10 Scariest Horror Movie Villains

By @anandawrites
10 Scariest Horror Movie Villains

‘Tis the season, when our minds entertain darker thoughts and our eyes linger on the shadows a bit longer than usual. The summer brings us heroes (and superheroes) to stand behind, the fall brings us villains to cower in front of. Anyone can make a screamer with a bit of blood, eerie noises, and a pop-up scare tactic. The films that still have all of us grown-ass adults at Way Too Indie checking our closets at night are the ones featuring bona fide agents of evil. Here’s our list of the best of those figures of horror that continue to haunt us.

Leatherface – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre


Forget the stupid sequels. There’s no genre that gets so abused, used, and milked until it’s dehydrated of any originality than horror. Almost to the point that you forget how truly frightening the original was. The Exorcist is one of these examples. It was so scary when I first saw it as a kid that I almost became a devout Christian, but the effect wasn’t the same when I saw it as an adult and found myself more impressed with William Friedkin’s direction than scared by the possessed Regan. Not so with Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When I first saw it, I was maybe 14-15 and it was by far the scariest thing I’d ever seen up until that point. OK, it didn’t help that it was on a VHS tape, which made it look like it was shot in my neighbor’s backyard and thus that much more horrifying. Every scene featuring Leatherface (most especially, the moment he puts a girl on a meat hook, and, of course, the final chase) literally gave me nightmares for days on end. I saw the original again a few years ago, and (unlike Regan) that crazy motherfucker with the chainsaw and a face made of skin from his victims still scares me right down to the bone. Now, I can appreciate the film as one of the greatest horror films ever made, and Leatherface as a litmus test for every serial killer in every horror film. And I still can’t look at a chainsaw without getting a chill down my spine. Thanks for all those sleepless nights, Tobe Hooper. [Nik]

Hannibal Lecter – The Silence of the Lambs

The Silence of the Lambs

It’s the juxtaposition within horror films that often decide how scary they truly are. The beautiful placed jarringly next to the ugly, the innocent preyed on by the deranged, and so on. And then there is the next level of that, where the juxtaposition lies entirely within one character. Dr. Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs is just such a character. At all times poised and classy, Dr. Lecter, played by Anthony Hopkins, is called upon by the young and inexperienced FBI agent Clarice Starling to aid in a serial killing case. Her naiveté and scared tension are obvious next to Dr. Lecter’s lilting sophisticated accent, slicked back hair, and constant gaze. His elegant demeanor is a perfect (and truly horrifying) disguise, but when he wiles his way out of his prison cell and flays the body of a police officer, displaying it like a sordid piece of art, the true confines of his mind are exposed and his insanity made clear. The more potent action of the film is between Starling and her prey, Buffalo Bill, but there’s few endings less settling — and yet entirely satisfying — as Silence of the Lamb’s phone call from Dr. Lecter to Clarice on her graduation day from the academy. Imagining such a man free in the world is frightening, and yet it’s impossible not to be secretly glad for his freedom, he’s just that charming. [Ananda]

Oil Slick in “The Raft” – Creepshow 2

The Raft Creepshow2

I was 7 or 8 when I stayed over at my aunt and uncle’s place for a weekend with my sister. We were home alone for the day, and decided to see what was on TV. UPN was playing a horror marathon, starting with Leprechaun followed by Creepshow 2. We laughed a lot at Leprechaun of course, but Creepshow 2 was another story for me. One of the stories in this anthology film is “The Raft,” a tale about four friends going for a swim in a lake, not noticing the signs to stay out of the water. Once they swim to the raft in the middle of the lake, a strange blob looking like an oil slick surrounds the raft. They think it’s harmless, until it yanks one of them in and digests them, their dissolving body periodically popping back up to scream in anguish as they’re slowly consumed. Watching this strange, undefined creature trap these people on a raft and devour them one by one scared the crap out of me. Other details, like the way the thing immediately started dissolving the moment it touched flesh, or the loud, painful screams of its victims, helped make it look like the most painful way to die. I didn’t go swimming for a while after watching it, afraid that some weird thing might be lurking underneath the water ready to pull me down. Watching “The Raft” now, it’s funny to see how terrified I was by such a silly B-movie premise. But even watching clips today (which I did in order to write this), I can’t help but still get a little unnerved when I watch one of those characters meet such a grisly-looking fate. [CJ]

