Monday, March 19, 2012

KFP salutes Forgotten Fiends - Dargent Peytraud

Everybody knows the big guys - Myers, Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolfman, Freddy.  They have their own franchises, their own toys, and worldwide recognition.  The KFP "Forgotten Fiend" awards, however, are dedicated to the guys who didn't end up with action figures...  Who were in only one movie and yet their presence was so memorable that they MADE the movie.  The ones about whom you go away thinking, "Damn, that was a great villain!"

My first entry into this category is this guy, Zakes Mokae.  Or as I will always remember him, Dargent Peytraud from The Serpent and the Rainbow, a favorite horror movie of mine and one of the few Wes Craven flicks that I actually like.  In Serpent, Peytraud is the Bad Guys' Bad Guy - Scheming, brilliant, devious, mischievous, and often downright terrifying.  Even more frightening is the fact that he personifies the sort of depersonalized, bored government sadism typical of despotic regimes and French administration.  He's not out to control the world, just to keep Haiti held together with an iron fist, and if you threaten to upset his applecart even one iota, hold onto your nuts!

I'm hard to scare in horror movies - The Exorcist girl did nothing for me, Freddy and Jason are just goofy, and the less said about franchise characters like Chucky and the Leprechaun, the better.  When I look back over my movie history, I can really only think of a few movie villains that genuinely creeped me out.  There was the Tall Man from Phantasm, Max Schreck in Nosferatu, the ghosts in The Fog, the original Michael Myers, that thing at the end of [REC], and a few others... and among them is Zakes Mokae's Peytraud, the guy who can say, "See you in your dreeeeeeems, blanc" and really mean it.

I love a lot of things about Peytraud.  I love the way he talks.  I love the way he says, "Dreeeems".  I love the way he depersonalizes the hero as merely, "Blanc"...  Just one more annoyance to be swatted out of the way, unless you really irritate him enough to give you his full attention, and you really, really don't want that.  Dracula might toss you around and drink your blood, and the Alien might spray acid on you, but Peytraud will hammer a nail through your testicles just to convince you he's serious.  Throughout the whole movie, he marvelously communicates the aura of the guy that you simply do NOT screw around with.

His sense of mounting menace helps.  At first meet, you think he's just a bureaucrat, pushing papers at the ministry and being suitably brusque to foreigners messing in his country.  But hero "Doctah Alan" finds out quickly that Peytraud is no pushover to be intimidated by the presence of an American in his Third World.  The interactions between Bill Pullman and Mokae are electric and Mokae dominates every scene he's in.  For the actors around him, it's like trying to do "Death of a Saleman" starring William Shatner - You just know that everyone's looking at THAT guy, no matter what you do.

Peytraud is no one dimensional comicbook villain, though.  Probably what makes him so memorably scary and so freaky is his sense of demented fun - Sending a voodoo ritual into chaos for idle kicks and making people into zombies just for the hell of it.  He's not just frightening when he hammers in that nail, he's enjoying it - This is him finally getting to unwind and have some good times.  And later, when the hero realizes there's just no escaping the guy...  That he's perfectly happy to reach across the world just to fuck with his mind...  Well, that really caps him off as an ideal villain.  When he notices you, run.

It's a shame we never saw this guy again.  Serpent was never going to be a franchise (This was back in the magical days when every single property that came out was not necessarily immediately vetted for franchise and toy marketing potential).  But that's probably best - Overexposure would only have diluted his menace and malice, Freddy Krueger-style, until he became a shadow of his original self.  I'm quite happy that he's a perfect one-time villain and he can easily stand alongside the famous "movie monsters".  I can say with certainty that I would MUCH rather have to face off with Jason than Peytraud.  At least Jason will only kill me.  So thanks, Zakes, for giving us one of the best underappreciated villains in horror films!

And if you want to see a clip of just what makes this guy so amazing, watch and shudder.  He wants to hear you SCREEEM, blanc.

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