The most successful horror franchises tend to feature protagonists audiences can root for — heroes that viewers hope will beat the odds and emerge from their respective situations victorious and, well, alive. With that in mind, we here at RT decided to look back at some of cinema’s most stubborn survivors, those characters that somehow managed to avoid being offed in multiple horror movies.
Needless to say, you may want to avoid what follows below if you’re allergic to spoilers. Without further ado, here are our choices for the Horror Movie Survivor Hall of Fame!
Survived: The Alien Franchise
You can’t keep a good woman down. Case in point: Ellen Ripley. Even if she only survived two-and-three-quarters of the first three Alien films, the DNA in her blood cells was enough to create a pretty killer replica (which gives us all hope for future Chuck Norris clones, but we digress).
Ripley could have gone the way of Dr. Frank Poole a whole bunch of times throughout the series. As the only survivor of the Nostromo (not counting Jones the cat), she still could have been torn to shreds when the alien hid on her shuttle. In Aliens, Ripley and a few of her compatriots survived a tough battle with the Alien Queen aboard the Sulaco. Even a universe-saving suicide in Alien 3 barely slows Ripley down — the follow-up isn’t called Alien Resurrection for nothing. How does she do it? Our guess is those decades-long stasis naps do a body good.
Survived: The Evil Dead Franchise
You can possess him with a few demons. You can chop off his hand. Hell, you can even send him back through time. But the one thing you cannot do to Ashley “Ash” Williams: keep him down for good.The same can’t be said of Ash’s friends, who, in the first two Evil Deads offer up a survival rate of exactly zero. Ash is actually supposed to have died in the final frames of The Evil Dead, but the sequel retcons the whole thing, causing him to re-endure a gory getaway in the forest cabin. In the process, he loses his hand, but hey, chainsaw hand as replacement.
In the final Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, Ash is sent to 1300 AD. His only way to get back to the present time and his job at S-Mart: Going through a horde of the undead (led by an Ash clone) to retrieve the Necronomicon, the book of the dead. Groovy.
Survived: The Frankenstein Series by Hammer Films
Some folks just don’t know when to quit. You’d think that Baron Victor von Frankenstein would reconsider his diabolical experiments in reanimation after nearly getting his dome lopped off in The Curse of Frankenstein, but no; this guy’s got a one-track mind. Unlike the Frankenstein of Mary Shelley and the Universal movies, our man Vic (played with eyebrow-raised relish by Peter Cushing) doesn’t evolve from hubristic to guilt-ridden — he’s pretty much a murderous mad scientist from minute one. After surviving the guillotine in The Curse of Frankenstein, the Baron continued his artificial life experiments in a bunch of Hammer films (either five or six, depending on whether you count the Cushing-free The Horror of Frankenstein as part of the cannon — many don’t). It’s pretty amazing that Frankenstein can perpetually stay one step ahead of death, given that angry townspeople, public officials, and even his own stitched-up creations are always trying to kill him.
The Friday the 13th series only had two protagonists who would carry themselves into sequels. The first was the original camp survivor who would be unceremoniously offed in Part II‘s opening sequence. The other: Tommy Jarvis. He first appeared in arguably the series’ best installment, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, as a young boy vacationing with his single mother and sister. With a penchant for masks, he and his sister succeed in confusing Jason, before Tommy is taken over by madness and hacks poor ol’ Jason Voorhees to death. The ambigious final shot of The Final Chapter suggests he has taken on an evil spirit.
In the godawful sequel, A New Beginning, Tommy is a taciturn mental patient, drifting in and out of institutions. As copycat murders begin around him, he suspects that his psychosis is taking over under the cover of night. Turns out the killer was just a disgruntled paramedic. In his final appearance, Jason Lives, Tommy attempts to tear Jason’s corpse asunder, but a steel pipe left in his heart attracts a bolt of lightning and Jason is resurrected. Ultimately, Tommy lures him back to the lake and to a watery grave. But we all know how long the dead stay dead in horror movies, don’t we?
It’s no wonder that Laurie Strode takes a breather every couple of Halloween installments; neither sleep nor time nor even a franchise reboot can rid her of Michael Myers. In the original Halloween, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) survived the babysitting gig from hell, successfully keeping Michael Myers at bay (though he killed a couple of her friends). In Halloween II, she learned why she’d been stalked — it turned out that she was a blood relative of the knife-wielding psycho.
Laurie lay low for the next four Halloweens, but reemerged in Halloween H2O; she had faked her own death and changed her name, but she couldn’t stay hidden from her brother forever. Unfortunately, Myers finally got the best of Laurie in Halloween: Resurrection. Rob Zombie’s 2007 franchise reboot began at the beginning of the Laurie Strode story, with Scout Taylor-Compton stepping into the role; whether this incarnation of Laurie Strode shows the same survival instinct as the first remains to be seen.
Survived: The Halloween Franchise
Most psychology PhDs don’t receive gun training in school, tranquilizer or otherwise. Not sure about cursed zombie entrapment (that could be covered during mandatory intern hours), but Dr. Samuel James Loomis is somehow capable of all these things. At one point in Halloween 4, he agilely escaped death by diving behind some convenient barrels while his unkillable former patient took out a gas tank with a truck, causing a near-fatal explosion.
Dr. Loomis’ constant attempts at shooting Michael Myers really only impeded the guy’s momentum. It only took the first two films for Loomis to realize that bullets just wouldn’t work. At the end of II, he decided to be the martyr and blow both Michael and himself up using a combo of oxygen and ether.
