We live in the age of comic book movies, there’s no denying that. Most of the time, they’re the total opposite of the horror genre. But there’s more overlap than you’d think. The Crow, Hellboy, The Shadow, Spawn and many more superhero-themed features have all walked the line between genres. The trend seems to continue with the opening of this weekend’s Suicide Squad.
The movie is based off a lesser known DC Comic book, much in the way Marvel struck gold with the surprise hit of Guardians of the Galaxy. For the most part, the ensemble cast of Suicide Squad is made up of villains that Batman has put away at some point or another. The Dark Knight is even viewed as a symbol of fear in the film, since we’re seeing him from the villains’ perspectives.
But the idea of a darker take on the world of the dark knight is nothing new. Many of Batman’s villains could star in their own horror films, that’s kind of the point. They’re all different representations of the worst aspects of humanity. In general, Batman has a long history tradition of gothic horror. Much of the influence came from classic horror movies like Dracula and The Phantom of the Opera. In general, the hero’s whole gimmick is based on instilling fear in his enemies.
If any character could mesh with the horror genre, it’s Batman. With that in mind, let’s look at some characters who represent the darkest of the dark knight’s world and could hold their own on film.
Man-Bat is pure horror movie stuff. He reverses the typical idea of Batman by literally being a man who has turned into a bat. Displaying the tragic transformation of Dr. Kirk Langstrom on screen would have to be done in way very similar to Cronenberg’s The Fly. It should be something gradual, disturbing, creating a classical monster who curses his condition but—at the same time—can’t fight what he’s become. All of that comes from the source material, which is part of why we need to see the Man-Bat in a movie already.
The Scarecrow is a horror film villain waiting to happen. Of all of Batman’s rogues, he’s among the most primed for it. This character’s whole identity is based on fear. A former respected psychologist, Scarecrow attacks his victims with a homemade chemical compound he calls “fear gas” which he used to make them see their worst nightmares come to life.
Those familiar with the Batman and Robin Arnold Schwarzenegger interpretation might not expect this pick, but Freeze is a fascinating and tragic villain. He has much of the same deep sadness of the Frankenstein monster because all he wants is be loved and be able to feel love, but he can’t. Even though he dresses in a big robotic suit and uses an ice gun, Freeze is a monster in the classic horror tradition.
Zsasz is one of the only Batman villains who would actually need a horror movie in order to do him justice on the screen. There’s no way this character would not be the center of a Silence of the Lambs type thriller if he were to make an appearance—longer than his brief cameo in Batman Begins—on the screen. Zsasz’s gimmick isn’t that he dresses like a clown or wears questions marks all over his outfits. No, his body is covered in scars. He carves notches into his own skin, one for every victim. And he’s covered.
Like Mr. Freeze, Ivy seems like a left field choice for a horror movie villain, but I think there’s definite potential with her. Imagine a cross between Species and The Ruins and that’s the kind of horror movie you’d get with Poison Ivy front and center. She’s a defender of mother nature who uses her body to get whatever she wants. Even now that she’s been rebranded as more of an antihero, there’s a lot of potential for horror when Ivy’s involved.
The Mad Hatter
Honestly, it’s weird when the Mad Hatter shows up in a Batman comic and doesn’t feel like a horror villain. He’s a creepy, criminal, serial killing twisted take on the classic figure created by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He operates in a similar manner to Jigsaw, except that the traps that he’s using are all Wonderland themed and that’s enough to make me interested in seeing a horror movie centered around this admittedly one.