Monday, October 24, 2022

A History of Movie Characters Named Loomis

 by Joel Edmiston

Naming horror characters as homage to classics has been happening for years. In the case of the name Loomis, this tradition seems to have snowballed.

There are many Loomises (or is it Loomi…?) and they’re found so consistently in horror that it’s hard to believe that they’re not all somehow connected to the first movie on this list. Sometimes, it is a coincidence and other times the homage keeps piling on top of itself. I’ve compiled this list chronologically (not ranked!) and tried to trace who’s named after who, and why. Also I’ll issue a warning right now that I was not cautious about spoilers, so be warned!

Psycho (1960)
Sam Loomis - John Gavin

Did you remember that the guy Marion Crane was having an affair with was named Sam Loomis? Most of you reading this probably did, but you gotta admit that most people who watched Psycho probably forgot this guy’s name, right? He’s a decent character, but I always wondered what it was about this guy that spawned all these characters named Loomis. I guess “Bates” was a tad too obvious, so they went with the more unnoticeable homage. Then one thing led to another and now there are enough Loomises to necessitate a list like this.

I’m kinda talking like he’s a totally inconsequential character. He’s actually extremely pivotal. After all, he is responsible for tracking down that damn Norman Bates and even capturing him before he kills Marion’s sister, Lila. John Gavin plays him probably exactly how Hitchcock wanted; like a charming leading-man type who commands just enough attention that he doesn’t take over the movie.

But what I really wonder is if this Loomis is named after anyone. I suppose he’s named after the character in the book that Psycho is based on, but that doesn’t count. I want to know how the author Robert Bloch came up with that name. Did he just see that name in the phone book and like it? Or was it a guy he knew? Or did he just want there to be someone with a name with the word “Loom” in it? As an aside, imagine how annoying to my girlfriend I’d be if I was like this for every character in every movie - watching a movie and every time a new character is introduced, I’m like “HOW DID WRITER THINK OF NAME!?”

Splendor in the Grass (1961)
Deanie Loomis - Natalie Wood
This is the only non-horror on the list. Also, I think it’s the only coincidental Loomis, meaning I don’t think the writer of this movie watched Psycho and was like “I’m gonna name my repressed teenage-girl character after that guy who tackled Norman Bates.” Plus, these movies came out within a year of each other, so it would have to have been a last minute change if they did -- like “Her name is Loomis now, no further questions… Action!”

Ok listen, my brain is full of beer and hot dogs and if I’m watching a movie at home and it doesn’t give me a stabbing, or a chase, or a Brian Thompson every ten minutes, then I tend to start counting all the rectangular things in my living room (just an example). So when I saw that Natalie Wood plays a Loomis in a 1961 romantic-drama based in the 1920s, I was thinking “ugh homework?”

Despite that, I actually thought this movie was quite good. There is some truly heart-wrenching stuff in this and Natalie Wood is excellent as Deanie Loomis. The character is constantly on a tightrope between joyfulness and misery. Whenever she’s on screen, there’s a tension that could go up against any of the horror movies on this list. It’s a surprisingly nuanced and empathetic portrayal of mental health, or at least more nuanced and empathetic than a certain movie about a certain psycho.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)
Peggy Loomis - Cindy Butler
This Loomis has the distinction of being the only trombone player on the list, as far as I know (maybe there is a secret talent left out of the final cut somewhere). We are introduced to her while she is playing in a band at the prom. The song they’re playing is "Auld Lang Syne." This was one of the more striking things to me in a movie full of shocking violence. Was the prom on New Year's Eve? Or was that song the pop hit song of the summer (“These teens! They love 'Auld Lang Syne!'”)?

Anyway, Peggy ends up becoming a victim of the masked serial killer, The Phantom. It's a pretty brutal scene. The Phantom attaches a knife to the slide on her trombone and stabs her while pretending to play the damn thing. It sort of reminded me of how in the later Nightmare sequels, Freddy Kruger starts killing kids in ways that punish them for their interests and hobbies, which I’ve always found quite unsettling.

I wasn’t sure if this Loomis was a Psycho reference and then I noticed that another character was called Norman and I thought “Wow OK, definitely a Psycho reference”. I get it. Psycho paved the way so that, 16 years later, violent movies like The Town that Dreaded Sundown and Halloween could exist, and they want to show their appreciation. I’m sure Hitchcock himself called this filmmaker and said “Thank you for naming the trombone player Loomis.”

