#15 with a goddamn bullet! Or a butcher knife!
Entertainment Weekly, having long since ceased being an essential, or even a fun read for anyone seriously interested in keeping up on movies and attitudes about them, is still occasionally a good source for stirring up water cooler (or blog ) conversation. And so it is with the magazine’s current listing (EW excels at lists) of ”The 20 Best/Worst Horror Villains”. Lest ye be confused, as I was, by that title, they aren’t saying these are the 20 best villains at being worst, as in most vile and horrifying. It’s a straight list—the first 15 are the “best” horror villains, followed by five villains who have failed miserably, in EW’s eyes, at the game of making fright. The list goes something like this, villains name followed by the franchise, and on rare occasion the single movie, from which he/she/it sprung:
1) Freddy Kreuger (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
2) Pinhead (Hellraiser)
3) Michael Meyers (Halloween)
4) Jason Voorhees Friday the 13th)
5) Count Orlok (Nosferatu)
6) Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
7) Jigsaw (Saw)
8) Candyman (Candyman)
9) Annie Wilkes (Misery)
10) The Tall Man (Phantasm)
11) Hannbal Lecter (Manhunter, The Silence of The Lambs,
Hannibal, Red Dragon)
12) Norman Bates Psycho)
13) Sylvia Ganush (Drag Me to Hell)
14) Minnie Castvet (Rosemary’s Baby)
15) Chucky (Child’s Play et al)
2) Dr. Giggles
3) Gingerbread Man
5) Audrey II (The Little Shop of Horrors)
Let the pointless nitpicking begin. First of all, if posterity and overall influence is to be counted for anything, then I think you have to alter the top three positions to show Count Orlok, the first truly memorable vampire in film history, at number one, followed by the equally seminal Norman Bates at two, and one of Bates’ direct grandchildren, if you will, Leatherface at number three. After that start then sure, bring on your '80s icons, if you must. Go ahead and juggle Freddy and Jason and Michael in there however you want, though I would have to insist, again imposing my own standards on EW’s game here, if audacity and mutability is to count for anything, then Chucky must surely rank higher than #15.
After all, it took Freddy till the seventh film in that franchise to even begin to see the possibilities in using itself as an examination of anything beyond surrealistic depictions of garish nightmare-tinged murder scenarios. Jason got into that game after 11 movies, at Freddy’s insistence, and their little romp, ranks among the best of the Celebrity Death match pairings of movie villains of the 2000’s, far outstripping Alien vs. Predator or Sarah Palin vs. David Letterman. But Chucky, as guided by writer Don Mancini (full disclosure: Don is a good friend of mine) and director Ronny Yu, took the popular killer doll down that road after only three outings, resulting in (no, I get it, arguably) the franchises two best movies Yu’s Bride of Chucky (1998) and Mancini’s Seed of Chucky (2004), which recast the adventures of the murderous redheaded toy in the shadow of standard movie romance tropes and then, most memorably, family psychological drama a la Ordinary People. So really, Chucky needs to be in the top seven somewhere, with the Tall Man, Phantasm’s Angus Scrimm (“Boy-y-y-y-y-y-y!”) hot on his tail.
Though I don’t have much use for Annie Wilkes, I love the inclusion of Minnie Castavet and Sylvia Ganush. But my biggest picked nits have to be the inclusion of Pinhead, not only at number two (number two?), but at all. Really, each of the candidates, even Jason (Friday the 13th Part 3-D) has one movie in their oeuvre that’s somehow distinctive, if not exactly good. But where is that movie in Pinhead’s column? Even the original Hellraiser was dank, messy and mistook the terrorizing of flesh as being the same as being terrifying. And each sequel was sillier than the last. Throw Pinhead out on his perforated skull cap!
And the worst category is what it is, but for the inclusion of Audrey II from The Little Shop of Horrors (1985), Frank Oz’s filmed adaptation of the Broadway play, which seems as out of place here in this category as Audrey does being considered a “horror villain” alongside Jason and Leatherface. Outside of an argument over the merits of the movie, which is far better than many of the movies that were mentioned or alluded to on this list, Audrey II’s appearance here seems random and silly. Have Audrey II and Pinhead switch places, and then I think you’re on to something.