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Within the horror genre, a popular character type is the creepy harbinger, who warns the main/supporting characters of doom and gloom. They are often portrayed as loners, or possibly homeless, or alcoholics, or touched with insanity, and often old, though not always. This SFMZ feature highlights a few of those unsavory soothsayers in film.

The Cabin in the Woods - 2012

Mordecai (Tim De Zarn) was modeled after the numerous previous harbingers in many horror films, using many of the same physical attributes. He's a war veteran ("you know damn well which war!"), a grouchy old antagonistic hick with a blood-soaked eye, and spits tobacco like a fountain.

Whether intentional or not by the writers, the name "Mordecai" is also the name of the harbinger from the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible, who warned King Ahasuerus there was an assassination plot to kill his chamberlains. The assassination plot was foiled and Mordecai was allowed to "sit in the king's gate," a title referencing those close to the king.

Just like in the Hills Have Eyes, Mordecai runs a dilapidated gas station off the beaten path. The grounds and the building are littered with a strange and morbid collection of oddities. Mordecai implies subtly the dangers of the cabin and concludes with calling one of the girls a whore.

30 Days of Night - 2007

Like Jeb described below for The Hills Have Eyes, the Stranger (Ben Foster) is technically not there to warn the citizens of Barrow, Alaska to flee from the impending danger heading their way. More accurately, his warnings are gloating what carnage they are about to face.

The Stranger is a young man who looks like he hasn't had a bath since the Clinton presidency. He's actually sent in by the vampire pack to sabotage the town's communications and transporation means - cell phones, helicopter, etc. Once he is jailed, is when he starts in with his taunts that the citizens have no idea the bloodbath that faces them.

The Mist - 2007

Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), a religious fanatic, preached apocalyptic doom to the store patrons, but in this case, her premonitions had nothing to with the events unfolding. She convinced others through her evangelical lecturing that the attacks were God's punishment.

Carmody, previously known in town for being unstable, siezes the horrific events to manipulate frightened people that she is a prophet of God, "It's the end of days. It's Judgment Day, and it's come around at last. The end of times has come. Not in flames, but in mist."

Several distraught survivors soon buy into her Jim Jones/Kool-Aid sales pitch to the point they comply with her demand for sacrificial blood. And of course, that sacrifical blood are those who still thinks she's a lunatic. Preaching to her 'cult' and repeating expiation, Carmody has them so worked up, they are willing to commit murder to prove their worth to her.

Pulse - 2006

If you were going to produce a horror film, can you think of anyone better to play the role of the creepy harbinger than Brad Dourif? Brad's brief but great portrayal of the "Thin Bookish Guy," is arguably the lone bright spot of this film.

The two young characters are in a diner discussing the recent strange events when the bug-eyed strange Bookish Guy turns and bursts into their conversation. His crazed look commands their attention, leaving them frozen with unease as he warns:

"It makes all the sense in the world. Do you have any idea of the amount of data that's floating out there? The amount of information we just beam into the air? We broadcast to everyone where we are, and we think we're safe? The whole freakin' city is going insane, and we're acting like it's nothing. Well, it's not nothing. It's something we don't understand, and it is coming for us!"

The Hills Have Eyes - 2006

While the gas station proprietor, Jeb (Tom Bower) at the Gas Haven station fits the creepy harbinger visually, technically he offered no warnings to the unsuspecting travelers. Instead, he tricked them to take a 'short cut' that eventually lead the family to a confrontation with the mutated residents of the hills.

He's a shotgun-toting filthy old man with rotting teeth (what few teeth he has left) who lets out a creepy laugh. His mechanic's over-alls look like he hasn't taken them off since acquiring them.

It's implied in the film he is the front man for the mutant residents, selling off valuables the mutants have collected from their victims. Early in the film, a mutant delivers a bag with the latest collection of valuables, including ear rings still attached to the amputated bloody ear.

Silent Hill - 2006

When Rose reaches the edge of the small town Silent Hill, she runs into a dishevelled and dirty homeless woman known as Dahlia Gillespie (Deborah Kara Unger). Rose tries to question her, but Dahlia just feeds her cryptic warnings, "Only the dark one opens and closes the door to Silent Hill."

When Rose pulls out a locket picture of Sharon, Dahlia freaks and claims that the picture is of her own daughter and cites more warnings, "Deep in the fires, she will be buried. They are wolves in the skin of sheep. They brought about their own hell. They'll take you with them!"

Rose encounters Dahlia again when people flee to a church while Dahlia stands in front, saying "You run not towards sanctuary but from your fears. Join not the others, for they are deceived as they are damned. Evil waits in vengeance. Be careful what you choose."

