What name springs to your mind when you think of horror villains? Let me guess: Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, or something in that vein? These lucky few have become classic horror and Halloween tropes and most people have seen at least one of their movies, if not every sub-par sequel. But what about more recent villains? The ones who made our skin crawl on the big screen but for whatever reason their name doesn’t come to mind when you envision the craftiest antiheroes? I could write about horror villains or creatures that haven’t gotten their rightful moment in the spotlight for days. Instead I’ll spare you and leave it at four that live rent free in my head but haven’t received their much-deserved notoriety in the same way that others have. Also: spoiler alert! But honestly if you haven’t seen these films by now, that’s on you guys.
1996: Stu Macher (Scream)
We are starting off strong with this one, folks. The 90’s were an underrated time for horror, with Wes Craven‘s Scream being at the top of that list alongside other titles such as Candyman and It. Being a Matthew Lillard super-fan who’s been bingeing all of his movies in order (shout out to #Lillardathon), I can confidently say that this is one of my top three roles for the acting powerhouse. Stu Macher is a multi-faceted character that offers up laughs, surprises, and even empathy by the end. Even when audiences are aware of how vile Stu is, in his moment of demise you feel sorry for him when he exclaims between tears and bloody spittle, “My mom and dad are gonna be so mad at me!” In one of the worst character send offs, by the end of the movie you’re unsure if Stu survived or not. Yes, he suffered pretty damaging hits, but how many times has Michael Myers been horrifically slaughtered only to live for another movie? Besides his bodily injuries, the only inkling to make us think he died is Lillard not being cast in the sequels besides background, uncredited, Easter Egg roles. As if that’s not bad enough, here’s the most offensive twist: Lillard isn’t even on the poster, but Drew Barrymore (who…spoilers…dies in the first 10 minutes) is! I whole heartedly believe that Stu Macher deserves better, to which I’m sure he’d reply, “Thanks, buddy!”
2006: The Long One (Slither)
Creature features have long been a favorite of many horror aficionados. Being able to imagine an other worldly being reeking havoc onto our natural world is intriguing to say the least. Then Slither took it a step further with the long ones. I have seen this film multiple times, and still had to Google what James Gunn called these monsters, proving my point that they don’t get enough credit. The film gives off the vibe of a less ridiculous Tremors and features disturbing imagery that will stick with you. The alien parasites are disgusting when you see them enter a host, but even more atrocious when you see what they do to their hosts in the long run (including exploding them). The film’s budget sat at $15 million and it only profited $12.8 million despite positive reviews and a fun cast including Elizabeth Banks and Nathan Fillion. Slither succeeds in creating a movie that feels reminiscent of a B movie, but delivers horrendous and advanced creatures in the long ones. Another horror movie that will make you both laugh and crawl out of your skin, it stills seems like it never received its full recognition.
2008: The Strangers (The Strangers)
While aliens and monsters bring something to the table in terms of being scared, there’s nothing quite like realistic scares that could happen to anyone. The thought of an intruder coming into your comfort zone and annihilating your peace by trying to torture and kill you is extremely unsettling to say the least. Director Bryan Bertino knows this, and with The Strangers and his masked trio of psychopaths, he teleports viewers into this horrible situation. Throughout the entire film, tension mounts. Without a score to let us know when we should be expecting a jump scare, but instead natural sounds including music from a record player that a character puts on, it feels all too real. The strangers themselves are everyone’s worst nightmare. Concealing their true identities with disturbing masks, playing a drawn out cat and mouse game with our characters, and revealing by the end that the only reason any of it happened was because, “you were home.” What’s worse is the plot is based off of real events. These include Charles Manson’s murders, namely that of Sharon Tate, the Keddie Cabin Murders, as well as Bertino’s own experience with robberies in his neighborhood growing up. Critically, The Strangers had some mixed reviews, with not everyone appreciating the home invasion flick. They may be unnamed, but the strangers that are based on real criminals definitely deserved higher praise than they received.
2012: Bughuul (Sinister)
Creepy adults are one thing, but creepy children possessed by an evil deity? Yikes! Thanks to Bughuul in Sinister, multiple children were possessed and killed their families while simultaneously recording it. The mix of found footage and hauntings in real time leaves all on the edge of their seats. But the true horror lies in the fact that Bughuul himself can be seen creeping nearby in every single found footage video. Critically, Sinister was yet another horror movie to succumb to subpar reviews, and yet it still had a sequel made with Sinister II, which was roasted by critics and audiences alike. While audiences were left frightened by Bughuul, why does it seem that he never received Michael Myers or Freddy Kruger type hype? A more comparable villain is the Babadook, who has been accepted widely by many, including fans who have dressed as him for Halloween. And yet, no Bughuul costumes have emerged, and his name isn’t as widely spread. Sinister was even named the scariest movie of all time in a scientific study in 2020. So I ask: what does a creepy Michael Jackson-esque blurry faced guy have to do to get a few shout outs? More than being the scariest villain according to SCIENCE? Well, Bughuul, we see you and appreciate you, you creep.
Now that spooky season is officially upon us, it’s the perfect time to catch up on some creepy flicks. Why not start with recognizing some of these films, or putting aside some time for other stellar pictures and villains that never got the praise they deserve? Be sure to comment your favorite underrated characters or movies, and have a very happy spooky season!