The Monster – It Follows

It Follows

It Follows is the newest movie to make this list (it won’t even see a full theatrical release until 2015) but it has stuck in my mind since its Midnight Madness screening at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. While the film itself has both strengths and weaknesses, one of the unquestionable strengths is the film’s unsettling, unnamed monster. A bloodied, fetishized shape-shifter that assumes the role of friends, parents, or strangers, the It Follows monster’s unpredictable appearance leaves the film’s characters on constant edge, unsure of when their next threat will arrive. The haunting is passed from victim to victim liked a paranormal STD, only to end up following 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe). Compound that with the central hook of the film, that this evil force has one discernible disadvantage: it cannot run, it does not even move briskly, but rather it simply walks and follows its target relentlessly. This leaves those afflicted with It Follows no choice but to run and continually look over their shoulders. It’s easy enough to avoid the monster, but you can never really escape. Walking back from that midnight screening at TIFF, I couldn’t help but feel the hairs on the back of my neck stand with each audible footstep from a pedestrian only paces behind me. Should I have looked back to find my mother bloodied and in a state of undress, I would have ran. I’m not chancing a run-in with the It Follows shape-shifter. [Zachary]

Pinhead and the Cenobites – Hellraiser


One of my earliest and formative film-watching memories is sitting on the couch with good ol’ mom and dad when I was three or four years old, cozied up for a late-night viewing of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. Even as they made sure to cover my eyes at the scary bits, I was immediately fascinated and terrified by the film’s iconic monsters. At the time, my fear was fairly superficial, focused on the amazingly dark character designs. Pinhead, in particular, with the wonderful scowl, full leather attire and needled face is immediately striking. Without question, Pinhead is among the greatest achievements in character design. As I’ve grown older, though, the terrors of the film have only grown — an atypical experience for most horror films that become cheesier or less shocking to a more cultured viewer. Once you get past the look of Pinhead and his cronies and can comprehend the deeply dark themes of Hellraiser, the characters become much more unsettling. Hellraiser was my first awareness of masochism and sadism (it may have also been my first awareness of anything sexual, and that creates a whole other set of neuroses). I may not have immediately understood these concepts, but they become seeded — becoming so fascinated by Pinhead even though he was a scary thing is a testament to this. With all forms of non-mainstream sexuality, they challenge our tastes, make us look at ourselves to think about how they affect us and perhaps consider why they tantalize us. Pinhead and the Cenobites are hideous and disturbing, but also appealing. This makes them even more terrifying. [Aaron]

The Killer – M

The Killer M

For me, the most horrifying moment in a horror film is the second it dawns on me that, god help me, I see a little bit of myself in the villain. This has only happened a handful of times—Norman Bates, Hannibal Lecter—but it’s the most disturbing, bone-chilling feeling to find yourself relating to a murderer on any level. Fritz Lang’s haunting 1931 paranoia piece, M, gave me one such experience, via its unforgettable, child-murdering villain, who whistles “In the Hall of the Mountain King” to lure in his victims. If you haven’t seen M, stop here to avoid spoilers. We see little of the shadowy predator, played by a young Peter Lorre, until the end of the film, when in front of a large congregation he’s caught and confesses his sins, explaining what in his head lead him to such evil. We look at his round face and frantic eyes, and we understand him, no matter how hard we fight it. He’s one of us; he has a heart. Coming to terms with that is absolutely terrifying. [Bernard]

Michael Myers – Halloween

Michael Myers Halloween

This may be an obvious choice, but also a necessary one. Michael Myers began freaking out audiences back in the ’70s when John Carpenter’s legendary slasher franchise Halloween was born. Now over 30 years later, the image of Michael Myers still haunts us and the sound of John Carpenter’s instantly recognizable theme song makes us quiver. There’s something incredibly creepy about a monster that we know little about. We’re first introduced to Michael as a six-year-old boy who suddenly kills his own sister for no apparent reason. No further explanations are given as to why he’s motivated to kill off his entire family (a bold decision that Rob Zombie’s remake modified), he’s just a “pure evil” beast lurking around with a large butcher knife in hand. And let’s not forget that creepy white mask which hides his true identity and all emotions. The sound of his heavy breathing behind the mask reminds us Michael is human, making the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up. The mystery surrounding Michael makes him so ominous, but it’s the fact he can’t be stopped that’s downright terrifying. Throughout the Halloween franchise Michael miraculously survives multiple bullet wounds and falls from multi-story buildings, as well as stabbings, electrocution, and even being burned. Yet somehow he mysteriously disappears into the night with little more than a limp. For these reasons, Michael Myers managed to scare the hell out of us way more than Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger ever did, and remains one of the scariest horror movie characters of all time. [Dustin]

