the one you might have saved: frank

A couple of years ago over at the mighty Arbogast on Film site, a gauntlet of sorts was thrown down.  In writing about Joe D’Amato’s sicko horror film Buio Omega (1979), Arbogast lamented the gruesome death of a “minor” character in the film.  The question of “Who would you save?” is a bold and revealing one to ask horror fans since expressing empathy for a character is not always the primary emotion when watching these films.  Can you imagine how raw and hollowed out you would be if every time you finished watching [insert horror film of choice here] you curled into the fetal position and sobbed yourself to sleep?  I’d seriously advise retiring that DVD copy of Maniac (1980) and switch to Sonja Henie films instead… which is their own sort of nightmare.  A couple of days ago, Arbogast tossed out the challenge again and I’m heeding the call.

Horror fans are a hardened sort.  And the longer you’ve been at it, the thicker the emotional armor.  After years of watching hundreds (thousands?) of nameless extras, minor characters with only a few lines of dialogue to mark their territory, and major players with name recognition fall to the death lust of rippers, sadists, creatures from the deep dark woods, cannibals, zombies, evil twins, and all the black-hearted rest of them… you can’t blame us for being a little discriminatory about who we mourn for.

Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002) features a particularly painful death scene for me… a character that undoubtedly qualifies as the one I would save.

He cuts a fearsome, intimidating presence at first.  A fascist-minded goon entrapped in his tower block, feeding off his own brand of rage.

In a normal world, no one would think less of you if you fled.  Took your chances back on the street to find safe haven somewhere else.

But the definitions of normality have changed quite a bit since the end became extremely fucking nigh.

You have to take chances… accept hospitality from scary strangers…

And hope that they’re not as bad as you originally feared.

I’m not exactly sure why this character gets to me.  Perhaps I’m just fond of Brendan Gleeson.

This character reminds me of plenty of blokes I’ve known over the years.  He enjoys downing hearty pints of Guinness, eating a good plate of stewed eels and mash, and watching West Ham United struggle through another match on the telly.

He’s just a guy.

We’ve seen so many of these types go down in a hail of bullets, get chomped to bits by satanic beasties, and excised from films like dinner scraps from the table.

They’re expendable.

And maybe that’s why this one hurt so badly.

I got the feeling that this character just wanted a little more than that.

He’d certainly earned it… surviving with his daughter as he had in that fortified tower block.

He had a good thing going… relatively.

Until the main characters showed up and ruined everything.

Then again… the appearance of the raven gives the death an almost mythic resonance.

As if it were fate not chance at play here…

It’s like a part of him knows it was always going to end like this.

Something nestled in the deepest recess of his mind…

Calling him forth…

To stand alone…

Stare death…

Right in the eye.

There’s nothing romantic about it.

Nothing heroic.

Death is simply the inevitable last chapter in all our lives.

It snatches us all.

Even our loved ones.

It’s not a comforting thought.

We spend our lives trying to protect our loved ones from that inevitability.

We certainly don’t attempt to speed things up…

Become the agents of their misfortune…

In a normal world… that would never cross our mind.

Sadly, those days are gone.

Today… things are much more difficult…

Everything’s in flux…

And no matter how hard you fight it…

How hard you struggle…

It’s so easy to give in to…


Unless someone…

Stops you.

And blesses you with everlasting peace.

5 comments on “the one you might have saved: frank

  1. Arbogast says:

    Gorgeous. Full marks. Let’s raise a glass of crème de menthe in his honor.

  2. Eric says:

    Well fucking done mate. I haven’t liked a single Danny Boyle film I’ve seen so far but perhaps there’s something there I just haven’t seen.

    Great entry.

  3. derek says:

    Thank you both.

    I can’t say I’m a fan of Danny Boyle either, Eric. I loathed SHALLOW GRAVE, could never get through TRAINSPOTTING, and THE BEACH is… well, hideous. But I have a weakness for end of the world scenarios and this one really worked for me. I was surprised as anyone.


  4. AE says:

    Beautifully done. This death was such a heartbreaker, especially after the agonizing tension of the movie’s first two-thirds or so. It makes you wonder what the point of even surviving is, if it’s just to watch the last bits of your own humanity get blown away. I remember from the DVD that the creators storyboarded an ending that saved this character — it didn’t work, because they’d already established that rage was incurable. But they wanted to save him too.

    • derek says:

      AE: Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I had no idea the filmmakers struggled with saving Frank. I’m glad, although in complete agreement that he had to sadly go.

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