In that critique, I wrote:
“Rehearsal” also interests me in being a tale where it takes a little work to figure out who is the narrative’s centric presence. The dominant pattern in horror-stories is to place the emphasis upon the narrative’s most monstrous figure, while any lesser heroes—or demiheroes, to use my preferred term for victim-types—are subordinate presences. Thus Dracula is usually the star of any story he appears in, while Jonathan Harker, not so much. There are famous characters whom I would regard more as demiheroes than as monsters, such as Victor Frankenstein. But “Grave Rehearsal,” while nowhere near as famous as these luminaries, does maintain an interesting narrative tension between the story’s monster, the lovely Madam Satin, and its foolhardy worm-who-turns, B.S. Fitts.
In reading the story, I could see ways in which "Madame Satin" might have been presented as the most focal character in the story. Nevertheless, even though the good madame succeeds in killing her victim B.S. Fitts, he, "the demihero," proves much more potent in a narrative sense than "the monster." However, I want to specify that Fitts' narrative dominance doesn't come about simply because he reverses the normal course of monster-victim stories and destroys his murderer.
Many horror-narratives follow the simple pattern of "monster kills victim," often choosing to make the victim deserving of his fate. I mentioned an example of one such destruction in the essay DIAL D FOR DEMIHERO PART 1: that of the 1963 Steve Ditko "The Gentle Old Man." In this short story, a grasping landlord plans to steal from his boarder, but the apparently harmless old fellow turns the tables. Though the landlord is the viewpoint character, obviously the old man, the story's "monster," is the focal presence.
However, in some cases the "monster" doesn't take a definitive form, and usually this means that the demihero's status as the victim of destruction assumes the focal position. I've already discussed in this essay Ray Bradbury's short story "The Last Night of the World," asserting that the tale's two unnamed viewpoint characters assume the role of focal presences because of the "dignity" with which they meet their end. A similar story (in terms of narrative drive) is another Steve Ditko story, 1962's "The Speed Demon:"
The nasty demihero of the story, Speedy Simms, endangers people with his reckless driving, so of course he must meet a terrible fate. But no particular agent of Providence interacts with Speedy to put him eternally circling the rings of Saturn. Therefore the effect is as if Speedy has created, through his actions, his own private hell, and so he assumes the focal position.
Another undesirable demihero appears in "Den of Horror," from WEIRD TERROR #3 (1953). Nasty rich guy Robert Baker gets warned about the evils of his ancestors by a strange old woman whose identity is never explained. He repeats one of the deeds of a cursed ancestor, and a couple of unidentified phantoms show up to mete our punishment.
Again, as with "Grave Rehearsal," one can see ways in which the torture-happy ghosts might have been the stars of the show. But, like the old woman who warns Baker, they seem vague at best. Why are there two of them? Two skeletons are seen chained to the wall in Baker's dream-that-isn't-just-a-dream. but the old woman only speaks of one victim cursing Baker's ancestor. It seems obvious that here too, the storyteller was more concerned with Baker setting himself up for a fall than with the agents of that demise.
There are also a number of stories in which one or more demiheroes take over for the monster. In "Partners in Blood" (JOURNEY INTO FEAR #6, 1952), two people with "victim" written all over them-- a psychic investigator named Professor Martin and his niece Rose-- move into an old German castle associated with vampires. They allow a stranded woman, Baroness Von Erich, to take shelter with them, but she turns out to be a vampire who was once exiled from her own castle and now seems very interested in vamping Rose. In the tale's hurry-up-and-finish conclusion, Martin manages to kill the Baroness, but the vampiress has already passed her unholy nature to Rose. Rose kills her uncle, and is all set to take over for the late Baroness when an over-enthusiastic servant picks up Rose and promptly causes both of them to fall to their deaths. (Apparently in the world of "Partners," vampires can be as easily killed by broken necks as by wooden stakes.) Nevertheless, even though the Baroness perishes-- as monsters sometimes do, even in horror stories-- she's still the focal presence, and would have remained so even if Martin and his niece had escaped hale and hearty.
Finally, here's an example of a "fake-out demihero" from a considerably later period, the Wally Wood story "Bridal Night" (GHOST MANOR #8, 1972). The story starts with a sexy young American girl, Helena Ayres, who shows up in a backwards German town. The moment she gets there, she's informed that a local aristocrat, Count Wolfgang Von Roemer, plans to force her to marry him, as the Count has done with many, many local women before Helena.
For the length of the story, it sounds as if innocent Helena is going to be forcibly wed to a serial murderer, albeit one who seems rather retiring, in that he only marries and kills one woman every year. Von Roemer shows no explicit sign of having supernatural powers, though his servant Otto is unusually strong. Up to the last page, it appears that helpless Helena is going to experience a fatal "bridal night" at the hands of a human monster-- only to reveal that she is actually an inhuman monster. She's apparently one of the vampires mentioned only in the opening caption, though she kills Von Roemer not with a bite to the neck but with a parody of the wedding-kiss. We never know why Helena put herself in the murderer's path, though it seems evident that she could have escaped if she so desired. Thus this apparent demihero becomes a "stealth monster," though probably anyone who's read a fair number of such stories would have guessed that there was more to her than met the eye.