Warning! Warning! Subjective opinion on the internet! This poll is purely from the perspective of a horror loving fan and how it inspired my love of the genre and my writing!
Following on from my iconic ladies of horror…. Its time for a list of villains who have had an equally influential role on my life, love of film and writing.
Now let me once again say, before anything else, that this is purely subjective and NOT based on the best film. I am not rating films here, just the impact these monsters of celluloid had on my life. The villain has a criteria to fill. 1.) They must have imprinted on me in either a scary/enviable way and 2.) They must have endured in my mind (regardless of how long ago) and still be relevant today in my work and love of horror.
Its not about how many sequels, its not about how much box office and its not even about the original film/sequel or remake in some cases because it was about THAT moment when I saw the movie and it just stayed with me. Oh, and its not about gore either!!! That has no rating in this chart!
Horror villains come from a level of originality/cliché and usually have a story behind them. The writer will always enthuse about what scared them as a child and how that morphed into the screen demon who haunts us today. Some are more iconic than others. Some are human and some are beast. Some are supernatural and some are just human. There is no set paradigm.
As ever, I’m not doing anything sci-fi. This is about horror films and things that have terrified me or thrilled me so much they have started a riot in my mind. Some have kept me awake at night, some have made me dress up as them and some have even stopped me from falling asleep/going in the water/playing with Ouija boards. I wont go on about my love of horror. Anyone who follows me knows I am passionate and so lets skip any more small print and get underway for this weeks topic!
15.) The Teenagers – Eden Lake
BORED TONIGHT….. What shall I watch? Hmmmmm, this looks interesting lets give it a go…
…2 hours later…
Oh dear god I need to lock all the doors and never leave the house again because all teenagers are EVIL!!!
Eden Lake is a masterpiece. It enters the pantheon of elite films I will NEVER watch again because it really affected me. From the start of them terrorising a middle class couple, to the torture scene with knives to the ending where our heroine so nearly makes it, the teens are fleshed out as reprehensible and believable. In the end, as the doors close and the nightmare of cyclic abuse and retribution spikes a peak of unbearable tension at a family party which should be providing sanctuary, the story behind why one of them is such a monster (played out in the final seconds) is just brilliant. Superb acting, real terror and an image of violent youth living up to the nightmarish “hoody” stereotypes, Eden Lake is an ordeal. Its much more effective than the other “hoody horror”, low budget British Horror F, and if you see it….. It also acts as perfect contraception!
14.) It – It Follows
Like a Terminator for the slasher genre, It just keeps coming at a steady pace and can take any form. Mostly starting in the shadows or far in the distance as an innocuous shape morphing closer into view, It is an indestructible and relentless enemy who can only ever be abated by passing it on and hoping it doesn’t work its way back down the line.
A unique villain, as you can off load it to someone else, the victim cannot sleep, cannot hide and could fly to the other side of the world but it would all be in vain because thousands of miles away, its slowly walking across land and sea and still coming for you.
Inspired by a recurring nightmare the writer and director David Robert Mitchell had about being chased, the film leaves a lingering fear and believable terror. My standout scene? When the enormous giant stomps past her friends and enters Jay’s bedroom. None of them can see it but It has never been closer and all she can do is run.
An enemy who will break you via nervous exhaustion even before it kills you, It is something special from a real source of terror and lovingly crafted on the screen.
13.) Stripe – Gremlins
WTF???!!!! Gremlins is a comedy horror?!
But its still a horror film! And Stripe is here for a reason!
When I was young (and I mean about 11) I had a few friends and my parents had just separated and I passed my time writing short stories in a small notebook. I wrote about me and my friends, in a world without parents, fighting for our lives against a Gremlin who killed people we knew, burned my garden and broke all my furniture. I wrote about twenty Stripe stories and no matter how much we stomped him down, he ran away and would return next week when I wrote my next story in my book.
I was obsessed with Gremlins. I ached to see it for a long time, had the sticker book and lots of merchandise and when I did see it then WOW! Blew my little mind and is still a massive favourite of mine whenever on TV. Be it the kitchen fight, swimming pool multiplication or Billy vs Stripe in the store, its nigh on perfect and by adding just a line of fur to the leaders head…. They created a brilliantly iconic little nemesis for both Billy AND Gizmo.
12.) Chucky – Childs Play
I’m going to ignore the hysteria which surrounded its association with a horrific real life murder because that isn’t why Chucky is on the list.
