10 Best Horror Movie Characters Who Died First

Spoilers ahead.
Horror Movie Characters Who Died First

5. Marion Crane in Psycho (1960)

Universal Pictures

The shower scene is the best flip-the-script moment in cinema history. For the first chunk of Psycho, the audience is lulled into believing this is Marion Crane’s (Janet Leigh) story. She’s stolen some cash from the bank, a boodle to start a life with her handsome, young beau. She’s on the run, lost, and feeling guilty when she accidentally wanders down the wrong road and pulls into the Bates Motel. The clerk behind the counter is nice enough. A little odd, a little mad, but we all go a little mad sometimes. He offers her some encouraging words, and they convince her to undo what she’s done. She’s no thief. She’ll take the money back in the morning. But, first, a shower. Cue the screeching strings and the butcher knife. She’s the first to go but not the last. Her death slaps the viewer and pulls them into another realm, a horror film they’ll never escape — a slasher genre that will never go away. (Brad Gullickson)

4. Mandy in Mandy (2018)

Panos CosmatosMandy is likely remembered by most for a badass Nicolas Cage going on a cocaine and LSD-induced rampage against a folk-loving cult and some bikers. The heart of the film, however, is the titular Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) and the beautiful relationship she shares with Red (Cage). During the day, Mandy works as a clerk at a sleepy mountainside gas station. She spends her evenings creating fantasy-inspired art and hanging with Red. She catches the eye of religious cult leader Jeremiah Sand who attempts to woo her with his psychedelic folk. Mandy laughs at his advances which infuriates Sand to the point that he burns her alive. It’s a devastating death, and as the audience, we experience the pain through Red’s torment. Mandy’s sad, violent death is the catalyst that launches the film into hyperdrive, making it the great modern classic that it is. (Chris Coffel)

3. Pat Hingle in Suspiria (1977)

Pat Hingle (Eva Axén) is a great example of a character whose death impacts us not because we’ve spent a lot of time with them, but because of how beyond the pale vicious her death is. Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) barely catches a glimpse of Pat while she’s fleeing the dance school, clearly spooked by something serious. And whatever it is that had her running for the hills is clearly just as terrifying as Pat suspected. When it catches up with her, she ends up massacred and hung through the skylight. It’s a brutal image, one that stays with us and that serves as a perfect appetizer for Dario Argento‘s five-course horror feast. Pat’s death is really what kicks everything off and arouses Suzy’s suspicion about her new home. We might only see Pat briefly on screen, but she’s as integral to Suspiria as any living character. (Anna Swanson)

2. Kane in Alien (1979)

If you want your horror movie’s first death to make a lasting impact… cast John Hurt. There’s something about this precious little cinnamon bun that makes you instinctively care for anyone he plays. So when Ridley Scott’s Alien kicks off, and we’re introduced to the doomed crew of the Nostromo, we’re pretty confident the most doomed crewmate going to be Kane. And that’s before this wet-eyed innocent sticks his noggin into the no-no zone of an unfurling xenomorph egg. If Kane’s sympathy-commanding Hurt-ness didn’t solidify our devastation at his demise, the way Kane goes is truly the stuff of nightmares. A teeny dildo-shaped alien ripping its way through your diaphragm over breakfast is certainly a way to go. Rest in peace, sweetheart. Thank god you were spared the carnage to come. (Meg Shields)

1. Casey in Scream (1996)

Paramount Pictures

Was there ever any doubt about who would top this list? There are a lot of iconic characters who bite the bullet early on, but few are as memorable as Casey. What’s remarkable here is how all the moving parts of Scream cohere to make her death so iconic, even when we barely get to know her. Credit to the casting and marketing — we see Drew Barrymore, and we expect her to be the star. She was so prominently featured in the film’s marketing that her early death was the ultimate rug pull. And though this happens in the film’s first scene, we already have a fondness for Casey. Barrymore is a charming actress and easy to like, even easier to root for when she’s being stalked by a killer. And her death itself, in all its helplessness and brutality, is horrifying. From the first moments of Scream, we all knew Wes Craven wasn’t here to play around, and Casey had to be sacrificed to prove that. (Anna Swanson)

We’ve covered first deaths, but what about the rest? For more slasher fun, check out more 31 Days of Horror Lists

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Anna Swanson: Anna Swanson is a Senior Contributor who hails from Toronto. She can usually be found at the nearest rep screening of a Brian De Palma film.