One of the greatest things a horror film can have is an inventive villain. Dark forces like Freddy, the Cenobites, Pumpkinhead, and hell, even the weirdly-creepy aliens from Invaders From Mars (86) are all memorable because of their design; twisted, frightening, and surreal. Would we even remember Freddy if he wasn’t hideously scarred? Would the Cenobites be as iconic if the whole S&M vibe was removed? Doubtful.
Here in no particular order, I give you my favorite crazy villain reveals; my personal choices for horror villains of the WTF! variety. Enjoy, and sorry for any lingering images you may see in your sleep tonight.
The Gremlin – Twilight Zone the Movie
The original TV episode of Terror at 20,000 Feet is classic, but everyone can agree that it’s also dated. The only proof you need is its “monster”, which looks more like a cartoonish harelip dressed in a fuzzy onesie. In the film anthology based on the series though, the monster was reimagined and a true terror replaced the laughable thing that once bumbled about the friendly skies. Now a nearly translucent, freakishly manic-faced creature tormented a paranoid passenger and it gave the anthology, which was otherwise lacking in fear factor, a perfectly chilling end.
The Ghosts – The Gravedancers
An ax-murdereress. A serial killer. A pyromaniac. To be haunted by the ghosts of these types is freaky enough as is. But when you amp up the designs of these spirits, giving them wild, demonic features, it’s just plain disturbing.
The Dwarf – Don’t Look Now
This slow-burn movie is a perfect example that chilling storytelling can trumpet the sex, blood, and shock scares that normally dominate the horror genre. It follows a husband and wife, still grieving the loss of their child, as they begin experiencing strange and supernatural events in their lives. Though the main villain of the story is grief itself, a different threat is revealed at the end of the film and it’s more than a little freaky.
The Cult – Kill List
Sure, there’s been more than a couple of horror flicks about cults, but none freaked me out more than this particular one. What could have just been another Wicker Man/Rosemary’s Baby rehashing definitely took a more threatening turn when our hitman anti-hero tries to run and hide from the entire nutso group through a series of stone tunnels. Talk about tense, and I haven’t even mentioned the WTF-ritual ending.
Leena, A.K.A. Esther – Orphan
I watched Orphan expecting another run of the mill killer-kid flick, but was thrown for a loop by the reveal of Esther’s true nature: that she’s actually a sadistic, full grown adult who just looks like a child! Taking Esther’s killer kid aspects and then suddenly pairing them with the thought processes of a full grown psychopath creeped me out on a whole other level. It also placed the overall plot into a new realm of possibility, which should be enough to make anyone uneasy. (Read up on people like Charity Johnson and Frederic Bourdin if you don’t believe in the plausibility of this plot.)
Parker/The Bride in Black – Insidious 1-2
To be honest, I didn’t really care for Insidious. I found the sequel enjoyable, though only thanks to the inventive, expanded mythology it created. What at first just seemed like another possessive ghost suddenly became so much more when you learned it's incredibly messed up back-story; that the man as a child was forced by his unstable, abusive mother to live as a girl, and then grew up and started murdering people while dressed like a deathly, drag queen bride. What in the absolute F$@# ?
Possessed Deborah – The Taking of Deborah Logan
The movie is a smart tale of possession, partly because it elevated the design of the “possessed person”. Normally we get the same old pale skin, body fluids, and self-inflicted wounds. But at the climax of this film, things go a bit further and offer up a reveal that’s already being talked about long after by horror fans.
The Ghouls – Carnival of Souls
A movie ahead of its time and still one of the best “they were dead all along” flicks out there. This black & white classic chilled with the appearance of “the ghouls” – pale and frightening lost souls that seem to wander about the place between life and death, tormenting newcomers. Even today the faces creep me out.
Tristana/Infected Man – [Rec.]/Quarantine
Nope, nope, nope. In an “infected” plot like this (Or 28 Days Later or The Crazies) I’d like to think I’d have a fighting chance at survival. I’m quick, smart, and I think tough enough to endure. But when you throw in creepy as fuck, emaciated freaks that look like they belong more in a Left 4 Dead campaign, I’m out. Just expect me to piss my pants and wait to be killed because I’m not dealing with it.
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