Top 15 Horror Movie Icons
My early childhood
I can recall sitting in my living room with my dad watching "Magic" a tale of a ventriloquist puppet that springs to life. I was scared to the point sleep would not be found for me that night. From there I moved up to movies like "Critters", "Gremlins" and "Nightmare on Elm Street". Needless to say I have been hooked on horror for a very long time. I still occasionally venture to my dad's house for the random horror flick and a quick peak at my DVD collection will reveal a treasure trove of horror movie goodness.
What makes a horror film good? To be a true horror film there has to be a bad guy that makes John Wayne Gacy think, "I really don't want to meet that guy in a dark ally!" The world of horrorhas it's fair share of villains ranging from out of this world alien monsters, to man eating plants and even the undead. This time around we are going to look at 15 of Hollywood's most menacing, maniacal, marauding, and monstrous meanies. Sorry about that, been exposed to a lot of Elmo's world lately. This list of baddies make up some of the biggest franchises in horror films from the past, present, and surely the future as well. So let's get out that old shovel and dig us up a villain.
15. The Wishmaster
This guy is a walking, breathing Twilight Zone. Disney's Aladdin would think twice about freeing this genie from a bottle. The djinn is the villain of the film "Wishmaster" and his presence alone is terrifying. What makes the djinn such an effective bad guyis how he does what he does. He grants wishes to people but it is how the wishes are granted that makes him evil. For example one actor sees the djinn ripping the face from a cadaver. "You wish to not see this?" the djinn asks with a gruff but educated voice. "Yes" the shaky voice replies and instantly the wish is granted and the man screams in painas his eyes are molded shut.
The djinn reminds me of Sweet Tooth from the Twisted Metal video game series. I was a fan of this film simply because the djin from the old Arabian legends was more like this one than it ever was the blue goof off voiced by Robin Williams. I felt they really captured the essence of that ancient evil.
Leland in action.
14. Leland Gaunt
Stephen King has always had a way with creating a villain worthy of the horror fan's approval. He gave us "Christine", "Children of the Corn" and "Stand By Me". OK I will admit that last one is not a horror film but the fact that the chubby kid ended up with Rebecca Ramane Stamos is in and of itself terrifying. Leland Gaunt is the villain of King's epic work "Needful Things". Gaunt takes evil to the next level and then goes even further.
In a sense Gaunt runs a simple store were one can find all manor of trinket and treasure. The catch is each treasure is exactly what you were looking for. That porcelain keepsake you lost so long ago, the letterman jacket that you cherished long after school, or perhaps the one baseball card you could never get to complete that collection. If you need it Needful Things has it and old Leland Gaunt is more than ready to help you obtain it. Of course it is not money that Leland is after. He trades his wares for simple favors. These favors turn an entire town against itself. Gaunt takes greed and obsession and brings out the very worse in people. King really went to the brink of hell to create this guy. Some speculate that Gaunt is a representative of the devil himself. I disagree, the devil may be a representative of Leland Gaunt.
Ghostface in action
Ghostface is the killer in the popular Wes Craven series known as "Scream". Ghostface turns scary movies into reality. Each film sees a different person becoming the prolific killer but the results are always the same. Ghostface kills with a knife and a wit that rivals that of Craven's other masterful horror film baddie, Freddy Krueger. What makes Ghostface so amazing is he does not have powers or some special ability. he is simply a person who wants revenge.
The ongoing effects of Ghostie can be seen every Halloween. One of the best selling costumes on the market is Ghostface's mask and black robe. Ghostface was such a monumental character that he has even been parodied in the film franchise "Scary Movie".
12. Hannibal Lecter
While not the traditional horror movie villain Lector is one of the most frightening of all bad guys. Lector is a criminal profiler turned cannibal that has a knack for attracting the most morbid of followers. Lector spends much of the time we get to spend with him behind the bars of a prison, or locked into a dolly wearing a mask that restrains the mouth of the dangerous cannibalistic killer.
My favorite aspect of the Lecter movies is the abundance of quotes that are memorable. Few of us can forget the chilling "Have the lambs stopped screaming, Clarrise." or the even more menacing appearance the good doctor has while in his cell. Anthony Hopkins does such a remarkable job that he landed a Fangoria award for his role as Hannibal. The film series has become one of the most treasured horror series of our times. "Silence of the Lambs", "Hannibal", and "Red Dragon" have become stables in any horror collection.
11. The Puppets
I am a Full Moonjunkie and I love their films. Puppet Master always stood out. As a kid I often associated the puppets with the puppet from "Magic". I can not remember them all but Sixshooter, Leech Girl, Pinhead, and of course Blade always come to mind. These puppets carried out the grim wishes of their master, a puppeteer who developed a serum that brought his grotesque collection of puppets to life. The puppets are each a very dangerous villain but together they are nearly unstoppable.
