Horror films are filled with terrifying bad guys, yet, even though they’re driven by the fear inspired by those bad guys, many also contain their share of moral ambiguity. What if some of the creeps, monsters and killers are actually justified in what they do? Some of the best — and scariest — killers have, from a certain point of view, every right to be murdering. Are some of them acting out of self-defense? Are they just doing their job? Are they trying to right a wrong with an eye for an eye? You can judge for yourself, but here are some movie killers who might not look quite so evil upon closer examination.
The Shark in Jaws
Known affectionately as “Bruce” by Jaws‘ production team, the killer shark who terrorizes beachgoers in Amity serves as Chief Brody’s nemesis and Quint’s ultimate prize. Bruce ruthlessly kills young women, children — and probably even a few dogs. But when all is said and done, isn’t Bruce just a shark being a shark? Maybe Bruce the Shark was confused and scared that he’d been swimming around like he does every single day and then suddenly — “Wow! What is this beautiful gourmet morsel of meat here? I’ve never seen anything like this before! And so colorful!” Can you really blame a shark for following its natural instincts?
Mrs. Voorhees in Friday the 13th
Jason Voorhees is the best-known killer in the Friday the 13th series, and justifiably so, having donned the hockey mask in most of the films. But it’s Jason’s mother Pamela (played by veteran character actress Betsy Palmer) who does the killing in the first film, released in 1980. Having been driven mad by the negligent behavior of the camp counselors who decided to get nasty at a party rather than care for her disabled son, Pamela decides to exact revenge. This doesn’t totally excuse her behavior, but it at least gives her killing a sympathetic motive. She’s not a senseless psychopath as much as a mom blinded by her grief. In any other movie but a horror movie, she’d be Liam Neeson!
The Alien Queen in Aliens
Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) maternal instincts transferred from Jones the cat in Alien to the human girl Newt in Aliens, so it makes sense that when the alien queen got a little testy (and murdery), so did Ripley. But isn’t the queen doing exactly what Ripley was doing by protecting her offspring? The xenomorphs are clearly the biggest threat to the humans in the Alien franchise, but at the same time, humans are the biggest threat them. And it’s not as if the queen can wrangle up Brent Spiner to use as a ventriloquist’s dummy like the alien in Independence Day and express her feelings in a language that humans can understand. Sure, she resorts to violent measures to protect her eggs, but what mother traveling through space wouldn’t?
Leatherface in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
It’s one of the most disturbing and depraved horror movies ever made, but it all comes down to family in Tobe Hooper’s 1974 shocker The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. They’re not the most cuddly family; in fact, they could be classified as abusive towards one of their own: Leatherface. But what if, as others have suggested, Leatherface’s homicidal actions were done at the insistence of his inbred, outcast elders, who at one point worked at a slaughterhouse and killed for a living? The man who played Leatherface, Gunnar Hansen, has said that his character was at the mercy of his feral family and followed their orders to kill strangers out of fear. Leatherface probably also had the mind of a child and is often described as being “mentally impaired.” Director Tobe Hooper said in the documentary Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth that Leatherface was no more than a “big baby” who was frightened of strangers and acted in self-defense. Honestly, considering that family, is that really a surprise? I’d say to get that poor guy a puppy, but he’d probably kill it. It’s all he knows how to do.
Zombies in Anything
As scary and dangerous as they are, zombies are also blameless. For one thing, they’re undead victims who likely died unexpected and sudden deaths at the hands of other zombies. That wasn’t their fault. And dead people are bound to be a little worse for wear after, you know, dying. So pardon their horrifying appearance, won’t you? As for the hunger for brains and the blood of the living, they’re just trying to satisfy their most basic needs. They can’t help it if those needs are really inconvenient for the rest of the living. So stop being so selfish, you jerks! Flip the script on The Walking Dead or Night of the Living Dead and it’s like a Dickensian tragedy. They’re coming to get you, Barbara… because they need a snack! They’re just hungry. Very, very hungry.
Seth Brundle in The Fly
His first crime was being careless: One last check before embarking on an ultra-risky science experiment that involves taking your body apart and reassembling it in another location would have saved a lot of people a lot of trouble, namely you, Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum). But when Brundle was mutated into the Brundlefly after his “test drive” went awry, were any of the actions that followed really out of some homicidal malice? Or was he just being true to his newly-acquired insect nature? True, he got a little cocky when he realized he had enhanced physical strength and snapped a guy’s arm during arm wrestling, and he sure as heck got paranoid about his lover, Veronica (Geena Davis). But Brundle was also becoming an animal that only lives for a couple of weeks and does nothing but mate and eat garbage, so are we supposed to be mad that the Brundlefly has embraced YOLO like no one else?