The horror genre has been, er, lacking a bit lately. From disappointing flops like The Purge to a serious lack of creativity (we’re looking at you Paranormal Activity franchise and other countless remakes, sequels and prequels), this is one genre that could use a serious hand.
But over the years, the movie industry has delivered some truly ghoulish creatures. The scariest hack-and-slashers our imaginations have ever dreamed were stashed away in our closets and under our beds. Here’s a list to honor some of the villains that have dominated nightmares for years and will surely provide some inspiration for scream-inducing flicks in the future. Let us know some of your favorite baddies in the comments below.
Chucky seemed like just another Good Guy doll but was, in fact, possessed by a serial killer who transferred his soul into toy during his final moments. Chucky ends up in the hands of innocent Andy, who ends up being the owner of this doll that comes to life and kills people. Dolls have always been a little unnerving, but Chucky really made us look twice when we passed by a Cabbage Patch Kid.
While we can all agree that the Saw films took a downward spiral after the third installment, there’s still something to be said about it’s main villain, Jigsaw. One of the more creative recent bad guys in the genre, Jigsaw first appeared as a tricycle-riding puppet that signified you were S.O.L. Later on, you find out more about the man behind the clown, who devised torturous traps and tasks for those who deserved to be tested. In a world of remakes, it was refreshing to have a totally different type of villain.
Sure, Ghostface was part of a satirical series, but that doesn’t make him any less iconic (think about how many kids run around at Halloween in that white mask and black cloak). He was a bit on the funny side and had a penchant for taunting his victims, but the kicker is that Ghostface isn’t just one person—every movie features a different killer donning that mask and utilizing whatever weapons they can get their hands on to exact revenge. It could really be anyone in that get-up.
The head villain behind Clive Barker’s Hellraiser franchise is the Cenobite Pinhead, sent from the pits of hell to drag you down into the depths with him. Where he tortures you. For eternity. All because you opened a fancy Rubik’s Cube. Pinhead has zero remorse, looking you dead in the eye as he delivers a deadpan promise to “tear your soul apart.” Oh yeah, and they’re indestructible. Personally, it turned me off to puzzle boxes forever.
Alfred Hitchcock’s film about an antisocial motel owner will make you rethink staying at one of those foreboding roadside inns. Norman Bates’ severe psychological issues—which cause him to do things like don his dead mother’s clothing—makes him an incredibly unnerving guy. Sure, he gets more terrifying as the film progresses, but he’s also downright eerie. Plus, Bates’ disturbing behavior also led him to massacre Janet Leigh in a scene that probably made you nervous in the shower for some time.
While Dr. Lecter isn’t cut from the same cloth as Jason and Michael Myers, he’s definitely one of the greats in the world of horror and thrills, played perfectly by Anthony Hopkins. Lecter, a serial killer who cooked and devoured his victims, is indisputably a villain, but one that’s too intriguing to watch and then just forget about. His intelligence and charisma stick with you as you watch, captivated by his character.
Leatherface, a member of a twisted family who reside in a dilapidated house in the middle of the Texas wilderness, is the iconic chainsaw-wielding giant of a man who wears a mask made of human skin. He and his family are also cannibals who chowed on the meat Leatherface and his brothers harvested, while letting Grandpa drink the blood and fashioning furniture from their bones. And if that isn’t enough, he’s based on notorious Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein. Based on true events? It doesn’t get much more unsettling than that.
Part of you might wish you’d partaken in the traditional summer camp activities as a youngster, but a look at Camp Crystal Lake could sway you. Our villain Jason decides to wreak havoc on a group of vulnerable counselors at the camp nestled in the middle of the woods. This hulking mass of a man wields a machete and can’t really die.
Sure, Freddy was re-imagined in 2010 but, before Jackie Earle Haley’s dark performance, Robert Englund played the Krueger we all know and love. But while Freddy definitely has more of a funny bone than most slasher-flick villains, there’s nothing funny about a man who haunts your dreams. A killer of children, Freddy stalks you in the one place you can’t hide because everyone has to sleep eventually. One, two, Freddy’s coming for you…
Halloween set the precedence for modern-day horror films, and Michael Myers helped provide the prototype for villains to come. In 1978, John Carpenter took a modest budget and produced one of the most successful scary movies—and franchises—to date. Michael, a young murderer, butchers his sister and is sent to a mental institution to live out his days. He escapes (of course), terrorizes some teenagers on Halloween (of course) and terrifies the hell out of Jamie Lee Curtis and generations of folks for years to come. The first Boogeyman character, Myers is a wonderful classic in the horror genre.