Tuesday, October 9, 2012


The first victim in a horror movie is quite often the initial spark to a film - perhaps the first jump scare to start things off, a shock to get things going, or the earliest indication of the antagonist's reason for the mayhem he is most certainly going to cause within the next ninety minutes.  Many times, the first victim seems to be almost deserving of such a fate- commonly an audacious female - or a male character that makes the first stupid mistake.  Sometimes directors shake things up (I'm talking to you, Hitch!) and let us really get to know a character.  And other times, they are only onscreen for moments. 

And in the following films (most of which turned out to be iconic), they are as memorable as any of the characters that ended up being "final girl" or destined for the sequel. 

But in any event - they are the earliest to meet their fate and let's face it - totally and irrevocably dead.

Chrissy Watkins
JAWS - One of the most famous first victims only spent about five minutes total on screen. When Chrissy Watkins (Susan Backlinie) went for that fateful swim on a warm moonlight night, she had no idea she was about to meet the three hundred teeth of Mr. Carcharodon carcharias.  Poor girl just wanted to take a little dip au naturel and she ended up somebody's dinner. Chrissy was certainly one of the most memorable first victims, and probably the one we all think of first when we're at the beach, standing with towel in hand, staring out at the deep blue sea...

I SAW THE DEVIL -  Joo-yun (Oh San-ha)  - This film made you immediately connect with the first victim, showing her affectionate relationship with her her fiancé, Soo-hyun.  Then they just rip our hearts out by having a brutal serial killer murder her and chop her into pieces.  The memory of Joo-yun resonates within the entire running time of I Saw The Devil, because the primary focus remains Soo-hyun's relentless quest for vengeance in the name of the woman he loved.  Just heart-breaking!

Marion Crane
PSYCHO - Marion Crane (Jante Leigh) - When you want to make an impact, you do the unexpected. And nothing was more surprising than director Alfred Hitchcock extinguishing the main character (who was a major movie star at the time) no more than twenty minutes into the film. The loss of Marion in that shower set the stage for the whole movie. We had no idea what was coming next, and that was the beauty of Psycho.  Often duplicated, never replicated. The masterpiece.

Judith Myers
HALLOWEEN - John Carpenter knew just what buttons to push back in 1978 with his camera style and his "killer point of view". Judith Myers (Sandy Johnson) was Michael's big sister and let's face it, she was a bit of a skank. Taking her boy upstairs for a quick Halloween night rendezvous while Mikey wandered around the house looking for sharp kitchen implements was probably not the best idea.  Hindsight is 20/20...

Pat Hingle
SUSPIRIA - Pat Hingle (Eva Axén) Pat, Pat...we hardly knew ye!  This is what you get when Dario Argento is jonesing for a quick murder to start things off on the right foot.  She certainly made murder look beautiful though, right?  With several graphic stabs (one right into the heart!) and a nasty strangulation that leads to a fall through a glass ceiling, Argento made a hell of a first impression.  To top it off, the glass ceiling broke apart and Pat's friend (with whom she was taking refuge from a mysterious assailant) is sliced and diced on the floor below.  Truly one of the best first death scenes, ever.

Jack Goodman
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON:  Our lone male on the list, Jack (Griffin Dunne) was David's right hand man, his homie, his BFF. And look what happened.  He was torn apart in a ruthless attack by a werewolf.  Jack had the best lines in the film, and even though he was killed off in the first reel, he showed up to warn David at pivotal moments whilst dripping bodily fluids and flesh.  Probably my favorite first victim, ever.

Alice Hardy
FRIDAY THE 13TH, PART 2:  Alice Hardy (Adrienne King) - Even though it was more than obvious that Alice wasn't going to outlast the opening credits, I still felt a pang of despair when she got that ice pick through the temple. Damn. Alice was so dazzling in the first installment, decapitating her would-be killer under the light of the full moon.  Unfortunately, she had to be wasted in the beginning of part two to make way for Ginny the Great.

Tina Gray
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET:  Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss) -  I seriously cannot stand Tina. Sorry. I was almost pleasantly subdued when she was screaming while hanging from the ceiling, covered in blood. She was crass, slutty, and annoying as hell.  But she was made an example of when she had noisy sex with an uncouth hoodlum in her parent's bed.  That's when Freddy came rolling in to snuff out her sleasy teenage life with two swipes of his finger knives.

Casey Becker
SCREAM - Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) - Another of the most famous "first victims", it was a real shocker to see her hanging from that tree with her guts trailing out onto the ground. Wes Craven certainly knew how to taunt an audience with impending doom.  If you were lucky enough to see this one before anyone spoiled the opening murder, you were treated to an entertaining ten minutes that lead to Barrymore's shocking and unexpected demise.  It was like Psycho, all over again. Well, not Psycho...but you get my drift.


William Malmborg said...

What a fantastic idea for a post. It brought back so many memories. The opening of Halloween really caught me off guard when I was little, not so much the murder, but who the murder was when they pulled the mask off. I remember looking at my mother and going, "It's a kid!"

And Scream! Oh my god, I was not expecting that at all. I was one of those who thought Drew was going to be the star of the movie, so that really blew me away. I remember turning to my cousin and going, "Woah, now what?"

Anonymous said...

Spot on with this blog. I hadn't thought about this as important till now. Well done!

Christine Hadden said...

Thanks Bill, and I agree with you - I was blown away by Scream's beginning. These first victims were all pretty shocking, I think that's the common thread...and to kill off what you think is the main character so quickly...that's great stuff!

And thanks for reading, Chris. Glad you enjoyed this one. Stay tuned...