Horror Films have given us some of the most iconic characters in movie history, including that clown with too much lipliner, Pennywise. But while we are all freaking out over red ball noses and balloons after the most recent Stephen King adaptation, It hit theaters, there have been far scarier characters in horror films that have haunted our nightmares and made us leave the lights on (sorry environment!).
We know Halloween is the season for freaks and frights, but these demonic characters have us scared long after pumpkin spice has left Starbucks.
1. Damien in The Omen
Let’s face it, folks, kids are adorable — but in horror films, they can be scary as hell. And speaking of hell, Damien is literally the Antichrist. His little pantsuit with chauffeur’s cap is not cute, it’s what the devil would wear to cotillion. This kid has a resting bitch face all the time and his own nanny hung herself because she just couldn’t handle the kid. Even zoo animals are afraid of him. Oh, and forget his mom trying to have another baby — he threw her over a railing causing her to miscarry… Terrifying!
2. Leatherface in Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Nothing like horror in the backwoods. Leatherface is among those “silent killers” – he doesn’t talk, he just grunts which makes him not that scary. However, when you give a grunter a chainsaw and a mask made of human skin, then yes, this dude doesn’t have to say a thing and he’s completely horrifying. In the time it takes to rev up his chainsaw you could be down the block. But of course, this is a rickety old house surrounded by woods so you’re going to fall on a branch, twist your ankle, and then you’re dead — killed by a grunter with a DIY Etsy flesh mask. FML.
3. Regan in The Exorcist
Perhaps one of the most terrifying movies of all time, horror buffs are quick to add Regan to their list of scariest demons. And that, she is. Let’s forget that she peed on the carpet in front of her mom’s friends during a dinner party (what horror!), and focus on the fact that this girl was possessed by the devil, spinning her head, spitting up pea soup (demon juice), and speaking in Latin like she studied abroad in Rome in 450 BC. Her awful skin with lesions the devil was giving her was stomach-turning enough, but add her dowdy-looking nightgown with vomit all over and this girl needed a Rachel Zoe makeover, STAT!
4. Pinhead in Hellraiser
That breathy voice could be your next Tinder date. Instead, it’s a creepy dude with an overly powdered face and a bad case of acupuncture envy. Pinhead was the title character in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser. He messed with people’s heads and sent them through different dimensions in mazes, solving puzzles like the best Escape Room ever. It all started with a freaky puzzle box that the main character finds in a bare attic in Morocco. Seems legit! He solves the puzzle and voila! He’s shredded to pieces. See, you can’t even be the smart one in a horror movie — you’ll still die!
5. The ’80s Trifecta: Michael Myers, Jason, Freddy Krueger
These damaged men of horror from the ’80s sure did give us some scares. Friday the 13th and Halloween were the quintessential fright films. Jason and Michael Myers wore masks and didn’t say a word. Freddy, on the other hand, had a burned face, wouldn’t stop talking, and wore a J. Crew-looking sweater. Although these characters were campy, they made everyday things like the shower, the closet, and the television seem terrifying. One thing these guys all have in common? F**ked up childhoods. Maybe they just needed a hug.
6. Annabelle in Annabelle: the Movie
If Toy Story had a scary theme song, it could’ve been the scariest movie of them all, but instead, we have Annabelle, another toy doll who is possessed by the demon spirits. Just like all scary dolls, she’s not that cute and forces us, the audience, to wonder why in the world anyone would want to buy her. She sits on shelves and rocking chairs looking scary as hell and yet, everyone in the movie is like “isn’t she beautiful?” NO! She’s horrifying and is plotting to kill you, all behind those glassy eyes of hers.
7. Hans Beckert in M
This German film in subtitles does not need words at all. Director Fritz Lang created the horror in shadows and allowed the audience fill in the gruesome details themselves. Star Peter Lorre embodied the serial killer, Hans Beckert to bring one of the scariest villains to life on screen. It was the first time a serial killer had appeared on film — a killer of children, no less. His whistling of “Peer Gynt” also snuck its way into pop culture in films like The Social Network and TV shows like Mad Men and The Smurfs. In the flick, M, it was a cue that he was about to kill a child. Creepy!
8. Chucky in Chucky
Chucky is a kid’s doll, but he’s armed with a sassy attitude, some bad jokes and a butcher knife that’s taller than he is. His out-of-control red hair, open facial wounds, and crazy eyes are enough to give you the heebee-jeebees. What’s scary, though, is that he’s so small and runs so. fast with a knife in his hand. Imagine a screaming toddler coming at you with a sharp object and a dirty diaper. Worst nightmare!
9. The Twins in The Shining
The image of identical twin girls dressed all prim and proper, standing still in the middle of a long hallway of a hotel is a haunting image that sticks in people’s minds every time they check into a Holiday Inn. And who could forget the synchronized voices that echoed down the hallway to a boy on his Big Wheels – “Come play with us, Danny.” Aaaaaaah! We hate it!
10. Carrie in Carrie
This is a good afterschool movie to air to keep kids from bullying. Carrie was such a nice girl until she got doused in pig’s blood by the mean girls. Now it’s payback with her special demon powers to take revenge on the whole school.
