John Carpenter forever changed the face of horror movies when he made the low-budget flick Halloween in 1978. His masked menace, Michael Myers, who kills his sister as a child and then escapes an insane asylum as an adult to continue amassing bodies on Halloween, has become one of the most popular, as well as the most revisited, horror movie villains.
Since his debut, Michael Myers, referred to as “The Shape” in the first film’s credits, has been the main antagonist in nine other films. These range from sequels to remakes, and the approach to documenting the life of Michael Myers, as well as the style of his William Shatner mask, varies. While Michael Myers may seem like the most imposing evildoer, many other boogeymen have come before and after him in the slasher genre.
While not all horror film villains are up to snuff, the creeps and monsters below definitely have the potential to give Michael Myers a run for his money.
Before Michael Myers, there was Leatherface. Another masked serial slayer, Leatherface is a member of the Sawyer family, a cannibalistic Texas clan made famous by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Released in 1974, this film shocked and awed the audience with its violence.
Leatherface is quite a sight. He wears a mask made out of human flesh, a butcher’s apron, and has a large glob of black hair on his head. As if this isn’t enough, he also runs around with a massive chainsaw, his weapon of choice. While Michael Myers wants to kill his family, Leatherface works with his to slaughter innocent folks who happen upon their path.
9 Pamela And Jason Voorhees
Members of another mass-murdering family, Pamela Voorhees lays the foundation for her poor son Jason, who drowned while attending camp along Crystal Lake. When Pamela enacts revenge on the teenage counselors whose poor choices led to her son’s death, she’s eventually taken out by one final girl, Alice. However, an undead, deformed Jason erupts from the lake at the end of the film, launching himself into a successful B-movie franchise.
Jason Voorhees wears a hockey mask and various nondescript outfits reminiscent of Michael Myer’s coveralls. While his weapons vary, this tall, bulky brute with the gnarled face of a child seems to prefer a machete. Throughout the Friday the 13th franchise, of which Jason is the star, he graphically ends dozens and dozens of lives silently and without remorse.
8 Freddy Kreuger
“The kids of Elm Street don’t know it yet, but something is coming to get them in their dreams.” Freddy Krueger took the slasher genre into new territory. First arriving on the big screen in 1984’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, this former child killer continues his reign of terror from the afterlife by getting young ones while they dream.
The physicality of the slasher drama reaches fantastical new depths here, yet what happens in the dream world has real-world consequences. Freddy Krueger terrified children everywhere with his scarred face, fedora, and glove decorated with very, very sharp blades. The ultimate boogeyman, Freddy thrives on fear, which is part of the reason why he never seems to die.
Wes Craven, who also brought Freddy Krueger to life, is responsible for this satirical villain whose reputation has become anything but funny. Ghostface is the generic name used to define the killer (or killers) in the Scream films. Another masked slasher, Ghostface’s face cover was influenced by Edvard Munch’s painting, “The Scream.”
The Scream films do more than recreate the slasher movie: they dissect and subvert it, using self-referentiality to show audiences how predictable the genre has become. Ghostface is front and center for this action. What gives this devilish character such endurance is the fact that anyone can don a mask and black robe to suddenly become the next serial killer.
Another villain who thrives on the fear of children, Pennywise comes from the mind of Stephen King and his hit novel, It. First made into a movie for TV in 1990 and then adapted into a major motion picture in 2017, Pennywise is the nickname of the entity that haunts and devours the children of Derry, Maine.
Cyclical and supernatural, Pennywise comes out of its lair every 27 years to begin a new gorefest. This shapeshifting, endlessly hungry monster that usually presents itself as a clown may not be a classic slasher figure, but Pennywise wouldn’t exist without the influence of previous horror monsters. It’d be quite something to see this creature go up against Michael Myer’s blade.
Straight from the imagination of horror auteur Clive Barker, Pinhead is a Centobyte from Hell who looks just like his name. This bald, menacing lurker has a grey head dotted with pins painfully inserted into his skin.
Pinhead is the main antagonist in the Hellraiser series, stylized movies with intricate puzzles, philosophical questions, and long body horror scenes. As a minion from below, Pinhead is fierce. While Michael Myers uses his physical strength to overcome his victims in true slasher fashion, Pinhead subverts genre expectations by relying on mysticism and magic to decimate those who cross his path. In both cases, the results are grotesque and bloody.
4 Harry Warden, The Miner
One of the most terrifying things about Michael Myers is his appearance. With his white, vacant mask and navy coveralls, The Shape lacks emotional range or agency. Instead, he comes across as a motiveless killing machine. A masked murderer whose look matches Michael’s in terms of fright is the Miner’s from the cult slasher My Bloody Valentine, originally made in 1981.
Lurking in the shadows, the Miner is a silent killer who likes to remove the hearts of his victims. Descending upon a Valentine’s Day dance, the Miner is a shocking sight with his mineshaft mask, coveralls, and a pickaxe. While My Bloody Valentine never did become a franchise like many other films mentioned on this list, the Miner is still revered as one of the scariest slasher villains ever made.
Supernatural horror matched with slasher violence, Candyman is a film about the spirit of a former slave with a hook for a hand who stalks the streets of a poor Chicago neighborhood. Like other characters from lore, people invoke the spirit of the Candyman when they speak his name into a mirror.
This mystical slayer with a sternum full of bees is another Clive Barker creation, and his physical prowess matched with his otherworldly abilities make him a horror monster to remember. What’s most terrifying about Candyman is that his powers adapt to new hosts, and his destruction seems unlikely.
2 Norman Bates
The original slasher, Psycho‘s Norman Bates has serious familial issues. Like Michael Myers, instead of getting therapy, Mr. Bates decides to take out his mother issues on people who stay at his roadside motel. In a scene truly ghastly for 1960, he stabs Marion Crane to death in the shower.
Before Norman Bates, films didn’t follow heinous murderers so acutely. While he may not be scary by today’s standards, he haunted moviegoers’ dreams much like Michael Myers did the first time they saw him.
1 The Jigsaw Killer
Horror fans really lost it when Saw was released in 2004. Full of stirring surprises and disgusting, violent scenes, the film centers around an insane killer who entraps his victims physically and psychologically. It’s revealed the mastermind behind these hideous slayings is John Kramer, a man with an inoperable tumor who decides to test his victims’ will to live.
The Saw films have a reputation for their barbarism, and Kramer’s sense of retribution makes him a formidable horror villain. While he may not be physically capable, his ability to conceive of such elaborate tests for those he chooses makes him very, very hard to beat.
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