A Bloody Good Time 07.03.14: Top Ten Cops In Horror Movies
Posted by Joseph Lee on 07.03.2014
From Clarice in Silence of the Lambs and Dewey in Scream to Halloween's Sheriff Leigh Brackett, Lt. Thompson in A Nightmare on Elm Street and more, 411's Joseph Lee counts down the top 10 horror movie cops!
Opening Logo courtesy of Benjamin J. Colón (Soul Exodus)
You know who have a bad reputation in horror movies? Cops. They're always getting butchered and seem to be the dumbest people in horror solely because they usually adopt reason and the law even in the face of some seriously messed up stuff. In honor of Scott Derrickson's next film Deliver Us From Evil, which features a cop that also dabbles in supernatural exploration, I'm going to present a list of the the best cops in horror movies. They're not all good men, but they deserve mention in a genre that usually only has cops in it to kill them off.
#10: Cybil Bennett (Laurie Holden) in Silent Hill
Cybil is a cop that remains dedicated to her job and doing the right thing. That eventually gets her killed but at least she's more willing to accept when strange things are going on than your average horror movie cop. Of course I guess in a town like Silent Hill you have to accept this stuff quickly or risk some demonic ghostly being eating you alive. Even when the odds are against her, she does her job at the cost of her own safety.
Honestly, if her gun hadn't run out of ammo she may have been able to fight her way out of her situation too. It's not as if she were actually fighting monsters at the time. In fact the only reason she's in Silent Hill is because she thought a child was in danger. So her entire fate was determined by her desire to protect the innocent. You can't get much more heroic than that.
#9: Detective Mike Norris (Chris Sarandon) from Child's Play
Mike Norris actually starts out as one of those cops who refuse to believe in what's going on. As a result, you're pretty sure he's going to get killed the first time you watch this movie and Chucky has selected him as a victim. Then he shows how good he is by surviving Chucky (not an easy feat) multiple times, even though he takes a few injuries. Of course, there's also the fact that he was the one who originally took down Chucky when he was the Lakeshore Strangler, Charles Lee Ray.
Obviously not every cop, no matter how they good they are, will survive the villain of the movie. Some may become the villain themselves. Norris managed to kill Chucky not only once but twice, and in the same movie, no less. He loses points, however, for not backing up Andy's story in the sequels, forcing him to go into foster care and eventually military school. What a jerk.
#8: Deputy/Sheriff Dwight "Dewey" Riley (David Arquette) in Scream
Okay, Dewey's not really a good cop in the sense of getting the job done, but survival has to count for something, right? Dewey is one of three people to survive four separate murder sprees and in at least two of them he was severely injured. How he made out with only a limp (and even that goes away by Scream 4) is a feat on its own. You would think someone like Dewey would have died in the first movie (and he was originally supposed to).
Sure, Dewey's not exactly inept at his job. He has the right mindset to be a cop and he certainly tries hard. But he's too dopey and naive at first for anyone to take seriously but he eventually does grow. He gets better as a cop and learns not to be so goofy. Surely he had to have developed some skills or he wouldn't have made it through seven different serial killers.
#7: Officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z'Dar) in Maniac Cop
The first bad cop on our list, but not the last. Matt Cordell was imprisoned for police brutality as he was investigating corruption in city hall. He's brutally beaten and murdered in the shower but keeps coming back. You would think that would mean he'd only target the corrupt, like an undead Batman. But he quickly becomes a problem when he starts killing those who don't deserve it, even good cops who are trying to stop him.
Cordell makes this list because hey, he was killed twice and keeps coming back to do his duty, no matter how twisted and violent that duty is. Also, the first Maniac Cop is just a cool movie. The sequels are okay but even when the sequels fail, Cordell still shines. If he was this much of a force to be reckoned with against everyone, just imagine if he were completely on our side.
#6: Sheriff John Quincey Wydell (William Forsythe) in The Devil's Rejects
Sheriff Wydell wasn't always a bad cop. At first he just wanted to capture the murderous Firefly family and avenge his brother's death. That's a perfectly reasonable and just cause. The problem is that he eventually becomes obsessed with it and begins crossing the line when he decides that following the law isn't going to cut it. Say what you will about Rob Zombie, but he manages to do a great job in turning the sick depraved Firefly clan into sympathetic figures by introducing a character that eventually grows to be just as bad, if not worse.
