween 6.

Legacy: Courteney Cox’s portrayal of Gale Weathers in Scream is unquestionably the most significant influence on such characters. In her wake, we had Kate Winsail (!) in Australian Scream knock-off Paranoid, Paul the object of lust for many a girl at Pendleton University in Urban Legend; Taylor Gentry in Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, who unwittingly stumbles into final girl territory. Reporters also turned up in the various Scream parodies.

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Gale Weathers and one of her many clones.

Films like Nightcrawler showcase just how far the media might go for the juiciest story, so for the time being it’s likely that slasher films will continue to feature reporters sticking their oars in, probably dooming various local teenagers in the process. To quote the audience member at the press conference in Scream 3: “Are you saying we should go out and cut each others throats because that’s what you did?”

Gale’s response: “Metaphorically? Yes.”

Brutal.

Stock Background Characters 101: The Horny Couple

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

This time around, it’s time to rip off your pants and get it on with THE HORNY COUPLE

sex-couple-1Overview: Prevalent in almost every slasher film ever made is The Horny Couple, a young, attractive union of heterosexual teen love who just can’t get enough of each other. They’re there to have sex and little else.

Linguistic Snapshot: “Hey, let the others go on to the campsite, we can hang back and have a little fun of our own here in the woods…”

Styling: Horny Couples are so far from the endangered species list that they are still presented in any form within the governing overlaws of teen horror: Be young, be foolish, be sexy. Almost a disco classic.

Thus, most of the kids in this category of SBC will probably not need many garments as their one true goal is to shed them and interlock their interlocking parts.

Hallmarks: “Sex, sex, sex, – you two are getting boring,” says whiny final girl Chris in Friday the 13th Part III to her friends Debbie and Andy, who respond: “What would a weekend in the country be without sex?”

This says it all – the young folk of slasher films are very one-track minded in this respect. They’re getting away from the adults for the first time in their lives (and last), once the pot’s all smoked, what else are they going to do? Teenagers think about little else, unless they are the Final Girl, who is clearly just going to study and maybe kiss Bobby, but that’s all!

afd-sexAnd the killer just sees it as sinful. Mrs Voorhees blaming horny counsellors for not keeping watch on a drowning Jason; the corpse in the bed prank that sends Kenny Hampson off the rails in Terror Train; right up to the “your Mom is a hoe” motive that fuelled the entire Scream series. No good will come of it, may as well die!

That said, not everyone who has sex in a slasher film receives a mandated death sentence: Ginny in Friday the 13th Part 2 gets it on with her boss but still saves the day, and Julie and Ray do it on the beach in I Know What You Did Last Summer. The unwritten rule seems to be that if it’s lovemaking rather than fucking, and it’s demurely behind closed doors (i.e. off camera) and no boobs are whipped out, it’s allowed.

Downfall: The Horny Couple die, more often than not, either during or just after sex. Very occasionally it’s before but, as these are commonly teen exploitation affairs, that results in little to no skin. However it does happen, take poor doomed Kelly in Prom Night for instance, indecisive about going all the way with her dickhead boyfriend, when she hesitates again (although top down and boobs out has already been noted), he stomps off to find someone easier and she cops a slashed throat. Minutes later in the same film, her virginal friend Jude does go all the way with her date, only for the two of them to be summarily killed.

fhm-coupleFriday the 13th exercises the trope at least once per film, from Jack and Marcie, to Sandra and Jeff being skewered during the act, Deadfuck Jimmy and one of the twins in The Final Chapter, Tina and Eddie, Nikki and Cort, Robin and David… It’s as bankable as sunrise.

What few variations there are may be if the couple are killed together, or one goes off for ice/food/bathroom, probably saying “I’ll be right back” leaving the other to die, or have them come looking when they never return… The combinations are limited, but very, very few of these couples are still breathing by the time the credits roll.

One notable exception is the couple in The Prowler, so backgroundy I’m not even sure they’re given names, but their to-the-basement venture for sex on a skanky mattress is not a one way ticket to the grave, instead it’s employed as a trick to fool the audience into thinking the killer is there, when in fact he’s somewhere else ready to pounce on another unsuspecting victim.

The Final Girl breaks down barriers... but still makes it out in one piece!

The Final Girl breaks down barriers… but still makes it out in one piece!

Genesis: Sex has always been taboo in slasher films, be it suggestion of sex that leads to death (Marion Crane ‘teasing’ Norman in Psycho), or going at it like dogs (the witless teens shish-ke-bobbed to the bed in Bay of Blood), it’s difficult to pinpoint where it would begin. Nobody in Black Christmas gets particularly jiggy, same for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but by the time Halloween rolled around, Lynda and Bob’s requisition of the Wallace’s main bedroom set in motion a tide of copycat scenes for almost every film that would follow…

Legacy: Teenagers haven’t given up obsessing over a few seconds of muscle contractions so why should it stop occurring in horror? In the 90s, when nudity was phased out in favour of characters with a little more to say than “let’s get wasted and try anal”, so too went scenes of horny couples being slain. Scream even reversed the trend by having the only thing close to a sex scene occur between the final girl and her boyfriend, and we all know how that turned out.

behindthemask-couple

…whereas this Final Girl goes against type and turns out to be the town bike.