The first three films are not exactly classics. The series really came into its own with Bride of Chucky which was the fourth in the series and took a much more black comedy/meta tone. However, Brad Douriff is so captivating as the voice of the killer doll that I couldn’t stop watching the films when I was young. I’ve seen 2 and 3 to the point of knowing every line and I have them all on video. Childs Play 1 has taken on a different feel since I watched it for the first time since having a child of my own….. Those conversations Andy was having with his favourite toy were so well done in retrospect!
Chucky is slasher villain to a tee! He takes a monumental amount of abuse until he dies, always comes back and its all about the puns and THAT demonic cackle when he kills.
Poor Chucky…. Never quite gets his wish to transfer his soul into a human body. That chant is always interrupted! I’ve also been told I am not allowed to buy a full scale replica for my little one.
Its probably best come to think about it……..
11.) Malfeitor – Witchboard
Ah yes, the year is 1988 and my sister and her boyfriend have rented a horror film for a laugh. Its a 15 so I’m allowed to watch it and the production value is quite low budget and its about playing with a Ouija board!!!!!!
So far so what.
Then I watched ninety minutes of flying cameras, creepy séances and a terrifying man with a beard chasing the very beautiful actress Tawny Kittaen who I couldn’t understand why I liked so much…
Anyway, for some reason the film scared the sweet Jebus out of me! Maybe it was the flying camera with that little boy noise or Malfeitor’s POV pursuit of the psychic? Maybe it was the fact I was spending huge amounts of time alone in a house whilst my mother and sister went out. Either way the film still scares me to the point I cannot watch it.
I have tolerated it twice since with girlfriends through the ages because I wanted them to be as scared as me and each time the film has finished, they have turned round and went “meh” and I have been shivering in a pool of my own cold sweat. I cant even go to the loo at night after watching it because…. It just scares me!!!!!! Even at 40 I’m still scared of it and I don’t fully know why!
10.) Doctor Joseph Heiter – The Human Centipede
Tom Six is one twisted individual! And that’s why I love him.
But he is so a genius. Not only does he create the most disgusting concept in film history he imagines villains who are equally memorable. I have the choice of three. Martin from the second film or either or Dieter Laser’s characters Joseph Heiter or Bill Boss. There is no doubt Boss is worse with his cannibalism and vile treatment of all human beings but, in terms of scary, Heiter wins hands down.
He is a kind and gentle man with an insane vision. He goes from charming host to volatile sadist once he drugs and then sews the centipede together, via their anuses and mouths, and then he REALLY enjoys torturing and teasing his new pet. Its a proper villain transformation and, even by Laser’s own admission, Heiter is inspired by Josef Mengele the most notorious and cruel surgeon in Auschwitz. Its a brilliant piece of inspiration to the character. More sterile than Martin. More calmer than Bill Boss… He wins hands down.
The film may be hard to stomach, but its Laser’s performance as the sociopathic doctor that will leave you never trusting another stranger again!
9.) Michael Myers – Halloween
And I am of course referring to John Carpenter’s outstanding original vision of the character and not that awful Rob Zombie rehash which stripped him of all his intrigue and reduced him to sadistic redneck.
Its the intrigue and motivations which make Myers so special. We meet him as a young boy, under 1o years old, as he knifes his sister to death before his parents come home and find him standing in the driveway.
Myers is co. He doesn’t speak. He doesn’t feel. He just watches, stalks and then flies into a fit of rage (often after teenagers have intercourse) and he is unstoppable. From Donald Pleasance’s obsessed Doctor who fills our heads with his vague backstory of dissociation, to the way Myers creeps out of the edge of the frame in THAT mask when you least expect him, or even the tenderness he shows his corpses once killed as they are carefully placed around the house he is hiding in… He is unforgettable.
Scared me to death when I first saw the film. And for that reason alone, he is as unforgettable as he is unstoppable in the first films run time before sequel repetition and parody reduced his impact.
8.) Hannibal Lecter – The Silence Of The Lambs
The eighties has a lot to answer for. By the end of the decade, and into the early nineties, villains were too clichéd and out of the shadows.
Lecter changed all that. He bought gravitas and real creepiness to a role that, under another actor, could have become hammy. Some say that Brian Cox, who appeared in the original Manhunter some years before Silence, was much better. Not for me. Anthony Hopkins is brilliant and, parodies and over usage of THAT clip about fava beans and a nice chianti aside, he had me absorbed right from the word go.
