Hannibal Lecter... Leatherface... Norman Bates... Samara. All of these characters have one thing in common. They terrify us, the viewers. They've left us cowering in our seats and desperately wanting to turn the film off (but we won’t, because we want to find out what happens in the end!). With Halloween only a couple of days away, let’s take a look at some of the most frightening characters in cinematic history.
Fair warning, some spoilers are contained herein.
Norman was first mentioned in the 1959 novel Psycho, which was loosely based on the crimes committed by murderer and grave robber Ed Gein. However, it wasn’t until a year later, in 1960, that people really started to take notice of the character. It was due to Alfred Hitchcock’s film version of the novel that brought the character fame. What makes Bates so frightening? In this instance, it’s his severe psychological issues that cause him to terrify us. These issues range from spying on guests, murdering people, busting in on guests in the shower and stabbing them, and perhaps the worst of all, dressing up as his mother. Mrs. Bates also happens to be dead. At one point in the film, someone in the film finds Mrs. Bates’ severely decayed body is found, sitting in a rocking chair. Norman has kept his mother’s body there. The true nature of Norman’s twisted mind come to light during this part. CREEPER.
Who knew that a little girl could be so… so… strange and frightening? First appearing in the 2002 film as nothing more than an unforgiving ghost, we learn Samara had been badly treated as a child before dying at the hands of her foster mother, Anna. Samara came back and is in need of revenge. Apart from her somewhat terrifying appearance (pale, along with long, dark and soaking wet hair, a sunken and somewhat deformed face, with moldy looking skin), it’s her ability to pop up left, right, and centre and freaking the living daylights out of us. Whether she’s crawling out of the television, or popping out of a bath or well (if you haven’t seen the sequels, you may need to), we weren’t to know that a child could freak us out. Or maybe it was her ability to use her nensha powers to murder animals and more.
Well, if you weren’t frightened by clowns in the first place, Pennywise from the miniseries It may just set you in that direction. Based on the book of the same name, Pennywise is enough to scare the pants off even the bravest of people. Pennywise was a demonic entity that disguised himself as a clown. He would also disguise himself as other frightening things – usually based on his subject’s worst fears. Frightening enough. He would do this to attract children, thus making it easier to capture and kill them. If that’s not weird enough, let’s take a look at some of the things It turned into. Some of the “forms” that It took on include The Wolfman, winged leeches, the shark from Jaws, Paul Bunyan, a dog, and a giant spider. Enough said.
No list would be complete without Hannibal the Cannibal. What initially makes Hannibal so creepy is that he doesn’t fit any known psychological profile. Despite every best effort, nobody can pinpoint where Hannibal exactly fits in. Hannibal’s “keeper”, Dr. Chilton says that he is a sociopath (psychopath in the film). Hannibal is a brilliant man, with an intellect, culture and sophistication far beyond many others. However, Hannibal is best known for being a cannibal and being obsessed with mutilation. At one point, during The Silence of the Lambs, he escapes from a lower security prison, in which he kills and mutilates his guards. Using one of the faces of the dead guards, he is able to fool the paramedics and escapes. It is mentioned that at one point, Hannibal apparently participated in the cannibalism of his own sister during their youth. Mainly due to Sir Anthony Hopkins’ brilliant performance, the character itself is one of the most brilliant, yet absolute frightening, of all time.
Another Stephen King character, Jack Torrance is considered one of the greatest film villains of all time. Originally the protagonist of The Shining, he quickly turned into the main antagonist. What makes Torrance different from the rest on this list (mostly) is that he originally started off nice and loving. He was a loving husband and father. After accepting a job at a “supposedly” cursed hotel, Jack soon becomes mad. It is implied that he has been possessed. While it is implied he has been possessed, it is up to the viewer to decide whether Jack has descended into madness or whether he has been in fact possessed, which makes the film that much more thrilling. At one point, Jack, in a form of horrid psychosis, attempts to kill his wife and son with an axe. Jack Nicholson’s performance is perfect. What makes the story even weirder is that in the sequel to The Shining, the reader finds out that Jack (the character that is) had an affair with a young lady and she had a daughter named Lucy. Lucy eventually had a child of her own. The child, Abra, possessed similar versions of the Shining, similar to what her grandfather would have.
There are numerous frightening and utterly horrifying characters in film, including Freddy, Jason, Jaws, the aliens from Fire in the Sky, Alien from Alien and more. Let us know which character terrifies the daylights out of you!