Will it change? Doubt it. Youth obsessed Hollywood wants attractive teens to take their clothes off and then see them butchered. It’s a weird paradox considering the puritans who decry slasher films, yet those who ‘sin’ so vigorously are ultimately punished for their behaviour! As Julie James utters in the (on-screen) sexless I Know What You Did Last Summer: “It’s a fictional tale designed to warn young girls against the dangers of pre-marital sex!”

Stock Background Characters 101: Evil Adults

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

This month, we bite our tongues in the face of those EVIL ADULTS!

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Overview: What teenager doesn’t have an adult nemesis? Parents, teachers, that nasty old man who runs the local store… In slasherdom, such nefarious individuals are widespread, always telling the kids how to live, what not to do, keeping information vital to their survival from them because they were “just trying to help”… Sucky thing is, they were often right.

That I’m an adult myself (for, like, almost twenty years) should be noted. But I still act like I’m thirteen. 1991 thirteen, not 2015 thirteen.

Linguistic Snapshot: “Now listen to me, young lady, you may think you want to know what happened at the old farm out on Highway 66, but you don’t! And don’t go there either. Go to your room. Do your homework. Stay away from boys! It’s for your own good!”

Styling: Evil Adults come in many forms, so there’s no real all encompassing style, only that they’re well past their teen years and are blindly convinced they know best. Kinda like religious folk. But always pompous.

Hallmarks: Evil Adults vary in terms of their place and role in the slasher film, sometimes they can cross paths with The Oracle or the Holy Vessel (such as the über-strict Mother Superior from Silent Night, Deadly Night) and they don’t always die.

"I know what's best for you. You don't."

“I know what’s best for you. You don’t.”

Knowing or doing what they think is best is usually the one-dimension that the Evil Adult trades on: be it the parents of Elm Street who hide their dirty secret from their children, or the shrink trying to exploit his patient’s telekinetic abilities.

EA’s can also live in complete denial of the facts: The psyche ward doctors in Elm Street 3 (“young lady, your opinion is of no interest to me”) and the heroine’s uncle in Friday the 13th Part VIII, they don’t listen to the young, consigning them to a gruesome, stabby death, or they point blank refuse to accept the obvious – that Jason Voorhees is alive and is here.

Downfall: As such, the Evil Adults who do end up seeing the sharp end of the machete live merrily in denial until the last minute. Mr McCulloch of Friday VIII stands idly by barking orders at his students while their ranks are depleted, calling everyone who posits Jason is alive as an idiot, seeing decapitated heads, victims snatched away in front of him, and still gasps “it’s not possible!” when Jason is bearing down on him.

In the previous instalment, Tina’s selfish shrink first sacrifices her mother to aid his own escape, but then gets a buzzsaw to the torso.

Bride-Of-Chucky-John-Ritter

Likewise, Jade’s nasty uncle/guardian in Bride of Chucky is more hellbent on ruining her life, completely blind to the killer dolls in the picture. Yet another unpleasant father figure appears in Halloween 6, having moved his family into the Myers house, he overlooks his wife’s pleas to leave and ends up suffering an exploded head for his ignorance.

But it can work backwards, Mrs Slater, the cranky housemother of The House on Sorority Row keeps a dark secret that sees her killed, but instead of by the killer, it’s in a prank-gone-wrong that prompts the killer to start doing away with the girls responsible.

Or, the Evil Adult escapes death completely. This is the case for the aforementioned Mother Superior, horrible Dr Simms from Elm Street 3, and McGregor, the teen-hating campus cop in Graduation Day. While their on-screen demises might be gratifying, the fact that they don’t die underscores the unfairness of the situation, especially in the Elm Street film: The sins of the parents are visited on their children.

"You evil girls will pay for this! Mark my words!"

“You evil girls will pay for this! Mark my words!”

Genesis: Meddling, annoying people have always been present in the genre, from swaggering motorcycle cops throwing their weight around at Camp Crystal Lake, to sadistic gym teachers at Springwood High… There seems to be no one Adam or Eve figure from which they stem, their existence is all part of the teen experience, though at least they seem to be outnumbered by well-meaning adults who want to help.

Legacy: As long as the teen years are fraught with defiance, I-know-everything attitudes, beer, and sex, so there will always be Evil Adults looking to put an end to that fun. You might even say Michael, Jason, Freddy and the like are the faces of that discipline, correcting behaviour in a way the parents, teachers and cops couldn’t.

