Category Archives: Stock Background Characters 101

Stock Background Characters 101: Nerds, Geeks & Dorks

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 sees the turn of NERDS, GEEKS & DORKS

nerds1aNow, before we start, is there a difference between Nerds, Geeks and Dorks? To my understanding, a geek is a cool nerd, like I’m a slasher film geek, right? A dork is anybody who just acts like an idiot but in an inoffensive way. Geeks and dorks can apparently be handsome and socially active whereas nerds combine the former attributes and are textbook bespectacled, socially inadequate as well as being mentally and physically feeble. Feel free to provide your own reading of these terms.

Overview: In the slasher movie realm, these people are almost as short-lived as slutty cheerleaders and horny jocks but they are normally killed off fairly early on as, in true stereotypical slasher film form, they’re not as pretty to look at as the others.

Nerds, Geeks and Dorks are more often than not male (with a few recent exceptions) and can sometimes double as the joker or the prankster. Look at bubble-permed Shelly in Friday the 13th Part III – he’s the practical joke master but also essentially one big dweeb. Dweeb! That’s another one!

Let’s also remember that some slasher films chronicle the revenge of a nerd scorned. Slaughter High and Terror Train are two prime examples of this, but it crops up in other films from the UK’s Tormented to Korean pastiche Record.

Linguistic Snapshot: “You guys only invited me here this weekend so I’d do your term papers for you! I know it! Well, if I weren’t scared of the dark and had my inhaler, I’d walk right outta here now, through the creepy woods to the car and call my Mom to come and get me!”

Styling: Like last month’s Black Girl with Attitude, the slasher film trades on stereotyping to create shortcuts to its character identification. Therefore, our High-IQ’d friends almost always have glasses that, like Velma in Scooby Doo, they cannot see without. Basic bland clothing and styleless hair are also common and they’re always skin and bone.

Hallmarks: Virginity fully intact, Nerds, Geeks and Dorks may be at the top of the academic tree but they’re unfairly relegated to the bottom of the social strata, lucklessly after the girl they have no chance in hell with. See: Linderman in Freddy vs. Jason, Leonard in Prom Night III, or even Maddy in Friday VII for a girl-geek reversal of the cliche.

Downfall: An unquenched yearning for social acceptance can be fatal for the nerd when invited on a weekend away or miraculously scoring a date with the final girl… In the Friday series, Maddy, Wayne (Part VIII), Eddie (Part VII) and Jake (Part V) are all betrayed by love very shortly before they check out for good. Alfred in Happy Birthday to Me was after the heroine’s heart and instead got shears in the belly and comically-camp campus nerd Radish was anxious to warn Courtney of the inclement danger in Final Exam when he met his maker.

It is worth noting a couple of exceptions to the rule here, in the scarily similar Friday the 13th Part 2 and The Burning from 1981, both the nerds lived another day. In the former, Ted simply wisely decides not to head back to camp and saves himself whereas Alfred in The Burning (played by practical career film nerd Brian Backer) becomes that rare Final Boy, in spite of the fact that the kid’s a Peeping Tom and has a generally creepy aura about him. Later, girl geek Ellie managed to survive the fatalities that plagued Sorority Row.

Pervy nerd, Girl geek, and

Pervy nerd, Girl geek, and Devious dork

Genesis: Early nerds weren’t coded so strongly as such: Ed in Terror Train and Slick in Prom Night were more like dorks, treated as mere expendables in both films, they were done away with quite mercilessly. Soon after, Hell Night gave us creepy little prankster Scott, another bespectacled nerd who is unliked by many and clearly used by the fraternity president as the brains of the operation.

By the mid-80s, films were liberally peppered with know-alls, horny dorks and weaklings, all lined up for the chop along with their more commonplace high school classmates.

In the 90s, however, we arrived at the shores of Randy, Scream‘s all-knowing film geek who, while virginal and kinda repulsive to all females in the vicinity, not only survived the film (returning for the sequel) but became a fan favourite for his rule breaking (nerd rules, not horror film rules) and geek became chic.

