Something we find fascinating about some of our favorite horror flicks is the fact that the heroes and heroines are sometimes the last person you would peg as the sole hope for humanity. Never once have I taken a trip to the grocery store and thought the gum-chewing clerk ringing up the new issue of GQ and a bag of Meow Mix for me is going to some day save me from the zombie apocalypse, demonic possession, or a blood-thirsty pack of lycanthropes. But, the fact of the matter is that the seemingly unassuming store clerk may be the only hope for humanity. He or she may just have the cunning and instinct of a fox, the wit of a college professor and the strength of a competitive bodybuilder. But, their exceptional skill set may be lying dormant, waiting to be awoken by unforeseen catastrophe or malady. Such has been the case with at least a handful of our most beloved horror film heroes and heroines.
With that said, we are about to embark on a reminiscent journey through the annals of horror cinema to check in on some of our favorite unlikely heroes. These are characters that, given their background, we probably wouldn’t have bet on their viability, but they came through in a big way. We offer our gratitude to them and want them to know that we have not forgotten their noteworthy contributions to keeping our world safe.
Reggie from Phantasm
We would never have pegged the ponytailed ice cream vendor from the Phantasm films as the front-runner to save the world from the grave-robbing antics of the Tall Man. But, Reggie proved us all wrong by going head to head with the most sinister undertaker the world has ever known. Reggie continued to evolve as a badass with each installment in the series. By the fourth film, he had stepped in to the starring role and become a major cult icon. Reggie proved that just because a guy sells ice cream doesn’t mean he can’t start some shit.
Melvin Junko from The Toxic Avenger
Melvin is easily the least likely hero on our list. Prior to his unexpected transformation, he was socially awkward, kind of a creep, and a mere wisp of a man. But, thanks to his accidental exposure to a vat of toxic waste, he was transformed in to a horribly disfigured super hero of sorts. On that fateful day, he left behind his days as a bumbling janitor with no swag. Apparently Melvin just needed the help of a little hazardous material to bring his dormant heroic side to the forefront. The Toxic Avenger is a highly unique franchise. The Toxic Avenger character stands apart from most other super heroes in the sense that he fights crime by killing criminals, rather than attempting to assist in their rehabilitation or imprisonment. Revisiting this satirical farce only serves to further my long held assessment that Lloyd Kaufman is an underappreciated genius.
Ashley “Ash” Williams from Evil Dead
Ash is one of the most iconic characters in horror cinema. Looking back to his roots as an S-Mart clerk, one probably wouldn’t have guessed it, though. Ash showed great fortitude in Evil Dead II and proved himself as highly resourceful when he lopped off his hand and replaced it with a badass chainsaw prosthetic. Armed with that and a sawed off shotgun, Ash took on the Army of Darkness in the third installment of Sam Raimi’s cult phenomenon. Though, we may not have initially pegged him as a hero, he has proved time and again that we can count on him to triumph over the forces of evil.
Laurie Strode from Halloween
It’s safe to say that Laurie Strode is one of the world’s most beloved final girls. She is brave, resourceful, resilient, spunky, and doesn’t take flack from anyone. But, she wasn’t always an ass-kicking lady. Her humble roots trace back to her days as a mild-mannered babysitter and high school student. But, when things got real, she rose to the occasion and has long since been a fan favorite. Ms. Strode appeared in four Halloween films, unfortunately failing to outwit her maniac brother in the ultimately disappointing Halloween: Resurrection. Although, she is no longer with us in physicality, she lives on in our hearts and minds.
Shaun from Shaun of the Dead
Shaun is yet another example of retail clerk turned hero. And he does an exceptional job of navigating the transition from sales associate to zombie annihilating purveyor of peace. In addition to co-penning the script with director Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg brought a likable underdog charm to the on-screen personification of the Shaun character. Pegg played the role brilliantly and the film has since served as inspiration for dozens of zom-coms to come since, though nothing has yet to live up to the magic of this classic tale of love, laughs, and zombies.
Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Obviously, the film’s title establishes Buffy as the heroine, but if it weren’t for that, we probably wouldn’t have guessed that she would be the one to rise to the occasion and help extinguish the vampire epidemic in Los Angeles. Buffy went from captain of the cheerleading squad to captain of the vampire slaying squad of one. Though the film version of Buffy didn’t necessarily embody Joss Whedon’s vision, it is undeniable that she fits the bill of highly unlikely heroine. And, we have the film to thank for paving the way for the ultra popular cult hit television series of the same name.
Charlie Brewster from Fright Night
At first, Charlie comes off as a bit of a chump. He’s so preoccupied with spying on his new neighbors that he doesn’t even realize that his girlfriend wants to take their teenage romance to the next level. Moreover, he doesn’t look like much more than a tall drink of water. But, when push comes to shove, Charlie scores big for the underdogs. He stands up to the ambiguously gay Jerry Dandridge and makes his hometown a safe place for both prostitutes and high school students, once again. You’re so cool, Brewster.
The Hobo from Hobo With a Shotgun
The film originated as a fake trailer tied in with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse double feature. But, Hobo With a Shotgun proved to be a novel enough concept to carry a feature film. If Rutger Hauer’s titular Hobo character weren’t already implied by the film’s title as the hero, I don’t think anyone would have presumed him as such. It’s perhaps an unorthodox concept to have the film’s lead as a nameless heat packing transient, but it works beautifully. The film is a delightfully violent adventure in exploitation filmmaking that keeps the viewer equally parts entertained and mortified. Rutger Hauer’s Hobo is great fun to watch as the unlikely hero and gives us plenty to cheer about.