I have spent far too many hours of my life sat in my own filth watching horror movie after horror movie, so there is no greater authority on this subject than me. With that in mind, I bring you the greatest horror movie killers of all time:
10. Norman Bates – Psycho
‘A boys best friend is his mother’
Best Kill – There won’t be a more obvious best kill on this list than Norm’s shower scene. Quite simply one of the most famous on screen deaths in movie history.
Most Ridiculous Moment – Being portrayed by happy go lucky man mountain Vince Vaughn in Gus Van Sant’s totally unnecessary shot for shot remake of Psycho.
Big Norm had a troubling start in life when his Dad was stung to death by bees in scenes I can only imagine were reminiscent of My Girl. He then murdered his Mother and her new lover. Sadly, his early years were probably his happiest despite all of this as things went downhill fast for Bates pretty promptly. After opening a motel, Bates struggles with dissociative identity disorder which has the unhappy side effect of making him murder people whilst wearing his mothers clothes. It is unconfirmed that a reported episode of Four in a Bed had to be abandoned due to Bates erratic behaviour.
9. Samara Morgan – The Ring
‘You don’t want to hurt anyone…’
‘But I do… and I’m sorry’
Best Kill – They are all pretty galling but her scariest moments include climbing up a well and crawling out of a TV. Both have upset me and given me nightmares for years.
Most Ridiculous Moment – Thin on the ground in a series that takes itself very seriously but Samara using her supernatural powers to make a horse jump off a ferry is pretty out there.
Poor Samara has it even worse than Big Norm as she was pushed down a well by her adoptive mother Anna Morgan and then died seven days later… Her story doesn’t end there though. Being one of the more resourceful and imaginative ghosts on the scene, Samara decided to come back as a haunted video tape which brings about a horrible demise for anyone who watches it. Unfortunately Samara didn’t have the foresight to predict the invention of DVD which resulted in her being the only obsolete ghost in living memory. She just can’t catch a break.
8. Leatherface – Texas Chainsaw Massacre
‘That’s the last goddamn hitchhiker I ever pick up…’
Best Kill – Leatherface doesn’t really share the same flair for the kill as some of the others on this list, preferring a more brutally simplistic approach. His first kill is pretty horrifying just for the way the camera pans from his shoes to his face as he smashes someone’s skull with a hammer.
Most Ridiculous Moment – Probably the revelation in Texas Chainsaw 3D that Leatherface’s real name is Jedidah Sawyer. I always had him down as more of an Alan.
Leatherface is certainly not as erudite as say Hannibal Lecter or as sassy as Freddy but boy is he effective. LF is a no frills serial killer who just wants to get on with things. Favours actually running after his victims shrieking rather than the silent stalking technique employed by many of his peers.
7. Chucky – Childs Play
‘Hi, I’m Chucky… Wanna Play?’
Best Kill – Numerous and varied methods at play here. Chucky has choked, stabbed, electrocuted, asphyxiated and burned his victims but the most memorable has to be the use of a voodoo doll in the original Child’s Play.
Most Ridiculous Moment – Quite a few to choose from as you would imagine but the doll sex scene in Bride of Chucky takes some beating.
Before he became the most anti social member of the Toy Story cast, Chucky was actually human serial killer Charles Lee Ray who after being mortally wounded managed to transfer his soul to an adorable children’s toy.
People tend to be a little sniffy about the Child’s Play franchise but the six films in the series have generated over $250 million and this is all down to Brad Dourif’s Chucky.
6. Pinhead – Hellraiser
‘Complete the pattern, solve the puzzle, turn the key.’
Best Monologue – Pinhead is known more for his pompous and frequently ridiculous monologues normally delivered towards the end of the film than his murders so I leave you with this:
‘Unbearable, isn’t it? The suffering of strangers, the agony of friends. There is a secret song at the centre of the world, Joey, and its sound is like razors through flesh. Oh come, you can hear its faint echo right now. I’m here to turn up the volume. To press the stinking face of humanity into the dark blood of its own secret heart.’
You can’t imagine Jason Vorhees saying that through his hockey mask…
Most Ridiculous Moment – See Above
The imaginatively named Pinhead actually started life as WW1 veteran Elliot Spencer. Jaded with life after the war Spencer opens the Lament Configuration, a puzzle box that opens a door to other dimensions, and ends up becoming a cenobite – tormenting others that open the box. Pinhead is perhaps the most visually arresting entry on this list but he has unfortunately been let down by many woeful Hellraiser sequels. If ever a horror series needed rebooting, it is Hellraiser.
‘I am the writing on the wall, the whisper in the classroom! Without these things, I am nothing.’
Best Kill – The hook handed killer relies too heavily on that one method, the most memorable death in the Candyman series is actually his own. Beaten, smothered with honey and left to be stung to death by bees (Like Norman Bates’ Dad!) the death of Daniel Robatille (later christened Candyman) is truly shocking.
Most Ridiculous Moment – Like Pinhead, Candyman is another Clive Barker creation so he sometimes lets his intelligence slip into pretentiousness as with this quote:
‘The pain, I can assure you, will be exquisite. As for our deaths, there is nothing to fear. Our names will be written on a thousand walls. Our crimes told and retold by our faithful believers. We shall die together in front of their very eyes and give them something to be haunted by.’ – Alright pal, calm down!
Candyman is the most underrated horror film ever made as far as I am concerned. A brilliant back story, and the mirror summoning trope is a huge part of horror folklore now. Tony Todd as Candyman gives one of the best ever horror antagonist performances yet somehow the franchise was allowed to die after just three entries.
