Sommerleigh Pollonais, Horror Head Writer
Let me start by saying I’ve never had to deal with being disabled. I’ve never broken a bone, or had an injury that affected me for a long enough period of time to cause any real handicap in my daily life, so I’m not even gonna pretend to act like I know what that feels like. What I DO know is, it’s not disrespectful to acknowledge the day-to-day activities we take for granted are a lot more difficult for those who are disabled. And it’s also not hard to imagine if the monsters and mayhem of horror movies existed in the real world people with disabilities would be the first to go, right?
Or maybe, just maybe, they would show you what a true badass really looks like! Here are my TOP 10 DISABLED HEROES IN HORROR MOVIES!
Side Note: While we’ve seen a great push for proper representation in films, there’s still a long way to go, so not every actor/actress here is disabled in real life. I chose the movies below for representing them in a positive light and for showing them not as some sort of weird superheroes, but as real people who tap into their courage and turn the tables on those who would underestimate them. Now on to the list.
#10 Preston Rogers, Abominable
This is one of those lesser-known horror movies and the kind only people like myself, who devour horror flicks on a weekly basis, tend to come across. It’s a 2006 creature feature about a paraplegic who moves into a remote cabin to recover, only to realise a Sasquatch (or Yeti, depending on which part of the world you hail from) is stalking the woods and a group of teenage girls have just run out of Jack Link’s Beef Jerky (anyone else remember those ads?). That is to say, Mr Sasquatch is on the prowl.
Actor Matt McCoy (The Hand that Rocks the Cradle) does a great job of portraying a newly-disabled person, struggling not just with his grief over losing his wife, but with his “limitations”. He’s in the middle of nowhere and his nurse is an ass of a human being who doesn’t believe him, but he finds his inner strength and saves the day. Considering he’s in the middle of the damn woods going up against freakin’ Bigfoot without a wheelchair ramp in sight, I would call that truly impressive.
The movie itself is also a hoot guys, with some great creature effects and loads of genuine suspense, so check it out if you haven’t already.
#9 Ash Williams, Evil Dead II/Army of Darkness
The Evil Dead movies are iconic in so many ways and for so many reasons, two of which are featuring one of the coolest heroes wearing one of the best prosthetics ever! Ash and his signature chainsaw arm go hand in hand (cringe-y pun intended). When his hand becomes possessed in Evil Dead II, Ashley Williams does the only sane thing an insane person could think of and cuts that sucker off. What starts off as a loss in Evil Dead II is quickly embraced in all its awesome glory in the sequel Army of Darkness, and the horror world was never the same again. Groovy indeed!
#8 Vreiss, Alien Resurrection
Say what you will about Alien Resurrection (and boy oh boy is there a lot that can be said) the space mercenaries weren’t the worst thing about this movie. Most of them had their signature cyberpunk look, but no other seemed as cool to me as actor Dominque Pinon’s Vreiss. With his diminutive stature and raspy voice you might be quick to dismiss him, but Vreiss’s wheelchair was an extension of this space pirate’s personality, hiding an arsenal of weapons that said “you’re gonna have to work hard for this meal, bitches!”
#7 Allan Mann, Monkey Shines
One of the most underrated movies of the 80s, George Romero’s Monkey Shines tells the story of a man struck down by a truck and left quadriplegic. He’s given a cute but crazy murderous little monkey who’s more or less a metaphor for his frustrations and rage.
As ridiculous as the premise is on the surface, this genre classic does a wonderful job of showing the difficulties of living as a quadriplegic. And watching Jason Beghe’s character overcome his depression and his psychic connection to a serial-killing simian (I know, I know, but I swear this movie is awesome!) is entertaining as hell. Plus his compelling performance is all an integral part of how good this movie turned out to be.
#6 Ambrose, Late Phases
This is another classic man vs monster movie, this time with the added twist of having our hero be blind. Yes, he’s blind and elderly but this army vet is no pushover. And when he realises the retirement community he lives in is being used as an all-you-can-eat diner every 30 days (or every full moon phase) he proves, disabled or not, your military instincts never truly go away.
