Horror films and revenge go hand-in-hand. It’s almost a perfect combination. Many, if not most, horror fans have felt ostracized at one time or another. Our interests are uncommon and people love to label them as dangerous. We’ve all been teased and ridiculed for being fans, whether in a friendly manner or an aggressive one. It goes beyond that, too.
People can be bullied for any reason, for aspects of their personality, for their race, sexuality, gender, home life, financial situation—bullies will grasp onto any reason they can come up with. Horror is a genre for the outcasts, the ostracized, so it only makes sense that there would be multiple features in the genre would deal with the subject directly.
Each of these features deal with the subject of bullying in different ways. They each have their own approach to revenge as well. Some are extremely personal, like Valentine or The Craft. Others, like Carrie, aren’t. In that instance, the character is bullied so relentlessly that she lashes out at everything around her. All of it. She’s just taking the whole school down. In the novel, she destroys the entire town as well.
Ultimately, these are the things that make them each interesting and make the outcast revenge genre so powerful.
The Rage: Carrie 2
Let’s start off with a not-so-obvious choice. The Rage gets a lot of crap and to an extent, I understand that. Nobody wanted a sequel to Carrie. It’s such an iconic movie on its own. But the sequel tackles a very different kind of high school atmosphere as well as a different kind of bullying. It’s about how terrible teenage guys are to teenage girls and on that level it stands apart.
The backstory for Terror Train is so specific that it’s really obvious who the killer is long before he’s revealed—but the reveal itself is great. Plus, the masquerade element helps it maintain a sense of mystery. It’s not about who the killer is, but “What mask are they wearing now?” But the prank that’s pulled on this guy is so gross and disturbing that you have to sympathize with him a bit.
Despite its “killer phone” gimmick, 976-EVIL is basically the male version of Carrie. It’s about a high school loser who’s relentlessly picked on and gains the power to take revenge. He even has a delusional and uber-religious mother to top it off. But it’s such a fun, funny movie that makes me wish Robert Englund had directed more. Plus, Stephen Geoffreys gives an unapologetic scene-chewing performance.
Here we even have a male take on Carrie from its original author, Stephen King. It’s a love story between a boy and his car, but Arnie Cunningham is a loser who’s certainly targeted by bullies—in particular the psychotic Buddy Repperton. Arnie gets his revenge in the form of his new car, which will do anything to stand up for him. In general, it’s absolutely one of John Carpenter’s most unsung films.
Valentine is clearly a movie that hinges on the concept of bullying and revenge, right from the opening scene. These kids relentlessly picked on a loser at a middle school dance and, years later, he hasn’t forgotten. Instead, he’s infiltrated their lives to make each of them pay for something they did as children. This one has flaws, sure, but it doesn’t get the credit it deserves for being so entertaining, or for sticking such an impressive ending.
Let the Right One In
Let the Right One In is a love story about a boy who wants more than anything to kill his bullies and the genderless vampire who tells him it’s okay, and she can show him how. At the same time, it’s incredibly sympathetic and romantic. There’s so much genuine emotion in this movie and it looks at some of the most uncomfortable stages of adolescence in a way that few features do.
One of the neat things about The Craft is that each of these girls are bullied for different reasons. Sarah is pressured into sex and then slut-shamed even though all she did was fight off an attempted rape. Rochelle is bullied just because she’s black, Bonnie is picked on for her shyness and physical scars, and Nancy has to deal with an abusive home life. Through witchcraft, they each start to make things turn around for themselves—and naturally end up paying a price for too much power.
Obviously, the crowning jewel of outcast revenge is Brian De Palma’s Carrie. It’s a sleek, stylish movie that’s a masterpiece in terms of the story, the acting, and on a technical level as well. Sissy Spaceck and Piper Laurie give powerhouse performances for which they were both nominated for Oscars.