Victims…. Aren’t We All…

For the last decade and a half I have been noticing a trend in my beloved horror genre.   A trend where the antagonist character isn’t just plain evil, deranged, or some other supernatural phenomena, rather they are driven to their murderous rage.  This type of plot point isn’t bad and can bring complexity to even the basic hack ‘n’ slash film.  The issue is when the audience sees the evolution of the antagonist character into the killer because even for the most deplorable characters, the audience will find sympathy on a subconscious level which takes some of the “horror” and “mystery” out of the film.  A concrete example of this trend was Rob Zombies HALLOWEEN.  This remake of John Carpenter’s classic HALLOWEEN took the fear of a normal person in your average American neighborhood brutally stalking and murdering teenagers that the original film portrayed and replaced it with a child in an extreme abusive household where he developed into the masked killer.  This on screen evolution that Rob Zombie portrayed dilutes the fear element of his film, simply because we as the audience think, “well it’s not his fault.”  The killer is the victim too.  When the audience can find any sort of sympathy for the killer it is no longer horror.  One of the most powerful elements that can be used to invoke fear in an audience is that of the unknown.   In Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN we are never really told why the antagonist is on a murderous rampage, in fact the only thing known about the killer is that he is pure evil.  This storytelling is much more effective with audiences.  Yet, this victimization has become more common in the horror genre.  HOUSE OF WAX remake, SEE NO EVIL, FRIDAY 13Th remake, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: A New Beginning and the list go on.

Now the question I have to pose is why?  Why victimize the antagonist?  One of the reasons why this could be taking place in present day storytelling is the audience.  Film as an art form especially in the horror genre is constantly showing society a reflection of itself.  Maybe we are seeing a reflection of our own society and our love for the victim card.  Every day we are exposed to people doing terrible things to themselves or to others and when they are arrested or dead, we as society treat them as a victim of “insert issue here”. Nobody ever wants to say maybe that person is just evil, or they chose that path and they will reap what they sow.  This moral ambiguity does not
work for the horror genre and is devastating to our society, so the next time you go see a “killer” film.  I hope you see an antagonist that is the darkness, the shadows, and the evil that haunts your dreams and not the bad guy who we all feel sorry for.


1 Comment

  1. Loved the article.

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