Randy: The changing face of the horror geek

Subsequently, dorks and geeks became a bit more involved and assigned some good lines here and there: Billy O’ played such characters in both Lovers Lane and Shredder, stealing much affection from the main characters in the latter and Chewie in the Friday the 13th reboot was even crowbarred into the Asian nerd subset but still managed to evoke more interest and empathy than his non-dimensional cookie cutter friends.

Legacy: There have been a couple of films where the final girl is a sort of nerd herself. Back Slash comes immediately to mind and when you think about it even Laurie Strode was a bookish nobody of sorts but these attributes often serve her better than male counterparts, who are far too preoccupied with equations or covert masturbating to notice the presence of the masked psycho.

Still, I’d like to see a killer take on a real group of nerds who think about logical, smart ways to prevent him from killing them. You could cast all manner of computer nerds, Dungeons & Dragons role-playing dorks and off-the-chart-smart academics to pit their advantageous wits against a blade-toting loon. Hmmm… good idea that.

Stock Background Characters 101: Black Girl with Attitude

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.

Today we salute… BLACK GIRL WITH ATTITUDE

Overview: BGA – black girl with attitude – is the character, often close to the heroine, who provides sassy insights into the goings on in the world created for the movie, commenting on the situation and offering advice. Yet, in a cruel twist of fate, despite usually being right, BGA rarely survives. It was my BFF Grace – who once auditioned for a role called ‘Black girl with attitude’ for Ripper 2 - who pointed out that the black girl’s boyfriend has to be darker than she is. She can’t date a white guy, interracial romances are yet to reach the shores of the slasher movie realm.

She is sometimes even played by a pop or R n’ B singer, probably under the illusion that she’d be allowed to beat the crap out of the killer before “script changes” necessitated her death instead.

Linguistic Snapshot: “Girl! Did you see the way that guy was lookin’ at chu? Mmm hmm, you need to get yo white ass on that befaw this psycho killer comes-a-callin’, girl.” (clicks fingers and bobs head left and right)

Styling: Because slasher films are plain lazy, BGA varies only very minimally from film to film. She’s into her looks, so hair and make up will be immaculate. She is almost always called something beginning with K: Keisha, Kia, Kally, Kenda and sometimes Tameka, LaShonda, Quantinisha. Uh, and Maureen in Scream 2.

Hallmarks: Black girl is usually the heroine’s best friend, but occasionally a total bitch. Sorry, bee-yatch. However, she is often the one who first announces that everyone should just get the hell outta dodge before they end up chopped, but the white people vote to stay “in case Susan is alive” and thus BGA’s cards become marked.

Downfall: Usually an inflated sense of self-defence agility is what bests our girl here, she either tries to talk the killer away (Kia in Freddy vs Jason) or her own don’t-shit-me outlook fools her into thinking she’s not in any danger anyway until it’s too late (see Monica in The Clown at Midnight; Maureen in Scream 2).

Genesis: Black characters rarely appeared in the earliest slasher films and, when they did, were often marginalised to early victims, hence the birth of the “black guy always dies first” cliche…  Although excluding films with all black casts and Elm Street 4, I can’t think of a film where this actually applies.

Demi in Sleepaway Camp II packed a little bit of ‘tude but it was in the late 90s that BGA became a popular fixture, Brandy’s turn as Karla (with a K!) in I Still Know What You Did Last Summer being a role that ticked all the boxes but miraculously allowed her to survive!

Elsewhere, there was the nasty “oh no you di’uhnt” girl from The Curse of El Charro; the girls of ‘The Crew’ who OD’d on sass in 7eventy 5ive; the heroine’s doomed best friend, Lisa, in the dismal Prom Night remake; mountain of attitude Bella in Return to Sleepaway Camp and the particularly irritating Kimmy in Somebody Help Me, who wore the ‘annoying girl’ shoes perfectly and was allowed to survive!

