Eight of My Favorite Cult/Horror/Action/Exploitation Franchise Heroes

This is the sequel to an older list I posted more than a year ago. I got the idea for that one from another horror blogger, Jeremyvoltz, who unfortunately doesn’t update his page anymore. Movies and TV shows starred below (which is pretty much all of them) come recommended. Note: this post is rife with spoilers. Now let’s get to it!

Ash from the Evil Dead series
Portrayed by Bruce Campbell

Ash is an unlikely hero and S-mart employee whose life was forever changed for the epic when he and a group of friends unknowingly released a fleet of Kandarian demons by playing a recording of an incantation from the Necronomicon Ex Mortis, or Book of the Dead. He’s either trapped in medieval Europe, or was safely returned to the present, depending on which version of Army of Darkness you saw. With a chainsaw for a hand, a sawn-off shotgun that never runs out of bullets, and a slew of one-liners like “Groovy” and “Hail to the king, baby”, this guy’s convinced he’s a badass, and sometimes he is — but more often than not, he goofishly makes things way worse than they already are.
Bio Ash Appears In
The Evil Dead (1981)*
Evil Dead II (1987)*
Army of Darkness (1993)*

Memorable Moment
From Army of Darkness (1993) — Having defied the odds by slaying the “Deadite” pit beast he was thrown to, Ash emerges from the hole and shoots a knight’s raised sword in half with his shotgun. The gathering of medieval villagers at the scene is understandably awed by such technologically advanced weaponry. Ash proceeds to explain what his gun is in terms they can understand. “Alright, you primitive screw-heads, listen up. This (dramatic pause) is my BOOMSTICK!”

Paul Kersey from the Death Wish series
Portrayed by Charles Bronson

Neither Schwarzenegger or Stallone ever held a candle to the true greatest action hero of all time, Charles Bronson, whose most recognizable role was inarguably that of Paul Kersey, a New York architect pushed to his breaking point by his wife’s murder and daughter’s rape at the hands (and penises) of a stereotypically 80s gang. Well, Kersey exacted revenge on those thugs, in addition to a bunch of other thugs, cleaning his city’s streets up in the process. Now, this guy has some really bad luck, cos every movie he moves to another big city with hopes of starting over and every movie a new love interest or family member of his is done in by different gangsters. Here’s the good news, no matter how many pieces of human garbage this guy blows away, no matter how comically over-the-top his wake of destruction is, he’s always either given a free pass by the local authorities, or mysteriously disappears into the night. Godspeed, Mr. Kersey.

My favorite trait of this character? His talent for delivering corny, yet badass one-liners to the squirming slimeballs unlucky enough to be staring down the barrel of his gun.
Bio Paul Kersey [alt II] Appears In
Death Wish (1974)*
Death Wish II (1982)*
Death Wish 3 (1985)*
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987)*
Death Wish V: The Face of Death (1994)*

Memorable Moment
From Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987) — A bad guy finds Kersey waiting in his penthouse apartment kitchen. “What the fuck are you doing here?” he asks.

Casually, Kersey replies, “I was makin’ a sandwich.” then wallops the guy with a stool, sending him front flipping tens of stories below onto the roof of his own car that his girlfriend is waiting in.

Dexter from the series of the same name
Portrayed by Michael C. Hall

As an infant, Dexter’s mother was brutally chainsawed before his eyes. Growing up, he exhibited textbook warning signs of becoming a serial killer, and even admitted to harboring homicidal urges. Knowing he’d never be able to “cure” his adopted son, Dexter’s surrogate father, a detective, drilled into him a code of ethics based solely on using his affliction for good, and never getting caught. Now a renowned blood spatter analyst for the Miami Metro PD, Dexter utilizes inside information, his knowledge of police procedure and what his father taught him to hunt down and dispatch Florida’s more, well, evil killers who’ve slipped through the cracks of the justice system. In short, Dexter is a serial killer of serial killers. And that’s pretty cool.