And they’re still thriving, as the mean camp counsellors who bully children in Return to Sleepaway Camp, as the distrustful mother who refuses to listen to her daughter in Fingerprints, or the asshole boss who can’t even remember if his staff are alive or dead in Final Destination 5, and the teachers who protected the nasty bullies in Tormented.

Drone on, Evil Adults, someone somewhere might be listening.

Stock Background Characters 101: Stoners

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

This month, we’re looking at the dope smokin’, pot lovin’, STONERS!

stoners2

Overview: In the realm of the slasher film, just as most groups of young people feature some hot lesbian chicks, a black girl with attitude, an asshole jock, amongst others, so does they include a post-hippie movement stoner; a boy (or girl) who lives to smoke the wacky tobaccy. This is because, in film generally, people are entirely one-dimensional.

Linguistic Snapshot: “Chill out, man, things’ll be OK… let’s just smoke the rest of this joint and worry about finding the others later…”

Styling: Stoners aren’t particularly dressy folk; comfortable, loose-fitting clothes seem to be the going-thing, unkempt, often long hair for guys, sideburns or Shaggy-style beardery… Girls favour floral prints, the occasional headband, perhaps small round Ozzy Osbourne-esque sunglasses.

Hallmarks: Stoners are amongst the most disposable of slasher movie stock backgrounders because, like slutty girls, aggressive jocks et al, they are coded as morally corrupt by the puritanical overlords who decide only nice boys and girls will get the chance to fight another day. Thus, while providing approximately 78% of the jokes in any given slasher movie, there’s rarely anything of substance to be glimpsed beneath the hazy surface.

To quote previous SBC prankster Shelly in Friday the 13th Part III: “Is that all you two are going to do this weekend – smoke dope? There are better things to do with your life…” To which, the hollow reply is: “I can’t think of any.”

Would’ve been awesome if Chili had instead said: “Yes, Shelly, there are. All this week I was working on a cure for cancer, then I saved some endangered birds, fed the homeless, started a Human Rights campaign so now… I just wanna forget all that and get stoned. PROBLEM?”

It’s only smokage man… Cut ‘em some slack, overlord-Jack.

Downfall: Typically, in their permanent state of cloudy-mind, the Stoner will die and barely even realise it. This is likely supposed to be some right-wing sponsored lesson in drugs = death. However, one awesome chink the chain is in R.S.V.P. where ‘modern day alchemist’ Terry (played by professional Stoner Jason Mewes) is made immune to the poison he ingests thanks to the concoction of drugs he’s been on for years. See also The Cabin in the Woods for a similar, weightier outcome.

Genesis: Kids n’ drugs n’ psycho killers have been chugging along in the background of the genre since its early days. Barely a Friday the 13th passes without a joint being handed around, and the quintet of camper-van cruisin’ youngsters in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were surefire candidates for a good time. In a genre which really came together in the 70s, this should be no surprise. However, possibly the earliest representation of drug use equating to bad moral standards is found in Halloween, where good-girl Laurie tries to fit in with her more worldy friends by toking on Annie’s rollie, only to suffer a coughing fit.

Legacy: Since Laurie failed at being a pothead, this shortcut to doom has been used over and over again to stamp ‘dead’ on the foreheads of various teens. Beyond all the Friday usage, there’s the girl who tries weed and sex for the first time on the same night and dies literally seconds later in Prom Night; the ‘Shit Sisters’ of Sleepaway Camp II, who are so far gone they barely realise the killer is barbecuing them alive; and the neo-hippies of The Tripper, stuck in the 60s, branching out to acid, and suffering the effects of slow-reaction times when the Ronald Reagan-disguised loon comes at them.

The stoners in The Cabin in the Woods and Simon Says both harbour deep crushes on the final girl and, in the latter, is willing to sacrifice himself so that she can live. Awww…

Can you try drugs and live? Why yes. Just because Laurie choked, doesn’t mean that a little toke here and there spells doom: Alice has a little smoke in the original Friday and is the only survivor (though she dies at the beginning of Part 2); and the final girl in the aforementioned Tripper is spared (though she ‘learns’ drugs are bad). But these mercies are few and far between.

Conclusions: Don’t do drugs, kidz! …is the standard lesson of the slasher film realm. Like pre-marital sex, taking an interest in the gothic, experimenting with your sexuality, or playing pranks – more often than not it earns you a one way ticket to the boneyard. Who knew slasher films were so conservative? Well, all of us. But there’s a certain irony isn’t there? The Mary Whitehouses of the world were all “blah, morals, blah, blasphemy, blah, downfall of society…” when if they’d actually watched a slasher film, they’d see that all the sins they moan about were being addressed and answered with a cleaver in the face.

If you wanna smoke pot, go right ahead, enjoy your life but be forewarned that it tends to mean you’ll DIE*

*if you’re in a slasher film.

