By Anna Husted EBS FILM CRITIC
While the “horror” film genre saw its genesis in the late 19th century, the 21st century saw some of the most spectacular frights ever put to the big screen—whether you chalk it up to advances in film technology, or a set of films to match the malaise and zeitgeist of the new millennium, here’s an ode to the top 10 horror villains of the past two decades.
10. The Crawlers from “The Descent.” The most intriguing element of the demonic, humanoid Crawlers in Neil Marshall’s “The Descent” is that we never find out why they live underground or how they got there. Do they constitute the film’s core? Well, the great and terrifying mystery of one of the best horror films of all time is in the relationships between the six female protagonists—but the Crawlers do a horrific duty in bringing those lies and secrets to the forefront.
9. Josef from “Creep.” Josef (Mark Duplass in one of his best roles) may or may not be the creep in Patrick Brice’s low-budget independent film “Creep,” but the only way to find out is to watch the film to the bitter end.
8. It in “It Follows.” It can only be passed on via sexual intercourse, after which the phantom It will follow you, trying to kill you, until you pass it on to someone else. The indoor swimming pool sequence in “It Follows” pays homage to Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 “Cat People,” a truly unsettling series of cinematic events excellently reconstructed. Director David Robert Mitchell scares us with what isn’t in the shot, a technique used by early horror filmmakers when there was not a budget for a big monster. Kudos.
7. The Creeper in “Jeepers Creepers,” one of the first horror film villains to scare me. “Jeepers Creepers” is “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”-lite and would still scare any 15-year-old—and even their parents. The Creeper is played by Jonathan Breck, who is so remarkably handsome in real life it’s doubly frightening to see how terrifying he becomes in these films. He haunts teenagers driving through the countryside and goes uninterrupted on flesh-eating binges every few years.
6. Jigsaw from “Saw.” Although the “Saw” franchise took a terrible turn away from horror and into torture porn, Jigsaw remains one of the best horror villains every made. He is disturbing at every turn and hides behind an even creepier mask. Add a good dose of tremendous intelligence and cunning, and you know there is a real foe in Jigsaw.
5. The Armitage Family in “Get Out.” Those rich, good-family-next-door neighbors are often not what they appear; they are the real snakes in the grass.
4. The Monster in “The Host.” Bong Joon-ho’s “The Host” is a clever, comedic and horrifying South Korean monster flick with a little girl and a monster at its center. The monster is a unique creation that appears to be part lizard, pelican, octopus and Godzilla-monster-form. This conglomeration makes the ways in which the monster moves entertaining and paved the way for future on-screen monsters such as that from the blockbuster “Cloverfield.”
3. Pennywise in “It.” You all know my love of “It.” The opening gutter rain scene where we first meet this new iteration of Pennywise solidified Bill Skarsgard as a brilliant smile-manipulating horror villain. He scares me, yet I can’t look away.
2. The Pale Man in “Pan’s Labyrinth.” If you’ve ever seen a photo of the actor who plays Amphibian Man in “The Shape of Water” and the Pale Man in “Pan’s Labyrinth,” Doug Jones, you’d understand that he was, unfortunately, born to play these terrifying fantastical roles. The Pale Man must place his loose eyeballs into his hand sockets in order to see, which means he must stop eating to get catch a glimpse of his next meal. His inability to use his hands while chasing down little girls is as creepy as it is inefficient. The Pale Man is gruesome, clever and, most importantly, haunting in his blank face and eyeball hands. Only a monster of this caliber can come from brilliant director Guillermo del Toro.
1. Mister Babadook in “The Babadook.” The guttural “dook, dook, dook” combined with the knocking three times is still a joke we play on each other in my house. Mister Babadook’s croaky calling-card voice and the broad-shouldered silhouette are terrifying especially when he comes at you behind your dresser or from under your bed. Mister Babadook will never leave your house once invited inside.
Investigate these villains on your house’s TV at your own peril.
Anna Husted has a master’s in film studies from New York University. In Big Sky she can be found hiking a mountain or at the movies at Lone Peak Cinema. When not gazing at the silver screen or watching her new favorite TV show, she’s reading, fishing or roughhousing with her cat, Indiana Jones.