Top Ten Horror Movie Sidekicks
Oh, horror sidekicks: the true unsung heroes and heroines of the genre. Sometimes, they hang around just to play best friend to the protagonist, offering moral support and possibly supplying an extra tally mark to the final body count. Other times, these bastions of storytelling stop by to wreak havoc as they serve the side of the villain. After all, everyone needs a good minion.
With so many great sidekicks to include, whittling this list down to only ten proved next to impossible, so a few of these entries include two characters. Add in the couple honorable mentions at the end, and this becomes a list of fifteen. But I figure it’s okay to commit a slight technicality to ensure a few more worthy contenders earn a spot. So here are the top ten horror movie sidekicks—plus the aforementioned extras. Enjoy the wise-crackers and weirdoes alike.
Jack Goodman in An American Werewolf in London
In many films, a sidekick’s primary function is to provide exposition and cut the tension, often through a healthy dose of comedy relief. As such, Griffin Dunne’s Jack Goodman fulfills the role with aplomb. He might be dead, but that doesn’t dampen his sense of humor. When you’re feeling down, he’ll take you to a movie, though his solution to your problems might also involve suicide, so it’s a mixed bag. If nothing else, his decomp makeup should put a smile on the face of any old school horror fan. As I lamented in my ode to CGI-free makeup, Hollywood doesn’t design divine grisly monsters like they used to.
Renfield in Dracula
Horror pop quiz—name the actor who co-starred in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Invisible Man. Even if you couldn’t formulate a response to the question, hopefully you’ll recognize the answer: Dwight Frye. This terminally underrated character actor appeared in some of Universal’s major horror flagships, though the studio cut—and proceeded to lose—the bulk of his role in Bride.
However, beyond the ballad Alice Cooper dedicated to him, Frye is best remembered as the vampire sidekick with a penchant for flies. The asylum scene during which Renfield rattles off a list of pets he’d like to kill, er, keep remains one of the creepiest moments in horror cinema. As a kid, I was terrified someone would actually give him an unsuspecting feline. If they did, hopefully it would be Jezebel, our honorable mention sidekick from The Sentinel. A Dracula henchman versus Satan’s personal rescue cat? That sounds like a horror bout for the gore-laden ages.
Evil Ed Thompson in Fright Night
Fright Night’s Evil Ed makes a great sidekick. But to whom he pledges his allegiance is a tenuous matter. He starts out devoted to best friend Charley Brewster, but Ed eventually falls under the thrall of a vampiric Chris Sarandon. But then again, who hasn’t?
In creating this list, the only Ed who deserves a mention is Stephen Geoffreys’ portrayal in the 1985 version. While Christopher Mintz-Plasse took a good shot in the 2011 release, he lacks his predecessor’s frenetic angst, and the remake’s flashback home movie footage isn’t enough to craft the same dynamic that the Geoffreys’ Ed and William Ragsdale’s Charley effortlessly shared in the original. Somewhere along the line, Hollywood apparently developed amnesia to what makes horror work so well. It’s not gloss and slickness; it’s the humanity lost. That’s what sends a film ricocheting into the stratosphere of awesome. And the same goes for cool sidekicks.
Torgo in Manos: The Hands of Fate
Often christened the worst movie ever made, Manos is not entertaining in any conventional sense. That being said, as far as Igor-esque sidekicks go, Torgo is probably the wackiest. Wearing a dirty outback hat before Crocodile Dundee made it cool, this minion sports backward satyr legs and uses an old school wooden staff. His halting cadence sounds almost otherworldly, moving up and down the musical scale like a version of “Do-Re-Mi” gone terribly wrong. Best of all, whenever Torgo hobbles anywhere, the film’s sound department (meaning a hamster in a wheel) decided to insert what I like to term “Torgo’s Love Theme”: a grating, white noise-laden wail, most likely courtesy of some kind of extraterrestrial string instrument.
Torgo pledges allegiance to “the Master”, a goober of a villain who sits around as his bevy of good-looking wives gets into cat fights. Okay, that might not sound so bad, but the movie proceeds at such a deliberate pace, even the otherwise hot girl-on-girl action can’t save it. Still, Torgo does do his best to salvage this mess from the celluloid crapper and instead send it soaring into the land of “WTF did I just watch?” Spend ninety minutes observing him, and you start to feel like Manos is a form of post-modern Theatre of the Absurd. Move over, Godot. We’re “Waiting for Torgo”.
Reggie in Phantasm
Reggie is fantastic for so many reasons. Grab your guitar, and he’ll be your duet partner. With his endless supply of bell bottoms and vests, he’s a sidekick you can—and quite frankly should—swap clothes with. The world might get wacky with flying spheres and sentient body parts, but does he panic? Nope, he jumps right on that supernatural bandwagon, forgoing the usual ‘this can’t be happening’ mentality and replacing it with ‘how can we fix this mess?’ He’s even willing to take up the mantle and care for your brat kid brother if you decide to inexplicably vanish in a poof of third act insanity. Plus, when things turn out really rotten, he delivers a truckful of ice cream to lift your spirits. Best. Sidekick. Ever.
Fritz/Igor in Frankenstein/Young Frankenstein
Over the years, the mad scientist’s lab assistant has become a rather beloved trope in science fiction and horror. Although no comparable character exists in the Frankenstein novel, that doesn’t stop filmmakers from depositing Igor in a sidecar whenever a crazed doctor lights up the lab equipment. In the original 1931 film, however, the wicked assistant eschews the moniker of Igor and goes by the rather blasé name of Fritz. Another indelible performance from Dwight Frye, Fritz is a nasty sort of fellow, taunting the creature with fire and harsh words. Of course, Boris Karloff’s green-faced and bolt-necked darling manages to get the upper hand, and Fritz meets a maker of a different kind.
