Every fan has their favorite villains, their favorite monsters. In general, villains are a huge part of the appeal of the horror genre. They creep us out, maybe they even outright terrify us, but we can’t get enough of them.
Some of them are tragic and warrant our sympathy, like poor Frankenstein’s Monster. Others are figures who are devoid of all humanity, either through a series of horrific circumstances or because that’s simply who they are. The appeal of the antagonist is endless. Scared as we are, we want to see what they’re capable of.
While Freddy, Jason, Michael and Leatherface are universally loved and feared, here are some villains that tend to go overlooked but definitely deserve more praise.
Francis Dolarhyde in Manhunter
Francis Dolarhyde, AKA the Tooth Fairy, has been portrayed by several actors over the years, most recently in the TV series Hannibal. But the original portrayal by Tom Noonan in the first adaptation, Manhunter—itself an underrated picture—is the best. There’s a quiet, understated sense of danger to him, yet a gentleness as well, that makes the character endearing.
Loosely based on the confessions of serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is one of the most frightening movies ever made and a lot of that comes down to Michael Rooker’s portrayal of the titular character. At times, he seems almost normal. You want to root for Henry, but then you see him do some absolutely unforgivable things. And he doesn’t seem to have much investment in what he’s doing, which is the scariest part. He just does it.
Angela Baker from Sleepaway Camp
Angela is one of the most interesting slasher characters to come about during the 1980’s. Like some others on the list, she’s a villain you want to root for, at least in the original. In the sequels, Angela becomes something of a commentary on how slashers are viewed by the masses as an attack on youthful behavior. Both are interesting portrayals and show a wide range for what would otherwise simply be a B-Movie franchise.
Maniac is an interesting antithesis to Henry because, like that one, this is done entirely from the killer’s perspective. Unlike Henry, there’s nothing really redeeming about Frank at all. He’s clearly a killer, barely functional around other people, with little to no charm whatsoever. None of this is to undercut Joe Spinell’s performance. He did a great job, but there’s something so sleazy about this character and this movie that make both all the more uncomfortable to watch.
Most of the Universal classic monsters were extremely sympathetic and that was part of their charm. Griffin was different. Griffen was remarkable for his sheer, unashamed insanity. He has amazing monologues and rants, going off on how he’s going to kill people from every sort of social group just to show he won’t discriminate. There’s not a lot of sympathy for him, he’s just an evil guy, but Claude Rains over-the-top performance suits the character and tone perfectly.
We don’t know everything about Asami at first. She starts off as nothing more than a sweet, unassuming romantic interest. In fact, the film as a whole is structured very much like a romantic comedy before things take a turn. When we see what’s really going on, she’s terrifying. She does horrible things. But there’s also an element of sympathy for her, both in terms of her past and the fact that everything she’s doing is only coming from her fear of being alone.
Of the recent crop of horror movie monsters to come about in the past couple of decades, the Candyman is among the most sympathetic. He was a good man in life and the things that were done to him were horrible. In death, as a living urban legend, he is a sad and very romantic figure. Even though the first film was released in 1992, there’s something classical about the Candyman. He fits as easily into the company of Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera as he does with Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers.