Top 10 Horror Villains | Column from the Editor

With Halloween approaching and October underway, it would be appropriate to give a highlight to a series of ten different iconic horror movie characters, most of them cold blooded murderers, responsible for sending chills down our spine and blood onto the TV screen.

So, without further ado, let’s begin.

10. John Kramer (Jigsaw)

The main antagonist behind the series getting several strong iterations, John Kramer is an interesting case of a deranged lunatic whom also exhibits traits for the audience to feel some degree of sympathy for him. For one, he isn’t hellbent on completely killing off everyone he ever submits to his treacherous games — his goals, while definitely unethical and quite bizarre, are at least well founded. His ultimate goal ends up basically wanting the people that he and his agents kidnap to cherish their lives once again by basically hanging them in the balance over some horrifically violent games and trials. It isn’t until one of his lackeys, Amanda Young, gets a chance to call the shots when the trials start to turn into wanting his subjects dead. The many tortuous trials and tribulations Kramer assembles are what really give his character depth and an appearance on this list.

9. Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)

Lecter is a fairly bizarre take on a differently named real life individual whose story fits the big screen perfectly. He is, to sum it up, the meshing of a serial killer and a cannibal in one. He is also highly intelligent as an ex-forensic psychiatrist who even has somewhat of a ‘bad guy gone good’ arc where he works with the FBI to track down other serial killers once he is finally captured. As such, he definitely deserves a spot on this list.

8. Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th)

Perhaps the most iconic slasher not named Michael Myers, one of Jason’s most memorable and underrated traits is how relatable he appears (with the exception of his appearance in “Jason X”). To a person not knowing any better, Jason looks like a regular guy with a hockey mask and fairly ordinary attire — anyone could throw that setup together, grab a blade and do some damage. It’s that relatability that induces subconscious scare quite a bit, and also makes him an easy pick for prospective trick-or-treaters. Additionally, Jason has seen some action in the video game world as well, even if the Friday the 13th video game has certainly had a rough ride the last few years.

7. Jack Torrance (The Shining)

Torrance is, like Jason, very relatable. While a very small amount of us have been overworked to the point of maniacal assault, Jack at his worst can simply be chalked up as some guy with an axe. It is very much possible for some regular guy with an axe to do quite a bit of damage, meaning Jack poses some degree of real world fear into the viewer as well. However, the reason he gets the nod over Jason here is his excellent character development throughout the story — he doesn’t start off jumping into the fray ten minutes after the film begins, but rather, he becomes progressively more deluded the longer and longer the vicious cold traps him inside their modest hotel. His “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” liner is doubtlessly iconic and makes him all the more memorable as well, a shoo in to appear on this list.

6. Pennywise (IT)

Pennywise is an interesting case. Remember the clown epidemic of 2016? That was largely fueled by the incoming release of IT 2, for which Pennywise gets center stage. Much like others on this list, Pennywise occupies a horror niche that holds a real world presence as well; he lures kids down into his sewer and kills them, basically devouring them in the process. Unfortunately, teaching kids not to interact with strangers has been commonplace for a very long time. Not because parents are worried they’ll end up eaten by a bizarre monster posing as a clown but, in more realistic terms, because evil adults can definitely take advantage of children lacking in maturity and awareness for any number of awful reasons. As such, there is an appreciable amount of depth in Pennywise’s character that makes him a good pick for this list.

5. Ghostface (Scream and Dead by Daylight)

Ghostface is an interesting pick, because ‘they’ aren’t technically a single person or entity. In the original Scream, two young men essentially don the black robes and iconic mask to kill in Ghostface’s name. In the Netflix series, it ends up being a high school girl and a man who is slightly older than her that wear Ghostface’s moniker. There are a number of other Scream entries on the movie scene where someone takes up the Ghostface name. Then, in the Dead by Daylight video game, we get Ghostface’s most masterful persona — Danny Johnson, a man who assumes a new identity wherever he goes, who builds a temporary life as a member of that town’s community, takes part in a little bit of carnage, then books it and flees when he’s about to get figured out.

