/Answers: Our Favorite Horror Movie Villains

Every week in /Answers, we attempt to answer a new pop culture-related question. Tying in with the release of It and the re-introduction of Pennywise the clown, this week's edition asks "Who is your favorite horror movie villain?"

Vanessa Bogart: Freddy Krueger

One, two, Freddy's coming for you. Three, four, better lock your door...

Out of all of the nursery rhymes from my childhood, I remember that one above all others. Equal parts catchy and spine tingling, the ominous warning, delivered frightfully by angelic children, solidified Freddy's boogeyman status. Having seen A Nightmare on Elm Street at way too young of an age thanks to my big brothers, most nights I wanted to hold my eyelids open like some sort of spastic cartoon character. Anything to keep away those creepy extending arms and the head-splitting sounds of his dragging knives. On the nights that I was unlucky enough to fall asleep, Freddy Kruger was the star of some of my worst nightmares. Supernatural horror doesn't usually haunt me after the credits roll, but Freddy created a fear that I was never able to shake.

Five, Six, grab your crucifix. Seven, eight, gonna stay up late.

That all being said, I also kind of really love Freddy. Don't get me wrong, he is terrfiying, but you can't deny that vicious wit and sense of humor. However, you also can't deny that he is child murderer and a pervert. I can never decide whether I watch A Nightmare on Elm Street because I think Freddy is cool or because I just don't feel like sleeping that night, but I do know that when it comes to the slasher movie kings, Freddy takes the bloody cake (he won't have any trouble cutting it, either). Unlike his former adversary, Jason, who was an innocent child and a victim in his own right, Freddy was a terrible person even before he was a terrible ghoul. There is literally nothing admirable, relatable, or in anyway shape or form morally sound in Freddy Krueger. When you are talking about a through and through villain, Freddy Krueger's rap sheet is about as long and ghastly as they come.

Nine, ten, never sleep again.

Where Jason murdered innocent teenagers with the indifference of a shark, Freddy teased and toyed with his victims. It was upsetting psychological torture and his own screwed-up form of foreplay. Freddy has a way of making you feel outraged, disgusted, and horrified. He was the kind of villain that triggers that guilty and curious side of you that watches serial killer true crime documentaries, and you don't know whether to say "cool," or be terrified of the Amazon guy ringing your doorbell. When I think of all of the things that make Freddy Freddy, it makes me sick to my stomach, but that doesn't stop me from dramatically holding my hand up to my face whenever I get my nails done and saying, "THIS IS GOD," as dramatically as possible. Freddy Krueger is sick-fascination at its finest.

Ben Pearson: The Terminator

"Listen, and understand. That Terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop – ever – until you are dead."

Are there any worse words to hear if your name is Sarah Connor? In my mind, that speech from Michael Biehn's Kyle Reese in the original The Terminator is the gold standard for describing a horror movie villain. That look of horrified realization on Sarah's face as the enormity of her scenario sinks in...it gets me every time. All of the sequels may have blunted the power of the first movie in your memory, but while being a terrific piece of science fiction, I consider The Terminator to be a full-on slasher horror film as well. Instead of camp counselors or dreaming children, Arnold Schwarzenegger's hulking, unstoppable force is out to kill the mother of the leader of the human revolution that's to come. Being faced with something stalking you that can't be dealt with using any methods you've ever used before is a truly terrifying prospect. Schwarzenegger plays his role to perfection, and the way James Cameron tapped into that fear and wrapped it in simultaneously complex and simple story is nothing short of masterful.

Ethan Anderton: Michael Myers

For my money, there's no better horror villain than Michael Myers. Before Rob Zombie tried to give him a typical serial killer origin story, Michael Myers was a ruthless killing machine motivated by his desire to kill his younger sister, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis). However, this was a revelation that we didn't even learn about until Halloween II. Therefore, in the original Halloween, the white-masked madman is nothing more than a senseless killer with no rhyme or reason driving his knife into his various victims.

Making Michael Myers even more terrifying is that before the idea of the invincible slasher became a horror trope, this was a killer who took several bullets to the body, only to disappear and return to kill over and over again. Eventually his mythology would expand to include connections to the occult and Samhain. But in that first Halloween, Michael Myers was an unstoppable killer who proved that the Boogeyman was real, and that continues to be terrifying to this day.

Matt Donato: Chucky

Who's the meanest horror baddie in all the land? Never underestimate a "Good Guy" like Chucky. Once a fixture in my nightmares, now my favorite iconic horror villain. Little Donato wasn't as big a Chuckster fan as Adult Donato – that I can ASSURE you. Yet, here we are. Me arguing why Don Mancini's pint-sized voodoo legend is, without a doubt, the horror genre's Most Valuable Slayer. Denim overalls, freckles and all.

Looking at the Child's Play franchise as a whole, there's no more stellar collection of consequential horror releases. From Child's Play to Curse Of Chucky, there's something to like about every one of Mancini's excursions into toonish terror, Seed Of Chucky included. It may be the weakest of the bunch, but at least it's got John Waters being acid-washed by Chucky mid father-son bonding. Points for weirdness and family values!

Other than that, there isn't another weak link to argue. Child's Play made a murderer, Child's Play 2 upped the ante, Child's Play 3 always gets unjustly forgotten, Bride Of Chucky embraced the '90s meta swing, and Curse Of Chucky bounced back from the overly-goofball tone of Seed. All sequels, all in the name of creative advancement. One of the rare genre franchises that has more positive takeaways than sequel blemishes.

