The Cult of Badass: B-Movie Heroes, Anti-Heroes and All Around Bad Muthaf***ers

Rogues. Outlaw film critics. Grindhouse gunfighters armed with wordprocessors instead of .44’s. We’re not your average fanboys and geeks here at Rogue Cinema. The most prevalent question that I’m asked on a daily basis is “How can I too be a cult movie badass like you? I want to hang out with scream queens and B-movie luminaries the likes of Tom Savini and Phantasm’s Reggie Bannister. Tell us, film guru, how does one attain the coveted title of bad motherfucker?”

Okay, I’ll level with you. No one has ever asked me that. We here at Rogue Cinema really are just fanboys and geeks. The sad truth is that writers never get called “bad motherfucker” (with the exceptions of Hunter S. Thompson and Harlan Ellison). Like most film critics, I’m just a lucky fan with a computer, an opinion and a big DVD collection. So I will defer to some REAL cult movie badasses. These are the guys we all want to dress like. We repeat their memorable one-liners incessantly. When we see their movies we want to run out and buy guns or samurai swords. They make us want to radically alter our anatomy with power tools in the name of “cool.” Consider this list the John Shaft Awards for Bad Muthafuckery in a horror, sci-fi or cult film.

10. Dr. Sam Loomis — Halloween

Crazed and brilliant, Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasance) is the pistol packin’ psychiatrist who faces down pure evil in the form of masked killer Michael Myers (aka “The Shape” to the hardcore) in John Carpenter’s groundbreaking 1978 shocker Halloween. Pleasance’s performance is one of the elements that elevates this film from being merely a scary movie to the level of suspense thriller surpassed only by Hitchcock’s Psycho. Although it would have been easy for Pleasance to camp it up, he plays Loomis with a deadpan earnestness reminiscent of Peter Cushing in the best Hammer Studios horror pictures. Dr. Loomis will forever be enshrined in the hall of horror movie badasses if for nothing more than his final chilling line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis. Thank you, Dr. Loomis, for confirming all of our childhood fears.

9. Christine –- The Convent

If you haven’t seen Mike Mendez’ demonic nuns vs. dumb teenagers epic The Convent (2000) then you’ve missed an outlandish, 1980’s style horror extravaganza in the vein of Evil Dead 2 and Dead Alive. If you haven’t seen the first five minutes of The Convent, you’ve missed one of the most demented, violent and hilarious openings in horror film history. Teenage Christine (Oakley Stevenson) gives the term “naughty Catholic schoolgirl” an entirely new meaning as she decimates a holy mass with a shotgun, a baseball bat, a can of gasoline and a fifth of Jack Daniels. The sight of nuns burning to the melodic strains of Leslie Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” is not to be missed. Christine vanishes to become an urban legend, but when the demon infested nuns return for a second round (thanks to obligatory teenage hijinks), she comes out of retirement to put them in their place. As the adult Christine, genre fave Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog) clad in black leather and armed with automatic weapons proves once and for all that kicking demon ass is not exclusively a man’s sport.

8. Toxie –- The Toxic Avenger

Toxie is the embodiment of every weird kid’s revenge fantasy. From his humble beginnings as Melvin the Mop Boy, oppressed janitor at a yuppie infested health spa, to the “accident” that transformed him into the hulking, tutu wearing mutant hero with a violent hard-on for criminals, the Toxic Avenger is the ultimate icon for anyone who has ever been given a wedgie or pushed into a locker. The first super hero from New Jersey, Toxie is the brainchild of Troma Films flamboyant founder, mouthpiece and all-out madman Lloyd Kaufman who is nearly as weird as the characters who inhabit his films.

7. Francesco Dellamorte –- Cemetery Man

Rupert Everett turns in his only memorable role to date (and ironically, one he’s disowned) as Francesco Dellamorte, the dark, brooding caretaker of Buffalora Cemetery where the dead just won’t stay that way. Introspective, philosophical and romantic, Dellamorte is the Lord Byron of zombie fighters in Michale Soavi’s surreal ode to love beyond the grave, Cemetery Man (released in the rest of the world with the more rational title Dellamore, Dellamorte). Complete with dusty Eurotrash threads and a fatalistic attitude, Dellamorte is the rare badass who is equal parts style and substance.

