There are certain character tropes that are extremely prevalent in the horror genre. You have your final girls, you have your comic relief, stoners, and then you’ve got your badass alpha male heroes. Sometimes they’re obnoxious, sometimes they’re hilarious, and sometimes they’re the perfect mixture of both. But those badass horror heroes aren’t always all that badass.
Keep in mind, though, just because these characters aren’t as badass as they first appear doesn’t mean that they’re not great. They might present an image of cool aloofness, but might actually be far more sensitive than they first let on. Or they might talk about how prepared they are for any situation and be totally unable to follow up on that.
That doesn’t make a character any less interesting. In fact, it often makes them more interesting than the one-note archetype a traditional badass could more often than not fall into.
These seven characters are remembered for being tough-as-nails, take-charge types, but a lot of the evidence speaks to the contrary.
Rob Dyer (Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter)
Rob enters into the movie with one mission: he’s here to hunt Jason. That’s his soul purpose and he’s been training for it for, well, I guess about a week since his sister died. And when he first encounters Jason, it does not go as planned. In fact, he dies screaming “Oh God, he’s killing me!” For some, that line is cheesy as hell, for others, it’s kind of haunting because Rob was so sure he was going to survive this.
Lefty at least gets a little bit in at the end and got to fight Leatherface, but he still didn’t kick ass in the way he seemed to suggest he would. And I think that’s mostly due to the fact that, as much as he wants to take out this family killing people across Texas, he also really seems to want to die. Everything about him suggests he’s on a suicide mission, which actually makes him a bit more of an interesting character.
Dr. Loomis (Rob Zombie’s Halloween)
Dr. Loomis in the original Halloween series is pretty much everything he’s cracked up to be. He is willing to give up everything to protect the people that Michael would seek to destroy, he spends years warning the proper channels of what a danger Michael actually is. In Rob Zombie’s films, though, he’s much more incompetent in his race to Haddonfield to try and stop Michael’s reign of terror. He never warned anyone, he tries to pin the blame on everyone else and in the sequel, becomes the biggest asshole in the world because he thinks that has to be the kind of person he really is, if he could have screwed up this badly.
Juno (The Descent)
Juno, right off the bat, is presented as the coolest, most level-headed thrill-seeking badass chick ever. But man, does she not live up to the hype. Not only does she actually murder one of her friends in the cave, but she’s the reason they’re all in that situation in the first place. She wanted the pride of discovering a new cave system for the first time, so she just lies to her friends and doesn’t tell them what’s actually going on. And when she accidentally kills one of them, she lies and says the monsters did it.
Dan Challis (Halloween III: Season of the Witch)
Don’t get me wrong, Challis is awesome. But he’s not a badass. He’s a very flawed, but pretty much average dude. That’s I think what makes him so appealing. He’s really blue collar for a doctor, but he’s the perfect person to follow in the unraveling of this weird, bizarre mystery.
Creighton Duke (Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday)
Once again, we have a false final chapter with a guy who claims to be much more prepared for Jason than he actually is. Duke seems to know everything there is to know about Jason, but once he actually comes face-to-face, he lasts a matter of seconds. Still, he’s one of the most memorable and entertaining characters in the entire franchise.
Ash Williams (The Evil Dead Franchise)
That’s right, topping the list is Ash himself, horror’s number one most celebrated badass. And don’t get me wrong, Ash steps up and gets the job done. But when you look at how different, how scared and nervous he is in the original film, I think he never actually stopped being that character. All the way up to Ash vs. Evil Dead his first instinct is always to run. He talks himself up because he doesn’t actually believe in himself at all. He’s the cause of most of the problems in his life, but he will step up and do the right thing when he realizes he has to. Basically, when he realizes running isn’t gonna work.