Horror movies and drinking go together like…horror movies and drinking. Whether you’re tying a few on while watching a splat show with a couple equally buzzed buddies, or if the drinking is happening among the characters in the movie itself, there just seems to be no better suited pairing than beer and blood.
So, before you puke up your green-dyed guts and pass out earlier than 6pm on this, the booziest of holidays, take a moment to read my list of great horror movie drunks! You might just pick up a few ideas.
I gotta get the obvious choice out of the way right off the bat: Jack Torrance from The Shining. Nicholson’s Torrance is the epitome of “great horror movie drunk”, a recovering alcoholic who battles demons both literally and figuratively. Stephen King, author of The Shining, is himself a writer who struggled with the bottle, so perhaps writing this wasn’t much of a stretch for him. But if ever there was a film that could convince me to abstain from drinking, it’d be this one. (Nah, not really.)
Another great “drinking will ruin your life” film is 1971’s Wake in Fright (aka Outback), a terrifying thriller set in the sun-soaked Australian desert. A mild-mannered teacher on his way home for summer break has a layover in a small town inhabited by the scummiest, most desperate drunks on the continent. The frightening part is just how quickly and easily the sensible John Grant slips into their debaucherous ways.
It’s a beautifully shot film that really emphasizes the importance of beer to these low-lifes. But man, they do make drinking look good. Be right back, I’m feeling thirsty.
I can’t think of a more perfect actor to portray Jud Crandall than Fred Gwynne. A tall, lanky hick with a garbled Maine drawl, he’s a good-hearted old-timer who cares for the neighbor’s kids, but he doesn’t sugar-coat the facts about life and death. And in his spare time, he likes to unwind with a Budweiser or six.
He even likes those little stubby 7 oz. bottles! But ever the equal opportunist, he offers plenty of love to the long-necks, too.
There’s just something authentic about Gwynne’s performance. When Crandall sits on his front porch, sparks up a cigarette, and cracks open a Bud – only to be seen nodding off a few scenes later – you can’t help but believe Gwynne knows from personal experience exactly what his character is doing.
“Darlin’, you’re gonna be the death of me! But what a way to go…” Those are literally Martin’s final words, right before Crystal Lake mainstay Jason Voorhees uses the whiskey bottle he’d just been drinking from to gouge him to death.
If I had to maintain a cemetery near Camp Crystal lake, aka “Camp Blood”, aka “Camp Forest Green”, I would probably talk to my pint of whiskey, too. Martin is a likeable old coot, so it’s a shame to see him go. Earlier in the film, upon discovering Jason’s grave had been dug up, he immediately reaches for his flask…
And after wiping away the dribble, he looks directly into the camera and addresses the audience: “Some folks sure got a strange idea of entertainment.” They sure do, Martin, they sure do.
Gary Busey is a goddamn treasure in Silver Bullet. Not only does he deliver the type of performance that convinces the viewer he wasn’t even aware he was filming a movie, but he portrays unclehood in such a way that you wish he was your uncle. Easily the world’s greatest cinematic uncle since Buck. He tells you dirty jokes, plays cards with you, and builds you a rocket-powered wheelchair – all while chipping away at a bottle of Wild Turkey. Who wouldn’t want him hangin’ around the house all time?
Look at that face. I been there, brother.
Like the aforementioned Martin the gravedigger, Kurt Russell’s helicopter pilot, R.J. MacReady, is a sympathetic drunk. What else are you supposed to do when you’re stationed in the middle of nowhere Antarctica? Poker with the boys can only be entertaining for so long. It wouldn’t be long before you’d feel the urge to numb your brain to save it from isolation madness. The fact that there’s an unseen killer among your group probably ain’t too good for the nerves, either. And in a wonderful homage, wouldn’t you know it? R.J.’s drink of choice is J&B scotch – a favorite drink among gialli films.
Can you imagine the type of light sensitivity you’d have when the sun was glinting off pure whiteness, everywhere? Those awesome goggles are a must for anyone hungover in arctic territories.
The Halloween franchise has been spotty at best. As the series progressed, the story got murkier and murkier. And the characters? They didn’t fare much better. They weren’t likable or memorable. In fact, any fringe characters that showed up in the later sequels you knew were just thrown in to be chum for Michael Myers. But Halloween 4 – one of the best entries besides the original, in my opinion – managed to have a fun, straight-forward premise and also featured characters you were interested in – from stepsister Rachel, her horny boyfriend Brady, and hell, even Wade was enjoyable, and he’s only onscreen for two minutes:
But one of the best secondary characters has to be Reverend Jack Sayer. His screen time is even less than Wade’s. However his appearance may be the most important in the entire series. The scene sees him pick up a hitchhiking Dr. Loomis on a lone, dusty highway. The two men don’t know each other, they’ve never met, but Rev. Sayer feels an immediate kinship to Dr. Loomis. In fact, he seems to know exactly what it is Loomis is after.