Halloween (1978), Halloween 2 (1981), 4 (1988), 5 (1989) and 6 (1995).
Doctor Loomis - Donald Pleasance
I’ve always thought it was cool that John Carpenter named a character after Psycho, and then his Loomis went on to become arguably more iconic than Hitchcock’s. If you say the name Loomis around horror fans, I’m pretty sure all of them are going to think of this guy first.

For those who don’t know, Dr. Loomis is a profoundly strange man who is trying to stop Michael Myers from killing people (and he doesn't do a great job of that.). In the first movie, he is intense and does some questionable things, such as hiding behind a shrub and scaring a child by saying “Hey Lonny, get your ass away from there” (including this link because I always thought this line reading was hilarious).

He really becomes an icon in the sequels, I think. He is the most consistent protagonist, even after Halloween 2, in which he basically kills a teenager by accident and seemingly also burns to death (death is not permanent in this franchise though!). My favourite thing in the entire Halloween franchise is watching Loomis descend into madness. As we learned in Halloween Kills, apparently Michael Myers gets more powerful every time he kills someone. Well I think that also every time Michael Myers kills someone, Dr. Loomis becomes more insane. Except, I honestly don’t know if Loomis’s mania is on the page. It is mostly in Pleasance’s performance. With each new sequel he’s in, his voice gets louder and shakier, his eyes become wider and his overall intensity becomes more and more like someone I would walk away from if I met them. To make things worse, in 4 and 5, he’s friends with a child (and he screams in her face all the time)!

I also want to mention that he is played by Malcom McDowell in the Rob Zombie movies as a tortured guy who rubs shoulders with notorious assholes Chris Hardwick and Weird Al Yankovic. Also, he turned up in Halloween Kills as a bizarre, video-game-character-looking version of Donald Pleasance. And since Halloween has “ended,” perhaps that will be his final form, but you just know that in a couple years, there’s going to be fucking miniseries called “Loomis” and it’ll be a Halloween-prequel based at Smith’s Grove and one of the Skarsgard sons is going to play young Loomis.

Psycho 2 (1983)
Lila Loomis - Vera Miles & Mary Loomis - Meg Tilly
So it turns out Marion’s sister, Lila, married Sam Loomis. I may have had blinders on, but when watching Psycho I had been under the impression that Sam and Lila’s relationship was purely platonic. Maybe Billy Crystal saw this and that’s how he came up with that “men and women can’t be friends without sex” thing. Well, Billy, we do know for sure that sex was a part of Lila and Sam’s relationship because guess what? They had a daughter. But also guess what?! Remember Mary, you know the girl from the diner who makes friends with Norman in the first half of Psycho 2? Well you’ll never believe it, Billy, but in the second half of Psycho 2, we find out that she is actually Mary… Loomis! She is the first edition of what I call Secret Loomis (play the jingle), a phenomenon that will repeat further down the list.

So the reason she kept her Loomis-identity a secret is because she and her mom have a rather convoluted plan to infiltrate Norman’s home and gaslight him back into prison. Unfortunately, they can’t get along and their plan falls apart and they both end up dying and there aren’t any more Loomises in the subsequent sequels. But of course, the Loomis name lives on in other ways…

Lord of Illusions (1995)
Loomis - Wayne Grace
I did not know there was a Loomis in Lord of Illusions. I was watching this movie in July and in the first scene or so, Scott Bakula is visited by an old friend and, in passing, he refers to him as “Loomis.” I freaked out, pointed at the screen, paused the movie, ran around my apartment, lifted my cat in the air like Simba, etc.

Hold the jingle, he’s not quite a secret Loomis, but definitely a surprise Loomis (ok yeah, play a shorter jingle). It was this surprise that made me think, “hey I could write an article about all these guys,” so if you’re enjoying this read (which, for the love of god, I hope you are), thank that guy. Well anyway, this guy only appears in one scene, so there’s not too much to write about, but he is the one to convince Bakula’s character to go to LA (“Go out to the coast, you’ll get together, have a few laughs,” etc), which sets up the whole plot, so I suppose he is quite pivotal.

I do wonder if his character is named after Psycho or Halloween. It’s not like Clive Barker really needs to do that, you know what I mean? Like, he’s good. This is his third movie and he’s got lots of popular books at this point. He doesn’t need to pay tribute to the masters - he is a master!

