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The cinematic world is full of memorable horror movie villains, many of whom are nowadays considered synonymous with pop culture.
Villains such as 80s slasher kings Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. Or vampire “supreme” Count Dracula. Or Darth Vader a.k.a. Anakin Skywalker.
For every world-famous cinematic evildoer, though, there are a dozen others who have slipped into obscurity; this, incidentally, is a grim reflection of the entertainment industry. Here are seven classic horror movie villains who have had their runs, but have for one reason or another, been largely forgotten. If you have watched any of their films, don’t you agree these nasty evildoers all deserve another chance at enduring fame?
1. Aylmer (Brain Damage, 1988)
Frank Henenlotter’s 1988 antagonist is an unforgettable villain capable of many things.
The parasitic leech is intelligent, humorous, and manipulative. He secrets a highly addictive hallucinogen fluid too, which he uses to control his lackeys.
At the hour when you need him most, he can even sing you a pitch-perfect love serenade!
The short of it, Aylmer is easily one of the most well-crafted villains in the exploitation movie genre, a wicked scoundrel that even the Joker himself would approve of. With modern CGI technologies and effects, what else would this ruthless manipulator be capable of? I dare say Aylmer would be an instant hit if given a chance to return to the big screen.
2. Belial (The Basket Case Franchise, 1982–1991)
Another creation of exploitation film director Frank Henenlotter, Belial is the murderous, monstrous half of the conjoined Bradley twins.
Forcefully separated at a young age, Belial’s brother, Duane, carries his sibling around in a wicker basket; thus the name of the franchise. The first film entirely revolves around the twins seeking vengeance against those who tore them apart.
Shot on the cheap, and with Belial decisively more comical than scary, the first Basket Case was popular enough to spawn two sequels, following which the franchise ended on a low note. Admittedly, to revive the franchise now would involve a flood of tricky storytelling challenges, beginning with whether it should be a remake of the 1982 classic, and whether there is any new story to tell without the tale becoming too burdened.
That said, it’s still such a pity that this hysterical and deformed lump of flesh is largely unknown by younger viewers. He deserves a comeback; for that matter, his scheming, psychotic brother too. The ominous sight of Duane sneaking about with a basket, and Belial springing out from it to claw and gnaw, is a macabre sight that will forever be a classic.
3. Count Orlok (Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror, 1922)
Count Orlok is no stranger to vampire movie lovers and video gamers. Better remembered as the Nosferatu from the 1922 eponymous silent film, Max Schreck’s legendary depiction earned the sinister monster a permanent place in the realm of horror storytelling. After Dracula, there is no other vampire more worthy of the epithet, vampire lord.
Despite this, there has been only been one cinematic reboot since, a well-received 1979 production by Werner Herzog starring Bruno Ganz. Recent years have seen sporadic announcements of newer remakes, but none of these came to fruition, for one reason or another.
Perhaps the world is now fonder of revisionist vampires the likes of the ones in the Twilight Franchise. Or perhaps producers are just convinced that it’s impossible to surpass Schreck and Ganz’s performances.
Whatever the reason, it’s a great pity that the “Bird of Death” is now largely forgotten. I’m keeping fingers crossed that this classic bloodsucker would soon enjoy a spectacular comeback. For audiences who prefer their vampires evil and immoral and twisted, I’m sure sentiments are the same.
4. Pumpkinhead (The Pumpkinhead Franchise, 1998–2007)
The grisly Pumpkinhead franchise endured for near ten years, and even today continues to enjoy a cult following. Because of that, I’m baffled as to why no sequels or remakes were produced since 2007.
Doubly baffled, given the 2007 sequel, Blood Feud, was moderately well-received.
Were I to hazard a guess, I’d say it could be due to the competition of then. The eponymous Pumpkinhead is a ghastly demon of vengeance that one could summon to kill enemies. But in competition with it during the late 2000s were bigger franchise names like Saw, and remakes of slasher classics.
Scary films that feature deeper characterizations and touch on social issues were also increasingly popular. In other words, mindless slaughter was going out of style. “Slashers” were considered “80s” and “retro.”
The above considered, I still find Pumpkinhead a memorable villain. An icon of the B movie category as well. I certainly wouldn’t mind more gory massacres by him on screen. With his background, it would also be a thrill to see what additional supernatural powers he possesses.
5. The Butcher (The Midnight Meat Train, 2008)
British author Clive Barker’s most successful creation is undoubtedly Pinhead of the Hellraiser franchise fame. As lacking as recent sequels are, the twisted Cenobite continues to enjoy legendary status fame in the world of pop culture. Many fans would even consider him the equal of Freddie Krueger or Chucky.
This makes it easy to forget that Pinhead is hardly Barker’s only contribution to scary films. Among all his projects, 2008’s The Midnight Meat Train stands out for its stylized violence, unforgiving plot, and genuinely creepy ambiance. The primary antagonist, who’s never given a proper name in the show, is also a true embodiment of amorality. He brutally slaughters but neither does so for kicks nor vengeance nor out of compulsion.
In an updated world, how would this “butcher” be? (Or should I say, the successor of the butcher). Also, with current real-life surveillance technologies, would the dark beings behind the meat train still be able to enjoy dinner take-outs? I think these questions are but some of the possible juicy premises for a Midnight Meat Train remake.
6. The Creeper (The Jeepers Creepers Franchise, 2001–2017)
Strictly speaking, it is inaccurate to say that the Jeepers Creepers franchise has slipped into obscurity. The latest episode was released in 2017.
However, terrible ratings for the third film and the continuing controversy about director Victor Salva all but nailed the lid of the coffin. Personally, I doubt any studio or director would be willing to pick up the franchise anytime soon.
Which is a great tragedy, for all storytelling flaws and personnel controversies aside, the Creeper is hands-down one of the most ghastly horror movie villains ever created. One of the deadliest too.
Just think about it. This is a demonic creature that is nigh invincible. It also feasts on humans and can use eaten human parts to regenerate or disguise itself.
Worse, even if you vanquished it, this creature always revives at the end of its 23-year cycle. In a nutshell, this is one monster that will never go away, no matter what you do. Wouldn’t you want to see it executing another rampage on the big screen? Aren’t you curious as to what other horrific supernatural abilities it has? I am.
7. The True Culprit Behind the SS Antonia Graza Massacre (Ghost Ship, 2002)
I wish to end this list with an unusual choice. And so I include the true villain of 2002’s Ghost Ship. I leave the name unmentioned so as not to give away the twist of the story.
For many, I’m sure this choice raises eyebrows. After all, the character is barely remembered. Ghost Ship was also thoroughly lambasted when released. On the poor ratings, let me just say for the record that I don’t disagree with the criticisms.
Still, with the intriguing background of this villain, it’s anybody’s guess as to how Ghost Ship could have turned out had it been made by a better production team. I believe it could have been a box office success.
The nature of the villain also opens many doors to elaborate sequels, all with the possibility for truly complex characterizations and human drama. Here’s hoping horror fans worldwide would soon forgive the shortcomings of Ghost Ship and reexamine its antagonist. This is one horror movie villain I definitely wish to see much more of.
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