Power Ranking Horror’s Best Villains
So I just finally got the chance to watch Sinister the other day. I’m pretty behind the times on my horror films, I suppose, but I figured this one was worth checking out. It struck me as significant for a couple of reasons, notably for being Scott Derrickson’s only critical success (relatively speaking) as a director and one of the few movies in which Ethan Hawke’s acting looked tolerable. Having watched it, I found another reason it stands out, at least to me: Although the movie was quite scary at points, the movie’s villain was not. At all.
And that got me thinking, ‘What makes for a good horror villain?’ It’s always seemed to me that the quality of villain is inversely proportionate to how far out of his way a normal person would have to go in order to become a victim. And, of course, you can’t start a line of thinking like that without eventually composing a list like this.
So, just in time for Halloween, presenting a completely new, never-been-done-before-don’t-even-bother-asking-Google idea, the definitive power rankings of the best horror villains!*
*Author’s note: this list was assembled almost at random using the first eleven horror villains I could think of. This list does not necessarily represent the opinions of Word Press, Hero McPiePants Productions, the WNBA, or this author.
As a general rule I’m going to ignore any sequels for this list, so we’re dealing with only the originals (except for the times I don’t feel like it). I’m also including only villains from movies I’ve actually seen, so Leatherface, for example, is out because I’ve never watched the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I did try to watch the 2003 remake but it was so stupid that halfway through I tried to gnaw my face off. I’m proud to say the resulting struggle was more entertaining than anything in the film.
So now that the legal disclaimers are done, let’s kick off the bottom of the list, with…
Film: Sinister (2012)
There are horror villains who stalk their victims. There are horror villains who wait patiently for their victims to come to them. And then there’s one guy who leaves a box of homemade movies in the attic, hoping the next family who moves into that house will find them, watch them all, get scared, and move away, where he finally possesses one of their children and kills them. Oh yeah, they also have to have small children, or the whole plan kind of falls apart. Using this method, is it any wonder he’s successfully victimized only six families in five decades? Props to Derrickson for making a compelling movie about a boring villain, but next time just choose a more interesting monster and make your job easier.
Is it cheating to use two for one slot? Of course not, I make the rules, I can do what I want. Besides, they’re very similar in their behavior. Samara is much better known, but Aparat was much more terrifying, at least to me, so I figured this was a good compromise.
So if I found the story of Aparat so scary, why’d I rank him so low on this list? Because he, like Samara, is only interested in killing people who watch his VHS tape. Just a few years ago these two probably would have ranked much higher on this list. But seriously, guys, it’s 2015. Even I don’t remember what VHS tapes are.
Oh, also, I think speaking Aparat’s name aloud was another way to incur his wrath, so hopefully you aren’t reading this list out loud to anyone, and if you are, good luck with that.
#8: The Blair Witch
Film: The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Was The Blair Witch Project an impressive film, given its shoestring budget? Absolutely. Was it influential on the horror genre, even to this day? Undeniably. But is it, objectively, scary? I don’t think I’m alone in saying not really. But even if you do find it scary, it can’t possibly be because of the antagonist. To fall victim to her(?) you have to specifically seek her out, let her lead you in circles for days on end, follow some random noises into a decrepit old house, and then… something happens. Something we never find out about. It could be anything from giving you millions of dollars to turning your internal organs into waffles. Spooky
Seriously, lady, the kid who made Marble Hornets did you better than you did, and he makes videos for free on YouTube.
Also, the villains from Marble Hornets will not be appearing on this list because I didn’t think of them until too late.
#7: Jason Voorhees
Film: Friday the 13th Parts 2-A Billion (1981-2009…and counting)
Yeah, we’re ignoring the original film here because no one cares about an old lady killing a bunch of teenagers. That said, it’s by far the best film in the series.
There’s not much to say about Mr. Voorhees. On the positive side of things, he can absorb any amount of damage and is unstoppable… if you ignore all the times he’s been stopped, of course. But on the other hand, he’s bound to Camp Crystal Lake. He can only massacre the teens who, like clockwork, show up at his camp every year. He remains unable to leave its borders. I mean, if you (again) ignore the dumb films… The really dumb ones… The ones where… Look, it’s a crappy franchise. Shut up.
#6: The Spirit of the Mirror
Film: Oculus (2013)
There’s a lot of good things to say about The Spirit of the Mirror. It can manipulate its victims’ perceptions of reality, is basically impossible to kill, and the mirror eats dogs! That said, it’s also not a very… adaptable villain. It’s entirely reliant on victims locating the mirror, buying this priceless artifact, doing no research about any previous owner, ignoring any early warning signs, not noticing when their dog is eaten, and eventually dying a slow, horrible death. In the age of the internet, it’s hard to imagine this thing keeping its secret for long. It’s only a matter of time before it gets its own Wikipedia page.
Film: Scream (1996)
Having exhausted all of the passive villains, we’re finally to the ones who actually, y’know, do something. On the downside, that means starting with the worst of them, the Ghostface killer (not to be confused with the Ghostface Killah, who’s scary for completely different reasons). Without a doubt Scream is a seminal slasher film. There’s a reason it’s the highest-grossing slasher in US history. That said, it’s a little hard to take any horror villain seriously when he fails to kill Jamie Kennedy. Had he only been able to do that, we would all have been spared the much greater horror of Kickin’ it Old Skool. A man can dream, though…
#4: The Lamia
Film: Drag Me to Hell (2011)
Pros: Relentlessly pursues victims, can attack anywhere, essentially all-powerful.
Cons: In order for him to come after you, you have to shame an old gypsy lady. They’re shockingly hard to come by these days.
#3: Michael Myers
Film: Halloween (1978, definitely not 2007)
The Grandfather of all slashers, Myers did it first (except for maybe Leatherface, depending on how you count) and did it best (except for maybe Leatherface, because, again, I haven’t seen it). As lethal and indestructible as Jason and as tenacious as Ghostface, Myers exceeds both in viciousness. He kills people because they’re there. In order to become his victim, no one has to come to the camp he was killed at, or have an affair with his mother, or have sex on screen (though plenty do). If you have the audacity to live, chances are pretty good you’ll end up on his hit list.
Film: Saw (2004)
Sure, Michael Meyers is big, strong, and terrifying, but y’know what’s really scary? A middle-aged cancer patient! Okay, fine, that’s a bad comparison, but consider this: Meyers may relentlessly stalk his victim, but he can still be slowed down by doors, walls, and other obstacles. On the other had, Jigsaw, despite suffering from terminal cancer, can be anywhere at any time, regardless of the logical problems that creates. His other mysterious powers include the ability to find a seemingly endless number of deserted warehouses, the ability to retroactively form contacts with the police, and the ability to sedate himself for hours at a time with no training. The gore probably has its place, but it’s how realistic the Saw films are that make them truly terrifying!
#1: Freddy Krueger
Film: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
If the measure of a horror villain’s quality is how unavoidable he is, no one else can ever compare to Freddy Krueger. There’s no haunted house to investigate, no enchanted item to mistakenly disturb, no old woman with mysterious powers to offend, no place to run. If you fall asleep, you’re dead. As the film wears on and the protagonists become more and more sleep deprived, he becomes increasingly dangerous by his very nature. He can’t be avoided, placated, or destroyed. He’s the best horror villain of all horror villains.