Carrie, all pretty in her prom dress and covered in blood, is an iconic image in horror film history. Especially with Sissy Spacek‘s doe-like features, her deer-in-the-headlights gaze while trying to keep the blood out of her eyes is both disgusting and creepy. Her mom is pretty creepy, too. Runs in the family.
11. Tangina Barrons in Poltergeist
This 4 foot 3-inch medium is not a demon, but she lets them pass through her as she becomes an outlet for their voice and presence. Her signature high-pitched, raspy voice told creepy stories of ghosts and paranormal activity in the original and the sequel. She was the character that gave us all the intel on what was happening on “the other side” while still creeping us out because she looks like she should be selling pies at Marie Callender’s, not talking to ghosts.
12. Norman Bates in Psycho
There have been many versions of Norman Bates, but the scariest is the original, Anthony Perkins, from the 1960 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock. His boyish face and awkward smile had serial-killer-that-loves-his-mom-too-much, written all over it. From the infamous shower stabbing scene to the scene with his mother’s corpse, even his cross-dressing couldn’t soften his image and save us from screams. His unpredictable behavior, i.e. psycho behavior, made him one of the most chilling characters because he looked just like some guy who could be your next door neighbor… with a weird crush on his mother. Kind of like “Jerry Springer” set in the Bates Motel.
13. The kids in Village of the Damned
This British film from the ’60s (remade again in the ’90s) is a slow scare. The women of a village mysteriously have babies all at the same time, which mentally and physically grow at a rate four times the normal human. They dress impeccably, all have platinum blonde hair, walk in unison together, speak maturely, but show no signs of compassion or love — just coldness. They are able to read minds and make people do things — even kill themselves. The scariest images are those where the kids’ eyes begin to glow with a hypnotizing stare. That’s when you throw a pillow over your face and try to un-see what you just saw.
14. Isaac in Children of the Corn
Obviously Isaac and Damien shop at the same creepy suit store for kids. Isaac Croner is the leader of the death cult and although he looks more like an Amish kid than he does a psychopath, he also lives in the cornfields so there you go! He’s a nine-year-old cult leader, armed with farm tools, and has a face only a serial killer could love. And on this farm, he commands people to sacrifice themselves to the deities (red-eyed monsters) that live in the cornfields while his army of scary farm kids backs him up.
15. Samara Morgan in The Ring
While a little girl popping out of an old well is frightening, the moment Samara popped out of a television was one of the greatest scary moments in horror film history. Her long, wet hair that hung in her face like she was Cousin It’s daughter reminded us that not even Sia can pull off that look as good as Samara can. We can all rest assured that VHS tapes are obsolete now so hopefully, we will never be shown the video that started all this Samara nonsense.
16. Rhoda in The Bad Seed
Eight-year-old Rhoda looks so innocent with her long, blonde, braided pigtails and pinafore dress. However, she is really the secret daughter of a serial killer who’s picked up a few of his tendencies. Along with killing a boy at her school over a medal (she kicked him to death with her tap shoes), she also killed her mother’s friend and neighbor. At the end, she gets struck by a bolt of lightning and dies – ending her evil ways — but our thoughts are still haunted by those round, dark glasses she wore.
17. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs
Was there any one more terrifying character on screen? I mean, this guy ate people and enjoyed it. Hannibal Lecter was both scary and quite hypnotic at the same time. You were actually drawn to his knowledge about the mind of serial killers — well, also Anthony Hopkins being one of the greatest actors of our time could have a little something to do with it. His devilish grin while talking about fava beans made you stay away from legumes for at least a week.
18. Haunted Houses in The Conjuring, Amityville, The Changeling
One of the best characters in any horror movie is the haunted house. While haunted houses make their appearance in a majority of scary films — we’ve gotta give a shout out to three of the scariest houses ever on the big screen: The Conjuring (don’t go in the basement), Amityville (don’t go in the basement), and The Changeling (watch out for the wheelchair plowing down the staircase by itself). The houses have a life of their own with apparitions and demons hiding in wooden wardrobes, behind brick walls, and by spooking out the new residents with shattering windows and shutting doors. This just might be the reason why real estate agents have such a bad rap.
19. Annie Wilkes in Misery
We’ve all fangirled over One Direction and the cast of Riverdale, but Annie Wilkes takes her fandom to a whole new level. She rescues her favorite author after a car crash and keeps him tied up to a bed in her country home. Oh, he can’t just leave? No, she actually takes an ax and cuts off his foot. Annie suffers from mood swings, depression, and shows symptoms of schizophrenia. She’s a terrifying character because she starts off as so sweet and kind and then downward spirals into a psychopath. She demands that he writes a sequel to her favorite book because she hated the ending of the last one he wrote. Oh girl, please don’t ever watch the finale of LOST.
20. Tomas in The Orphanage
This Spanish foreign language film tells the story of a haunted house that was once an orphanage. Several little kids haunt the house, but the one child, Tomas, has to get the award for Top Creeper! He wears a mask made of a sack with a face drawn on it like an old kindergarten art project. He never says a word — just appears at odd times throughout the film, locking people in bathrooms, and sitting there with a bad art project on his head.