I recently came across an article with list of horror villains who were supposedly ruined by having backstories. This honestly angered me because the way that article was written, it seemed like the writer didn’t even like horror films and didn’t care enough to see the significance of just how important the villains and their backstories are in the genre. It made me want to write this article and hopefully explain why a killer’s backstory isn’t so horrible to have.
This writer made it seem like the only thing villains are good for are killing and standing there looking scary and that’s it. He doesn’t believe there should be anything more to these characters. What he doesn’t get is that if you don’t add anything to the killers or their stories and you just have them kill people over and over again, it gets boring after a while. Especially, when there’s over 10 sequels that don’t add anything new to the table. It’s called “character development.” It happens in many franchises and it keeps the story interesting. Just because they’re the bad guys doesn’t mean they don’t have interesting backstories.
Jason’s story was all revealed at the very beginning of the franchise, so his following sequels were pretty repetitive and they don’t really add anything new except some really awesome kill scenes. Then, in one of his last films, we find out he had a sister that was NEVER mentioned before The Final Friday. They waited until the end of the franchise when people were no longer emotionally invested in his story. That’s not how you develop a character.
I guess they went the same way with Freddy and his surprise daughter. However, at least we learned a little more about Freddy with each Elm Street film. Then you have a franchise like Saw, which beautifully ties everything together and adds something new to John Kramer with every sequel. Jigsaw’s backstory is my favorite of all time! It was wonderfully crafted and very tragic.
I’m not saying that every villain has a fantastic backstory; I am saying that the complexity and the motivation of a killer shouldn’t be overlooked or criticized just because it’s a horror film. I do agree with the writer that it can be frustrating when new writers enter a horror franchise and try to change the backstory or add things that aren’t at all connected with previous installments in that franchise. Writers, you’re creating a continuation. Don’t try to confuse and anger your audience.
Oone thing I think this writer was trying to say is that when a killer has a tragic backstory, we feel more for the killer than the victims. When it comes to horror, that can actually be an easy thing to do, especially when the protagonists aren’t likable or the kind of characters you’d normally root for. The good guys are literally getting killed off in every film; the only characters that can actually develop with every sequel is the bad guys. (Excluding the Scream franchise, of course).
This may seem like I’m trying to find a deeper meaning to slasher films… because I am. I’m a horror fan. I can’t help but view horror films as more than just jump scares and gory special effects. I love a good backstory. I love to know what makes these killers the way they are. I love a good motivation, especially a good revenge plot. Those are the true layers I look for in a horror film. Who doesn’t love a good mystery? More importantly, why can’t horror films be more than what most people think they are?