Dexter is deeply intriguing for two reasons: 1) He does something we all wish we could do, 2) He feels very little emotion and has to fake his way through life to fit in. In fact, the only emotions he feels, at least at the onset of the series, are an allegiance to his father and sister, excitement from planning a kill, and the high from the kill itself.
Bio Dexter [alt] Appears In
Dexter (TV, 2006)*

Memorable Moment
With dozens more hours of footage than a movie, there are too many great moments to pick from, so here’s a video I found:

Nancy from the Nightmare on Elm Street series
Portrayed by Heather Langenkamp

Nancy Thompson was a privileged suburban teenager and the first of her town’s generation to figure out the previous generation had torched a suspected child killer alive, a killer who then vowed revenge and returned years later to razor-claw the children of his vigilante executioners, AKA Nancy and her friends — in their dreams!

No one believed raving sleep-deprived Nancy when she said she was being stalked, so she took it upon herself to pull the crispy cretin out of her nightmares and obliterate him with Home Alone-like traps and sheer mind power. Nancy is widely considered among horror fans to be one of the strongest, most likable and iconic final girls ever.
Bio Nancy Appears In
A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)*
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)*
New Nightmare (1994)* (eh, she sort of appears in this)

Memorable Moment
From A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) — Nancy refuses to acknowledge the film’s villain, Freddy Krueger, anymore, draining his power. Krueger swipes at Nancy, but fades out of existence before making contact.

Tommy Jarvis from the Friday the 13th series
Portrayed by Corey Feldman (twice), John Shepherd, Thom Mathews

Tommy Jarvis was a young boy, Commodore 64 gamer and amateur makeup effects artist when most of his family and neighborhood were slain by Jason Voorhees. Still very much traumatized by the events at eighteen, he was taken to a halfway house for troubled youths where the whole thing happened again. Was Tommy somehow behind it?

In my opinion, writer/director McLoughlin went the complete wrong direction with Tommy in Jason Lives. The whole point of Part 5 (and the ending of Part 4, for that matter) was to turn him heel, transforming him into the next Jason Voorhees. I never bought into Part 6, and still don’t. I find the entire premise of Jason’s rotting corpse being reanimated by a bolt of lightning like Frankenstein’s monster, and Tommy suddenly being sane again, insulting to the films that came before that. If the powers that were really wanted to bring Jason back that bad, they should have done so in a more believable way, and after they’d transformed Tommy, that way the two Jasons could have squared off. C’mon, it writes itself.

End rant.
Bio Tommy Jarvis Appears In
Friday the 13th: the Final Chapter (1984)*
Friday the 13th: A New Beginning (1985)*
Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI (1986)

Memorable Moment
From Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984) — Tommy attempts to manipulate or stall Jason by impersonating him. When that doesn’t work, he embeds a machete full-force in the side of the big lug’s head. Jason limply falls forward, landing on the machete handle. His face contorts horribly as it slides down the length of the blade. Tommy then hacks him to bits like a boy possessed in slow-motion, shouting “Die! Die!”

Random trivia: Tommy’s closing words here were sampled by Basket Case director Frank Henenlotter’s good friend RA the Rugged Man in the title track of his (officially debut) album, Die, Rugged Man, Die. Listen.

Jennifer Hills from the I Spit on Your Grave series
Portrayed by Camille Keaton (two, soon to be three, times), Sarah Butler

New York author Jennifer Hills was gang-raped again and again — and again — and left for dead by a group of Deliverance-style dolts while writing her first novel on the Housatonic river. After nursing her wounds, both mental and physical, and pre-absolving herself at a church, she’d go on to hang, castrate, axe and boat propeller (but never burn, as the poster artwork for the original I Spit on Your Grave erroneously advertised) her four assailants, in that order. Mainstream reviewers were quick to pigeonhole I Spit as exploitative, misogynistic filth, but in my view and the view of many others, it paints Ms. Hills (and in a larger sense, women in general) as strong, independent, and not something to be taken advantage of — or else!
Bio Jennifer Hills Appears In
I Spit on Your Grave (1978)*
Savage Vengeance (1993)
I Spit on Your Grave (2010)*
I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu (in production)

Similar Movies
Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)*
Ms. 45 (1981)*
Baise-moi (2000)*
I Spit on Your Grave 2 (2013)

Memorable Moment
From I Spit on Your Grave (1978) — Jennifer lures the leader of the gang that raped her back to her place for sex (seriously, how fucking stupid is this guy?), then cuts his dick off in a bathtub. The water turns red. The guy freaks, crashing about as he bleeds out, all while Jennifer listens to opera music and catches up on her reading downstairs.