Scream (1996)
Billy Loomis - Skeet Ulrich
This movie is pretty obsessed with Halloween, so I expect he is named after that Loomis, but I’m sure Kevin Williamson knew what he was doing: a tribute to a tribute. Donald Pleasance and Skeet Ulrich don’t have too much in common (other than the fact that they are both hunks), but I can see it maybe as an attempt at a bait-and-switch. Perhaps Williamson was trying to set up Billy as a helper to Sidney Prescott as Loomis was to Laurie Strode and Jamie Lloyd, so as to make the reveal that Billy is the killer even more surprising. I may be reaching a bit, but I wouldn’t put it past horror fans to buy into that sort of thing.

Before I get into this next part, I want to make it clear that I love Scream and all the sequels very deeply, but my main problem with all of them is that I think the horror homages should stop right before the character names. In a world where everyone is hyper-aware of horror movies, why aren’t they turning to each other and saying “hey, you have the same name as an iconic horror character/director!” I am the Randy Meeks in all of my friend groups (not a brag) and you know I am constantly pointing out if any of my friends share even a first name with a horror character and I know a lot of guys named Michael. You see what I’m saying? It’s like if, in a movie about a specific city, all the characters were named after streets in that city. It’s too much homage! And I’m sorry, but a character in Scream 5 with the last name Carpenter is the snake eating its own tail, folks.

Scream 2 (1997)
Mrs. Loomis - Laurie Metcalf

Whenever I think of Scream 2, I simply cannot help but think of Timothy Olyphant yelling “Mrs. Loomis!” The reveal that the nosy Gail-Weathers-wannabe is actually Billy’s Mom AND the killer is one of my favourite parts of the franchise. And hold on, a reveal? Mrs. Loomis first pretends to be someone of a different name? Yes, that’s right. It’s another Secret Loomis (slam that jukebox Fonzie, it’s jingle time).

Laurie Metcalf just plays this scene so well. Her performance here is oddly reminiscent of her one scene in Uncle Buck. Great stuff. I love an unhinged Laurie Metcalf performance. There’s also a character named Joel in this movie, which is exciting for me as a guy named Joel. It’s almost as if I am in Scream 2 and I know a Loomis. Pretty neat.

Dark Shadows (2012)
Willie Loomis - Jackie Earl Haley
Imagine my dismay when I realized there was a character named Willie Loomis in the TV show Dark Shadows, which meant I would probably have to watch the Tim Burton film Dark Shadows from 2012. Well, yeah, there is a character named Willie Loomis in that movie and I did have to fucking watch it. I obviously had hesitation watching Johnny Depp in 2022, not to mention my pre-existing allergy to his collaborations with Tim Burton, post-Sleepy Hollow. The worst part was that I’ve already seen this damn thing and I knew that I didn’t like it. I liked it even less this time around. Just a lost, soulless thing kinda pretending to be a movie.

Jackie Earl Haley does his best Tim Blake Nelson impression, playing a groundskeeper called Willie Loomis who becomes the servant of Depp’s vampire character. He kinda has a good time with it, but also gets totally buried by the rest of the movie. Oh, and they just call him Willie the whole time. They don’t even utter the name Loomis! What a waste… But does that make him a secret loomis? I’m gonna say yes (just to take something salvageable from this damn movie) he is a… Secret Loomis (jingle plays, crowd goes absolutely insane).

I am absolutely shuddering to think Kevin Williamson could have perhaps named Billy Loomis as Willie Loomis from the TV show. Willie and Billy both derive from William, which of course, is the first part of Kevin Williamson’s last name. I saw him walking on the streets of downtown Toronto recently. I should have read him this paragraph verbatim and asked him to comment. I’m sure he gets it all the time, though.

I did some digging and figured out that the character on the TV show made his first appearance in 1967. It seems like this show was very influenced by classic horror, so it’s likely that he was named after Psycho, but also I’m not sure. The name Loomis just may have been part of the zeitgeist in the '60s. There was an olympic runner who won a gold medal in the 1920s called Frank Loomis. Maybe it’s got something to do with him. Maybe everyone on this list does.


  1. One of those things you didn't know you needed until someone did it. Thank you. Good article too

  2. In "Psycho" (1960), the relationship between Sam Loomis and Lila Crane was platonic. However, the first sequel catches up to Lila Crane 22 years later. It's implied that in the intervening 22 years, the relationship between Lila and Sam changed, and led to the two marrying each other and producing a daughter, Mary (Meg Tilly, who played Mary, was then about the same age as her character).