‘Tis the season…to be chilled to the bone! With the ghostly holiday upon us, Impact Film & TV have decided to appreciate some of the creatures and monsters that have blessed the silver and small screen, as well as our nightmares. Without further ado, here are our top horror villains and why we love (or love to fear) them so much. Get ready for the Monster Mash and prepare the popcorn to rewatch these flicks on Wednesday!
The Alien doesn’t need a name.
It doesn’t need explanation or dissection or voice, because you already understand everything about it you need to. It is going to hunt you down.
At that point, Michael Myers would stab you to death, The Predator would kill you and take your fingers as a trophy. But the Alien doesn’t just kill you. It defiles you, impregnates you, so you know that when you die you’re letting the whole cycle start over again.
The Xenomorph debuted in 1979’s Alien, designed by legendary surrealist H. R. Giger. Giger took direct inspiration from his book Necronomicron (that even sounds creepy) combining elements of industrial and architectural design into a twisted, darkly erotic biomechanical aesthetic.
That aesthetic permeates the design, from the real bone they used to make the exoskeleton, the condoms they stretched out for the lips and – I kid you not – the actual human skull they built into the mask.
And that chest-burster scene? Still the greatest monster introduction in history.
Shot with the minimalist terror of the shark from Jaws, but with none of the close-up hokeyness, the Alien scares us because it’s relationship with its victims is so intimate and unpredictable. There’s no paranormal expert to tell you the rules it follows. Eyeless, noseless, this thing is pure instinct. There is no reasoning with it, no pleading, or escape. It is going to catch you and it is going to use you and only then will it allow you to die.
This is the monster of the new age; Giger’s work is so influential its fingerprints can be seen in everything from Hellraiser’s Pinhead to Star Trek’s Borg to The Matrix’s machines.
Generations of people have looked at this thing and thought, what a beautiful way to die.
Freddy Krueger, a classic scary figure. Personally I don’t find his appearance particularly scary. I mean don’t get me wrong, if I saw him in the night I would 100% be running for my life, but something about his stripy top resembling of Dennis the Menace and his Wolverine claws, really doesn’t scare me.
However, the way he slips through our dreams and reality unpredictably is terrifying, as you don’t know when to expect him or how he is planning to get you. It’s not even the thought of him chasing after you in a dream, but the fact that you can’t actually run away because he will always find you. What’s worse is that he likes the chase, so you can’t win: either you hide and wait anxiously for him to get you, or you keep letting him chase you until he eventually does kill you.
That brings me to my second fear: he likes to kill people slowly. It’s not a quick death with him, he quite literally dissects the bodies, making sure that they feel each ounce of pain, and you can’t escape it. How are you supposed to realise you’re dreaming in a dream and wake yourself up? Exactly, you can’t. Even if you try to stay awake, you’ll probably go mad with insomnia and paranoia, and eventually fall asleep and to see him again.
As the original movie proves, even after he kills you, he has you. So there’s just this endless chase between him…and you. If that’s not haunting, then I don’t know what is.
Less is more. The old proverb has never been more apt.
Steven Spielberg’s 1975 adaptation of Peter Benchley’s novel has the distinction of being the first ‘blockbuster’, with its earnings having made it among the most profitable films of all time. And well, any horror film is only good as its antagonist.
A Shark Tale…
Spielberg takes time to toy with the audience’s imagination during the first half of the film, with its opening only briefly showing the shark’s point of view as it drags Chrissie Watkins under the waves. And for a large portion of the film the creature is only briefly glimpsed, its attacks underlaid by John Williams’ Oscar-winning score, which succeeds in adding to the tension Spielberg crafts.
Unlike many horror figures, it’s impossible to understand the Great White’s motives beyond its desire to feed. This plays upon the audience’s trepidation of the unknown, lending to a sense of unease as the shark continues to terrorize the inhabitants of Amity Island. And most importantly, unlike many other horror antagonists, Great White sharks do exist. And they have been known to attack people.
Try swimming in the ocean after watching ‘Jaws’. I dare you.
Hannibal Lecter is the ultimate villain because his character makes the unimaginable seem legitimately believable in everyday life.
As a cannibalistic psychiatrist, Hannibal threatens the fundamental systems of trust that keep our lives ordered and happy, because nothing is safe anymore: not our minds nor bodies. Originally appearing in the 1981 Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon, Hannibal’s character has endured in our consciousness for almost four decades. His character is so remarkable that he has an entire (critically acclaimed!) TV series dedicated to him.
It’s the nuanced approach to his character in this series that makes him so truly terrifying. Quiet, composed and intelligent, his character seamlessly fits into everyday life. He’s good at his job, has hobbies, meets with friends, has a girlfriend; he’s the ‘perfect’ picture of a conventional man. But it’s the viewer’s position of superior knowledge that gives Hannibal its edge: what is more repulsive and disturbing than knowing that a character is feeding his unassuming dinner guests human-flesh? Only, the fact that he gets away with it!
Able to manipulate the minds of anyone who challenges him, Hannibal seems completely unstoppable, adding even more layers of horror to his character. To make it even worse, at points Hannibal almost seems nice and relatable (if you can block the cannibalism from your memory!).
Hannibal has everything you need in a villain, plus more! His character combines the classic fear of physical violence (complete with plenty of blood and gore), with the psychological terrors of the unknown. Hannibal makes us question our entire perception of reality, almost making us ask ‘what if we are already an unsuspecting dinner guest?’.
The Predator is one of the most iconic film monsters and rightfully so.
The Predator was one of the first creatures in movie history to offer something that no other had. Many other creatures beforehand like Dracula or The Xenomorph were scary for their unknown qualities and sheer physical threat. Though these creatures were almost always defeated by cunning or distinctly human features.
The Predator offered something new and deadlier, a creature that was smart enough to nullify this normal trope. A symbol of pure superiority that is able to tackle a hit squad of the buffest army dudes with guns all by itself.
Using technology and advanced hunting techniques, we see the tactical army squad slowly sent into a manic delusion faced with this superior intelligence and strength. One of the most defining scenes in the film occurs when one of the soldiers stumbles through the undergrowth whispering to himself ‘gonna have myself a time’ mimicking the song played at the start that illustrated the bombastic and machismo attitude of the main characters, depicting his fall into insanity.
And in the end, the only way the predator dies is by committing suicide once it felt dishonour as Arnold has a last-ditch attempt in finding the Predator’s weakness. No other creature is as iconic when it comes to sound effects, appearance, weapons, attitude all due to the excellent use of presentation in the film.