6. Peter Washington –- Dawn of the Dead

Ken Foree as Peter Washington in George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is the horror genre’s answer to Shaft and Superfly. Peter, however, isn’t out to stick it to the Man. He IS the Man. This renegade Philly SWAT officer is zombie-stompin’ kung-fu soul brother number one. In addition to not taking any crap from the living dead, Peter don’t take no mess from trigger-happy traffic chopper pilots, bikers or the less racially tolerant members of his own squad. Peter is also responsible for uttering the greatest horror movie tag line in history: “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth . . .”

5. Jack Burton –- Big Trouble in Little China

Just listen to the ole Pork Chop Express and take his advice on a dark and stormy night. When a wild-eyed, eight foot tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head against the barroom wall, looks crooked in the eye and asks you if you’ve paid your dues, just remember what Jack Burton says at a time like that . . .Who? Jack! Burton! Kicking off the top five is Kurt Russell as Jack Burton in John Carpenter’s damn-near indescribable Kung-Fu fantasy Big Trouble in Little China. A trucker with a John Wayne swagger who dispenses his unique brand of philosophy via CB radio, Jack Burton faces down gangs of fighting tongs, monsters, black magic and a half dozen Chinese hells all while referring to himself in the third person. Rivaled only by The Evil Dead’s Ash (Bruce Campbell) for memorable wisecracks. Have you paid your dues? Yes sir, the check is in the mail.

4. Dr. Buckaroo Banzai -– The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai

Brilliant physicist, gifted neurosurgeon, Zen philosopher, Rock ‘n’ Roll crimefighter. Dr. Buckaroo Banzai, leader of those hard rocking scientists The Hong Kong Cavaliers, has saved the world more times than most of us have eaten lunch. Peter Weller (Robo-Cop) portrayed this real life hero in the 1984 docudrama The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across the Eighth Dimension which recounts the true events surrounding a hyperdimensional invasion by sinister beings from Planet 10 thwarted by Dr. Banzai, the Cavaliers and a brave contingent of Blue Blazer Irregulars. Although little is known about the real Dr. Banzai, Weller’s interpretation of the reclusive genius is nothing short of badass (and also earned the approval of the Banzai Institute). Dr. Banzai, a grateful world salutes you.

3. Reggie Bannister – Phantasm

Reggie Bannister as Reggie the ice cream man from the Phantasm films is one of the most likable and truly human heroes in genre film. Although he was merely a supporting character in the first installment, the Reg Man has, over the course of three sequels (with another on the way), become the heart and soul of the Phantasm series. When the Tall Man comes knocking, you can always count on Reg to save the day. As for the offscreen Reggie, he’s even cooler than the guy with the four-barrel shotgun and the Hemi ‘Cuda. Phantasm’s Reggie may be number three on the badass list, but the real Reggie Bannister will always be number one in our hearts.

2. Snake Plissken –- Escape from New York

Kurt Russell makes his second appearance on the badass list as the ultimate anti-hero. When the President’s plane goes down in New York City (now a walled-in maximum security prison in the sort of America another four years of Dubya will probably bring), the only man for the job is war-hero-turned-criminal, Snake Plissken. Snake has the complete badass package: an eye patch, a leather jacket, a Mac-10 submachine gun, a bitchin’ tattoo and a raspy voice that makes even Clint Eastwood sound like a four-year –old girl with a skinned knee. When you’re dealing with Snake, you do things Snake’s way. In the end, Plissken chooses not to save the world because the damned world doesn’t deserve it. 100% badass.

1. Ash –- Evil Dead/Army of Darkness

Listen up you primitive screwheads, here’s the number one cult movie badass of all time. How could Bruce Campbell as Ash in the Evil Dead series not top this list? A hero in spite of his obvious mental handicaps, this B-movie badass is the horror film equivalent of the Energizer Bunny and the Timex Watch; he takes a licking and keeps going and going . . . Braggart, coward, knucklehead, Ash is the go-to guy in case of Deadite invasion, but don’t depend on him to remember any of your damned magic words. How’s this for badass? Ash dealt with the demonic possession of his hand by lopping it off at the wrist and replacing said member with a chainsaw. Also in the great one’s arsenal is the infamous “boomstick,” a sawed off 12 guage shotgun with a walnut stock and hair trigger (look in sporting goods at your local S-Mart). Yet, it’s not the tools that make Ash great, it’s the penchant for witty banter. Pound for pound, Ash is the most quotable hero in horror. Hail to the king baby!!!

Bruce Campbell (Ash) – B-Movie Badass #1