Top 6 Horror Film Protagonists Who Survived—Until the Sequel
From clever to panic-coaxingly stupid (why are you opening that door?!?), scary movies introduce us to a variety of protagonists. Often young and female, we especially care about the main character of these films because - let's face it - everyone else is likely dead meat.
Because horror films don't shy away from killing off main characters, we cheer inwardly whenever our hero manages to survive the trauma and defeat (or at least escape) whatever monster they've encountered. But sometimes it turns out our relief is short-lived as our champion soon meets an untimely end in the sequel. So, here are six protagonists who made it through the film but not the franchise!
Spoilers ahead for a variety of horror movies and thrillers.
6. Chief Martin Brody
Okay, so Jaws isn't a typical horror movie, but the high body count and looming threat of death still hit home. Protagonist Chief Brody, the iconic shark-battling officer who took down the famous fish, survived not just the initial film but Jaws 2 as well. Famous for quips like "We're gonna need a bigger boat", Brody offered a relatable yet cool hero who consistently proved his mettle.
Only To Die In: Jaws 4: The Revenge
After an absence in Jaws 3-D (a wise decision, considering its reception), Brody is mentioned again in Jaws 4: The Revenge. Here, he's unceremoniously revealed to be deceased from a heart attack caused by the fear that his nemesis would return.
Um, no. Sure, Brody experienced fear like any person would when battling a titanic shark, but this is the guy who conquered the beast multiple times. Have him die of old age or find a better excuse to explain his absence, but this off-screen death is just insulting to the character.
5. Alex Browning
Survived: Final Destination
In Final Destination, young Alex Browning barely avoids death after having a series of horrific premonitions foretelling the deaths of him and his friends. Using caution and critical thinking, Alex ultimately manages to deduce death's targets and save not only himself, but some of his friends from their seemingly inescapable fate.
Only To Die In: Final Destination 2
Like Chief Brody, Alex doesn't actually appear in the sequel, we just learn of his death. New character Thomas researches the victims from the original film and discovers that Alex ultimately perished from a falling brick. Wow, he doesn't even get to go out with a bang.
As if that's not bad enough, the alternate ending of the first movie also has Alex die, this time thanks to electrocution. With the vengeful ghost that is fate out to get him, the poor guy never stood a chance.
4. Ellen Ripley
Decades ahead of her time, alien-combating Ripley was no damsel in distress or side character. She was the intuitive and reliable heroine of the first two sci-fi horror films, and the sole survivor of the original.
Only To Die In: Alien 3
Ripley, at least, gets the respect she deserves. Yet again playing a central role, Ripley sacrifices herself in the climax of the film to prevent the alien embryo inside of her (long story) from emerging and wreaking further havoc.
Thankfully, Fox Studios realized the effect Ripley's departure would have on the series. Thus, in the fourth movie, Alien: Resurrection, a clone of her once again helped defend mankind against the brutal creatures. Still, no amount of clones can change that the original Ripley is gone for good.
3. Alice Hardy
Survived: Friday the Thirteenth
Camp counselor Alice Hardy struggles to survive as her friends are brutally murdered one-by-one in slasher film Friday the Thirteenth. Eventually escaping the killer (who isn't Jason Voorhees, as is commonly believed), Alice receives one last scare but successfully flees the camp.
Only To Die In: Friday the 13th Part 2
Well done Alice, as long as Jason never actually shows up, you should be - oh. Yikes. Alice unfortunately gets the ax at the very beginning of the sequel, immediately finishing the only survivor from the first film. Admittedly, her being targeted makes sense, but losing the one person who initially conquered Camp Crystal Lake makes the ending of the original all the bleaker.
2. Nancy Thompson
Survived: A Nightmare on Elm Street
A girl of only sixteen, Nancy displays courage and wisdom beyond her years when confronting the gruesome Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street. Despite facing a foe who attacks in dreams where he is nearly invincible, Nancy successfully holds her own against the twisted man. An ambiguous ending leaves some questions, but Nancy undoubtedly escapes her tormentor, and even indirectly aids the protagonists of the second movie through her journal.
Only To Die In: A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
Easy come, easy go. In the climax of the third entry, Nancy takes a lethal hit from Kruger's knives, but not before training the cast to fight back by controlling their dreams. Not only that, Nancy manages to impale Krueger with his own claw before succumbing to her injuries, letting her friends survive Krueger's onslaught.
1. Lila Crane
Alred Hitchcock's famous thriller Psycho, arguably the best horror film of its age, horrified an unsuspecting audience unused to such terrors. Killing off main character Marion Crane partway through in the iconic shower scene, Marion's sister Lila assumes the mantle and investigates her sister's death.
Lila quickly proves to be a headstrong and courageous woman, bravely pressing the search for her sister despite increasingly ominous circumstances. She finally uncovers the truth behind her sibling's murder before almost perishing herself, but is saved in the nick of time by Marion's boyfriend Sam.
Only To Die In: Psycho 2
Poor Lila. Poor, poor Lila. Our once-likable heroine not only dies in the sequel, but disgraces herself beforehand. Prior to being murdered by the mysterious killer, Lila relentlessly torments the new protagonist: a semi-reformed Norman Bates.
Lila has valid reasons for being upset with Norman, but she still comes across as hateful and villainous to poor Norman, who is genuinely trying to coexist peacefully. Lila not only dies, but diminishes our sympathy for her impressive feats in the first movie.
As if this isn't bad enough, the novel Psycho 2, which features an entirely separate plot from the film, also kills off Lila (and Sam). The destitute Crane family just can't catch a break.
Which character's death hit you the hardest?
While it's unfortunate that so many beloved heroes meet their end in their next appearance, the threat of death in thrillers makes the occasions where our protagonists survive all the more rewarding, and I'm as excited as ever for the future of horror movies.
As we eagerly await more anxiety-inducing nightmare fuel, vote for your favorite character, and I'll see you at our next movie countdown!
Questions & Answers
What is the best horror movie of all time?
Lots of people would say the Exorcist, but I disagree. Taking my bias into account here (I prefer movies where the killer is human or at least fallible), my favorites include The Strangers, Get Out, and The Descent.
© 2017 Jeremy Gill