episodic list articles by Corey B. Buckner

The 5 Best: Horror Movie Antagonists

by Corey B. Buckner

Let me just say up front that as a man who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s I can say with absolute certainty that I have lived through and in the aftermath of the greatest eras of horror movies. People, this is not debatable; it's a simple fact. Take a look at a horror movie timeline and you will concede that my late 1970s birth puts my right at the epicenter of horror film greatness. I came of age just as films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Rosemary's Baby were giving way to Halloween and Friday the Thirteenth. I witnessed the birth of many of the iconic horror film antagonists that the films of today both imitate and continually remake. I have lived through the transition from primarily plotless slasher films to completely in-depth, universe-building psychological thriller horror films that unveil intricately-linked truths across decades worth of films. Thus I repeat, I was born at and have lived through the epicenter of the horror film genre.

As such, I've seen from the beginning, or near the beginning the majority of the most iconic horror movie antagonists of all time. I grew up watching Leatherface, Jason Vorhese, Pinhead, Freddy Krueger and Michael Meyers in real time, free of spoilers, and without all the conclusions already explained to me in a Wiki. Having done so, I honestly never held some of those era-defining antagonists in the same high level of regard as many of my peers. I never really enjoyed the Halloween films, neither did I find the Friday the Thirteenth films particularly captivating in any way. I definitely watched them, as those VHS rentals were a mainstay in my home; but I learned early on that my taste in horror was slightly different than my friends and siblings.

Not to mention that since that late 1980s-90s golden era of horror the 2000s have been jam packed with an outstanding crop of newer antagonists that have emerged onto the horror scene. Yesterday while watching Freddy VS Jason with my wife I realized that compiling a 5 Best list of horror movie antagonists used to be quite easy for me; but now, if i"m honest with myself and throw nostalgia to the side, is much harder task to pull off compared to when I was a teen. Back then it was simple; we all heralded some combination of the aforementioned Freddy Kreuger, Michael Meyers, Jason Vorhese, Chucky, Pinhead and Leatherface as our top 5 lists. But, since the turn of the century there have been many great new entries into the genre who have added new weapons and genre-bending storytelling devices that makes putting together a list of just the 5 Best of them much more difficult than I anticipated.

Such is the mission of The 5 Best, I am going to attempt to comprise my list with no honorable mentions, no plus-ones, and no nods to those who narrowly missed the list. Therefore, without further ado, here is my list of The 5 Best horror movie antagonists of all time, and yes; I am willing to fight and defend this list.

5. Ghostface (Scream)

I love a film that adds a new dimension to a genre, and the Scream films did just that. Prior to the December 1996 release of Scream, horror movie antagonists were all methodical, slow-moving lunks. These supernaturally demented beings could keep pace with sprinting teens while themselves moving at the pace of a snail and magically reappear behind their victims on the opposite of closed and locked doors. This wasn't the case for Ghostface. The first time I saw this antagonist fall while chasing one of his victims I knew that this villain was going to be different. That he was, as the Scream franchise went about approaching Ghostface as what he was, a real person… or more aptly stated, real people. That level of realism in which the antagonist could actually suffer real damage in the exact same way as his would-be victims added a new layer of enjoyment to the horror film genre that I didn't know was possible.

As much as I love the horror movie antagonists of the 70s, 80s, the invincibility horror villain troph had long run its course prior to the first Scream movie was released. Ghostface wasn't a slow-walking, wall-busting, bullet absorbing monster; he was just some human dudes who wanted to kill some other human dudes. That, combined with the constant homage that was paid to those horror movie villains that came before him is why I selected Ghostace as my fifth best horror movie antagonist.

4. Anabelle (Conjuring franchise)

Let me get something off my chest; I think Chucky is the absolute dumbest, most unbelievable horror movie antagonist of all time… period. There, I said it and got it off my chest. Two seconds into a Chucky chase scene and I'm yelling, "It's a two-foot doll, turn around and kick it." Sorry to you Child's Play fans out there, but I just can't suspend reality enough to take an angry "My Buddy" doll seriously. Shout out to all the 80s kids who got that reference. With that said, everything that that creepy doll villain isn't for me, Annabelle is.

Annabelle is part of The Conjuring film universe, and is a demon-possessed doll who keeps encountering and possessing select people who come into contact with her. The way in which the story tellers utilize this horror doll versus how Chucky was used is much more believable and far more terrorizing for me. I'm not really one to be afraid of dolls, but the way they move and maneuver Annabelle makes me extremely uncomfortable; and the way that the doll interacts with the humans is very believable. Of course, that is as long as you can accept the very premise of a demon possessed doll in the first place. Annabelle accomplished something that I thought wasn't possible, and that is to make me feel creeped out by a babydoll. For that reason she is my fourth best horror movie antagonist of all time.