He is perfectly built up throughout the early stages of the film, whispered and sermonised through dramatic speech as we see the level of security which surrounds his underground prison, and once he speaks the audience is captivated.
Silence has a tone and an ashen colour in which Hopkins is the crescendo and, despite limited screen time, you want him back on screen when he isn’t there. Sadly, the sequel Hannibal tamed the beast and, by the time of Red Dragon, the impact was never the same. But for sheer terror….. Hannibal’s “clossssser” prison interrogation is cinema history.
7.) Leatherface – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
I was lucky enough to see Texas Chainsaw as it should have been, an unmarked and grainy VHS. It was a subtitled import but the impact was not to be underestimated. Leatherface is perfect as a child trapped in a mans body. Someone with clear mental health problems running about with a very insidious family. He is the brute of the clan but he is not the worst by far, just the muscle of the litter and very handy in the kitchen with a hook and a chainsaw.
Subsequent sequels and reimagining of the character have lessened the impact and bought him centre stage. In the Jessica Biel 2003 version, he was given too much screen time and backstory to retain the originals magic and the less said about the 2013 version of him the better. Yet in the original, for sheer jaw dropping entrances, his sledgehammer entrance terrified and traumatised people. Gunnar Hansen’s entire physical capture of the character is majestic and, despite what people say, its not a horrifically gory film but it is an ordeal at times.
See the original first. As Leatherface was intended.
6.) The Great White Shark – Jaws
I was only six years old when my parents let me watch Jaws. I was a shark infatuated child and completely MAD about Great Whites so my dad let me watch it on his lap. From the word go…. Der-dum, der-dum, der-dum…. The music and POV swimming… Then the relentless shark attack at night where nothing is scene….. The beach attack where Alex Kintner is reduced to a geyser of blood…. To the green head in the boat…. To the reveal of “chum some of this shit”…. The cage attack and “smile you son of a…BOOM!”
Jaws is flawless and a film I have seen more times than I can count. The re-mastered edition shows more hi-def detail but either way it changed my love of the sea. Bruce the shark (named after Spielberg’s lawyer) may have been a mechanical nightmare, but he is perfectly sized, relentless and seemingly indestructible until that last shot at the end.
Is Jaws horror or blockbuster?…. To me, at age six, it was an overwhelming horror that gave me nightmares and introduced a love of creature/monster movies.
5.) Jason Vorhees – Friday the 13th
Yes, yes I know it was his mother in the first film! Yes, yes I know he pops up at the end as a boy and pulls that girl to the depths of the lake. Yes, yes I know the mask didn’t come until part 3!
But Jason is iconography personified. He is a recurring demon who is the epitome of evil and an ephemeral hell spawn who has hunted horny teens for decades. Whilst I wasn’t a big fan of all the films, I saw Jason in part 8 first (Jason Takes Manhattan) having read so much about him in Fangoria magazine. Then I worked my way back from part 1. Its a repetitive at its best. The hockey mask an inspiring choice and now one which is a representation of a psychopath in all Halloween parties (and Eminem stage entrances) and he still won’t die despite even the box office/changing times/different cinema ownerships.
Jason has been to hell, shot into space, fought Freddy Krueger, had a remake in 2009 and is now due a proper 3D outing in 2017 if all goes well. Not even Freddy himself has endured past the diabolical remake in 2010 and yet, just like the demon himself, he refuses to stay dead and just keeps coming back!
4.) Pinhead – Hellraiser
Utterly unique. Utterly terrifying. Utterly iconic and eternal.
Despite the Cenobites only getting about seven minutes of screen time in the 1987 film Hellraiser, the world went mad for the S&M afflicted demon with a severe fetish for acupuncture. He is now remade in figurines, comics, on nightclub walls and (but for a rights issue) would have been at the end of Freddy vs Jason once they climaxed their fight and were dragged down to hell as originally intended in the early screenplay.
Ignoring the diminishing sequels, his voice and visceral impact in the original is terrifying.
Pinhead is my room guard now. A 30cm tall monstrosity who stands above my bed and has a sensor activated sound that scares anyone who shouldn’t come near. I was obsessed with him when I was growing up and had posters on my wall, books about him and, despite the fact that the films are exceptionally gory, I would watch them just for Doug Bradley’s screen presence and brilliant portrayal of one of the darkest characters even committed to celluloid.
3.) Freddy Krueger – A Nightmare On Elm Street
Wait, What?! He isn’t number one????!!!!!!!
