Archetypal Heroes and Villains

From Patrick Luciano, Them or Us: Archetypal Interpretations of Fifties Alien Invasion Films (Indiana University Press, 1987), pg. 7.

The most important characteristic of the horror film is its emphasis on an alternate state of the actual world. In the horror films produced over the past fifty years one finds a exotic, often European setting and equally exotic characters, which coalesce to form as alternate world. Moreover, the monster/villain of the horror film represents what the film presumes to be absolute evil: am incarnation, as it were, of the devil. Set against this evil is the hero/protagonist, who represents what the film’s value system insists upon as absolute good; the hero, if not a representation of Christ, is at least an angel sent to combat evil through an apocalyptic confrontation.

…and from pp. 8-9…

Generally, the horror film offers two extremes of characterization, the embodiment of pure good and the embodiment of pure evil, the virtuous and the villainous. And traditionally, these extremes have been manifested, quite naturally, in the protagonist, or hero, and the monster/villain. Any examination of the horror film reveals such characters; notable are Dr. Van Helsing and Count Dracula in Fishers Horror of Dracula. It is important to note, moreover, that the heroes are not the youthful heroes of myth. They are often men of knowledge and experience; as David Pirie observed in the films of Terence Fisher, they are “Renaissance scholars, scientists and doctors”. Consequently the heroes and their nemeses approach the conflict as equals. The confrontation is often one of “wills” – the will of good against the will of evil – and not one that leads to the growth and understanding in the hero. Hence, the hero of the horror film emerges as the opposite (good/Christ) of the villain (evil/Satan).


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