Typically, horror fans go crazy for fright flicks with a body count totaling in the double digits, or higher. Case in point, Dawn of the Dead has a reported death toll of 175; Army of Darkness has an estimated 107 total kills (both statistics from moviebodycounts.com); and both films are tried and true fan favorites for their liberal use of violence as well as countless other reasons. We enthusiastically commend George Romero and Sam Raimi for offering up a staggering body counts in these and many of their other films. We frequently pay tribute to horror films and horror killers that rack up above average kill counts, but it’s rare that we make a point to recognize characters that made a major impact on us without incurring a massive death toll.
With that said, we have elected to take the opportunity to spotlight some killers and their corresponding films that had a low body count but still made a significant impact on viewers.
[Caution: spoilers ahead]
Alex from Prom Night (1980)
Death Toll: 5
The killer from the original Prom Night didn’t go on to kill in any of the film’s three sequels, but he left a lasting impression on us. His revenge fueled killing spree was special. Alex was excessively dramatic with his heavy breathing and semi-obscene phone calls. He conducts two kills in the grooviest van we have ever seen. And his sister, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, does some absolutely spectacular disco dancing. Alex is brooding and emotional. He fits the profile of a silver screen psychopath. So, it isn’t terribly surprising when he is revealed as the killer. But the final scene where he is unmasked and wearing smudged lipstick left a lasting impression on us. We immediately knew that Alex was not to be trifled with.
Jack Torrance from The Shining
Death Toll: 1
Jack Torrance only commits one murder in The Shining, and shortly after that, he is ultimately done in himself. But Jack lives on in the hearts of fans everywhere. Jack Nicholson’s portrayal of Jack Torrance is one of the most haunting, mesmerizing performances in film history. Though Stephen King is a known detractor of the film, we think The Shining is a masterpiece of modern cinema and Jack Torrance proves that you don’t need a staggering body count to make a big impression.
Mr. Slawson from Tourist Trap
Death Toll: 6
Oh, Mr. Slawson. You creepy devil, you. You made masks, telekinesis, and wax museums way creepier than we ever imagined they could be. You didn’t slaughter hoards of horny teenagers, like Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, but you did find a special place in our hearts. Your creepy antics took Tourist Trap from average telekinesis infused slasher film to classic telekinesis infused slasher film. You won us over in a big way by prancing around in weird-ass masks and talking in a delightfully bizarre voice.
Jerry Dandridge from Fright Night (1985)
Death Toll: 3
The majority of Jerry Dandridge’s victims were returned to their pre-vampire state after Brewster and company ended Jerry’s vamping days. In spite of that, his body count in Fright Night is sometimes debated amongst horror fans. To clarify, the deaths that we are including are the two girls and one bouncer in the club. The other bouncer just gets thrown across the room. We don’t have any concrete proof that he actually died. We are not calculating anyone mentioned on the news, because those deaths are not actually shown in the movie. Even though he didn’t live long enough to go up against Brewster in Fright Night II, Jerry Dandridge stuck around long enough to make a lasting impression on an entire generation of horror fans. We will take will Jerry and his strange, but enchanting dance moves over the characters being passed off as vampires these days.
Annie Wilkes from Misery
Death Toll: 1
While her actual death toll amounts to only one, Annie Wilkes is still one of the creepiest creeps of all. We see in the film that Annie has killed before and remembers it fondly. Her dark past comes to the surface when we learn that she keeps a scrapbook dedicated to her murderous proclivities. Annie is unique, because unlike most obsessed fans, her affliction is not of a sexual nature. Kathy Bates owned that role and succeeded at scaring viewers with very little actual violence.
The Satanic Killer in Botched
Death Toll: 5
The killer in Botched is credited on IMDb simply as “killer,” and that is actually rather appropriate, since he didn’t really need a name. The maniacal glee with which the killer dispenses death wouldn’t necessarily have the same impact if we had a name to put with the face. He made the most of his 5 on screen kills by bringing a mixture of sadism and hilarity to the role. The killer is full of character. The scene where he incurs the wrath of his devil-worshiping sister by dry humping their human sacrifice was hilarious. Though Botched never received a second installment, the film’s killer made a lasting impression on us.
Mrs. Tredoni in Alice, Sweet Alice
Death Toll: 4
Alice, Sweet Alice is a movie that I enjoy more every time I revisit it. The score is haunting, the atmosphere is tense, and the mask the killer wears is incredible. That mask served to make an already sinister murderer that much scarier. This American-made giallo doesn’t pile up the bodies like some of the films released after its 1976 theatrical run, but it didn’t need to. Alice had tension to spare, a creative story, and unique characters working in its favor. Mildred Clinton’s performance as Mrs. Tredoni worked with all of the aforementioned elements to thoroughly impress us and really sell us on the character.
The Monster from The Funhouse
Death Toll: 4
The killer in The Funhouse just wants to be loved. But sometimes he gets clumsy and commits a murder or four. The Funhouse is lighter on gore than a lot of the other films that came out along with it in 1981. The killer laid a below average number of victims to rest, but he made a big enough impact on us to earn a spot on our list. The Monster stood out to us because he wasn’t driven by the normal factors that cinematic psychos are usually inspired by. He was looking for love and approval from his father, which made the viewer feel empathy for him. It is that uniqueness that makes him stand out, for us.
Killer from Black Christmas (1974)
Death Toll: 6
The orginal Black Christmas is inventive, brutal, and shocking. The deaths that are actually shown on camera are a lot more realistic looking than some of the death scenes we see in modern slasher cinema. Black Christmas is a forefather of the contemporary slasher film. In spite of not having a body count that goes in to the double or triple digits, the killer from Black Christmas, who has a profound mastery of filthy profanity, made a massive impact on us. The deaths we see in the film are creative and hard to watch, because you actually like some of the characters. Black Christmas is brilliant in keeping the viewer guessing as to the killer’s identity, even up until the very end.
Muffy St. John from April Fool’s Day
Death Toll: 0
Though her actual death toll was zero, Muffy St. John headed up one of the most likable casts in slasher cinema history, pulled off an epic prank, and brought audiences a satisfactory twist ending. What makes the film unique and makes Muffy so unforgettable is that the whole movie is leading up to a slightly sick April Fool’s Day Joke. But, the amazing thing is that the script and direction keep the audience from feeling cheated and thus we celebrate Muffy St. John, as a highly memorable would-be killer. Deborah Foreman played Muffy with a certain charm that we’re not sure anyone else could have done quite as well as Foreman did.