Joss Whedon: 7 Horror Movie Characters I Love
Ash the Android (Ian Holm), Alien
''He's so unexpected, he's so genteel,'' says Whedon. ''When he says [of the alien], 'I admire its purity,' I saw a piece of humanity that I'd never seen before. All of a sudden, everything he did made perfect, logical sense.'' But why not choose Sigourney Weaver's Ripley? ''In Alien, you don't necessarily look to Ripley and go, 'Well, she's going to make it, because she's got something nobody else has,''' he says. ''You're pretty sure Tom Skerritt's going to make it out of there, because he's a strapping, handsome man. Ripley in Aliens became [the main hero]. But in Alien Ian was the one who really stayed with me.''
Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith), The Blob
''She's a cheerleader, she's intelligent, she's motivated, she's trying to kill the thing, she has a machine gun, and I love her. I had a picture of her toting a machine gun which took me months to find — when you actually went into stores to find pictures. I had it framed on my desk the entire time I was running Buffy. She's just tough as nails and sympathetic and lovely, and definitely a seminal character for me.''
Priest (Donald Pleasance), Prince of Darkness
''I know that there was a lot more to him as an actor than being portentous in John Carpenter films. But I never loved him being portentous in John Carpenter films more than in Prince of Darkness. The way he describes evil is just so exciting. I think ultimately there was probably a camp element to the idea of him in these movies. But he was really, really good, really solid. Prince of Darkness doesn't totally hold together, but it still has some amazing thrills. Just the idea behind it is so genuinely creepy, the idea that we told humankind that evil was within us, because we didn't want to reveal that it was actually in the basement of this church, as a living thing. That really works for me. Donald was brilliant.''
Taryn White (Jennifer Rubin), A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
''She was just so bad-ass. It changed the dynamic of the horror movie in a way that I very much appreciate — the idea that the people facing horror could be empowered by it and confront what they were fighting, and at least temporarily stronger than it. It's very ur-Buffy as well.''
R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), The Thing
''There's no way I'm not going to go with Kurt Russell in The Thing. It is one of the most important, beautiful, elegant, and disturbing movies. And I think Kurt Russell is among the most underrated actors out there. He's so fierce. It took what is essentially a science-fiction premise and made essentially a thriller with it. Even though it's got horror and science fiction in it, it's really a thriller. It's really almost a whodunit. I think everybody's expecting jump-out-at-you chills, and instead you get much more intrigue.''
Marty (Fran Kranz), The Cabin in the Woods
''It's probably cheating to include Fran Kranz,'' says Whedon, who co-wrote and produced the meta-horror-movie. ''But I might have to. I think that's a landmark performance. He's just hilarious and soulful. If you spend your life being comic relief, of course you're going to write a movie where [the comic relief becomes the hero]. He has a clarity of perspective. What he's talking about at the beginning of the movie is what the movie's about. He doesn't go [in stoner-speak], 'I'm going to make stupid pot jokes and then, totally, I'm going to turn around and change.' He is the same guy throughout the whole movie.''
Monkey With a Razor Blade, Phenomena
''That movie is just so ridiculously chock-full of horror — there are terrible murders, Jennifer Connelly just happens to have control over insects, there's a crazy person living nearby. By the time you get to monkey with a razor blade [which saves Connelly's life], you're just like, 'Oh my god!' If you look at Cabin in the Woods, you can see the influence of, Oh, you mean you we can just never stop coming up with stuff? Now, there's a monkey with a razor blade in [the 1988 horror film] Monkey Shines, too. But the one in Phenomena is more sympathetic.''