Not Quite Horror: “The Breakfast Club” (1985)


Not Quite Horror contains reviews of films not traditionally considered horror films. By analyzing them as horror films (identifying the monster, discussing the shared worry for the audience and the main characters, and understanding the depth of horror available to the viewer), who knows? There’s more than one way to watch a movie.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

The Monsters: This fiendish psychological thriller sports four monsters, all of whom use deception to manipulate and mild-mannered high school student Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall).

Johnson is no match for the two male students, John Bender and Andrew Clark (Judd Nelson and Emilio Estevez), and two female students, Claire Standish and Allison Reynolds (Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy), sharing his suspension. These four developed street smarts within their social circles.

The Horror: Forced to attend a Saturday in-school suspension, Brian is easily outmaneuvered by his more socially savvy peers. These four students lead him on, dope him up, and then trick him into completing their punishment paper-writhing assignment.

As these four students leave, paired up into new-found relationships, Johnson leaves with nothing except the delusion he has been accepted by a larger group of friends. When time moves forward and Johnson realizes he has been duped . . . can he survive this blow to his sense of self? After all, his reason for being on suspension involved bringing a weapon to school.

The Shared Fate: People leave high school and move into adulthood convinced they moved past their problems. However, how often do scars from our adolescent and teen years resurface? Who hasn’t made a decision, at work or at home, as a way of fixing high school failures?

Hopefully we are aware of the importance of our actions, and not brainwashed victims like Brian Johnson.

— I am indebted to Noel Carroll’s The Philosophy of Horror for his ideas on defining horror, as well as John Skipp and Craig Spector’s article “Death’s Rich Pageantry, or Skipp & Spector’s Handy-Dandy Splatterpunk Guide to the Horrors of Non-horror Film” in Cut! Horror Writers on Horror Film for a similar idea.–

–Axel Kohagen