Oh wait… but they both survive — somehow. Maybe Loomis got the explosive recipe wrong. But that’s great because then we got him for four more films! In those films we saw him use Michael’s female prey as bait to lure him into a trap consisting of a metal net, a tranquilizer gun, and his fists. But it was when he used his shrink skills to reason with the monster that we thought, “Oh yeah, that’s what he was trained to do.”
Survived: The Hellraiser Franchise
Puzzle boxes were all the rage in the 1980s. Of course, when Kirsty Cotton played with one, she suffered the consequences: the opening of another realm filled with sado-masochistic Cenobytes led by none other than Pinhead himself. Pinhead’s posse included Butterball, Chatterer, and the Female. After attacks from a deceptive dead-skin-wearing uncle, a group of deal-reneging “explorers” from another realm, and a stepmother hell-bent on devouring her boyfriend, Kirsty even withstood a trip to the Cenobyte realm. In Hellraiser III, she existed only through old interview footage, but she returned in Hellseeker with some gruesome tricks up her sleeve.
Being orphaned could inspire one to focus on new hobbies and interests, like mastering such a puzzle box, incidentally called the “Lament Configuration.” That, and a propensity for turning the tables on your loved ones, could be all you need to survive when confronted by violent unearthly beings that thrive on the pleasures of pain.
How exactly does one defeat a nemesis who manifests himself in the dream world and makes nightmares come true? Nancy Thompson seemed to have figured out the trick, but not before notorious burn victim Freddy Krueger dispatched a good number of her friends and family in gruesome ways.
After Freddy skewered her BFFs and effectively turned her boyfriend into a bloody geyser in the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Nancy somehow managed to escape, only to meet her end in Part 3: Dream Warriors. But here’s the kicker: Freddy actually came after the actress who played Nancy, Heather Langenkamp, in Wes Craven’s [very meta] New Nightmare, in which he also terrorized director Craven himself and the man who portrayed him in the movies, Robert Englund. Whoa… And maybe, you might think, a name change would help protect poor Nancy, but Freddy’s too smart for that.
Throughout all the twists and turns of the Saw franchise, one woman emerged as the series’ unlikely hero (seriously, the bad guys got waaay more screen time than the goodies): Jill Tuck, the ex-wife of serial killer Jigsaw. Jill was a rehabilitation clinic director who suffered a miscarriage after an assault from a junkie, prompting Jigsaw’s descent into madness.
Despite the Saw series’ brutally high body count, Jill survived five filmed appearances. After Jigsaw’s death in Saw III, she received a mysterious box via his will. For a while, her role as either protagonist or antagonist was up in the air, making her the most compelling character outside of Jigsaw himself. Then it was revealed her final role in Jigsaw’s twisted blueprint was to “test” his apprentice, crazy corrupt cop Mark Hoffman. Jill almost took him out, but was eventually killed in the final Saw with the infamous reverse bear trap.
Survived: The first four Scary Movie movies
A high-school-student-turned-college-student-turned-anchorwoman-turned-professional-boxer-turned-caregiver, Cindy Campbell knows how to throw down and maybe even snap some necks. Her response to a home-attack by Ghostface? What else? Throw a HOUSE PARTY! That would be the safest thing to do, right? But everyone ended up dead. Go figure. Her Matrix-like aerial fighting skills got her through another night, but could she survive a wedgie in Scary Movie 2? Turns out… she could and did!
This one was handy though. Only Cindy Campbell could MacGyver random objects into a tractor, allowing her to crash through the door of a refrigerator she was locked in. Even a UN nude-ray couldn’t stop this savvy ingénue. At one point, an alien Command tripod ensnared her with Venus flytraps in a grimy old bathroom, and she was instructed to find the key to free herself and her friend Brenda. The key was located behind her eye, but it wasn’t a problem for Cindy. She’s got a glass eye (old bar fight injury).
Cindy has survived a lot. She’s slick and sagacious. But we’re still not sure whether she’s still with us, since she sat out Scary Movie 5.
Survived: The Scream Franchise
Poor Sidney Prescott. She survived an entire franchise dedicated to her demise, and it really all came down to reasons that were far beyond her control. What’s that saying about “the sins of the father” (or, in this case, mother)? Yeah, Sidney sort of represents the epitome of the adage.
Consider this: Sidney’s own boyfriend, Billy, played the long con on her and ultimately tried to off her in the first Scream because Sidney’s mom broke apart his parents’ marriage — yikes. But it got worse: who should come around for revenge in Scream 2 but Billy’s mom herself, understandably upset, along with an accomplice who just wanted to be famous for killing Sidney. Scream 3 saw Sidney terrorized by a half brother she never knew she had, upset about being rejected by their mother, and 4‘s Ghostface Killer turned out to be Sidney’s own cousin, itching to get a taste of Sidney’s fame. Sidney is safe and sound as of now, of course, but you never know; there might be a great granduncle or a step-niece just rarin’ for a go at her.
Survived: The Resident Evil Franchise
At first, it wouldn’t appear that the Umbrella Corporation of the Resident Evil films planned very well for a possible outbreak of their zombifying T-virus. In fact, the soldiers sent to Umbrella’s secret lab in 2002’s Resident Evil spent most of their time simply trying to survive.
But even in the face of this population-decimating epidemic, there was one particular survivor who eventually went on the offensive for the good of all mankind, and her name was Alice. The folks at Umbrella must have spotted her potential, too, because in Apocalypse (2004), they outfitted Alice with some genetic modifications, and in Extinction (2007), they even cloned her in hopes of building a butt-kicking army. She’s survived attacks by all kinds of mutations, speedy, strong, and grotesque, but she hasn’t fallen yet. Alice and Umbrella both know the whole ordeal is Umbrella’s fault, and her quest to bring them to justice continues through to the franchise’s sixth installment, which is scheduled to open next year.