Urban Legend - 1998

Yet another stereotype creepy harbinger, Michael McDonnell (Brad Dourif) who operates . . . wait for it . . . a run-down gas station in the middle of nowhere. Add a dark, rainy night, a young woman, the gifted talents of Brad Dourif, and you have everything for the perfect creepy harbinger scene.

The young woman, Michelle, is out of gas and the creepy looking attendant offers to fill up her vehicle. He deceives her with a failed credit card ploy to get her to come inside the station. The attendant approaches her and excitedly stutters, but his sputtering comes out as incoherent ranting.

The fearful woman sprays mace in his face and manages to run back to her vehicle and speeds away while McDonnell yells after her that he's only trying to help her and screaming, "Someone's in the back seat!" Unfortunate for her, an axe murderer had hopped on board.

There's Nothing Out There - 1991

While Mike is one of the main characters and not the creepy side character as portrayed by other examples in this list, I have to make an exception for the frantic and overbearing Mike. In this ultra-low budget horror/alien movie, Mike is a horror film fanatic who has scoured every horror movie cliche imaginable.

And naturally, this b-flick centers around a group of horny teenagers spending time in .....yes, a cabin in the woods. Throw in a hostile alien in the mix, and Mike has himself worked up as the group's nutty doomsayer.

This horror/comedy serves up a truck load of horror film cliches, and for Mike, that triggers every warning alarm between his ears, and so begins his annoying chants of doom. But the others consider him a paranoid maniac and laugh at his hysterical rantings.

Friday the 13th Part 8 - 1989

The Deck Hand (Alex Diakun) of the Lazarus ship was a crazy old man who would give a piercing dead serious stare at the other unsuspecting characters when warning them, "This voyage is doomed." The crazed Deck Hand always seemed to be in the right spot to hear (and the only one to hear) Jason's sounds of slaughter.

The crazy old man soothed his dread by nipping from his flask of Early Times and spouting, "He's come back and you're all going to die." But the naive characters ignored him, thinking he's completely insane. As more characters are killed off, the audience is treated to more of the deranged Deck Hand's warnings of doom, "You're the last ones. He's come back for you. Jason Voorhees. He walks this ship, here and now."

Friday the 13th Part 3 - 1982

The elderly Abel (David Wiley) is first seen lying in the middle of the road, causing the young travelers to slam on their brakes to keep from running over him. The script describes him as age 72, long stringy white hair, whiskered, skinny in baggy clothes, and a weathered stern face.

Abel is a crazy, inebriated derelict and religious fanatic, who shows the young camp counselors a slimy, detached eyeball that he had found. He interprets the detached body part as a warning for them to turn back. The group cringes in disgust and drive off. As they speed off, he shouts evangelical fire and brimstone warnings at them.

Friday the 13th Part 1 & 2 - 1980, 81

Crazy Ralph (Walt Gorney) is an old man who lives in the Crystal Lake area. Ralph rides around on his bicycle telling people to stay away from Camp Crystal Lake (which he refers to as Camp Blood) or they will be killed, claiming he was a messenger sent by God to warn people of the campground's "death curse", always saying "Doomed. You're all doomed!"

In "Return to Crystal Lake: Making of Friday the 13th," Victor Miller claims that "the function of Crazy Ralph is to set the tone for this horrible geographic area." Miller also states that in the original screenplay for Friday the 13th, Ralph was known as "Ralphie the Rat Boy" and describes the character as "one of those crazies you see in Deliverance, a demented person who knows the truth.

Ralph is a character who gives you the sense that the world you're in is not what it seems, a soothsayer right out of Shakespeare. Most people think people like Ralphie are nuts, but they are closer to reality in some ways than the 'normies'."

The Omen - 1976

Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton), like other harbingers listed here that preached evangelical warnings of pending evil, is no great stretch that he's quoting the Holy word. After all, he is a priest. To warn Robert Thorn, Brennan quotes scripture centered around an ancient prophecy (fabricated for the story) that an antrichrist will be born, grow to manhood, and lead the world into death and destruction.

Robert has no interest in hearing a sermon and thinks Brennan is a lunatic. It's only when the priest tells Robert his wife is pregnant, to which she didn't even know, he starts to wonder about Brennan's prophetic warnings. Still, he thinks the priest is insane and warns him to never bother him again.

Other than not having the most friendly face, there's really nothing creepy about Father Brennan visually. It's his previous actions where creepiness comes into play, considering he participated in the birth of Damien, the son of the devil, born of a jackal, intent on killing the Thorn family, and assume Thorn's power.