Legacy: I, for one, await the day that we get a black girl without attitude who not only saves the day, but also kicks the killer’s ass in the process. Even in the all black cast productions, the girls are usually relegated to the damsel in distress part. And Jen from Camp Daze doesn’t count as she was an obnoxious cow.

Until that day (and it surely must happen soon?) it looks like we’re going to see more of Kantonisha and her gal pals pointing out the obvious while the white folk dim-wittedly go and look for their already dead friends. Bring it, girl, mmm hmm! Click, bob.

Stock Background Characters 101: Doomed Security Personnel

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.

DOOMED SECURITY PERSONNEL

Overview: Doomed security personnel (DSPs) are as old as the hills in the slasher realm. They’re the cop or security guard, hardly ever credited with a name beyond something like Officer Bob, who just happen to get in the way during the killer’s tantrum and commonly end up near the top of the body count list, crumpled and forgotten in the corner with a barbecue fork sticking in their eye.

Linguistic Snapshot: “Hello? Who’s there? This abandoned roller disco, which is rumoured to be haunted after the murders ten years ago tonight, is off-limits after hours!”

Styling: Almost all DSPs are adult males who wear uniforms with epaulets, sometimes hats, the faithful flashlight, buckled belts and – if they’re lucky – holstered weapons (fat lotta good they’ll do). Security guards are quite often overweight and usually seem to bear facial hair of some description.

Hallmarks: A lackadaisical work ethic is a must, there’s no time for motivation in this job. Just hang around with your coffee and doughnuts and dismiss the hysterical teenage girl who says everyone is dead… Hey – she’s a pretty lil thang!

Downfall: Despite being a full grown man, DSP is often more naive than the teenagers who will later die, though it is his job to go and check out that weird noise, but he’ll also squat down to feel for the killer’s pulse and ignore the final girl’s pleas to turn around or follow her in the firm belief she’s just mental and he can best the bastard!

Genesis: The first DSP I can think of is probably Jennings the cop in Black Christmas who is supposed to guard the sorority house but instead is found in his car with a cut throat.

There’s Mr Garrett who makes the fatal error of investigating the basement in Halloween II; Todd the country music loving security guard in The Initiation; the cop who shoots the wrong Santa in Silent Night, Deadly Night (“so far all you’ve done is harm!”) and the campus security cop, Mitch, who we don’t know if is dead or just asleep in Final Exam.

Wake the hell up!

Legacy: In the late 80s, DSP turned up all over the show, such as the ill-conceived ‘comedy cops’ from Halloween 5 who were given their own clown-theme every time they bumbled on to the screen before Michael answered our prayers and did them in with a pitchfork.

When Scream pushed open the floodgates for the 90s rebirth, we all cooed “Noooo!” when Sarah Michelle Gellar’s ride home got out to help a stranded stranger fix his truck in I Know What You Did Last Summer, knowing well in advance of him that this cop was about to eat some hook and even the assigned agents in Scream 2 were swatted away like flies by the killer.

However, there were a couple of exceptions made in both Halloween H20 and Urban Legend where the campus security guards not only lived but were also instrumental in the heroine’s escape and apprehension of the killer. LL Cool J may have survived multiple bullet wounds when mistaken for Michael Myers (they look so similar with their pasty white- …uhhh) but he returned to drag Jamie Lee Curtis away as she stabbed her brother and Loretta Devine’s blaxploitation loving rent-a-cop saved Alicia Witt’s ass, also surviving being shot, and got to kick some major killer-ass in the sequel, and she did it all with sassy one-liners and attitude.

There’ve been plenty more failed attempts of rescue by police academy failures – the poor schmuck ranger who utters but a handful of words to Desmond Harrington in Wrong Turn before an arrow goes through his eye; the nightwatchman of the haunted fairground in Dark Ride who might’ve just saved the day were it not for the head-splitting blade the killer thunked in his noggin and lest we forget the Valentine horndog, Detective Vaughn, far more interested in Denise Richards’ slender derriere than solving a murder case that he quite literally loses his head over.

