It’s Halloween, and that means it’s time for me to wallow like a pig in shit in my favourite genre as I bring the dark side of cinema into the limelight for you all. Now instead of the obligatory top 10 horror villains where the unholy trinity of Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees & Freddy Krueger will usually reign atop, I want to focus on those sadistic baddies that, for one reason or another, didn’t get the attention that their notorious killing sprees should have garnered them. So here is my Top 10 list of the most under-appreciated villains in the world of Horror. I warn you now some minor spoilers follow…
10. Dr. Philip K. Decker – Nightbreed
Nightbreed is a cult classic, based on the novella Cabal by Clive Barker, who also happened to direct the film. The story follows Aaron Boone, a troubled man framed for murder who seeks refuge from the police and the real serial killer in the underworld of the Nightbreed. The real serial killer happens to be Aaron Boone’s doctor, played menacingly by the brilliant director David Cronenberg. What makes Decker so malicious is his intelligence, not only does he cold heartedly butcher a family at the start of the film, he abuses his position to make Boone think that he was the one responsible. So we have a serial killer, who is more at home wearing the mask to the left then he is in his own skin, if anything that mask is Decker’s real face. Now because Nightbreed is more than just about a man being framed for murder, Deckard only has a small role in the film, leaving plenty of mystery behind him but not enough attention. When you think of Nightbreed it’s cult status and the classic creature design are the first things that come to mind, not necessarily Decker, and as a result becomes one of my 10 under-appreciated villains.
9. Death – Final Destination
What is the thing you remember most from any Final Destination film? It’s not the acting or the gimmicky 3D from later instalments, it’s the horrific and inventive way everybody dies thanks to the most prolific killer of all time, Death. The premonition shtick may have got tiresome quickly, but like all good horror films that use young adolescents as fodder, the sometimes gruesome, often hilarious way teens met their demise kept people coming back for more. It’s easy to forget about Death as a character in the films simply because it lacks a physical presence, but if you’ve seen any of these films you know it’s not as easy to forget how it took people to the other side. Poor Tim in the picture to the left got it worst (best?) in Final Destination 2.
8. Esther – The Orphan
Jaume Collet-Serra unintentionally (I hope) created the perfect anti-adoption film with The Orphan. A disturbing tale of a young girl called Esther (played brilliantly by Isabelle Fuhrman who was about 12 at the time) who is welcomed into the home of an unsuspecting couple with children. Death and creepiness soon follows as Esther’s past slowly becomes apparent. The film is a good little psychological thriller but the role of Esther is just horribly great. A 33 year old woman who masquerades as a young girl to get adopted, who then makes sexual advances towards her adopted father is just demented! It makes for a great reveal, and a better ending then generic evil child.
7. Leslie Vernon – Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
How and why the story of Leslie Vernon has not been made into a franchise yet is beyond me. Behind the Mask was a refreshing indie slasher that was both a love letter to the slasher sub-genre and an effective horror film. Utilising a POV direction in the form of a documentary crew, we get to delve into the mind of Leslie Vernon like no other slasher film has offered us before. Leslie Vernon is somebody who looks up to the antics of slasher icons like Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers, and wishes to emulate them but to create his own legacy. Unlike these brute forces of Horror, Vernon is of average height and build, and is sadistically smart. He could easily be the warped cousin of any one of the killers in the Scream franchise.
7. Sleepaway Camp 1-3
Sleepaway Camp is a film easy to miss due to the saturated nature of slasher films in the 1980s, but do yourself a favour and get it watched! Not only is it a gem of an 80s slasher film it has an end scene that will be guaranteed to brand itself into your memory. I remember looking to my best friend after watching it with jaw wide open in shock. Now as the killer is a mystery in the first film I’d hate to spoil what is an incredibly effective ending to a film by telling you the who,what & why of it. The sequels are lacklustre in comparison but do feature Pamela Springsteen, the younger sister of Bruce Springsteen!