Danny Johnson ends up basically being Peter Parker, only a professional serial killer instead of the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. He poses as Jed Olson, gets a job for a newspaper, then he essentially starts covering all of the murders that he himself engaged in. 

Regardless of the name, every one of Ghostface’s disciples takes up similar patterns of killing: choose a target, obtain basic information on them which always includes a phone number, then call them up and carry out an elaborate murder. This gives off a feeling of impending doom should Ghostface issue a phone call to the viewer’s favorite character, as we all know what’s going to happen to them soon thereafter.

In the end, with the exception of Danny Johnson, each Ghostface is defeated at the end of each of their appearances. However, because theoretically anyone can become Ghostface, it’s only a matter of time until someone else steps up to wield the knife.

4. Pinhead (Hellraiser)

Pinhead is an entirely different beast, and is likewise iconic. As the leader of the Cenobites, a group of ‘explorers in the region of experience’, Pinhead arguably stands out most amongst them. Where we have members who have lost their eyes and have oversized teeth, ones who wear sharp objects inside their face like they’re tattoos, then ones have any other bizarrely painful looking aesthetic, Pinhead’s is simple and is literally in his name — he was content to carefully place a whole bunch of nails into the skin of his head and call it a day. Pinhead specifically has also had one dedicated voice actor, Douglas Bradley, who may go down as the greatest voice actor for a horror movie ever. Hellraiser has helped to spawn horror movies even in the modern day such as “Cabin the Woods” and Hellraiser itself is arguably the most violent, graphic, movie series ever. Pinhead has been at the forefront of that. Demons to some, angels to others.

3. Michael Myers (Halloween)

Myers has always been an iconic, popular name since his debut in 1978, and subsequent entries into the series over the last half decade. His shtick is very simple, sort of like a culmination of the best aspects of Ghostface and Pinhead — he stalks his victim and then simply grabs a knife and disposes of them. Masterful camera work and character development made a murderous man with no actual dialogue really come to life. Myers takes on the appearance of an ordinary, perhaps slightly buffer than average man, but in actuality he is the shape of pure evil, someone with no morals or ethics which harbors the actual physical embodiment of evil. He cannot be reasoned with or have his lust for the kill talked down, and because he’s basically an incarnation of a concept or construct, he cannot be permanently killed either. He is easily the most iconic slasher ever thus far, and to not include him on this list would have been criminal.

2. Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

Leatherface or, Bubba Sawyer, is the most well known name to ever pick up a chainsaw within the scope of media. One of the reasons for this isn’t so much that he is skilled at using it, nor is it quite so much how amazing of a movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre was, but rather the real world importance of his overall character.

For essentially time innumerable, the debate of how someone is matured into society has raged on: is it nature, or is it nurture? Are we as humans developed more by the people who raised us, or the environment in which we grew up in?

For Leatherface, this question poses itself big time. He is, more or less, a willing servant of his family, capturing people and butchering them to put food on the table. He clearly doesn’t have any sort of real free will because it was never really developed in him. Without his elders being there to give him orders, he would clearly cease to function. Yet, he still carries out the heinous act of putting blade to flesh and cutting people up to be eaten. Is he truly evil? That level of depth is unmatched across horror icons.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre is also, in general, an amazing movie with great build up and an extensive fear factor that has made it into a household name. So that definitely helps.

1. Bruce (Jaws)

This may seem like somewhat of an unfair placement, but it’s mainly due to just how amazing of a movie Jaws is, and it all stems from how the film is structured.

In the modern era, horror movies have mostly depreciated in quality because the way in which they try to scare the viewer is just loading up on jump scares. That has a tendency to get old and quickly.
Jaws definitely is a relic of its time in that sense. We don’t actually see Bruce until well after halfway through the movie. That might seem to make it boring, but what the first half of the movie essentially does is hype up Bruce’s existence and make it that much more impactful when he finally does show up and prove why he is to be feared. It’s basically just a better all around setup than Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Overall, it is hard to debate the notion that Jaws is the greatest horror movie of all time, and Bruce is right there at the front to remind us all of why that is.

Honorable mentions:

Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street, Carrie from Carrie, Annabelle from Annabelle and Chucky from Child’s Play

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