There is a difference between being a loner and an introvert and when it comes to classifying film characters, the two terms can get mixed up.
These days, young people are accused of constantly hiding behind screens and never partaking in the ‘real world,
This is in comparison, of course, to extroverts who get their energy from being around other people. Introverts do not tend to flourish in crowds or large groups of people at social gatherings, in fact, this could be their worst nightmare.
In horror films, this nightmare situation can result in violence or evil possession on the part of the introverted protagonist.
Please note this article discusses specific plot details of several contemporary horror films so watch out for spoilers!
iTHINK brings to you, how introverted personalities are portrayed in films.
What role does the introvert play in horror films?
The role of the introvert in horror cinema is fascinating. They sometimes take the form of the quiet character in a large group, who follows the crowd but for whom, there is more than meets the eye.
These characters keep to themselves however as the film unravels, they are usually revealed to be the villain or as having supernatural powers.
Key introverted characters in horror films:
The first horror film protagonist that comes to mind for most people when they think of introverted or quiet characters, is Carrie White, from Brian DePalma’s 1976 film adaptation of the Stephen King novel.
Carrie is a textbook case of a horror film introvert; she has no friends; she gets bullied at school by other girls and secretly has unexplainable supernatural powers.
Importantly, she gets her energy from her isolation and her religious mother.
Carrie is shaped as a social outcast from the very beginning of the film with the iconic scene of Carrie getting her period for the first time in the girls’ bathroom at school.
However, I feel that there are more recent and under-analysed examples of introverts in horror films that deserve more attention and discussion.
Case Study: Hereditary (2018)
Ari Aster’s Hereditary (2018) introduced horror film fans to a memorable introverted character, Charlie (Milly Shapiro).
Charlie Leigh is the daughter of Toni Collette’s character and it is clear that she is still reeling from her grandmother’s death and, as a result, keeps to herself.
Her disturbing behaviour isolates her even more from her peers at school: Charlie makes figurines out of rubbish and bits of metal, she can’t make eye contact with her mother and prefers to sleep outside the family home in a treehouse.
It is clear that she is most at peace with herself and thrives when crafting these distorted figurines; making her into a key introverted character.
In a pivotal sequence, she is taken to a party by her older brother Peter as per their mother’s orders. Charlie sticks out like a sore thumb and attempts to fade into the background as her brother mingles.
Soon after, she meets her untimely death in one of the most shocking scenes in recent horror cinema, but it seems that her life has not ended as she manifests in visions and nightmares of her family members.
Charlie frequently makes her tongue click in her mouth making a short, low-pitched noise, so much so that this becomes strongly associated with her character’s introverted identity.
However, after her death, her family members still hear that eerie sound, implying that she is present, not physically, but aurally.
The Vampire as an Introvert
Many horror fans would consider the figure of the vampire as the original introvert: typically, they are cooped up in a castle for half the day, and by night, they stalk and hunt their human prey alone.
This solitary lifestyle has been reimagined by horror filmmakers for decades, but a recent foreign film puts a feminist perspective onto the vampire narrative.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), directed by Ana Lily Amirpour is an Iranian horror, filmed in black and white and almost resembles a silent film.
The film follows a young female vampire walking the streets at night looking for prey. She wears a long black cloak which covers her head but reveals a pale face with dark features.
The female vampire spends the majority of the time by herself, skateboarding, listening to music or threatening pedestrians when she goes out at night.
This vampire is independent, lives her own life, she lives by her own rules, and in this way, this is an example of a successful introvert in a horror film.
The Introvert and Revenge
An introverted personality and a victim of bullying frequently go hand in hand, especially in horror films. This typically allows a revenge narrative to flourish at the end of the film. Tate Taylor’s Ma (2019) does exactly this.
Ma follows the story of a Sue Ann (also known as Ma): she is a loner, she works at a veterinary practice but is bad at her job, she has desperately dreamed of fitting in.
A group of teenagers spot a lonely Sue Ann approaching a grocery store and they manage to persuade her to buy them alcohol.
Sue Ann then notices an opportunity: she invites them to her house which has a basement in which they can hold parties, drink to their heart’s content, without the risk of getting found out by parents or police. Sounds too good to be true, but the teenagers eagerly take the offer.
Ma just wants to fit in, and she never did during her time at high school, but now with this younger generation she’s partying with, she finally feels part of a social group.
However, with flashbacks to her time in high school, it is revealed that Ma was bullied by the parents of the kids she is now hanging out with.
Now, she can get her revenge. Ma has waited over thirty years for her revenge, but her resilience and patience are the key ingredients to a psychopathic introvert such as Ma.
These traits make her revenge subtle yet effective, as most people from her year in high school have forgotten about her.
The Introvert and Cyber-bullying
It is useful to see how the bullied introvert character type in horror films has developed and changed over the years.
In terms of contemporary horror films, a key addition is instant communication technology, and one film which solely relies on this kind of technology is Unfriended (2015).
Unfriended is unique as it is framed exclusively using a computer screen, allowing the audience to not only feel like they are part of the story, but to show how social media interactions and Skype calls can still create suspense, jump-scares and a new method of revenge for the introvert.
These days, young people are accused of constantly hiding behind screens and never partaking in the ‘real world,’ but for the group of friends in Unfriended, this online world is their reality which makes the film all the more sinister.
It must be said that the introverted characters which have chosen to examine have been exclusively female. Perhaps there is something about the solitary woman that horror filmmakers want to delve into and explore further:
What are they doing? Why are they alone? What happened to them to make them lead this solitary lifestyle?
Maybe we find the solitary woman more sinister or unusual compared to a man wandering a city by himself or living alone.
This rise in lonely female protagonists in horror films is part of a wider feminist movement depicting women enjoying time by themselves, without men.
The vampire has her own hobbies and routines which become disrupted when she meets a man who shows her compassion in contrast with her savagery.
Ma sticks out because she has not followed the conventional lifestyle of living with a partner and settling down. The horror film genre is drawn to the unusual, the unconventional, and the outsider.
As they say, always look out for the quiet ones…
I’m Izzy and I love talking and writing about cinema. I’m a huge fan of Jordan Peele and his contributions to the horror genre. I’m also a big fan of live comedy and enjoy going to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I graduated from Warwick University with a Bachelor’s degree in Film and Literature
Image respects to - BFI Film Forever, A24, Tribeca Film Festival, Red Bank Film, reelydope, StudioCanal, The Verge, Universal Pictures, Bloody Disgusting