** This might go without saying but be prepared for spoilers for all of the films mentioned here, which include this year’s MIDSOMMAR **
Horror films have an outstanding, seemingly never-ending supply of shitty men at their disposal. Serial Killers? Check. Sadists? Oh, yeah. Apathetic weirdos who lead their significant others into abject chaos? Yup, you bet. Yes, just like the real world, the men of horror can be disappointing (to say the least). Specifically, supporting characters and the romantic partners of final girls can really beef it when it comes to clearing the lowest bar imaginable: being decent human beings. The following list is in no way conclusive, but a kind of brief ranking of my personal worst partners in the ~horror canon~.
5. Henry Spencer, Eraserhead (1977) d. David Lynch
Of the men on this list, Henry Spencer might be the most sympathetic character, but he’s also not exempt. In Eraserhead, Henry deals with a lot: an angry girlfriend, a sudden leap into fatherhood, existential dilemmas. Is his existence weird, seemingly pointless and consistently imbued with the dread of the mundane? Yeah, I mean that’s Lynch’s whole thing; but at the same time, he’s an unresponsive partner and a deadbeat dad. It might be hard to be an open partner when the anxieties of everyday life are knocking at your door, or when you have to care for a horrifying, alien-potato-baby in a blanket, but you can at least try, Henry. It’s the effort that matters.
4. Billy Nolan, Carrie (1976) d. Brian de Palma
We all know him: the stereotypical high school jerk. He’s vaguely good-looking, popular, and thinks he’s God’s gift to the planet. In Carrie, Billy helps his horrible girlfriend, Chris, to enact her humiliating prom plot to embarrass poor, telepathic Carrie White. Taking leaps and bounds to publicly humiliate a lonely, defenseless, and terrified high school girl is undeniably shitty. Plus, anyone who’s willing to sneak into a slaughterhouse to kill pigs and collect their blood for a horrible prank is a straight-up sadist, period.
3. Christian, MIDSOMMAR (2019) d. Ari Aster
The break-up movie of the summer, and maybe the century, (yeah, I said what I said) delivered one of the worst boyfriends in cinema history writ large, Christian. On this psychedelic descent into folk-horror, we meet this emotionally uninvested, uninspired, gaslighting, and generally shitty human being who happens to be dating the main character of the story, Dani. He’s been on the fence about breaking up for about a year, but after the death of Dani’s parents, begrudgingly decides to stay. When Christian and Dani travel with friends to Sweden to study midsommar rituals at a commune, the fractures in their relationship turn into sharp breaks. Not only does he forget his girlfriend’s birthday, he just isn’t present for her in any way, complains when she gets emotional, doesn’t accept responsibility for his actions, and (although he’s under heavy drugs) participates in a sex magick ritual, essentially cheating on Dani. While his fate, being trapped and paralyzed in a bear suit in a burning shrine might seem like an extreme punishment, I can understand where Dani was coming from when she decided to send him there.
2. Jack Torrance, The Shining (1980) d. Stanley Kubrick
Every time I return to The Shining, I begin to understand a fundamental thing about it: it’s not the supernatural elements that are the scariest, it’s the real ones. When Jack and Wendy Torrance move to The Overlook Hotel for the winter, the dread that helps build up to the overwhelming horror begins with something mentioned as an aside: Jack has hurt their son, Danny, once before. It’s played off as an accident, but by the midpoint of the film, it’s clear that it’s not the hotel making him this way — he was always an abuser. On my most recent re-watch, he was the scariest thing on the screen. The way he rails against Wendy, chases her, and harms her made me want to crawl out of my skin. Indeed, the scariest monsters are the real ones.
- Billy Loomis, Scream (1996) d. Wes Craven
1996’s Scream was a game changer — a self-aware slasher that came along after the nadir of the genre, it spawned the (potentially) worst horror boyfriend of them all: Billy Loomis. Not only is he an insufferable Film Bro™ (see his: “Movies make psychos more creative” speech and his rating analogies for him and girlfriend Sidney’s sex life), he’s a certified jackass. Billy and his murder-bro Stu are revealed to be the killers behind Ghostface, the masked murderer terrorizing the town throughout the film. Not only did they kill a ton of people, they’re also responsible, specifically, for killing Sidney’s mom — a fact she finds out about after losing her virginity to Billy. Honestly, I don’t know if I have to spell this one out for y’all because y i k e s. Just remember this: if he compares your sex life to a TV/movie rating scale, RUN.
While life, and film, will never fail to supply us with useless and dangerous men, it’s comforting to be able to recognize toxic traits and avoid them at all costs. Although this has been a compilation of some of the worst partners in the horror genre, it can be a warning list too. Proceed with caution, y’all, and remember: if he’s not willing to help raise your alien-potato-baby or even just be emotionally available, he’s not worth it.