Few horror staples are as memorable, quotable or enjoyable as the slasher flick, but for all the love that Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Chucky receive (to say nothing of the final girls), we thought it was time the spotlight were trained elsewhere.
Who doesn’t remember the boys in blue who stumbled or shone through some of the best films of the slasher heyday known as the eighties? We sure do, and the moment has arrived to decorate those officers.
As alluded to, this list will focus on the sweet, nostalgic decade of the eighties, but we may have slipped a later entry into the mix for good measure. And while Halloween is well represented, we stuck with the original Haddonfield storyline, which translates to zero chance for a second Brad Dourif-related entry if you know what we mean, and we’re sure that you do.
With all that said, what follows is iHorror’s APB on Slasher’s Finest.
Ron Millkie as Officer Dorf (Friday the 13th, 1980)
It would have been impossible for this list to be complete without the services of Crystal Lake’s original man with a badge, so we got that out of the way straight out the gate. Few have ever dominated two minutes of cinema quite like Ron Millkie did in the flick that started in all for Voorhees lovers everywhere.
The deadpan machismo elicits laughs to this day, so the refusal to “stand for any weirdness” must have absolutely shredded in theatres 36 years ago. Millkie has noted that he based Dorf off of small town cops he’d come into contact with growing up. Officers who weren’t bad guys, only “very taken with (themselves) and in (their) mind, the extent of (their) power.” Millkie even compared it to the security guards who work in his apartment building in New York. “You’d think they were J. Edgar Hoover. They don’t even carry a weapon and they walk around the building like Officer Dorf. I think they need the image to feel that power.”
Now we know where “Sit on it, Tonto” came from.
David Arquette as Dwight “Dewey” Riley (Scream, 1996)
While we focused on the eighties, there was no way we could ignore the exploits of Deputy Dewey from Wes Craven’s Scream. From strategic discussions with the sheriff, ice cream cone in hand to pining for Gale Weathers, few “oozed with inexperience” or filled a room with a “Barney Fife-ish presence” quite like Arquette.
He took his lumps despite the best of intentions, but could you really blame him? Dewey’s commander may have called himself Sheriff Burke, but in our collective heart, we know he was actually A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Sergeant Parker. Yes, the same Joseph Whipp who heard Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkamp) screaming and pleading for help through three windows (two of which were busted open to do so) before finally wondering “Maybe I oughtta tell the lieutenant.”
David Kagen as Sheriff Garris & Vinny Guastaferro as Deputy Rick Cologne (Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI, 1986)
There was no intent to bash on the officers who patrol the backyard of Jason Voorhees, but that’s just how this one went. While it’s true that there were elements of humor to the performances of Kagen and Guastaferro, Kagen’s tone veered to the seriousness you’d expect from the man in charge toward the conclusion of the film, particularly when his daughter was in danger, and Kagen pulled it off. Of course, Kagen is an instructor at the David Kagen School of Acting where he has worked with the likes of Robin Wright and Alec Baldwin, so he’s not lacking for cinematic chops.
That said, the fact that the pair seemed incapable of delivering lines that weren’t laced with cheese, or what’s more, without using over-the-top, macho slang for everything they did secured their spot on the list.
Rather than saying “Lock him up!” or “Hit the lights,” Kagen’s Garris dropped “Iron this punk!” and “Hit the noise and the cherries!” As Robert Duvall’s Harry Hogg said in Days of Thunder, “You kinda automatically have to love that guy.”
To say nothing of Guastaferro’s deputy, whose childlike eagerness to play with his new toy gave us one of the best lines of Friday lore — “Wherever the red dot goes…”
Chris Sarandon as Mike Norris (Child’s Play, 1988)
A good cop is willing to serve and protect whether their shift is up or not, and Sarandon’s Norris epitomized that maxim. He had chased down Charles Lee Ray and though found what Karen Barclay (Catherine Hicks) was telling him about her son Andy and a little doll that functioned sans batteries absurd, he looked into it.
As one would expect, it took a bit of convincing, but once Norris had heard and seen enough for himself, he was all-in and saw things through to the end.
“You believe me now?”
Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Leigh Brackett (John Carpenter’s Halloween, 1978)
One thing most horror fans can agree upon is that Cyphers should have had more scenes in ’78. While he came back in the sequel, after viewing his daughter’s body and damning Dr. Loomis, he just vanished. And that was a shame. Cyphers played the small town cop to perfection. Calm and composed, better at his job than you’d expect from an officer who didn’t get a lot of action, but also reluctant to jump at wild theories.
‘Doctor, do you know what Haddonfield is? Families. All lined up in rows. You’re telling me they’re lined up for a slaughterhouse.” While he had his doubts, he did his job and kept watch, but despite his reservations and declaration of tiring at Loomis’ orders, he didn’t hesitate to jump when told to go around back.
“It’s Halloween. I guess everyone’s entitled to one good scare.”
Beau Starr as Sheriff Ben Meeker (Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, (1988)
Having recently watched Halloween 4 from start to finish for the first time in years, I couldn’t help but notice that it was much better than I’d remembered (but that’s another post for another time). What stood out to me most, was that for as much as I love Cyphers — and I do — I’d be lying if I said that Starr’s turn as Bracektt’s replacement, Sheriff Meeker, wasn’t the better performance.
By the third film in the Michael Myers saga, things could have gotten out of hand fast. Of course, we all know that was exactly the case following Return, but Starr was perfect pitch with regard to Haddonfield’s lead constable. Starr played it straight and never went too far with fear, concern or outbursts, for which he had ample opportunity. Whether having conversations about the reality of Myers’ threat to commanding his men as well as community members, Starr was composed and authentic. Hell, he even managed to threaten the blueberry schnapps-luging Grueller off of groping his daughter with ease, For all these reasons, plus the added benefit of additional screen time to seduce us with his wares, Starr takes the silver and outranks Cyphers.
John Saxon as Lt. Donald Thompson (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984)
Of all the talent that preceded the top pick, not even Starr was as believable as an officer of the law as Saxon, the man who called the shots in Craven’s early ’80s classic.
The glare, no-nonsense demeanor and virtual absence of emotion in nearly every situation just screamed cop, and Saxon commanded every scene for which he appeared.
“There’s an unsolved murder. I don’t like unsolved murders.’
Though it was pretty clear that Thompson’s daughter Nancy was his Achilles’ heel, one has to ask whether a cop would use his own daughter as bait to catch a suspect? While we’d like to say no, events of the recent past make that more difficult to answer with any degree of certainty, but that’s how committed the character was to getting the job done.
Just accept that Saxon is the top cop “Real easy. Like your ass depended on it.’
Thanks to Chris Fischer for the featured image.