It took much soul searching when it came to my final three and, after a week of arguing with myself in every spare moment I had, he ends up as number 3.
I love Freddy. I frigging LOVE Freddy. I have photos, posters, magazines, all the films (VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray) and so much merchandise its ridiculous. Freddy is my life. Even now he is on my walls in posters and autographs. His films are so special and I have seen them over and over and over again. And no, much as I love Jacky Earl-Hayley, the 2010 remake was a botched film from people who didn’t truly understand the Nightmare.
Robert Englund is phenomenal as Krueger. His dream demon went from drunken pervert with a dropped shoulder to mad hatter of dream wonderland to the Grinch of a maddening dreamscape and he revelled the role the more and more he did it. No one else will ever come close and, in my opinion, I cant see the series being rebooted again because of that. Jason can be changed because he was a man behind a mask, Freddy was all about his personality. Elm Street was one of the first horror films I ever watched and my love has endured faultlessly. From his outrageous deaths to Englund’s changing Freddy each film because it was HIS character, he is one of the biggest reasons I love the genre.
Again inspired by a true life event, some stories about kids dying in their sleep and a man staring up at a young Wes Craven whilst he was alone in his bedroom, Freddy was born from his creators nightmares and now he inhabits ours.
Thanks for all the inspiration, Mr Krueger. I owe you a lot.
2.) Carrie White – Carrie
Carrie isn’t a villain! She is a victim who turns the tables in a righteous revenge for all her abuse and humiliation!
Well, she still kills lots of people out of rage and retaliatory aggression so she gets in my list!
I’ve made no bones I didn’t like school. I’ve always said its a good job I didn’t have access to a gun in my teen years because I hated it so much. I saw Carrie and longed, LONGED for telekinesis. All I ever wanted to do was be as powerful as her and channel my anger. Even in my dreadful Valedictory Ball at university I sat watching hundreds of sports students and wished I could liven up the event by hurling everyone across the courtyard with my Carrie powers.
When Chloe Moretz was cast in the remake I couldn’t wait and followed her all the way for news until I saw the film. I even have a 40 inch Carrie poster as the centrepiece in my kitchen. I can identify with her, empathise with her and I truly feel she is so inspirational to me that she permeates so much of my work. I have even attempted to write two stories in a similar vein but, each time, they come out as inferior and so I just have to stick to loving the films.
Yes, Spacek’s fugue Carrie was the best…
… But once Moretz goes postal, I thought she did the legacy proud.
Carrie is a massive part of my life and deserves her place at number 2.
1.) Jigsaw/John Kramer – Saw
“Live or die….. Make your choice!”
Not fair. Why couldn’t I have thought of him first?!!!!!!!!!
I love the idea of Jigsaw. A serial killer who doesn’t actually kill anyone but forces them to make a huge sacrifice. Terminally ill, so bitter about what life has taken from him, Jigsaw sets out on a mission to make people appreciate their lives. Anyone who is not thankful or appreciative of what they have could wake up chained to something and the ordeal to get out of the trap is always going to produce a wince and cause many to avert their eyes.
I wrestled with Jigsaw and Carrie for ages. But in the end, as someone who has a serious physical health problem and lives a life in…. well, bitter resentment really….. I identify with his methods and his surgical/industrial expertise makes him a formidable genius.
Okay, the films got convoluted as they went on and, for me, only 1 and 6 are exceptional and deeply personal, but the fact that there were seven films in seven years and the lead character was dead after the third film there is a deep seated genius in the writing.
Part, although so far fetched its untrue, resonates as Jigsaw goes after the heartless insurance firm who denied him a chance at treatment. They syndicate of health insurance workers are painted as shallow and despicable, but the obligatory final twist and the close to home motives for John Kramer make it a standout piece in a series which still holds up.
That puppet. That voice. Tobin Bell’s exceptional portrayal of a dying man. The entire mood and tone of the series which invented torture porn…
It is original and utterly genius and it is a massive inspiration to my horror writing and love of cinema.
So there you have it! All done. My list of psychopaths and iconic villains who have made so much impact on me. Other lists are to come if you are interested but those are for another day.
In the meantime, please comment if you wish or check out the link at the top of the website for my full novel Tapeworm Slim. Its a story about a brand new diet pill…. With a tragic story of loss at the centre…. And some biological horror for good measure! Forget Slimming world, once this pill is ready its the wave of the future.
Catch you soon!
Tapeworm Slim is on sale now!