Yes sirree, anyone considering a career in security should pick their assignments carefully, ‘cos you’re not safe at prep school, university, the woods, the old abandoned fairground, the mall, your squad car, hospitals, dilapidated hotels, factory yards, or even space…

It kind of reminds me of that scene in the first Austin Powers where the poor, unnamed henchman’s wife is informed of his untimely passing… Poor schmucks just trying to make a decent living – let’s hope they’re all drinking buds in the next life, comparing wounds and playing trumps over how prolific a maniac it was who got them in the end… RIP, not-very-good security dudes, if only you swapped shifts with Bob.

Stock Background Characters 101: Macho Asshole

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.

THE MACHO ASSHOLE

wildmanOverview: The Macho Asshole is the SBC who we want to see die the most – with extreme humiliating prejudice. Usually appearing as a young, muscular dickhead who has no respect for anyone, and thinks he can beat the killer with his fists. When the shit hits, he’s for himself and nobody else.

Linguistic Snapshot: “No faggot killer’s gonna get me! I’m invincible, pussies! Now suck my dick, bitch!”

Styling: Vests and sports gear – MA is the best at all sports. Now swoon over those guns, ladies!

Hallmarks: Short-fused, homophobic, sexist and selfish but normally good looking and athletic – all the things we want to see destroyed in a frenzy of grue.

Downfall: MA has been able to get away with what he wants for now but with uncontrollable temper comes uncontrollable situe and he will discover that being a buff testosterone hive will not help in the face of an axe-toting maniac, who will inevitably be stronger, even if physically smaller.

barryGenesis: The earliest MA’s were found in the post-Halloween cycle, such as high school bad boy Lou in Prom Night, who makes the fatal error of substituting the nominal Prom King with himself and then gets decapitated.

Then there’s image-obsessed Greg Hellman in Happy Birthday to Me who, it turns out, just doesn’t have the balls to survive a female killer (loser!); dopey jock Wildman in Final Exam has less attitude but also thinks he can out-swing the psycho and is ironically wasted with a piece of gym equipment.

But Macho Asshole honors surely belong to Glazer from The Burning. Glazer bullies the smaller kids and parades around in short shorts trying to impress his object of lust, Sally, eventually getting her into the sack only to disappoint her with a dud shag and deservedly meets the sharp end of the killer’s pruning shears.

glazer

Legacy: In the cynical days of, well, now, Macho Asshole has become an almost permanent slasher movie fixture. From uber-dick Barry in I Know What You Did Last Summer (and his pale imitations of both sequels) to Carter in Final Destination, who is so arrogant that he has the sheer audacity to state “I’m never gonna die,” for the audience to chant “oh yeah?”

Other films have traded purely upon hateful figureheads populating the doomed cast: See No Evil pit a group of utterly detestable young offenders against a hulking wacko and Wilderness placed some Borstal-boys on an island with a psychotic ex-SAS maniac.

carterMost recently, we had Trent in the Friday the 13th remake acting like a jackass until he eventually met the angry side of Jason and Tormented featured a particularly horrible bunch of English schoolkids having the tables turned on them by their undead bullying victim.

Exceptions: Some jocks in the realm might be dumb horndogs but occasionally they turn out to be harmless hulks, such as Arch in April Fool’s Day (played by Tom Wilson, prolific MA Biff Tannen from Back to the Future), the randy jock in Hack! or gym-fit, gay hero David in The Beaten Track - that’s the book I wrote, y’know?

Future: Macho Asshole has become increasingly prevalent and he’s always a welcome resting place for some kind of implement or another, much like his underlings, the nerd, the joker and the slutty girl. He’s more common than ever so best get used to his politically incorrect ways.

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