3. IT

I never quite understood people's fear of clowns. Maybe this is due to the fact that I did not watch the original IT movies when I was younger. My perception of clowns was shaped by Bozo, Ronald McDonald, Homie the Clown and Krusty. That perception dramatically shifted and my compassion for coulrophobic people vastly increased after watching Andres Muschietti's 2017 adaptation of the 1900s miniseries IT. Funny thing about this movie is that my wife and I went to see it in theaters and that was the first time I'd ever seen with my own eyes someone leave the theater because the movie was too scary. The lady sitting next to us told my wife and I before the film started that she didn't know if she was going to be able to make it through the whole movie. True to her word, during the scene in which IT starts coming through the film projector projection, she quietly packed up her belongings and made her way right out of the theater. I cannot say that I blame her.

Who knew that something so beloved and entertaining, that being clowns, could be so terrifying and diabolical? Apparently many of you knew, but it took IT to teach me. The IT character is the perfect blend of taking cute and cuddly and making it believably evil. Making that clown so terrifying is akin to someone taking a baby kitten and turning it into an alien from the Aliens franchise. The way that IT moved, talked, and interacted with the kids took creepy and cringe to entirely new levels. Because of this, IT is my third Best horror movie antagonist of all time.

2. Jigsaw (SAW)

You might notice a theme with me when it comes to horror. I initially think something looks stupid so I avoid it; then one day my wife introduces said thing to me and I fall in love with it. I guess you can say this about movies and television shows in general, but it is very evident about me in the horror movie genre. The SAW franchise fits right into that narrative. I honestly never paid any attention to or had any interest in SAW through its first seven films. I had never watched a movie, nor had I ever heard anyone talk about it, nor did I even really know too much about its existence. Then one day Mrs. Buckner asked me to take her to see the 2017 theatrical release, and upon learning that I hadn't seen any of the previous films, she "invited" me to binge watch all that I had missed before going to see the then new film.

By the end of the first sequence of the first film I was hooked. I love few things more than the concept of being placed into lose/lose situations. We all play various versions of the game of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, and Jigsaw brings to life (on film) what that would look like in reality. The mind-boggling ways in which the stories continue to unfold both within each film and through the film franchise as a whole; combined with each individual challenge that the characters face in each scene of each film is like, "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, wrapped in an enigma". Dare I say that franchise as a whole is the filmographic equivalent of watching someone solve the world's largest jigsaw puzzle. Jigsaw is a constant workout for my brain as each film causes me to shift between "what would I do" and who's the killer and how it all ties into everything else that's happened in all of the other films. I love that, and that is why Jigsaw ranks so high on my list of The 5 Best horror movie antagonists.

1. Freddy Kreuger (A Nightmare On Elm Street)

Look, in the conversation on the greatest single horror movie antagonist of all time I don't want to hear anything about Michael Meyers or Jason Vorhees. As far as I'm concerned there is only O.G. (original gangsta') of horror films and his name is Freddy Kreuger. Freddy is the winner hands down and those other guys are just pretenders. Those A Nightmare on Elm Street films absolutely terrified me as a kid. Yet, as mortified as I was at the idea of someone killing me in my sleep over something my parents did, Freddy Kreuger's smack talking game was so on point that I still found myself cracking up as he dropped one-liners while slashing teenagers to death while they slumbered. Compared to other horror film antagonists' appearances, Freddy's pizza face is by far the scariest. Yeah, Jason's mask is cool and Michael Meyers' prison outfit is iconic; but that pizza face, striped sweater and brown hat are on a level that is completely their own. As it relates to weaponry, what kid of the 80s and early 90s didn't stick four butter knives between their fingers and walk around saying, "1-2 Freddy's coming for you,"? We all did it because that bladed glove was cool as heck.

I could go on and on about all the reasons I think Freddy Kreuger is leaps and bounds better than all the other horror film antagonists, but if you've seen the movies you already know. Freddy was a cool and calculated killer who took his fight to a place where we were not in control. This man got back at the people who murdered him by going after their kids in their dreams. That my friend is both terrifying and genius at the same time. As horror plots go, his story was much more reasonable and believable than the typical plot devices used to explain why, for ninety minutes of runtime, a maniacal serial killer was killing sexually active teens at "Lake Something" or "Camp Somewhere".

Finally, did I mention that Freddy Kreger was funny? Because I feel like I need to mention that Freddy's one-liner pun game would put your dad's dad joke game to shame. The 5 Best is a PG affair, so I won't repeat my favorite Freddy Kreuger one-liners here, but trust me, Freddy will have you in stitches. Even now, present day, me; Corey B. Buckner, a man who rarely swears will walk around in my head repeating, "Welcome to prime time b****," for hours. This is a line that Freddy Kreuger uttered just before ramming a teenage girl's head through a TV in 1987's A Nightmare on Elm Street 3! That's how impactful and long-standing Freddy' pun game is.

That's it, this is my list of The 5 Best Horror movie antagonists of all time. I'm sure most of you will vehemently disagree with me on some of my choices, and I'd love to discuss your choices and your thoughts on my choices on colexions.com and across social media wherever we are connected.

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