While the movie itself is rough actor Nick Damici, who plays the vet Ambrose, is great here and does a fantastic job of showing disabilities may make people underestimate you (or in this case, werewolves) which in itself can be a helluva a weapon.
He might be blind, but it’s the monster who’ll never see him coming!
#5 Marty, Silver Bullet
Another werewolf learns the hard way that what seems like a handicap could be the end of your furry fanged ass.
Silver Bullet, an adaption of the Stephen King novella of the same name, is one of my all-time favourite werewolf movies for so many reasons. Let’s go through the list: it has a great whodunit, as we try to figure out who in the town is wolfing out and killing the locals; there’s one of the most memorable and fun performances by a man who makes going crazy seem like an awesome time, Gary Busey; and of course, Corey Haim as our young hero who made being in a wheelchair seem like the coolest thing ever. I know that sounds like I’m being insensitive, but I promise you I’m not. As a youngster, seeing Corey’s character Marty zoom around town while he tried to prove a killer werewolf was on the loose made me want to be just like him. His disability in this movie is not treated like one, and instead it’s a weapon of sorts (think Tony Stark) and for those paying attention, it’s the REAL Silver Bullet that ultimately takes out monster. Damn I love this movie!
#4 Paul Sheldon, Misery
Not all disabilities are permanent and sometimes an injury can lay you up. And, depending on how severe it is, you may find yourself having to overcome said injury to get back to your normal life.
Hopefully one of the things you won’t have to overcome is a crazed fan who has you trapped in her home as she forces you to give her the ending she desires for her favourite character in your book.
In Misery, the temporarily disabled Paul Sheldon (James Caan) proves when it comes to your survival, there’s no amount of pain you can’t overcome.
Editor Jules side note: Misery turned 30 last November. Happy belated birthday you glorious movie! Now back to Sommer and number three on this list.
#3 Reagan, A Quiet Place
One of the most successfully immersive horror movies out there, A Quiet Place goes the extra mile by casting real life deaf actress Millicent Simmonds as Reagan, a young girl living in a world where silence is the key to survival.
Simmonds is wonderful in this role and her layered performance, as well as the real dangers associated with her disability, makes you the viewer genuinely terrified for her. But it turns out though that Reagan’s deafness might just be the key to destroying the monsters that plague this world. And I can’t wait to see how she factors into this when Part 2 drops this year.
#2 Maddie, Hush
Mike Flanagan (Absentia, Oculus, Before I Wake, Ouija: Origin of Evil, Gerald’s Game, Doctor Sleep) is a modern-day Master of Horror, and Hush is one of his finest works to date. It stars his wife Kate Siegel as Maddie, a deaf-mute writer living in a secluded home, unaware there’s a masked killer on the loose. And once Maddie crosses his path, he thinks he has himself the perfect plaything.
I could go on and on about this masterpiece of a thriller including its great sound design (we hear everything until the sounds fall away as Flanagan puts us in Maddie’s shoes), but it’s Kate Siegel’s performance that’s my focus here, and Maddie is a great example of strength in the face of dire circumstances. She turns the cat-and-mouse game started by the killer right back on him and utilises her disabilities as a weapon which he never expected to go up against. Nora Ephon said “above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.” If that quote was a person, it would be Maddie.
#1 Chloe, Run
Coming out just last year, Run made a significant impact on me as a clever and suspenseful film that feels like a mashup of Rear Window and Misery. It’s the story of a paraplegic teenager who discovers her mother might be keeping a terrible secret from her. Actress Kiera Allen makes her film debut here and totally nails the character of Chloe. The fact that she’s paraplegic in real life makes the physical demands put on her by this role and her performance even more impressive. Just check out the scene where she escapes from her locked room via the roof of her house and you’ll see exactly what I mean.
Showing without a doubt why representation is so important, Run is an instant classic and a great addition to this unique sub-genre of thrillers.
In conclusion: In the past, a lot of genre films depicted disabled persons as either monsters or victims that are easily picked off. So it’s great to see that as time has gone by, more and more movies are making the shift to showing disabled protagonists in a positive light. Here’s to more stories and performances like these, keeping that ball moving in the right direction.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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