Mike from the Phantasm series
Portrayed by A. Michael Baldwin (four times), James LeGros

Jean jacket-wearing Mike’s world was turned upside down and inside out the moment he spied his town mortician hoisting a half-thousand-plus pound casket into the back of a hearse by himself. A little more digging and a few near-deadly experiences would reveal that mortician to be a Civil War-era field surgeon turned evil, extradimensional slavelord hell-bent on killing mankind, crushing their bodies down to proper slave size, and most importantly (for reasons unknown to everybody except him), recruiting Mike to the dark side.

Though he had an invincible, carefree attitude in the first film, Mike grows darker and more distant as the series goes on. Following a thwarted suicide attempt, he found he could harness telekinetic powers he was previously unaware that he had. Will he finally join the Tall Man, or become powerful enough to beat him, once and for all?
Bio Mike Appears In
Phantasm (1979)*
Phantasm II (1988)*
Phantasm III: Lord of the Dead (1994)*
Phantasm: OblIVion (1998)*
Phantasm: Ravager (awaiting release)

Memorable Moment
From Phantasm (1979) — Mike is chased by the Tall Man through the halls of his town mausoleum. He ducks into a room and slams the door. Turning around, he’s startled to see one of the mortician’s hands wedged in the door, and cleaves all its fingers off in a single chop. Green slime spurts from the wounds instead of blood.

Duane from the Basket Case series
Portrayed by Kevin VanHentenryck

Siamese twin brothers Duane and Belial were sliced apart as kids. Now, they mete out revenge on the doctors responsible for the procedure, as well as random people proved to exploit them or stumble upon their halfway house of freaks. Oh, and the smallish one, pile of organs Belial, chills in a basket that Duane carries with him all day ‘ery day.

Duane is an interesting character that changes and evolves over the course of three films. He’s naïvely loyal to his brother Belial in the first, disillusioned in the second after having a falling out with said brother and coming to the realization that he doesn’t belong in a houseful of freaks, and by the third, he just wants to be as far removed from the whole situation as possible.
Bio Duane [alt] Appears In
Basket Case (1981)*
Brain Damage (1988)* (cameo)
Basket Case 2 (1990)*
Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1991)*

Memorable Moment
From Basket Case 2 — Duane snaps. In a last ditch effort to repair his disintegrating relationship with his brother (and perhaps, in doing so, justify his role in the deaths of at least half a dozen people), he forcibly stiches Belial back to his side with a big crocheting needle. Giggling insanely, he assures himself, “It’s ok, we’re together again!” This is one of my favorite endings in horror movie history.

Runner Up: Clovis from Sleepwalkers
Portrayed by Sparks

Police attack cat Clovis doesn’t make the list proper cos he doesn’t actually qualify, having only appeared in one film. As a cat, the natural adversary of Sleepwalkers, Clovis is the only character in the movie that can see its titular villains when they’re cloaked in thermoptic camouflage, and is also the only one that’s really capable of damaging them. He’s cute. He’s hella badass. Watch out for them killer kitty claws of his. Mrrowrr! Bio Clovis Appears In
Sleepwalkers (1992)*

See Also
the cat from Cat’s Eye (1985)*

Memorable Moment
From Sleepwalkers (1992) — Clovis bats at a Koosh ball on a string.

Honorable Mention: Gizmo from the Gremlins series, Andy Barclay from the Child’s Play series


I’m sure I’m forgetting some great characters. I’ll probably be kicking myself later. Oh well. Who’s your favorite? What would your list look like? Sound off in the comments section below.


two cents here

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