4. Hannibal Lecter – Silence of the Lambs
‘On a similar note I must confess to you, I’m giving very serious thought… to eating your wife.’
Best Kill – Lecter has a penchant for the over dramatic but his most devastatingly over the top kill is the death of Paul Krendler in Hannibal. With Clarice Starling watching, Lecter scalps Krendler and then proceeds to feed him his own brain while he is still alive.
Most Ridiculous Moment – Without a doubt the outrageous wig that he sports at the end of Silence of the Lambs coupled with a white suit. He looks more like a member of Status Quo than a criminal mastermind. Also, the fact that people just seem to accept that somebody called Hannibal became a cannibal. That is a pretty unbelievable coincidence.
Lecter is the third (!) evil killer on the list to be based on real life murderer Ed Gein (the others being Leatherface and Norman Bates) but unlike the others, Lecter is self assured, confident and calculating. As with pretty much all of his peers Dr. Lecter suffered from a horrible childhood, witnessing the murder of his beloved younger sister and then unwittingly eating her remains in scenes reminiscent of another evil genius, Scott Tenorman.
Silence of the Lambs is probably the best film that any of the people on this list have been involved with but Lecter remains compelling and fascinating throughout the madness of Hannibal to the underrated crime thriller Red Dragon and now again in the celebrated TV adaptation. There is no doubting that Hannibal Lecter is one of the most beloved anti heroes, not just in the horror genre, but in film in general.
3. Jason Vorhees – Friday 13th
‘There’s a legend around here. A killer buried, but not dead. A curse on Crystal Lake, a death curse. Jason Voorhees’ curse. They say he died as a boy, but he keeps coming back. Few have seen him and lived. Some have even tried to stop him… No one can. People forget he’s down there, waiting…’
Best Kill – Jason has a bigger body count on the list than anyone with 158 victims to his name so it is impossible to pick just one. I have a soft spot for him chopping down Kelly Rowland in Freddy vs Jason however, as her character was annoying as shit.
Most Ridiculous Moment – Again with 12 films to choose from it is difficult to whittle this down but when Jason found himself on a planet called Earth 2 in the year 2455 things had taken a pretty outrageous turn. Also the fact that one of the films in the franchise is called Jason Takes Manhattan is about as ridiculous as horror film movie sequel titles get.
Jason barely appears in his own franchise’s flagship film and he didn’t get his trademark hockey mask until the third instalment but there is no doubting he has made up for lost time since then. The Friday 13th franchise has spawned 12 movies and has grossed over $465 million on box office alone, not taking into account rental/DVD sales/merchandise etc.
Jason has become an anti hero because he seems to have a warped sense of justice at times (a lot of his anger stems from being allowed to drown by teenagers who were having sex instead of watching him. Jason hates teenagers having sex.) He also routinely shows his vulnerable side and child like wonder in a way similar to Michael Myers (indeed on first glance Jason Vorhees appears to be Michael Myers 2.0 but after 12 movies there is no doubting the character of Jason has come in to his own.)
2. Michael Myers – Halloween
‘I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy’s eyes was purely and simply… evil.’
Best Kill – Another prolific killer, trailing slightly behind Jason with 111, but Myers most memorable kill is his first. The cold hearted POV slaying of his older sister during the opening of Halloween introduced the world to ‘pure evil’ Michael Myers. It is still shocking 37 years later.
Most Ridiculous Moment – Myers has managed to maintain a quiet dignity throughout the Halloween series that has evaded Freddy and Jason, so starring alongside Busta Rhymes in the last instalment before the series was rebooted was a real shame.
Michael Myers is quite simply evil incarnate. He is an unstoppable force of nature who despite never breaking into more than a brisk stroll always captures his intended victim. There is so much pain and suffering in Myers and his character is a lot deeper than most people give him credit for.
Michael Myers is the prototype for every slasher horror that came after. A killing machine.
1. Freddy Kruger – A Nightmare on Elm Street
‘One… Two… Freddy’s coming for you’
Best Kill – Despite a relatively skinny body count of 43, Krueger is the undisputed king of imaginative slayings. Of those 43 I could reel off at least 30 to you off the top of my head such is his ability for memorable kills. For me, this reached its apex in Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors when Freddy appeared on the TV screen, beckoned Jennifer toward him, before two arms burst out of the side of box, his burnt head smashed through the top of the TV as he rammed her head through the screen with the immortal line ‘Welcome to prime time… BITCH!’.
Most Ridiculous Moment – In the later films Freddy goes from villain to anti hero to protagonist which results in many ludicrous moments. In Freddy’s Dead (hilariously not even close to the final film in the franchise) Freddy traps Spencer in a SNES style video game and then proceeds to kill him before declaring ‘Whadda ya know? Beat my high score’. In a franchise filled with cringe worthy scenes that one is right up there.
So we have our winner. Freddy Krueger scourge of Elm Street, hater of strong independent women (particularly if named Nancy) and eater of souls. It is difficult to remember that before he was a wise cracking, campy parody of himself, Freddy was a disgusting and terrifying child murderer, burned to death by the parents of Elm Street only to appear in their children’s nightmares. Next thing you know he is releasing a rap song entitled ‘Are you ready for Freddy?’ (Spoiler alert – you aren’t). It is astonishing that a character can move so far away from their roots and still be beloved by pretty much every horror fan the world over.
Freddy Krueger – Without a doubt the all time greatest horror movie killer.