I remember that Pinhead was as strong as an ox, Leech Girl could regurgitate leeches, Sixshooter had six arms each bearing a gun, but none of the puppets could hold a candle to Blade. He had the look of Faustian proportions and was armed with a hook for one hand and the other was a knife. Blades eyes were simply knife blades that protruded just before he was ready to strike a blow to an unsuspecting goodie two shoes.
As time went on the film series saw many sequels, prequels and off shoots come and go. In many ways these little evil toys became the good guys. When a horror bad guy becomes a fan favorite you know you have something good.
The Saw series has been ongoing now for what seems like ever. It's original bad guy was the killer Jigsaw. Jigsaw was a man suffering from cancerwho had grown tired of how much people took life for granted and he had decided to force people to see the importance of life. He did this by placing people in situations that would give them the option of doing something drastic and living, or doing nothing and dying. perhaps he would hide a key in a person's eye socket and the lock the fated key went to was attached to a device that if not opened at a certain time would snap on the person killing them.
I often looked at Jigsaw in the same light I did John Doe from "Seven". Both forced a behavior based on a belief. It is sick how Jigsaw thinks but at the same time those who would survive would have a much better respect for the gift of life they were given. The odd part is people often forget that Jigsaw himself is a victim of fate.
9. The Creeper
Dear God this thing is scary. Jeepers Creepers made it unsafe to go out on that country road whether it was night or day. A creature who appears every 30 years to eat. What does he eat? You, me or any other poor sap who happens to catch his fancy at that particular moment. The Creeper is big, scary and mean. The film really captures an imagery that brings back old school horror but with a new school twist.
I found the films to be delightful. The creeper drove a horrid van, stored his prey in a big tunnel and even had a catchy theme song. What really made the character so memorable is you never knew what to expect from him. He appears to be indestructible and fragile at the same time. Few horror icons have the ability to generate sequel after sequel. Despite not going that route I think the creeper could easily churn out a few more success stories.
The eerie way he smells the person for fear and that helps him identify which part he wanted to eat makes him spooky, but the fact he does it all with such calmness is what really gives him that terrifying edge.
Clive Barker is known for his horror storiesand with them some illuminating bad guys. Candyman is one of the best. A slave who was brutally murdered and disfigured who comes back by way of a childhood ritual. We have all stood in the mirror and chanted Candyman three times and then waited in fear. Fear that he would show up and make us his victim.
The film is remarkable as a look at urban legends and the supernatural tale of a spirit whose passion for blood rivals Dracula's himself. Tony Todd did such a good job playing the killer. The Candyman looks at fear from a whole new level. The Candyman does so much damage in thought that his physical attacks are almost welcomed. My favorite moment is when the Candyman proclaims that he is the whisper in the classroom.
While several sequels did come to fruition the first film still holds as a true work of horrific art. Action figures, books, fan fiction, and even a plethora of websites serve to remind us that when we look into a mirror we may be looking into the faceless reflection of the Candyman.
Modeled after the real killer Ed Gein Leatherface is one of the most recognisedhorror icons ever created. From the mask made of human skin all the way to the elongated blade of the chainsaw that reads "The saw is family" Leatherface is a horror celebrity. Time after time we see retelling of the story, or sequels pop up and each time they are met with outstretched arms and the grind of a chainsaw welcome. Few people were aware of the sheer popularity of the character.
In Japan a wrestler who dresses the role and calls himself Leatherface has made a monumental impact in the world of professional wrestling. The character has also appeared in parodies, trading cards, and action figures. I think that people never truly understood just what made this character so prolific. He suffered because he was unloved and in being unloved he lashed out time and time again against the people he thought hated him. It was humanity that made him what he was.
6. Pennywise the Clown
Stephen King's demented clown is the villain of the film "IT". Pennywise is the darkest of evils. A creature who periodically returns to reek horror on children in the little town of Dairy, Maine. Pennywise can be what ever it is we fear the most. He approaches Richie Tozer as a werewolf, and appears to Ben as a skeletal monster. This is part of the evil appeal of the character but not all of it.
Tim Curry of the Rocky Horror fame portrayed the character of Pennywise with a passion that really brought out the characters sheer fright factor. The clown part of the character was far more scary compared to the spider demon at the end. My favorite part has always been when adult Richie returns to the library and is greeted by the clown terror and Pennywise is cracking the corniest jokes you could imagine.
As far as bad guys go Pennywise had the ability to strike a match under the fuel of our fears themself. he could tap into our darkest dreams and bring them out into the open and force us to face them. I found that psychological aspect to be both entertaining and alarming.
5. Jason Vorhees
The crystal lake killer. Jason is a stable in horror film archives. While the film series Friday the 13th continues to gross countless stacks of money Jason remains a fan favorite in the eyes of horror fans. Few people are not familiar with the hockey mask and machete that Jason has made famous over the years. One thing that has been a mainstay in the franchise is the repetitiveness. While other characters are forced to change and evolve Jason remains pretty much the same in each film.
