Even though horror can be rife with clichés, the genre always finds ways to catch everybody off-guard. Jump-scares, plot twists, and vibrant gore have been utilised, not just to scare the audience, but to unnerve them.
However, an easy way to throw off horror fans is to remove one element that's often considered to be set in stone; the protagonist. No matter how many monsters, ghosts, or killers are thrown at the lead, viewers are confident that character will make it through, since they are the anchor of the narrative.
And yet, some films flip the script by discarding the hero or so-called Final Girl at the halfway point. Not only does this decision challenge traditional storytelling conventions, it can amplify the scares, since it demonstrates the principal character is (or was) just as vulnerable as anyone else. Although horror can be bogged down by tropes, pulling a narrative shift like this can reinvigorate the story, since viewers won't know what's going to happen next or who to root for.
Though the entries on this list are classified as main characters, they didn't maintain that role for very long.
In Feast, a group of strangers are barricaded inside a remote bar, which is surrounded by flesh-eating monsters.
The set-up for this underrated horror-comedy couldn't be simpler, but the way it plays out is anything but. Viewers will know things aren't what they seem when the supposed protagonist, who's simply called Hero, has his head lopped off before the minor characters get introduced. The spotlight then switches to his wife, Heroine, who attempts to take charge of the dire situation.
As the tusked beasties pick off the patrons, everyone is counting on Heroine to see them through. But when she meets her maker, the survival rate of the remaining ensemble starts looking pretty slim.
Suddenly, Tuffy the waitress goes into Leader Mode, banding the group together and destroying the critters once and for all. This moment comes out of nowhere, since Tuffy appeared irreversibly traumatised after the monsters slaughtered her son.
What makes this unanticipated turn better is how Tuffy's transition is presented. As she starts kicking butt, a text appears on-screen, changing Tuffy's name to "Heroine 2". In that moment, she officially discards her role as a bit-part, and embraces her new role as a messiah.