Sad news reverberated around the Horror community earlier this week with the passing of Gunnar Hansen, the first man to play the iconic killer Leatherface in 1974s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Though, as acting wasn’t his main interest he never really followed up the role with anything on par with TCM. In honour of his passing The Snooty Ushers have decided to took a look at some of Horrors most iconic masked characters and the people who brought them to life.
Gunnar Hansen – Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974)
Hansen attended the casting call for TCM on a whim, and
got the role that would turn into one of the most iconic villains of all time, in one of the most controversial films of the 1970s. With zero acting experience he brought the role of Leatherface to life with his intimidating height and build. The other members of his family are more calculated and psychotic, but with Leatherface you never knew what he would do next. In one scene he is hanging people on hooks and in another vulnerable and cowering from his family. Later instalments in the series would explore the character in more detail, but though it was interesting it was unnecessary. The raw mystery of the character, and the film on a whole was enough to make the film and the character one of the most pure Horrors committed to screen.
Andrew Divoff – Djinn (Wishmaster & Wishmaster 2, 1997-1999)
In Wishmaster Andrew Divoff takes 2 forms, one is the djinn, an ancient evil entity that grants wishes, and the second is it’s human disguise, called Nathaniel Demerest. The role of the djinn is heavy in prosthetic make-up and the evil husky voice of Divoff conveys the bad intentions of the character very well. Whereas other Horror villains can be downright evil, the djinn takes immense fun and pleasure from his actions. With global domination on his mind, the djinn grins and smirks his way into taking peoples souls. Admittedly, Divoff is so much more effective as the djinn in human form playing Nathaniel Demerest as we get to see his facial expressions and movement more clearly. Divoff as Demerest is one smooth cat, with sharp blue eyes and a charming smile he easily manipulates his way to his final goals with smart wordplay. It’s these qualities and the performance by Divoff that made the djinn an iconic Horror villain.
Tyler Mane – Michael Myers (Halloween & Halloween 2, 2007-2009)
Tyler Mane is a mountain of a man and a perfect choice for portraying Michael Myers in Rob Zombies adaptations of John Carpenters classic Halloween. Only one other person has portrayed Myers more than once and that was stuntman George P. Wilbur in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, and quite frankly Mane is much better. The sheer height (6ft 6) of Mane contributes a lot towards the physically imposing nature of the character, and when Myers goes up against Ken Foree’s trucker (Foree is 6ft 4) in Halloween it leaves no doubt the new ‘Shape’ is an terrifying force. The majority of people will know Tyler Mane as the first person to play Sabretooth in X-Men, where he also did a terrific job. Rob Zombies two Halloween films do not get enough credit, and Tyler Mane is a big part, literally, in making them different and effective to the originals.
Warwick Davis – Leprechaun (Leprechaun Franchise, 1993-2003)
Lets be honest, the Leprechaun series of films are not that great. However as a Horror fan, and like many around the world, these types of films still hold a place in our hearts even if it is for just for being so bad they’re good. The one primary aspect of these films that keeps them relatively fun are the performances of Warwick Davis as the leprechaun. Delivering cringe worthy one liners with zeal and mischievous acts with fervour nobody can play the role of the leprechaun like Davis. To be honest, there are instances throughout the series where the actions, and especially the expressions of the leprechaun are downright sinister. They eventually got lost amongst the overall camp pantomime nature of the series, but they do occur. Though they aren’t Horror films, he even dons appearance changing make-up in the Harry Potter franchise as Professor Flitwick and Griphook, and lets not forgot he was also Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi.
Robert Englund – Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise, 1984-2003)
Robert Englund is not just synonymous with the role of Freddy Krueger but with the Horror genre on a whole. Unlike the majority of the other names on this list, not only is his most famous role an icon of the genre but he is as well. When it comes to Freddy there are many things that Englund has done for the role that make the character a special kind of villain. Freddy is evil, sinister and conniving, a predator whose only goal is to wallow in the fear of his victims. In the ten years between A Nightmare on Elm Street and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare we see Fred Krueger be equally nasty and funny. The later instalments may have had a bigger focus on fun, but the diversity of Robert Englund in being able to shift between evil and amusing is what kept the series going until the curtains closed. Freddy Krueger was the face of the franchise, and Robert Englund was most certainly the heart.
Kane Hodder – Jason Voorhees & Victor Crowley (Friday the 13th Part VII – Jason X, 1988-2001, Hatchett I-III, 2006-2013)
One of the biggest tragedies of modern slasher films is that when we finally got to see Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees go toe to toe, Kane Hodder was not playing Jason. Hodder is the only person of note to have played Jason Voorhees more than once and remains a fan favourite. Not only is a Horror fan, but he is passionate about the role of Jason and that enthusiasm in getting Jason right has made him the best person to play the role so far. You might say, it’s just a stuntman in a mask where is the acting? Well, the acting is in the gait of the character as he walks down his prey, the subtle movements of head and limbs and the fear inducing posture as he stands silently waiting to strike. Now Kane Hodder is so good at what he does that he starred in the Hatchet trilogy as one of the few modern icons of the slasher genre, playing the relentless killing machine Victor Crowley. Despite both Jason and Victor being serial killers of immense strength and hefty kill counts, they are very different. Jason is a slow but deadly force, and Victor is an unbridled package of death that runs rampant through Honey Island Swamps. Kane Hodder is a Horror hall of famer and these characters are two of the biggest reasons why.
So there we have it, a small list of people who brilliantly brought some of Horrors best villains and icons to life from behind a mask or make-up. This is by no means a definitive list, there are so many films out there in the genre with plenty weapon wielding maniacs and evil entities who have done a great job in what they have done, whom we will pay our respects to another time. But for now we hope you enjoyed the first part, and Gunner Hansen, R.I.P.