6.The Tall Man – Phantasm I-IV
Now The Tall Man could be considered a controversial choice due to the cult status of the Phantasm films but that doesn’t negate the fact he is under-appreciated. After all, not only is he practically invincible and insanely strong but he can manipulate people, objects, reanimate corpses, and has his own little minion army well before Gru did! The towering physique of actor Angus Scrimm is perfect for The Tall Man, and certainly is one of the reasons he is so physically imposing, plus nobody can make the word ‘boy’ sound so fearful. The mystery surrounding the character is something that enhances his eeriness, and sure as shit I wouldn’t like to run into him on a foggy night.
5. Parker Crane – Insidious Chapter 1 & 2
When you think about Insidious your more likely to think about the scares, the jumps and the freaky as hell demon that wants to possess little Dalton’s body. Some will also think about think about the woman in black who haunted Dalton’s father Josh when he was young. That woman in black goes on to possess Josh at the end of Chapter 1, and tries to maintain control of him in Chapter 2. However their name we discover is Parker Crane, not a woman, but a man who was a serial killer dubbed ‘The Bride in Black’. Not only is Parker Crane a serial killer with a secret room in his house full of corpses, in the films we discover he tried to castrate himself, was abused by his mother as a boy and evidently was never caught by the police. It’s a disturbing but rich back story to character that began as a creepy old woman in a photograph. However as we don’t see ‘The Bride in Black’ as often as a possessed Josh it’s easy to forget this ghastly character existed in a much more evil form prior to death.
4. The Collector – The Collector & The Collection
Rumour has it the script for The Collector was a spec script for a Saw prequel which then became another entity entirely. There are similarities between the two series but the villains are very different. Though both Jigsaw and the Collector devise traps for their targets, the actions of the latter are much more sinister than Jigsaw and the motives more mysterious. They are a dark character with a simplistic but menacing appearance, whose unknown origins you want to remain a mystery. All we need to know is that their sadistic, smart and unrelenting. The character of The Collector is a Horror icon in the making, if only we could see a bit more of them.
3. Victor Crowley – Hatchet 1-3
Hatchet is an absolute gem of a slasher film for many reasons, one of them is Victor Crowley, its deformed homicidal serial killer. Crowley is like Jason Voorhees on steroids, he’s fast, ridiculously strong and come the third instalment is a murderous spirit/ghost confined forever to the maze like Honey Island Swamp. Crowley doesn’t just cut your head off with a machete, he bludgeons you to a unrecognisable bloody pulp with his bear hands. With howling screams like an animal, and played so big by Horror legend Kane Hodder, Victor Crowley is not only an under-appreciated villain but he is one of my favourites.
2. The Firefly Family – House of 1,000 Corpses & The Devils Rejects
If you look at the pop culture that surrounds the Horror genre you could be forgiven for thinking Captain Spaulding is the big bad of Rob Zombies grindhouse affairs House of 1,000 Corpses & The Devils Rejects. Truth is if you haven’t seen the films, Spaulding has an entire family of crazy killers who are just simply brutal. They are equally nasty but the absolute worst of them is Otis, played so spectacularly by Bill Moseley. The fact that there is an entire torturous clan, and the extent of there actions quite possibly makes them the most evil entities burnt onto film.
1. Johnny Bartlett & Patricia Ann Bradley – The Frighteners
First and foremost if you haven’t seen The Frighteners, watch it! It’s a blast of a
Horror/Comedy film by Peter Jackson a few years before he went on to Middle-Earth. Secondly, the villains are two evil, conniving, and insidious beings that kill for fame and to be recognised as the most prolific of serial killers. Johnny Bartlett boasts during the film of beating the records of other noted serial killers, and they both engrave the numbers of their victims on their foreheads which is just evil. The reason they find themselves top of my list is that when it comes to prolific film killers you rarely, if ever, hear them mentioned. They have a victim list just as lengthy as some of the most famous horror villains yet are rarely noted alongside them. They are also not just your average serial killers, after Bartlett is executed he comes back as an evil murdering ghost continuing his terrible work in the afterlife, and not even death can separate the evil bond that they. They may not be as creative as some of their contemporaries, and the lack of any sequels (a rarity in the horror genre) means they aren’t as easily remembered which makes me believe that these are two of the most under-appreciated Horror villains in the genre