The story goes little Jason was swimming at camp when some counselors went off to have an arousing game of hide the weiner. Little deformed Jason drowned in the lake's cold crisp waters. His mom returned later to the camp to kill counselors for revenge. Of course Jason was watching from a distance and sees his ill fated mother beheaded. he rises up and begins to take on the task of killing the camp counselors year after year. He is shot, stabbed, and God knows what else.
Despite all of this he keeps coming back time after time. We learn in Jason X that this is because the creature we know and love as Jason is actually a mutant, not to much unlike the X-men. Jason has had numerous sequels and in his biggest film he actually did battle with fellow horror icon Freddy Krueger.
4. Michael Meyers
Clothed in a blue jump suit and wearing a spray painted William Shatner mask few icons can strike a fear like Michael Meyers can. He started his dark career into the world of killing at a very young age killing his sister. He was locked up in an asylum under the watchful eye of a doctor who deemed him pure evil. After his escape he would go after his family members hoping to kill them off one by one. Michael Meyers is human but inside of him something dark breaths and lives.
In recent years Rob Zombie gave us a wonderful retelling of Michael's past and his future as well. I actually felt the new remake was better as far as storyline goes and allowed us to see the real face of the evil locked away under that while Shatner mask.
The Halloween franchise continues to this day and with each sequel grows stronger as a horror vault of fear.
The possessed doll from "Child's Play" is one of the scariest creations to ever grace the big screen. Once known as Charles Lee Ray, a voodoo practitioning criminal, Chucky placed his soul into a good guy doll hoping to be born again. he ends up in the possession of a young boy who quickly figures out his doll is anything but fun and friendly.
What proceeds is several films all of which intertwine the world of horror and humoras Chucky tries to get into the body of a living person and put his doll days behind him. Chucky endures more punishment than a Barbie doll at a pit bull trainer's house. Each time he comes back more hell bent on getting out of the doll and into the body of a living breathing person.
Child's Play is much like "Silence of the Lambs" in the fact that so manu glorious quotes have come from it. Once it was realized that the dark humor was more marketable than gore and guts the producers of the film franchise took Chucky in a new direction. he had a romantic life with his girlfriend who was now a doll as well and even gave birth to a son. This humorous take on the horror icon gave fans a new face of Chucky and brought the franchise right back to life yet again.
Clive Barker's creation is the star of the Hellraiser franchise and rightfully so. Once a military man he sought out ultimate pleasureand was rewarded with a position in Hell itself. Now when someone worthy of it opens the puzzle box containing the lament configuration Pinhead and his army of cenobites come fourth to claim the prize of their soul.
In the first outing we are introduced to the cenobites has wardens of hell sent to capture those who escape. This is fascinating and we learn that to different people the creatures are different things. Angels to some, demons to others.
The second outing we see the creatures as good guys fighting a darker force. The series keeps evolving and in each outing we get to see more from the spectrum of Pinhead himself. Doug Bradley who plays the character in all but the very last film is a man of much talent and he really made the creature a memorable experience. While several sequels exist few people find them half as entertaining and as enlightening as the first three in the series. Myself part three was the best of the best. The only thing missing was the original cenobites.
Nightmare on Elm Street
1. Freddy Krueger
"A Nightmare on Elm Street" was the film that changed the horror movie world forever. Freddy Kruger was a child killing evil SOB who terrorised the little town of Springwood. Elm street was nothing more than a playground for his evil escapades. He was arrested and due to a mistake let free. The townsfolk chase the killer to a boiler room where they end his life with fire. But this is not the end of Fred Krueger, not even close.
Freddy returns in the dreams of the Elm Street children and kills them off one by one. The Nightmare series has gone the distance and then some. Freddy has fought Jason Vorhees, been retracted into the real world, and of course had a very poor retelling of the original story.
Robert Englundhas made a career off the burnt nightmare that is Freddy Krueger. As a kid I loved the movies. I watched them every chance I could, had a full size cardboard stand up in my room and paid my buddy Clay to build me a set of real Freddy gloves. To this day I watch the films 3 or 4 times a year.
What made Freddy so epic was the basis that he came for us when we were the most vulnerable, while we slept. Freddy could be our worse nightmare and he violated any innocence we could ever hope to obtain. Every horror icon has a limit. Jason can not harm kids, Leatherface felt sympathy for people, but Freddy had no weakness. He was full evil with no remorse for anything he had ever done or would most likely do in the future.
Concluding the horror
Of course I left some out. There is no way to definitely put every horror icon in here. Frankentien's monster, Dracula, the wolfman, and even the Mummy would all factor in a bigger list. Maybe even the terminator would have a place. I listed the ones I chose because to me they are the embodiment of horror. For now I shall leave you to yourself, but I encourage my readers to post their list.