In tabletop role playing games, the term rules lawyer refers to people who know the rules. Of course, there is more to it than simply knowing the rules. If we called everyone who knew the rules a lawyer, then the term would have no meaning. No, rules lawyers are those who know the rules, and how to use them best to their advantage. In horror movies, we also see some kind of rules lawyers, and I want to talk about the top ones. How am I defining the top horror movie rules lawyers? By focusing on characters in movies that have some kind of inside or essential knowledge for survival.
I spent a fair amount of time on this list trying to think of what makes for top horror movie rules lawyers. As stated, they should have some special knowledge of the situation, and how to solve it. For example, if they are fighting vampires, they should know the rules governing vampires. Also, they should be a little weird or goofy. Finally, they shouldn’t be the main character, but rather the person the main character seeks for assistance.
Beyond just knowing the rules, they should be able to explain them in such a way that makes sense to the characters and audience members. If they can’t express themselves, then they are no good when the villains come hacking and slashing along.
I present this list in no particular order, but rather organized in the order they came to mind.
The First of the Top Horror Movie Rules Lawyers
Chuck from You Might Be the Killer.
She is the character that inspired this list. I was watching You Might Be the Killer, and she came on as the expert in all things slasher and supernatural. I liked this element of the movie the best. The less said about the rest of the flick the better. Anyway, when Alison Hannigan appeared as the know it all, I laughed with glee. Sure, she was basically reprising early seasons Willow from Buffy with the smart and snark, not that I minded.
Why did her appearance delight me? Well, because it’s Alyson Hannigan. Beyond that, though, it made me realize that the majority of horror movie rules lawyers are men. It was refreshing to see a woman fulfill the role of the horror know it all.
Chuck knows her stuff. She works in a comic books store, has seen what seems like every horror movie ever, and has access to eldritch literature. From the moment she walks on screen the audience knows she knows what’s up. Let’s look at the criteria:
- She knows the rules, knows the loopholes, and she knows how this story ends and that there will be a sequel.
- Chuck is weird. She may not come off as weird, but she is. Her friend tells her people are dying all around him, and it barely fazes her. Also, like the Frogs (discussed below), she works in a comic book store.
- She uses her knowledge to help the characters. She can’t help directly because she is so far away, but she gives them they need to succeed.
Chuck clearly has all the qualifications and deserves to be on this list.
The Second Horror Rules Expert on my List
First on the list is Van Helsing. In fact, he might be the earliest example of a character to fill the role of the rules lawyer in a horror movie. Does he fit the criteria? Let’s check.
- Knows the situation
- Is an academic, a foreigner, and a little weird
- Tells the others what’s up with Dracula and how to kill vampires
So, yes, Van Helsing fits the criteria with flying colors. He understands the powers and blood lust of his adversary and lets the others know. Without Van Helsing’s involvement, Dracula wins.
He may seem like an odd choice, but it is clear he belongs on the list of top horror movie rules lawyers.
The Next Movie Rules Experts on the List
This one is a double because where there is one Frog, there is another.
The Frog brothers from The Lost Boys.
These two youthful monster hunters seem to be the only ones who know what’s going on in Santa Carla, and they don’t hesitate to let newcomers know it. They are gritty and snarly in the way only 80s screen malcontents could be.
Also, they have one of my favorite lines when discussing what happens when vampires die: ‘No two blood suckers go out the same way. Some yell and scream, some go quietly, some explode, some implode. But, all will try and take you with them.’ It’s hilarious, and true.
How do they fit into the criteria for my list?
- The Frogs know their stuff. They tell Sam about garlic, holy water, stakes through the heart, and even give him required reading.
- The Frogs are weird and creepy social outcast types. They snarl and work in a comic book shop, and look at their camouflage clothing!
- The Frogs help Sam and Michael understand the vampire threat and participate in battling the undead.
The grandpa from this movie almost made this list. He’s idiosyncratic, goofy, and a little weird. He also knows what’s going on in town, and he even kills a vampire. However, he doesn’t share his knowledge with the rest of the characters, nor does he help, so that keeps him off this list.
Enter Evil Ed, Template for Top Horror Movie Rules Lawyers
No discussion of the modern day horror rules lawyer would be complete without mentioning Evil Ed. If Van Helsing is the original horror rules lawyer, Ed brings he archetype to the modern era. As Charlie Brewster’s best friend in Fright Night, Ed fills the role of sidekick. Additionally, he is clearly a weirdo, thanks to his laugh, fashion choices, and hairstyle. Ed is the walking embodiment of 80s creepy geek weirdo.
Some people might argue that Ed doesn’t completely fit the mold because he doens’t know much more about vampires than Charlie does, nor does he believe in the monsters as much as his friend. I concede those points, however; I argue that Ed matches the criteria.
- He is a weirdo and a sidekick.
- Ed knows about the monsters and how to fight them.
- He joins Charlie in his investigation into the vampire next door.
Ed may not be as heavily into the rules of horror as some of the other characters on this list, but he clearly acts as an inspiration for those who followed in his footsteps.
Finally, Randy from Scream
In a decision as predictable as it is necessary, Randy is my last entry on the list of top horror movie rules lawyers. If you had any doubt I was going to mention him, then I don’t know what to say, except watch more horror movies.
If Van Helsing is the first of these types of characters, and Evil Ed brought them into the modern world, then Randy is the culmination. (I know Anthony Hopkins played Van Helsing before Scream came out, but I am talking about characters here, not portrayals.) Randy lays out the ruled clearly and succinctly, and he gets to do so three times. Maybe four, I forget if they somehow got him to add rules to Scream 4, though I don’t think so.
Randy is probably the first character many people thought of when they saw this list, and rightly so. He made a huge impact on pop culture and the horror genre specifically. After Randy’s introduction, the idea that there were rules to survive a horror movie exited the subconscious of fans, and came squealing into the public sphere.
Let’s look at how he fits the criteria:
- Geeky Weirdo who works at a movie store
- Knows all about slashers and shares his knowledge with the gang
- Doesn’t help at first
- Tries to help in the second film and dies
So, yes, Randy qualifies, despite his lack of helping others in the first Scream movie. Still, he passes the rest of the criteria with flying colors, so he clearly belongs on this list. I suppose you could argue otherwise, but you would have a hard time persuading me.
Top Paralegals of Horror Movie Rules
I inevitably left some characters off this list either because I didn’t remember them or because I didn’t think they fit.
One character that springs to mind is Columbus from Zombieland. Yes, he offers a lot of rules to the audience, and I can see why that would make him seem like he qualifies. However, his rules aren’t really zombie specific, and even the ones which are, the other characters already know. He doesn’t share new or helpful information, check the back seat notwithstanding.
Plus, this list specifically cites sidekick status, and Columbus is clearly a lead character, so he doesn’t qualify.
When I was thinking about this list I asked some people on Twitter for their input and someone mentioned Tony Todd’s character from the Final Destination films. In my head that sounds right, but I haven’t seen those movies in forever. Therefore, I can’t agree in good faith.
What do you think of the list? Anyone you would argue against? Who would you add? Let me know in the comments.