While it can be argued that a lot of horror offerings since the year 2000 have been sub-par or have been reboots/remakes of classic horror stories, there have been a decent amount of villains that have really demonstrated how the film industry has changed the genre. Although not all of the villains we've been introduced to could be considered "original," we can all agree that the portrayal of them over the past 16 years in film and television has definitely given villains a resurgence and given audiences something to love or hate. They also give us a promising look forward into the future of the horror genre.
The following 10 villains have emerged since the birth of the new Millennium and for me personally, they are the best examples of the modern horror villain. They might seem absolutely crazy, or frighteningly normal, but they all have something different to bring to the table. Given everything that modern horror has given us, it's not only important to recognize how they have molded the modern genre as a whole, but how their relevance to the story has assisted in reshaping the modern horror villain.
10. Dr. Josef Heiter
Film: The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)
Actor: Dieter Laser
The Human Centipede (First Sequence) was shocking all on its own, not to mention those sequels. The concept of someone wanting to sew people together to make a "human centipede" was just ridiculous. However, what made the movie intense wasn't just the gore factor or the situation itself. Dr. Josef Heiter was the main antagonist for this story and he definitely lived up to it.
Heiter gives viewers not only something to be uncomfortable about, but he leads us down a dark path of mental impairment that we can't even begin to understand. In addition to a "God complex," he becomes obsessed with the subject that he was praised for by the medical community. The fact that someone so successful and so knowledgeable can take such a wrong turn is what makes Dr. Heiter so unnerving.
9. The Governor
Show: The Walking Dead (2010 - current)
Actor: David Morrissey
For the sake of argument, fans of #TheWalkingDead can say that #Negan is by far more evil than The Governor. While I would personally agree, Negan simply hasn't been present long enough for those unfamiliar with the comics.
The Walking Dead as a whole is a play on a society struggling to maintain some humanity after being ravaged by zombies. Although zombies aren't real, the humanitarian struggle is absolutely relatable. The Governor served as a perfect example of what happens when you receive a bit too much power before you're ready. This can be seen in every day life, but you usually don't have the same brutal outcomes. It's hard to give up power once you've had a taste of it and we see that when The Governor attacks the prison. It gives us that look into the other side of the fence and shows it really isn't too pretty.
8. Bagul (aka, Mr. Boogie)
Films: Sinister (2012) & Sinister 2 (2015)
Actor: Nicholas King
Bagul wasn't the first exploration into the paranormal, but he was easily one of the best. Also known as the "eater of children," this ancient Babylonian deity has the ability to travel back and forth between realms to consume the souls of children.
What makes Bagul so intense in #Sinister is the similarities to real-life philosophy. The character is similar to the Judaeo-Christian belief in the pagan demon, Bughuul, and similarities to the demons Baal and Tlaloc. These demons would sacrifice children for the sake of fertility and crop viability. He is also referenced to the Middle-Eastern God, Moloch, who would sacrifice children via fire. There isn't much scarier than that.
7. Russell Edgington
Show: True Blood (2008-2014)
Actor: Denis O'Hare
In a show about a fictional realm with vampires, shape shifters, faeries, and werewolves, the one thing #TrueBlood did manage to do was bring realistic villains into play. Although they may not have always been human, they were human at one point and they did retain some humanity which made the struggle to accept their behavior even that much harder.
Russell Edgington was introduced to us in season 3 as the Vampire King of Mississippi. We quickly learn that he's close to 3,000 years old and is undoubtedly the most powerful #vampire in existence. We also discover his desire to basically get anything, or anyone, he wants at all costs. He doesn't care who he kills or loses in the process and is obviously drunk on his own power. But then again, what else would someone do knowing they are stronger, faster, and more dangerous than anything else in existence?
6. Patrick Bateman
Film: American Psycho (2000)
Actor: Christian Bale
Allow me to introduce you to Patrick Bateman. Patrick has just about everything a person would want just by looking. He has a great body, an amazing penthouse apartment, a job on Wall Street, an attractive girlfriend, and a pretty snazzy business card. However, what American Psycho does for the viewer isn't just give shock value via gore and brutality; we see a different side of the glamorous life that seems so desirable on paper.
We soon find out that Patrick not only hates his life, but his means of coping are rather unconventional. Whether that means meeting up with prostitutes, doing outrageous beauty routines, or flat out killing people out of jealousy, it's an interesting way of exploring how the grass isn't always greener on the other side. It also puts into perspective how everyday, average people can become the villain.