“You’re huntin’ it, ain’t ya? Yeah, you’re huntin’ it alright. Just like me…You can’t kill damnation, Mister. It don’t die like a man dies.”
While Sayer is hunting a more metaphorical evil and Loomis a more literal evil, the two men share a common end-goal, and for once in the entire series you have a character who not only understands and empathizes with Loomis, but one who doesn’t look at the Doctor like he’s a madman. (I mean, except for that screenshot above. Ignore that.)
The two men share another thing in common: a fondness for the drink. So when Sayer offers up some liquid warmth, Loomis gladly accepts. And as he drinks, the reverend sings a gospel to lighten the mood. And it’s only the second time in the entire series that we see Loomis crack a smile – a brief moment of relief; they’re no longer two men spending their remaining days hunting evil – they’re just two men enjoying a drink and each other’s company.
“Lay off the fuckin’ booze for awhile, why don’t ya?” This is a question posed to (yet another) drunken helicopter pilot, Bill McDermott, in Day of the Dead. Again, I understand why he’s such a hard drinker: it’s essentially the end of the world. Zombies have overrun the land, and McDermott and his cohorts are stuck in an underground bunker. I’d be drinking, too. But I feel it should be noted: McDermott is screamingly Irish. He even shouts “Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” a few times throughout the film.
Last, but certainly not least, we have Aunt Bedelia. Like Rev. Sayer, Aunt Bedelia’s screen time in Creepshow is brief. But Viveca Lindfors’ portrayal of Bedelia Grantham is so wonderfully nuanced and flawlessly delivered, that she’s able to steal the show in her short time onscreen. Bedelia’s guilt from murdering her father has left her frazzled and slugging Jim Beam by the bottle-full. She’s probably spilled more than you’ve drank.
She’s such a boozer, that even the comic version of Creepshow makes sure to note her love of spirit-imbibing.
Bedelia’s scene – one where she sits by her father’s grave, pounding the booze while cursing him in some odd, coastal accent – is brilliant and fun. But Aunt Bedelia ain’t the only one in Creepshow who likes to drink.
If you weren’t aware, Stephen King wrote the story for Creepshow, so naturally there’s a lot of drinking. King, who also stars in the movie as nunkhead Jordy Verrill, enjoys some Ripple, as well as a mean Screwdriver later on.
Then there’s Wilma. But you can call her Billy. Everyone else does!
And even Fritz Weaver as the inconsolable Dexter Stanley:
Even Leslie Nielsen has a drink to calm his nerves – every segment except the final one features boozehounds. Speaking of Creepshow drunkards, this list wouldn’t be complete without one of the most prolific drunks in horror history, Tom Atkins. In fact, he’s the M.V.P. of this list!
Tom Atkins is just the best, there’s no denying that. He was in all the great horror flicks of the 80s. And in every one of ’em, he’s drinkin’. Like in Creepshow, from the picture above.
Or like in Halloween III: Season of the Witch, where he’s constantly drinking – whether it be alone of with some homeless people:
Or in Maniac Cop, having a cold one with a co-worker after a long, hard day in the office:
Or in Night of the Creeps, where he plays a cop so haunted by his past that he’s suicidal. Not even booze – or even daydreams of delicious tropical drinks – can soothe his mental scars:
Hell, he even says “It’s Miller time!” right before shooting a zombie in the goddamn head. So legendary is his onscreen drinking, that upon Googling his name I discovered random pieces of fan art which detail this very fact:
In short, the man loves to drink.
And this is where I leave you, friends. May your day of drinking be a peaceful one, void of any slashers, zombies, werewolves, or alien lifeforms. There’s nothing worse than a spilled or unfinished drink. Have a safe and bloody holiday, but don’t forget to drink a few extra in honor of the entrants on this list. It’s Miller time!
(Read Great Horror Movie Drunks Pt. 2!)
8 thoughts on “Great Horror Movie Drunks!”
Tina’s dad, John Shepard in Friday The 13th Part VII: The New Blood also comes to mind.
I definitely think you should do a second part on this. I found this really article really amusing and can’t help but think of all the other alcoholics in horror movies. I’m also glad you added Gary Busey from Silver Bullet – he was the first person to come to mind when I saw this article (don’t ask why, but he sticks out the most for me for some reason lol).
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Appreciate the kind words! Several people have suggested doing a follow-up, and rightfully so: there are a ton of other horror movie drunks missing from the list. I may just have to write a part two!
You missed a legendary drunk: Mrs Mac in Black Christmas
Great list. Wonderful Site. If I may add a few… Ronee Blakley in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and Branford Dillman in PIRANHA.
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Thanks for the kind words. And you’re right: both great drunks! Now that you mention it, there were a lot of drunk parents from the NOES series, like Alice and Rick’s dad! They even make note of his sobriety in NOES 5.
Needless to say, this list could be a mutli-parter.