As horror has evolved, so has Chucky. That's not to say other icons haven't (Freddy Vs. Jason, for example), but it looks better on Chucky. Film by film, his rubberized exterior and cutesy clothes become more tattered; face mangled and stitched together like Frankenstein's monster's favorite toy. Brad Dourif always hits upon the same tormented innocence as Charles Lee Ray, bringing life to an otherwise childish gag. A living dolly, what's to fear, right? Don't let Chucky or Brad hear that. They've built a legacy by corrupting all that should be safe and adorable. Because what's safety, anyway? Just a facade. Welcome to reality.

For all the times Chucky could have rolled over and died, Mancini's creation has endured. Enjoyable sequels. Rejuvenated rebrandings. Then, when Seed looked to spell utter doom, Curse reminded us why we fell in love with a devilish red-haired puppet who curses and kills. Sorry Jack, Chucky's ALWAYS going to be back. That's why he dons a crown of bones no other villain does.

Added bonus! This INSANE Child's Play closing-credits song that never was by artist Simon Stokes. You must see to believe.

Hoai-Tran Bui: Norman Bates

The most frightening thing about Norman Bates is how harmless he appears at first. Played by Anthony Perkins with a disarming likability, Norman Bates is introduced in Psycho not as an obvious villain, but as a pathetic victim subject to the whims of his demanding, unseen mother. He is not even the focus of Psycho when Marion Bates first stumbles upon his hidden motel, his presence nearly invisible until the moment when he spies on Marion undressing through his peep hole. From there the dread builds, as you're forced to question just how innocent Norman is when his "mother" murders Marion and the pursuant detective, while he begrudgingly hides the bodies.

Alfred Hitchcock is called the master of suspense for a reason, swinging the POV from the poor Marion to Norman for much of the second half of the film, whose motivations and actions only become more opaque the more time we spend with him. Hitchcock manipulates this confusion wonderfully, making you at first sympathize with Norman while teasing an aura of dread and distrust around the character — until that famous final reveal.

It's such a potent reveal that Norman is the killer because you have spent so much time with him, but rather than betrayal, the audience feels a sort of cathartic relief. Those hints that Norman wasn't what he seemed came true, and you weren't a terrible person for distrusting a person who only seemed victim of circumstance. No, the betrayal was that Hitchcock made you feel for a murderous, twisted villain — and that is the most terrifying thing of all.

Jacob Hall: Leatherface

The iconic villain from Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre isn't an unstoppable zombie killer like Jason. He's not a supernatural threat like Freddy. He's not even an inhuman shell like Michael Myers. Leatherface stands out from other iconic horror figureheads because he's so...human.

The original 1974 film – and that's the only one we'll be talking about here – is a remarkable experience for a number of reasons, but the decades of imitators have only made it all the more thrilling, disgusting, and surprising. But when I think about The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I don't think about a specific kill or a scene of gore (it's a far less violent movie than most audiences remember). I think about Leatherface, the developmentally challenged cannibal wearing a mask made of human skin, looking out a window. Teenagers have begun wandering on to his family's property (looking for gas following a breakdown on the desolate Texas highways) and he's reacted in the only way he knows how: with sudden violence. We never see his face, but we do see his eyes. Is he nervous? Scared? Surprised? Alert? Where are all of these people coming from? Are there more? His look says it all: "What's going on here? Are they going to keep coming?"

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre never asks you to feel bad for Leatherface or his demented family members, but it never treats them as an unstoppable threat or anything less than human. Sure, humans with desires and lifestyles far more deranged and twisted than yours or mine, but humans nonetheless. Which means they feel all the more real. The fact that Leatherface can fall down and the fact that he gets scared and the fact that the movie ends with him swinging his saw through the air in a fit of childlike rage because the last victim got away and he can only throw a temper tantrum makes him all the more terrifying. It's easy to say Freddy Krueger doesn't exist. But when you're driving through the barren heart of America, it's easy to convince yourself that Leatherface is out there. After all, he's only human.

Christopher Stipp: Jason Voorhees

Jason Voorhees. The name itself should mean something to anyone with even a passing interest in horror. When I first came upon the man who terrorized lusty and lascivious teens who seemed to care more about getting it on than they were with self-preservation (to say nothing of the impact the character had on what it meant to be deep within the woods in the same way Jaws redefined that hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck feeling when you went too far into the ocean), the guy was already showing up in his sixth movie. The year was 1986, I was 11 and already the series had gotten a little goofy. Sure, there were some quality kills in Jason Lives, but for the guy I'm seeing at the heart of this series, who truly embodied evil incarnate, you need to stick with parts one through four. Jason had a slow start out of the gate, but like any great maniac, it would only be dialed in with subsequent installments.

It's hard to put into simple terms why he was such a great antagonist but I would be remiss if I didn't recommend the nearly 7 hour (!) documentary Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th as the quintessential companion piece that can help cement why Jason's ranking as the ultimate killing machine was not only thoroughly well-deserved but, conversely, why that image has been sullied by the shallow installments that had our guy traipsing all over New York or space or even in a head-to-head battle against Freddy Krueger that I never bothered to watch. It's those initial films which have genuine terror in their core. Sure, Part Three seems to have had been devised first as a 3-D gimmick first, a horror movie second, but that one still can hang with the best simply for the inventive ways it knocked off the movie's teens. Jason has seen himself be reshaped and envisioned in all sorts of ways through pop culture, but no one can change how those initial movies crafted fun jump scares while slowly killing everyone off and eventually finishing in a crescendo of blood that would end not with closure, but with that faint whiff that Jason would come back. Because Jason always comes back.

Dat Boi Pennywise

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