5. The Firefly Family
Films: House of 1000 Corpses (2003) & The Devil's Rejects (2005)
Actors: Sid Haig, Sheri Moon-Zombie, Bill Moseley, Gloria Teasedale, Dennis Fimple, Robert Allen Mukes, Tyler Mane, Matthew McGrory
We can chalk the Firefly family up to being a homage to the classic slashers brought to life by musician turned filmmaker, #RobZombie. As we learned in House of 1000 Corpses, they are basically a family full of serial killers but they don't really stop there. We see the evolution of these characters into characters that we could realistically see in any town in the world.
People who commit unspeakable acts against humanity including rape, murder, necrophilia, and so much more do really exist. However, the spin we got from these two films featuring the Firefly family is they don't really see the error. They think of themselves as artists and visionaries which is the scariest part. It's one thing to be bad, but it's a whole other ball game when you can justify why you're carrying out these despicable acts. Basically, these types of characters are why we are afraid of stopping at motels or attractions in the middle of nowhere.
4. Norman Bates
Show: Bates Motel (2013 - current)
Actor: Freddie Highmore
This re-visitation of Alfred Hitchcock's classic adaptation of the 1959 novel, Psycho, has given audiences a new look at the story's main villain, Norman Bates. The young man originally portrayed as a mentally ill boy obsessed with his mother has remained, but #BatesMotel gives us the opportunity to delve further into the psyche of this antagonist. Again, Norman is another example of horror living right next door.
It's easy to imagine a young man like Norman Bates living near us or sitting behind us in English class. He is seemingly charming, friendly, hospitable, and harmless. On the outside, he is everything a mother would want as a son or what you would want in a friend; that is until you actually see what kind of a person he is on the inside. The terrifying part about the decline of Norman's psyche is these sort of things can happen to anyone. Sometimes you are truly just one trauma away from completely losing your sanity. Norman Bates is one of those villains that really grounds you into reality.
Film: Trick 'r Treat (2007)
Actor: Quinn Lord
Also known as Samhain, this character was created by director Michael Dougherty in a short film back in 1996, but he made his feature film debut in 2007 with Trick 'r Treat. This seemingly innocent trick-or-treater reveals himself to be a demonic, pumpkin-like creature set to enforce the rules of Halloween.
Not all modern villains are representative of the real world and Sam is a great example of this. Trick 'r Treat in general exercises our imaginations and gives us something new to see with each segment. While Sam is a rather adorable figure, it can be interpreted that he is the literal embodiment of Halloween sent from a paranormal realm. He's fun, scary, and intriguing all at the same time.
2. Mister Babadook
Film: The Babadook (2014)
The Babadook can be interpreted in several different ways. Both as a film and character, there is something inherently scary about this story. Coming from a supernatural realm, Mister Babadook haunts those who do not believe in his existence or powers. The interesting thing about Mister Babadook is the character seems to be a greater representation of grief. More specifically, he can be seen as the physical embodiment of grief as his powers seem to follow in five stages: denial, anger, fear, bargaining, and acceptance.
What I took away from The Babadook is by interpreting the villain as grief itself, you might always feel it and even see it but there are ways to manage. It can be scary and even make you feel hopeless, but if you confront "Mister Babadook" and accept his presence, you can manage your life even with him there.
1. John Kramer (aka, Jigsaw)
Films: Saw (2004), Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006), Saw IV (2007), Saw V (2008), Saw VI (2009) & Saw: The Final Chapter (2010)
Actor: Tobin Bell
Jigsaw is no doubt one of the most complex villains of the past 16 years. Lasting in a franchise that went on for seven years, the Jigsaw killer had the opportunity to full unfold and viewers got more than enough chances to see what he was all about. We start out the journey thinking it's a faceless figure hiding behind a children's doll, but we eventually see the man behind the doll is a terminally ill man named John Kramer. As a cancer patient, John was able to see how trivial things affected the lives of others and how a majority of us take so much for granted. Perhaps he said it best, "those who don't appreciate life do not deserve life."
#Saw did a lot of things other modern horror films didn't do. For the most part, we got a complete story that was completely dependent not only on previous films, but it was completely dependent on the centralized antagonist. Jigsaw's tests and games were also a lot deeper than just shock value. The stories of those being tested went deep and often related to John Kramer's own life. There was also symbolism hidden within Kramer's tests such as the puzzle pieces and a majority of traps directly related to the subject's inner demons. Do you continue to suffer and run, or do you confront and persevere? This is why we saw traps like needle pits meant for drug addicts and victims face-to-face with people from their past.