In the spirit of Halloween, here's a list of some of my favorite supernatural anti heroes. Even outside the horror genre there's a fascination with supernatural elements that ensures they pop up every now and then. Many of these are simple revenge stories, with characters so determined to right a wrong that not even death can stop them. I also include psychic abilities as supernatural in some cases. "The Fury" and "The Dead Zone" for example are films where paranormal "gifts" are treated differently than they are in superhero stories, asking questions like, if you could see the future, would you really want to? One of the hallmarks of these stories is that there's always a cost involved, especially when making deals with the Devil. The dead can come back sometimes, but not for long. You don't want to get in the way during that time, however, as they can even their scores without fear of consequences since they're just going back after they're done.
I've been a big fan of the Marvel Comics version of Ghost Rider since I was a kid. While grouped in with super heroes the character has little in common with the rest of that universe. I had doubts that it could be made into a satisfying movie and honestly after two attempts I'm still not sure. Nonetheless, it's great to see the character brought to screen as that flaming skull is a visual that demands different interpretations. The story is simple enough, Johnny Blaze sells his soul to the Devil to save his father but then finds there's more to the deal than he thought and he really should have read the fine print. I thought Nicholas Cage was a good pick as he does unhinged characters very well and certainly having your skull on fire should bring out some intensity.
Drive Angry is a straight ahead over the top action flick. It's lead character, John Milton busted out of hell to save his daughter's baby from a bloodthirsty cult of Satan worshippers. Hell sends the Accountant (William Fichtner) to collect Milton before he interferes, as the sacrifice of Milton's granddaughter is vital to Satan's plans for Earth. Milton ends up teaming with Piper (Amber Heard,) a waitress who doesn't mind the chance to vent some frustrations by helping Milton take down the bad guys. The movie is full of action and has some scenes that you're not likely to see anywhere else. If you're looking for a subtle character piece, this isn't your film, but if you're in the mood for over the top gun fights and explosions with a supernatural edge then you could certainly have a good time with it.
A mysterious figure called The Wraith, driving a black Dodge M4S Turbo Interceptor, shows up in a town that's terrorized by a gang of car thieves, who use racing as their main method of intimidation. This is a welcome development to Billy, whose brother Jamie was killed by the gang, and Kerri, who was Jamie's girlfriend. The Wraith gets involved with the races and it soon becomes clear that he has a grudge against the gang when he starts killing it's members. At the same time, a guy named Jake Kesey (Charlie Sheen) appears in town, but no one including the police can catch the Wraith, although it's clear that his problem is a very personal one.
"Let the Right One In" is a different kind of vampire story. Eli (Lina Leandersson) a vampire who looks like a little girl, moves into a house next door to Oskar's family. Oskar is a very troubled young boy who has a problem with bullies (among many other problems) Eli has brought an assistant who is assumed to be Eli's father, but his true function is to procure victims to keep Eli fed. Oskar seeks to befriend her and gradually learns that Eli is not a little girl at all, and has to decide whether the atrocities he's faced with due to her nature are more than he can deal with.This is a different kind of vampire story about a different kind of friendship.
John Constantine is another comic book character that demanded a big screen version. Although the film is not entirely faithful to the Vertigo comics character, they kept enough elements to make it a worthwhile watch. Keanu Reeves does a great job with his portrayal, of Constantine as aloof, acerbic, and witty, not to mention highly competent at dispatching demons. He uncovers a plot by demons planning to break through to the earthly realm, while at the same time dealing with the knowledge that he's dying of cancer. He investigates, finding the demons' plan has some very influential participants and works to shut it down, calling on some unlikely allies of his own, even while facing down his own death sentence.
Gillian Bellaver (Amy Irving) has some extraordinary psychic powers, but they're not entirely beneficial, as they make interactions with others very challenging. She attends a clinic for those with abilities like hers but finds the program's administrator, Ben Childress (John Cassavetes) wants to use his patients as weapons. When Childress' plan endangers the son of Peter Sandza (Kirk Douglas) he attempts to save him with Gillian's help. They stop Ben's plan at quite a cost, while Gillian struggles to come to terms with her abilities, finding acceptance in a way that doesn't work out so well for Childress.
Johnny Smith is a schoolteacher with a good life, including a girlfriend he loves very much. His whole life changes when he's in a car accident and ends up in a coma for years. When he wakes up he learns his girlfriend has moved on and gotten married. He finds that when he touches people he can see things about them, including their secrets and their future. He also learns that if he acts on the visions in the right way he can intervene and change what happens. Initially he uses this ability to help people, including finding a murderer. Unfortunately, he shakes the hand of a man who will one day be president and start a war. He must decide what to do about that, knowing that it will require desperate actions and no one else could understand his reasons.
The Maitland family, Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam (Alec Baldwin,) are faced with the knowledge that even though they didn't realize it, they're dead and confined to their house. They get some assistance via the "Handbook of the Recently Deceased" but then have to deal with the house's new owners moving in, including a young girl named Lydia (Winona Ryder) who, unlike her parents, can see them. The Maitlands are advised by their afterlife case worker to scare the new residents away, but they prove inept at this task. Desperate for help they contact the bio exorcist Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton) Beetlejuice turns out to be much more of a problem than the new residents however as his unconventional methods support only his own agenda.
The Stranger (Clint Eastwood) appears in the town of Lago, only to be bothered by three aggressive men. He quickly guns them all down, killing them and interacts with other town people, finding them all to be particularly nasty. He dreams of a Marshal being whipped to death as the whole town looked on and did nothing to help him. The town starts to panic when they learn that a group of outlaws that they double crossed are headed toward Lago for revenge. They hire the Stranger to protect them, promising he can have "anything he wants." He makes a point of indulging himself in everyone's services extravagantly, even requiring them to paint the whole town red, and write "Hell" on the Lago town sign. SOme of the townspeople have had enough and attack the Stranger, who easily kills them. The Stranger rides off as the outlaws are about to approach. They get all the townspeople together and the Stranger eventually returns and kills the outlaws before leaving town, leaving them to wonder who he was.
On October 30th, one year after Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) and his girlfriend Shelly were brutally murdered, Eric Draven is called back to life by a crow to avenge their murders at the hands of a gang led by Top Dollar (Michael Wincott.) He realizes that any wound heals instantly and tracks down each of the gang members and kills them each in a unique style fitting their personalities, and also becomes reacquainted with a young girl who he and Shelly looked after and a police Sgt. Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) who had worked on their case and watched Shelly die in the hospital. He tracks down and kills them all easily, except for Top Dollar who manages to even the contest by wounding the Crow and making him vulnerable, until Eric touches him and gives him all of Shelly's pain in an instant causing him to fall to his death. His task finished, he returns to the grave to reunite with Shelly.