Welcome to 2023, Nostalgia Nuggets! It’s my New Year’s resolution to write more, so the curtain shall rise on a fresh top five from a new horror(ish) category every Sunday beginning right now. So, if you’d be so kind, come with me for a minute.
I am fully prepared for the crucifixions to come, beginning with this inaugural list you’ll be dissecting momentarily. But before we begin, just know two things:
First, I love alliteration (and JAWS) so for a serial that deals in fives the title and image just made sense. Second, though this piece pertains to characters from John Carpenter movies, I’d be remiss if I neglect to mention Debra Hill because without Debra Hill, there would be no John Carpenter.
Now, if you don’t mind, let’s dig in because “I’d rather not spend the rest of this winter TIED TO THIS FUCKING COUCH!”
5 — NAPOLEON WILSON (DARWIN JOSTON) — ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976)
Napoleon Wilson’s reputation preceded him. It was never specified what put him on death row, but it was clear that the mere mention of his name struck fear into the hearts of criminals and cops alike. Mysterious yet honorable with a dry sense of humor that pulled you in whether you liked it or not, Darwin Joston ATE as Napoleon Wilson. The man may have been a killer, but he had a code: give respect, get respect. Clearly disarmed when Bishop (Austin Stoker) apologized for not having a smoke, Wilson demonstrated courageous dedication to both the makeshift leader of Precinct 13 and Leigh (Laurie Zimmer), who finally provided Wilson with that long-awaited smoke. It was a loyalty that belied desire for pleasure or escape, because it was about the two things a man should never run from — and those two things landed Wilson on this list.
4 — DR. SAM LOOMIS (DONALD PLEASENCE) — HALLOWEEN (1978)
“I met him, 15 years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding in even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this… six-year-old child with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and… the blackest eyes – the Devil’s eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up, because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.”
Some might call it fancy talk, but this single moment encapsulated Loomis’ obsession, the driving force behind one of the finest films (and performances) in horror history.
3 — R.J. MacREADY (KURT RUSSELL) — THE THING (1982)
A former Vietnam helicopter pilot and functioning alcoholic who needed to get away from the world — only a little further than most. Mac just wanted to avoid whiteouts and sip J&B in his annexed shack outside Outpost 31 in Antarctica, but after setting out to “save those crazy Swedes” — one of whom shot Mac’s crew mate — strange discoveries began weighing on MacReady’s mind. When it becomes clear that an alien is targeting the camp to mimic and survive, Mac assumes the role of reluctant leader to a crew descending into desperation and distrust. In a stellar ensemble cast, Russell shines as the would-be hero in the wrong place at the right time.
2 — LAURIE STRODE (JAMIE LEE CURTIS) — HALLOWEEN (1978)
“Who needs books?” We thought we were getting to know Lynda when P.J. Soles delivered that dialogue, but in a way she was describing Laurie: never judge a book by its cover. Audiences were led to believe that Strode was apprehensive and meek, but nothing could have been further from the truth. When the chips were on the table, the old Girl Scout not only protected the children under her care but outfought and out-thought the Boogeyman. In the process Laurie Strode became the blueprint by which all horror heroines are judged. As James Jude Courtney, Blumhouse’s Michael Myers has said, Jamie Lee Curtis is “the poster child for an empowered woman”, and has silver on lock.
1 — THE SHAPE (NICK CASTLE) — HALLOWEEN (1978)
We weren’t given much. Michael Myers stabbed his sister to death on Halloween night in 1963, spent the next 15 years at the Smith’s Grove Sanitarium waiting for a silent alarm to trigger him off, and apparently he could drive. But the absence of background and development was why we were fascinated in 1978 and remain so today. In the Haddonfield created by Carpenter (and Hill), evil was a force of nature. Forever lurking. Everywhere. Unstoppable. As a fleshed out character, The Shape has no business on this list let alone topping it, but 44 years after The Babysitter Murders we remain fascinated–nay, obsessed–with a character who has come to define the genre.
Agree? Disagree? Who’d we miss? The floor is open for debate, but know this: my original intent was to drop five characters from five different flicks. However, there was no way I could justify abandoning one of the immortal classic’s three titans.
Till next week…ta-ta.