Top 5 Face Turns in Horror
If you're not familiar with the term "face turn" I'll explain. In wrestling good guys are babyfaces or just faces, while bad guys are heels. So a face turn is when a bad guy suddenly becomes a good guy. I live for those moments.
You get them in horror franchises sometimes as well. Some villains that start off as, well, deranged murderers completely morph into the heroes as the franchise goes on. It's understandable. As a franchise progresses oft-times the bad guy is the only constant link, and audiences just begin to identify with him or her more.
Or, you know, lazy writers. That happens, too. Regardless, here are my favorite face turns in horror just in time for the horror movie Halloween season.
See also: Jason Voorhees: Dark Christ Figure?
5. Terminator: You could argue that Terminator isn't really a horror film, and that the sequels are definitely not, but I always felt that Arnold's killer robot deserved to be considered more of a Michael Meyers figure than anything else. Unstoppable, terrifying, and he even succumbs to the "unmask the killer" trope at the end.
Then T2 rolled around, and at the time we all thought it was awesome that Arnold was now on the side of good. If nothing else it birthed the greatest car chase scene in decades, though it was also responsible for some of the worst hackneyed adolescent dialogue on the planet until Episode I debuted.
In the end, I think turning our killer into the hero was a mistake. We went from an inhuman menace to a wooden action hero. While it was innovative at the time, and completely unexpected, it eventually drained the franchise of any sense of looming horror that had made the first film so terrific.
4. Hellraiser: Pinhead is one of the great epic villains. He's the Lord of Hell, or at least a reasonable facsimile there of. Unlike the silent stalkers and the quippy jokers, he knows how to make an entrance and bust out some real eloquence to go with the murder chain-hooks. He is, to quote my best friend in tenth grade, metal as shit.
In Hellraiser II: Hellbound we get a look at the man that became the leader of the Cenobites. He was Elliot Spencer, a soldier who lost his faith in God at the Battle of Flanders. Kirsty Cotton reminds him of his past thanks to an old photograph, and the revelation inspires Pinhead to lead a revolt against the newly-created and distinctly rapey/murdery Channard Cenobite.
Unfortunately, Spencer gets pretty much immediately bitchslapped to death in a very anticlimactic way that completely negates the awesome, "Let's go Team Torture" moment we had just moments earlier. The face turn doesn't last, though it did lead to some awesome moments in the next film when Pinhead and Spencer are separated from each other. Best part of a film that is otherwise made up of bad puns and stupid theme-deaths.
Piece continues on next page.
3. Prophecy: Is there any more believable bad guy in the world than Christopher Walken? The Prophecy series was epic stuff to my angsty teenage '90s brain, all war in the Heavens and dark angels and Lucifer actually being sort of alright. It was basically everything a Baby Goth could want.
The films follow the angel Gabriel (Walken) as he seeks to start a second war in Heaven. Walken was an intense figure for the first two films, casually murdering and manipulating as he went with single-minded purpose. The all of a sudden the third film rolls around and he's become a human who seeks to atone for his crimes. Yeah, it's a pretty cliché little trilogy, but the redemptive figure that Walken becomes is such a victory after his murderous and misplace rage in the first two films that you root for it.
If you've never absorbed the first three Prophecy films, then I highly recommend making an evening out of it. It's like Star Wars for spooky kids.
See also: 10 Most Half-Ass Movie Monsters
2. Puppet Master: When it comes to face turns, almost no one did it harder than Andre Toulon and his sadistic puppet army. The first two of the acclaimed Charles Band series were as straight up frightening as anything you could ever want. Toulon trapped souls in the little wooden forms and they carried out his evil will. Perfect stuff.
How do you turn that around? One word; Nazis. By the third film we get a look at Toulon as a kindly toymaker under the Nazi regime. Those fascist bastards take everything from him, and soon he is waging the just war against Hitler's dream. Next thing you know we get two more films and Toulon's legacy is a puppet himself, and he takes a young man under his wing to fight demons. If you run out of Nazis, go with demons. I've always said that. Man, these films kick so much ass.
1. Godzilla: The King of Monsters is also the King of Face Turns. People forget, but the original Gojira is a straight up horror flick, and a really good one to boot. Maybe it's not scary for the nuclear desensitized audience of today, but I remember seeing it as a young child. That form looming out of the darkness, the army powerless to resist the creature, the hopeless subtext that you can't escape. Brilliant stuff.
Though he continued to be a threat to humanity in the first couple of sequels, by the time Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster rolls around Godzilla had more or less become the hero of the films, defending us from worse rubber-suited monsters. Various attempts at turning the character back into a heel have been attempted like Return of Godzilla, but it always eventually reverts to him playing fire-breathing big brother beating up the bad guy who took our dolly.
I find it to be weirdly ironic that a symbol of the unstoppable force of nuclear power always ends up being our playful servant. This explains a lot of human history, actually. Well, it explains all the bits that ended up on fire at any rate.
Get the Theater and Arts Newsletter
Exclusive discounts and announcements to Houston theater shows and art events