The horror genre has always been littered with incredible villains. From unknown creatures and demons to your run of the mill psychotic serial killers, there is no denying the lasting effect these antagonists have in pop culture today. Everyone can list one or two names from a horror movie that has kept them up at night. It's the reason people continue to indulge in the genre year after year, to satisfy their need to be scared.
Throughout the history of film, there has been a multitude of goosebumps-inducing, heart-stopping, nightmare-causing horror villains. Of all these legendary names, the ones who remain entrenched within our thoughts late at night best are the ones who fit into the most memorable category of all horror movies: slasher. The best slasher villains strike fear into all who see them and continue to haunt audiences well after the film has finished.
Originally published from the mind of Stephen King in 1986, IT tells the story of a peculiar creature terrorizing young children in the small town of Derry, Maine. It can take on many forms, but its most bone-chilling appearance is that of Pennywise the clown. Clowns are innately creepy, and King taps into that and then some.
While the 1990 version is scary, it simply can't compete with the 2017's special effects, and the performance by Bill Skarsgård is truly terrifying. Pennywise may not appear to fall under the 'slasher' category, but I would beg to differ. The way in which he kills his victims and the mental games he plays throughout the film (the blood filling the bathroom sticks in the mind) are up to par with every other villain on here.
Whatever your feelings on the Saw franchise may be, all horror fans must admit that Jigsaw is an incredibly clever and brutal villain. His methods, or 'games' as he calls them, of killing people will get your heart racing and usually end in horribly grotesque fashion.
While the series may suffer from the seemingly never-ending line of spinoffs and sequels, that does not take away from the fact that this premise changed the horror genre landscape after it was released. The first few horror films in this franchise set a high bar of mayhem and over the top violence, and all it of comes from the demented, admittedly creative mind of Jigsaw.
With an appearance that would earn him a spot amongst the best slasher villains of all time alone, we've arrived at the uber-creepy Pinhead. Star of the Hellraiser franchise, this zombie/demon has undergone several personality changes throughout numerous films. The two aspects that have remained unchanged are his downright terrifying appearance and the ruthlessness he shows. Oh, and the fact all the Hellraiser films are horror movies to watch with the lights off has stayed the same too, so I guess three things.
One of the most iconic and well-known names in movie history, as well as being one of the few creepy movies based on a true story, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre also possesses one of the best slasher villains in horror history, Leatherface. Although the name is not completely accurate, the truth behind it makes all it the scarier. The mask that this chainsaw-wielding killer wears in this franchise is of made of human skin, not rich Corinthian leather as you may have been thinking (thanks for the assist Deadpool).
The 2003 version is one of the best horror remakes (despite the bogus Rotten Tomatoes score) and does justice to the psychotic Leatherface and his killing ways. If you're unsure as to why Leatherface is considered one of the greatest, you should look at the back of his horror villain baseball card:
- He uses a chainsaw to kill his victims in horrific ways.
- He wears a mask made of human skin.
- He has a creepy name.
- He's roughly based on a true story, adding the 'This could happen to me' element to all of these movies.
Seems like a first ballot hall of famer in the horror movie villain category to me.
Jason Voorhees has had quite the roller coaster of a career. The star of the Friday the 13th series, Jason has been nearly everywhere in his quest to kill all those around him. Jason X even saw the hockey mask-wearing villain take his rampage to space. That movie may have been an over the top mistake, but it does show that the character of Jason can endure anything and still remain popular.
This popularity stems from the 1980s films that enshrined Jason as an iconic villain. Arguably the most 'slasher' of any movie character ever (nearly all of his kills come from a machete of some kind), Jason proves that all you need to be a menacing, horror-inducing villain is a hockey mask, a machete, a complete lack of emotions, and low-level immortality.
While less gory than most of his peers, Norman Bates set the standard for slashers villains in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 iconic Psycho. The aptly-named film dives into the mind of Bates, a serial killer who dresses like his long-deceased mother. His first kill is inarguably one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history. Who can forget those sharp notes as soon as the shower curtain was ripped open? No one, and that was exactly the point. With that one scene, Bates slashed his way to the top of the horror genre and solidified his spot as a top-tier horror villain.
At first glance, this movie title looked more like a punchline than a serious horror movie. I imagined that this would be the title of a spoof horror film, similar to the Scary Movie franchise. However, that was before watching it. After experiencing this film, I had The Creeper marked as one of the best horror villains of all time hands down. In one of Justin Long's first big roles, Jeepers Creepers introduces you to an unknown creature as it begins to 'hunt' for prey. The Creeper spans across several follow up movies and remains as menacing as can be in all of them.
No one will ever be able to think about fava beans and chianti without thinking of Anthony Hopkins. Perhaps the talented Welsh actor's greatest role ever (despite only having around 15 minutes of screen time), Hannibal Lecter earned Hopkins an Academy Award for Best Actor. Talk about impressive.
The word frightening takes on a new meaning when describing Lecter, the cannibalistic doctor who can make every word he says creepier than the last. With escapades that include cutting off faces to wear over his and the aforementioned cannibalism, the cunning serial killer gives every other villain a run of their money.
Few horror villains can match the enduring legacy that Micheal Myers has. The original Halloween, directed by John Carpenter and starring Jamie Lee Curtis, debuted on October 25, 1978, and remains on the TV schedule seemingly every time the treat-giving holiday rolls around. That's 40 straight years of remaining in the pop culture limelight, an impressive feat.
Myers has been able to accomplish this through the sheer terror that is his character. Wearing a highly sinister mask (that seems to be the way to go if you're looking to be the best) and having next to no dialogue or emotions, Myers gives off an impending sense of doom. His subtle, slow movements only ramp up your feelings of unease and hopelessness as a viewer. I don't know about you but I can't wait for the newest Halloween to come out this October. Just be sure to watch the Halloween movies before you do, I know that's what I'll be doing.
Since I've mentioned the ability of these characters to settle in and become regulars in your nightmares, it's only fitting that I include Freddy Krueger among the best slasher villains of all time. As a serial killer who exclusively killed children, Krueger was eventually burned alive by the victims of the parents. If only the story had stopped there.
Krueger comes back from the dead as a dream demon, a nefarious being that tortures and kills people in their dreams, leading them to die in real life. However, Krueger retains the burnt and decaying skin at the time of his death, giving him a truly hair-raising appearance. His trademark claws have claimed countless victims, growing in gruesomeness as he goes.