Stock Background Characters 101: Token Lesbians

In this feature, we examine the lesser beings of the slasher movie realm, which, if you’re making your own slasher film, could provide a good cast roster for you.

No killer or final girl profiles here, this is a celebration of those underlings who made the most of their fleeting flirtation with stardom. And usually died.

No power tools, plaid shirts, or cropped hair in sight as we enter the fantasy world of the
TOKEN LESBIANS

Overview: Even in ‘liberal Hollywood’, there’s still only one type of gay woman (other than Ellen DeGeneres): The porn type. So in an obvious slide towards exploitation filmmaking, it should surprise nobody that the lesser quality low-rent slasher film would need to pad out its running time by pandering to its assumed hetero-male audience. This has recently been achieved by adding a couple of hot young girls to make out with one another.

Linguistic Snapshot: “Oh, we would have a threesome with you if we were into guys, but we’re only into each other… Though you’re more than welcome to watch, sexy boy.” *giggle*

Styling: With few exceptions, slasher movie lesbians are just like any other scantily clad female cast member. This lends itself well to the fantasized “all that’s missing is my cock” outlook most of these scenes are striving for. Thus, ‘lesbians’ (or girls ‘just going through a phase’) are ultra-fem, with long flowing hair, delicate nails, and killer racks. On occasion you might see a more butch example, but it’s a surefire bet she won’t be in a sexual situation, will be aggressive, and will thus die as she’s of no use in any fantasy.

Hallmarks: Every now and then, one of the lesbians (never both) will become the final girl. For the rest, it’s nothing but nymphette behaviour alongside other regular character traits, they stand out only in their choice of bedfellow and everything else is a through-the-motions affair. On occasion, one of the lesbians will be a little closer to the butch stereotype, though still conventionally beautiful, just with a bandana and some bad language or something.

Downfall: After we’ve watched them strip off, make out, and, occasionally, do other things, our lesbian couple have little else to offer and will die just like their friends. But at least there’s nothing grimly ironic in their deaths at least, no dildo-impalement or ‘corrective’ procedure involving a bigoted psychopath.

lesbians

Genesis: The earliest lesbian representation in the genre appears to be the neo-heroine of Class Reunion Massacre (1976), who outlasts most of her heterosexual (and one effeminate gay fella) buddies, but still dies at the end because she is “a sinner” along with the other victims. Shadows Run Black featured an unattractive, overweight lesbian – about the only victim not to disrobe – who isn’t even afforded the on-camera death the prettier, straight girls get.

Legacy: After 2000, it was no longer taboo to adorn cheap horror films with girl-on-girl (but never guy-on-guy) action, though any given film’s budget would equate to what was shown: Urban Legends: Final Cut featured Eva Mendes as ‘the suspicious lesbian’, because, of course, non-normative sexuality means that where there are secrets, there are homicidal tendencies. She keeps her kit on. French indie Deep in the Woods elected one half of its lesbian couple as final girl, while Haute Tension twisted the dynamic around and cast short-haired Cecile de France first as the heroine and then, in a last minute revelation, a dangerously psychotic looney-lezzer who slashes her way through the family of the girl she’s in love with.

Elsewhere, girls making out cropped up in The Butcher, Curse of El Charro, Voyeur.com, Bikini Girls on Ice, Hatchet, Dark Harvest, and going much further in Wrong Turn 4. Weirder still is Switch Killer, where a girl flees her abusive boyfriend and falls in love with a woman, only for the boyfriend to turn after a SEX CHANGE and stalk her! Curse of Chucky featured a sordid love affair between a married mom and her daughter’s au pair.

The psychotic schizoid lesbian from Haute Tension

It’s worth noting the presence of lesbian slasher flick Make a Wish – retitled Lesbian Psycho on a later release – which was directed by a gay filmmaker, and so the orientations of the characters is more incidental, despite the presence of a few nudie scenes.

Conclusions: Are we witnessing a progression in social attitudes or just skeezy exploitation? In most cases it’s probably the latter. A majority of the titles where girl-on-girl material occurs is at the cheaper end of the spectrum, where filmmakers with next to no imagination are simply doing what they think the audience wants. It’s worth noting that gay couples of either gender fail to turn up in any of the three major franchises.

I do wonder what actual lesbians might make of it all. They’re effectively being included, albeit in a cookie-cutter manner, though it’s clear it’s purely for the benefit of a straight male demographic, which is why gay men are rarely shown in any other capacity other than enfeebled Nancy-boys. But then are heterosexual teen characters any more realistic? The more recent the film, the more uniformally beautiful and buff the cast will be: Fat or unattractive actors are also marginalized.

So, in slasherama it pretty much sucks to be anyone bar the final girl, because you’ll just be a dumbed down stereotype. Sad times.

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