Conversely, Mel Brooks crafted a scientific underling with impeccable comic timing as well as an alternating hump. In Young Frankenstein, comedian Marty Feldman plays Igor (pronounced “Eye-gore”) and proves that not every assistant is an evildoer. In fact, some minions look rather fetching in a tux and tails.
Tatum in Scream
Final Girls always get the best sidekicks. From Lynda and Annie in Halloween to Kia and Gibb in Freddy Versus Jason, these are the boundary-crossing ladies who aren’t afraid to get their freak on, even if said offenses earn them the ire of the chaste-loving killer.
Long before Rose McGowan became a victim of the “Where are they now?” game, she played Tatum Riley, one of the preeminent Final Girl sidekicks. She’s feisty, uncompromising, and boasts a killer wardrobe filled with colorful nineties fashions. The best piece in her closet has to be the awesome Magic Eye skirt she wears during her fight with a doggie exit. Sadly, great threads can’t save you from an Edvard Munch-inspired maniac operating a malfunctioning garage door, which should have automatically retracted when it hit something. So Scream’s take-home message? When faced with the same dire scenario, be sure to think of an alternate escape plan.
The Frog Brothers in The Lost Boys
In Joel Schumacher’s vampire opus, the Frog Brothers carry the bloodsucking action from their scenery-chewing comic book store introduction all the way through the epically 80s final battle. In essence, these two were the California surfer versions of Rupert Giles way back before everyone was desperate to dig up lore on vampires.
In a role readymade for Corey Feldman, he’s perfect as the serpentine Edgar Frog. Despite his filmography that features Gremlins and two entries in the Friday the 13th series, it’s easy to forget that Feldman has something of a horror pedigree due to the drugs derailing and overshadowing his once promising career. So basically, he’s Robert Downey, Jr. without the Tony Stark comeback. The lesser-known Frog, Jamison Newlander plays the equally hardcore Alan, and together, the siblings epitomize intensity, but that just makes their rapport all the more entertaining. Nothing beats the montage of them helping Corey Haim’s Sam prepare for combat with the army of teen vampires. I personally drew inspiration from these scenes anytime I had to overcome a legion of Twilight fans at the cineplex. Good stuff to keep a horror fan focused in the face of insurmountable odds.
John and Bill in Day of the Dead
Another twofer, this pair serves as the token international element of George Romero’s Day of the Dead. In the provisional community, Jamaican John and Irish Bill are the only ones who seem to have clear purposes as the resident pilot and radio expert respectively. Of course, our heroine Sarah puts in a hard day’s work herself as her group of scientists attempts to tame a horde of zombies, but other than Bub, the team seems to be failing wholesale.
In addition to their useful occupations, John and Bill make good on their sidekick status. They advise Sarah when no one else can, and when they’ve got no further counsel, they dole out a highball of liquor instead. While the subterranean hell looms as a stark reminder of the abject apocalypse in which they’re all trapped, John and Bill create an oasis of their own, fashioning a modular home into makeshift beachfront property. And when things really go south, these two pull the situation together, help Sarah escape, and find a true fun-in-the-sun sanctuary. Undead holocaust or not, every person could use a couple sidekicks like that.
Amanda Young in the Saw franchise
Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of the Saw movies. After viewing the first one in theaters back in 2004, I’ve been incredibly lukewarm to the whole Rube Goldberg butchery scheme. Still, when it comes to horror sidekicks, Shawnee Smith’s Amanda Young is one of the best. An ever-eager disciple, she fully devotes herself to Jigsaw, desperate to please him no matter how gruesome the antics. After he placed custom-fit jaws of death on her head, Amanda learned to appreciate life more, and there’s no expiration date on the allegiance to a serial killer who assists with that realization. Just ask The Mentalist’s Red John devotees. And if not for the former drug habit that ultimately thwarts her, Amanda is the underling every horror villain longs to have.
Honorable Mention: Jezebel in The Sentinel
Taking the title of Cat from Hell a bit too literally, Jezebel is not your typical domestic pet. Residing in a rent-controlled Big Apple brownstone that happens to be a portal to Hades, the black and white cutie serves as a steadfast assistant to her diabolical owner, played by Burgess Meredith. Together, they terrorize already-fragile model Alison Parker with their unearthly bird-killing tomfoolery. No word on what condemned this feline to the underworld, but one would have to assume the offense was a little worse than clawing up the loveseat.
Honorable Mention: Animala in The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra
I’m almost loathe to include Animala, the only character in cinematic history who’s a composite of four woodland creatures. For one, Lost Skeleton is a bit too sci-fi and fantasy to earn the horror moniker. Moreover, Animala is her own woman-cat, not simply serving the agenda of an overlord. But the villainous Roger does create her explicitly for the purpose of having a minion, so she deserves a brief yet meaningful mention.
As a throwback to the monster movies of the 1950s, this film is a laugh riot with Animala (undercover person name: Pammy) as a central reason it works so well. Her inability to blend with human counterparts—Roger and the eponymous skeleton create her five minutes before trying to infiltrate a scientist’s haphazard operation—acts as a perfect foil to the supernatural and extraterrestrial shenanigans. And as a bonus, she does a killer avant-garde dance that would inspire any wannabe beatnik to learn her moves. Rowr.
Who’s your favorite horror sidekick? Let me know in the comments below!