I've always said that Zombie's scripts are the reasons his films get hate, as he's a competent director. He also has an eye for casting great actors and William Forsythe completely owns the role and makes us both root for him in the beginning and despise him at the end of the movie. That takes an impressive bit of acting. That's one of the reasons I love this movie so much, even if Zombie himself seems to be divisive.
#5: Sheriff Garris (David Kagan) from Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives
I've given love to Garris in last year's "supporting characters" countdown and I'm doing it again here. He's one of my favorite characters in the entire Friday the 13th series and it's because he's the one cop that doesn't take any crap. You come barging into his office rambling about Jason coming back from the dead (which hadn't actually happened at that point), he's going to make you leave town. If you happen to be an undead Jason, he doesn't care, he's going to attack you with everything he's got.
If Garris had been the Sheriff in one of the earlier Friday the 13th films, we wouldn't have had any more sequels. As soon as his daughter Megan is put in danger, he goes into full "Papa Bear" mode and lays into Jason with a shotgun. When he runs out of ammo, he switches to a handgun. When that stops working, he starts beating Jason in the face with a large rock. Sure, Jason gives him one of the worst deaths in the series for his efforts, but he probably knew it was an impossible feat going in. Yet he still did it to save his daughter's life. How can you not love this guy?
#4: Sheriff Leigh Brackett in Halloween
You can pick a version and they both apply. I honestly think Brad Dourif did better than Charles Cyphers, but Dourif was also given more to do so that makes sense. Either way, Sheriff Brackett is the most reasonable cop on this list, I think. Donald Pleasance shows up and says Michael Myers is here. Brackett remains skeptical but he's not going to be an idiot and put the lives of innocent people at risk. Even if he starts out tracking Myers to humor Loomis, he still does it and that's more than can be said for cops in other slasher movies.
Brackett also manages to survive Michael Myers' killing sprees in both versions of the film. His daughter isn't so lucky but Brackett makes it out okay. Sure, he doesn't exactly interact with Myers much, but I'd like to think if he were working with Loomis when Michael was found it wouldn't matter. Loomis shot him six times, just imagine if a cop were there to add some more bullets.
#3: Lt. Donald Thompson (John Saxon) in A Nightmare on Elm Street
Thompson never really believes in Freddy Krueger. By the time he does, it's too late. By that account, he's a normal horror movie cop. But what places him above the rest is not only his ability to survive, but still doing what he can to solve the rash of murders, what few there are, in the first film. In his defense, why would anyone believe that a murderer he killed is suddenly undead and haunting the dreams of teenagers before killing them? It's a little too much to accept.
While he refuses to believe Nancy, he still recognizes that clearly something is wrong and sets a cop to watch. That's something, right? He also has a bit of a mean streak, as he is one of the parents who took the law into his own hands and torched Freddy alive. Sure, Freddy deserved it, but a lot of grief could be saved if he were rotting in prison instead of a junkyard. He's not the best representation of a cop on this list, but he's included because John Saxon made him stand out.
#2: Lt. William Kinderman (Lee J. Cobb/George C Scott) in The Exorcist/The Exorcist III)
I prefer the Kinderman in Exorcist III but either version works for the purposes of this list. Kinderman's best aspect is probably how he kindly but assertively pursues the solution of a case. He has a hunch that Reagan killed Burke Dennings and follows up on it, no matter how ridiculous it may seem (even though he's completely right). He never outright accuses Reagan but it's clear that's what he thinks as he asks her mom about it. Unfortunately, he never actually comes into contact with Reagan to find out what's going on.
He would, however, encounter evil in his next appearance. After discovering a killer is linked to his old friend Damian Karras, he aggressively follows his hunches and eventually the Gemini Killer is stopped with the teamwork of Karras, Kinderman and Father Morning. It's Bill who delivers the final blow, shooting his own friend to stop pure evil.
#1: Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster/Julianne Moore) in The Silence of the Lambs/Hannibal
In my opinion, there's no real choice for the top spot. She's not only a great cop but she's a great character. Let's go over her police credentials first. She manages to hold her own in a battle of wits with Dr. Hannibal Lecter to get information. She manages to discover where Buffalo Bill is and is the first to get there. She is stuck in the dark and takes him down, even though has night vision. This is all while she is a rookie FBI agent.
She continues to do good work in Hannibal but honestly she probably would have made this list just on Silence alone. Jodie Foster also delivers a superb performance in the role and goes unheralded when there are great actors like Anthony Hopkins and Ted Levine surrounding her. I think she's the best possible example of a cop in the genre.
Closing Logo courtesy of Kyle Morton (get your own custom artwork and commissions at his Etsy account)
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