Mrs. Dudley
The Haunting - 1963 / 1999

Mrs. Dudley doesn't really warn the guests point blank, however, behind her rictus-like grin, she makes cryptic comments that leaves the guests feeling uneasy with her creepy delivery. Mrs. Dudley is a sunken face, sallow woman who greets the guests with her 'alone, in the dark' theme. When Nell tries to make flattering chit chat with her, Mrs. Dudley relentlessly bites back in an icy cold demeanor.

She lays down the rules for Nell and the others, "I don't wait on people. I don't stay after dinner. Not after it begins to get dark. I leave before dark comes. We live in town. So there won't be anyone around if you need help. We couldn't even hear you, in the night. No one could. No one lives any nearer than town. No one will come any nearer than that. . . In the night. . . In the dark."

Her husband, Mr. Dudley is a distant second to the leering Mrs. Dudley in the creepy harbinger arena for The Haunting, but even he taunts with his own cryptic warning, "Sometimes a locked chain makes people on both sides of the fence just a little more comfortable. Why would that be?"

The House on Haunted Hill - 1959

Watson (Elisha Cook) is a weary alcoholic who always looks dizzy and dismayed, and the owner of the haunted house where seven people were killed including the ghastly murder of his brother. He has spent only one night there and the next morning he was found almost dead. Watson is a man living in mortal fear of the house, and yet he risks his life to spend another night there, he says for the money.

Watson is a neurotic sot and throughout the story, spouts anecdotes about the house’s grisly history, "Only the ghosts in this house are glad we're here." Watson seems to relish in giving the other guests a tour of the deathly trappings in the house, including a cellar floor vat filled with acid.

While more than once he flashed a butcher knife to the other guests, telling its bloody history, he never was a threat to the other guests. His sole weapon of intimidation is rambling on with his nihilistic warnings of death and tales of murder that were "all sort of wild, violent, and . . . . different."

The Wolf Man - 1941

Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) is an old gypsy woman who tries to warn Larry Talbot what he will turn in to after he had been bitten by a wolf. The wolf is actually her son Bela, who had turned into a wolf earlier.

Her culture is surrounded around what others think is superstition, but there's more truth to her ominous beliefs, "The way you walked was thorny, through no fault of your own. But as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end."

Larry encounters Maleva later at the gypsy fair. She gives him a pentagram charm, the sign of the wolf, to break the evil spell. However, he gives it up to Gwen, causing his eventual destiny to become a hairy beast during the first full moon.

The cynical Larry reluctantly shows Maleva his bite wound which has almost instantly healed. Larry leaves Maleva's cart with her giving him another warning, "Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives, becomes a werewolf himself."


Worth a mention

A few more characters that don't quite fit the profile of creepy harbingers nearly as much as the characters above, but played a small role in sales pitching warnings of doom to some degree to other characters.

I didn't include them in the list above because they played a larger role in the story than just the creepy side character, or they are quite sane and their warnings are simply stern warnings, or they were insane and convinced of some impending doom without any mention of warnings or taunts.

Feast - 2005

A man listed in the credits as "Hero," stumbles into a bar in the desert carrying the severed head of a monster he had hit with his car and informing the patrons that there are more of them outside. He states, "A storm of hell is coming down on this place any second." The bar patrons dismiss his warning. When asked who he is, he proclaims, "I'm the man who's gonna save your ass."

Halloween 4 - 1988

Rev. Jackson P. Sayer (Carmen Filpi) is an alcoholic drifter preacherman who has been hunting some unknown evil force for thirty years - Apocalypse, Armageddon, etc. Sayer gives Loomis a ride into Haddonfield. Loomis strikes up an immediate rapport with Sayer when he realizes that Sayer's opinion on evil corresponds with his belief that Michael Myers is the embodiment of pure evil.

Just Before Dawn - 1981

Roy McLean (George Kennedy) is one of the main protagonists, but early in the film he tries to warn campers of a huge machete-wielding maniac loose in the woods. And like many young adults bound for some dark forest in movies, they ignore Roy's warning.

Without Warning - 1980

Fred 'Sarge' Dobbs (Martin Landau), not really a creepy harbinger, more accurately a paranoid and mentally ill veteran who is the only one that believes the young characters there are aliens running around in the woods.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers - 1956

It would certainly be inaccurate to paste the label, 'creepy harbinger' on Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy), he was after all, quite sane before the alien encounter. More accurately, it's the other characters of this film who thought Miles was a lunatic with his wild tales of alien invasion. He winds up wandering the highway, shouting at people, "They're already here! You're next!"

Thanks to members of the IMDB Horror forum for contributing suggestions

Resource Credits: imdb.com, wikipedia.org, badmovies.org, tvtropes.org











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