Samara – The Ring

Samara The Ring

This is about the demon-ghost-girl-creature-thing from the American version, as I’ve never seen Ringu, the original Japanese horror film that was remade stateside into The Ring by director Gore Verbinski. But that’s fine, I don’t have to see Ringu. In fact, I’ll go out of my way to make sure I never see it because the experience of watching The Ring was more than enough, thank you very much. I don’t consider myself a big horror buff, but from time to time I crave the kind of adrenaline rush you can only get from hair-raising, heart-palpitating, bloodcurdling horror. The Conjuring is the most recent great example, the original [REC] is another contemporary one, but a new standard of hellish fright was set for me in 2002, when I saw The Ring in theaters (I was 17 years old). When I first laid eyes on Samara, face covered by greasy blackness, crawling out of that television set, and towards the audience (scratch that, towards me!), in that insanely creepy way of hers, something in me changed and I vowed off horror for quite some time. My mind goes into a type of defense mode when I think about The Ring, so a lot of the scariest instances are blocked out, but I know there’s a moment when Naomi Watts or someone opens a closet and Samara is hiding there. I’ve probably never been so scared in a theatre in my life. No wonder Verbinksi sailed off into the safe world of silly Disney pirates after this adaptation. [Nik]

The Alien – The Thing

The Alien The Thing

When it comes to monsters within the Horror genre, the characters we root for usually know what they are up against. A Sasquatch. A werewolf. Dracula. But when it comes to John Carpenter’s Science-Fiction/Horror hybrid masterpiece The Thing, the protagonists have no clue what their nemesis looks like. That’s because it’s a shape shifting alien from a distant galaxy that invades and takes over the body of any living being it comes in contact with. The film takes place at a remote research base in Antarctica. Kurt Russell (an ’80s Carpenter regular) stars as helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady, our hero who spearheads the fight against the abominable being. His fight becomes all the more arduous as crew members start losing trust in one another after realizing that anyone of them could be an alien.

This leads to one of the best tension filled scenes ever filmed. Russell, armed with a blow torch, ties up everyone who is left to couches and chairs while he samples their blood with flame. Whoever’s blood sample reacts to the fire is an alien. The way the scene plays out and the way Carpenter handles it is faultless. Carpenter’s film was released in 1982, just as the AIDS virus was coming into full view of the world. People synonymized the idea in the film of an unknown entity inside someone you would recognize on a daily basis with a real life killer-virus that was undetectable to the naked eye. Therefore, Carpenter’s alien, aided by magnificent FX, is one of the best villains in the horror genre. [Blake]

Jack Torrance/The Overlook Hotel – The Shining

Jack Torrance

I’ve watched horror films from an early age — probably too early of an age for my parents’ tastes — and the majority of them back then were ones that had a slight sense of safety: a monster too ridiculous to take seriously (like Troll, or the infinitely more cultish Troll 2), visual effects that were laughable (Children of the Corn’s ending, yeesh), or simply an ending that wraps things up nice and neat and allowed a kid like myself to sleep peacefully (like The Exorcist, I mean seriously how are there even sequels to this one?). I first watched The Shining at 13 years old, in the basement of my best friend’s house, and I realized very quickly this film was beyond what I had previously seen. This one seemed like a film not a movie. It was no ordinary haunted hotel story, or simply a tale of possession — this film was not “safe.” As Jack Torrance, Jack Nicholson embodied the evil contained within the Overlook Hotel. His murderous fury was somehow more scary as it was based in his own self-inadequacy and anger issues, fueled by the maliciousness of the hotel’s malevolent energy. Whether he is staring with a perfect demented bemusement out the window of the hotel, dedicatedly axing down a bathroom door, or doggedly chasing through the snow to kill his own child, Jack Torrance (as psychotic representative of the Overlook Hotel) is easily one of the scariest figures to command the screen of any film, horror or otherwise. [Ananda]

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