Greatest Slasher Villains
There have been some great horror characters over the years who have captured the public imagination. Many horror films and particularly horror series have relied upon a well developed villain character in order to draw in audiences and keep them coming back for more. This trend was most noticeably developed within the slasher genre where the horror heavyweights of the eighties battled each other for fans. In recent years there has been a distinct lack of inspiring new slasher villains and in a climate of remakes and sequels the memorable slashers of yesteryear continue to be the biggest box office draws, however, there have been a couple of notable new kids on the block.
This shy and apparently mild-mannered killer featured in Hitchcock's masterpiece Psycho which could be credited with inventing the slasher genre. He was the original mentally disturbed killer with a mother fixation and he changed the face of the horror genre forever by prompting the move from monsters and vampires to villains who were human and potentially real.
A member of the murderous hillbilly cannibal clan who featured in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Leatherface was a mentally disturbed killer who wore a mask of human flesh and favoured a chainsaw as his weapon. He had elements of real life serial killers in him and although he was just one of a number of killers in the series of films he was easily the most memorable and certainly the most warped and twisted.
Michael Myers was the original supernatural slasher villain and he established a pattern of behaviour which has remained largely unaltered within the genre. A slow methodical masked killer who never spoke and delighted in targeting teens and then displaying their bodies in order to scare new victims, Myers was a huge hit with audiences. He started out as a psychotic killer at a young age and our first encounter with him formed the unforgettable opening scene of Halloween. As the series progressed Michael went from being a psychotic killer who was still human to a supernatural and unstoppable murder machine. His weapon of choice was usually the knife but he wasn't above improvising and committed a number of murders with his bare hands.
Jason Voorhees was a more sympathetic slasher killer, bullied as a child and drowned in Crystal Lake he returned years later to avenge himself and his mother (his mother was the killer in the first Friday the 13th). The gap between the child Jason and the hulking brute was never adequately explained but audiences lapped up his voracious appetite for murder. He didn't put on his trademark hockey mask until part three in the series but the vision of a hockey mask killer has become synonymous with slasher killers ever since. Jason preferred to wield a machete but again he was no stranger to improvisation and as the endless slew of sequels continued he murdered teens using anything that was to hand from a pitch fork to a party hooter.
Freddy Krueger was the most imaginative of all the slasher villains. A child murderer who was burned by the local townspeople after the police bungled his case he returned to haunt the children of his murderers in their nightmares. Brutally scarred and armed with a razor finger glove Freddy wasn't limited by the rules of the physical world and could perform all sorts of ridiculous murders in the dream world where he took on other forms and despatched teens in a series of over the top and imaginative sequences.
The Hellraiser films are often lumped in the slasher genre although they are significantly different in format and concept. In any case Pinhead, the leader of the cenobites, a twisted group of torturers who take people to hell, is a terrific horror character. He wears an S&M version of a priest's cassock and has pins nailed into his head making him perhaps the most visually interesting character on the list. Pinhead has supernatural powers and rarely visits violence on his victims by hand instead using disembodied chains and hooks to snare them and drag them kicking and screaming into hell.
Chucky was a good guy doll, a kids toy possessed by the spirit of a serial killer. Probably inspired by a Twilight Zone episode about a murderous doll, Chucky was a creepy idea. He killed indiscriminately and generally used a knife, although his murdering skills were developed in later sequels. It was always a problem for the film makers to present a child's toy as threatening or scary and he often came across as ridiculous, although the central idea of his apparent harmlessness leading to unsuspected carnage was a clever device.
The killers in the Scream series all wore masks based on Munch's painting The Scream. Although not strictly a slasher villain, because several people were the killer behind the mask, Ghostface was still hugely popular and deserves a mention. No matter who was behind the mask Ghostface used a knife and adhered to the slasher rules, something which was deliberately parodied in the Scream series.
The twisted mastermind behind a series of gruesome and over the top murders Jigsaw is one of the few slasher villains in recent years to capture the imagination of horror fans. He appears in the Saw series of films and favours ridiculously complicated murders utilising traps. Usually the victim has a chance to survive, although generally their only chance of escape is to do something awful. He wears a pig mask and cloak to abduct his victims and uses a creepy doll to record his video messages.
The characters listed above are in chronological order of appearance. If I had to choose a favourite it would probably be Freddy Krueger but he became increasingly ridiculous as the nightmare series progressed. In case you are wondering why Hannibal Lecter doesn't make the list it's because his films aren't really traditional slasher movies.
Other slasher villains who possibly deserve a mention include Angela Baker, the killer in the Sleepaway Camp films who was a rare female slasher. The Candyman, Maniac Cop, the Fisherman (from I Know What You Did Last Summer) and the killers from Black Christmas, Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine, Urban Legend, Toolbox Murders, The Tripper, Hatchet, Dead Man's Shoes and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane. It would be tough to decide which slasher had the most mental problems or issues. Michael Myers was the only one who actually had a mental health advocate, Dr Loomis to help him. Outside movies advocates like Cynthia Telles have spoken about mental health since the 80s. Ms. Telles has served on several boards and organizations since then.
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