There is nothing more satisfying and unsettling than a villain’s evil laugh. Monologues are great and all, but a powerful antagonist’s laugh often accentuates how evil the character is. Whether it serves as a reflection of the characters madness, their depravity, or just the pure unpredictable insanity, a good laugh will memorialize any villain.
This month at Nightmare on Film Street we are saluting the Liars, Deceivers, Traitors and (of course) Tricksters of Horror.
Below are the 10 best laughs from some of the genre’s darkest villains.
10. Jack Torrance – The Shining (1980)
Jack Nicholson really gives his all in The Shining. Jack Torrance is a man looking for a little peace and quiet as his family watches over the empty Overlook Hotel for the winter. Slowly we witness Jack slip into madness the longer the Torrance family is cooped up in the old hotel. Jack’s insanity is seen most clearly by the audience when he visits the gold ballroom and chats up our favorite bartender Lloyd. Of course Lloyd can’t really be there. But Jack rambles on and on talking to Lloyd and the moment he loudly laughs at his own joke we realize this guy is really starting to lose it.
9. Pennywise – It (2017)
Pennywise the Clown is quite possibly one of most terrifying villains of all time. Mainly because he is a clown. Oh, and also because he lures children away with his popcorn and cotton candy, to eat their sous and become more powerful.. As he likes to say, “I’ll feed on your fear as I feast on your flesh”. Lovely. One of the characteristics that really sets apart Bill Skarsgard’s 2017 interpretation of Pennywise is his intense laugh. Shoutout to Tim Curry’s 1990 rendition as well, which is equally iconic. But Skarsgard’s mannerisms and haunting laugh are really what give this performance the edge.
8. Possessed Sara – Suspiria (1977)
When we first meet Sara in Dario Argento’s Suspiria, she is a quiet and friendly fellow dancer who befriends our protagonist Suzy. But after Sara gets too close to the witchy goings-on at the dance academy, she is dispatched with. Unfortunately for Suzy, her final showdown with the Directoress and head of the coven, Helena Markos, brings back Sara in the most horrifying way possible. After a lot of hysterical laughing from Helena Markos (which almost made this list), we see a zombified Sara appear. Eyes wide open with pins in them, blood pouring out of her mouth, and brandishing a knife, the visual alone is quite disturbing. When you add the mocking laughter coming from Sara on top of it, this scene is instantly more frightening.
7. Patrick Bateman – American Psycho (2000)
Patrick Bateman is by far one of the nuttiest horror villains of all time and an all round pretty sick guy. It’s still up in the air whether Bateman really killed his victims or if it was all just in his head, but Christian Bale’s performance is an example of his talents as an actor. When Bateman confesses all of his crimes over the phone really shows just how messed up this guy really is, running through every emotion possible. Halfway through the call Bateman switches from being upset and disgusted by himself to laughing hysterically stating he “just had to kill a lot of people”. What a nutcase…
6. Clown – Poltergeist (1982)
The second maniacal clown on this list! The clown toy from Poltergeist is frightening even before it becomes possessed and tries to kill the family. Seriously guys, don’t buy clown dolls for your kids. Multiple times the Freeling’s son Robbie covers the clown up or gives it weary looks, because who wants that thing staring at them from across the room!? When the clown is suddenly no longer sitting in the chair, all hell breaks loose, and their child is pulled under bed, with the maniacal laugh of that evil clown piercing his ears.
5. Dracula – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula makes its way onto yet another list. But for good reason. This film may not be the best, but it is most definitely memorable. Gary Oldman’s turn as the titular count brings so much to the character from the different makeup looks, to the different personas of the Dracula character. When Jonathan Harker witnesses Dracula sacrifice a baby to his brides he is mortified by the noble’s actions. Dracula sees Harker yelling in shock and gives him the coldest piercing stare as his laugh sends shivers up your spine. It is a quintessential diabolical villain laugh.
4. Darkness – Legend (1985)
Tim Curry as The Lord of Darkness, is LEGENDARY. He is such a powerful figure, with a deep voice, and an echoing laugh. Darkness’ primary goal is to kill the last unicorn and bring on endless night so that he may rule again. Arguably the best part of Legend is watching the interactions between Tim Curry’s Darkness and Mia Sara’s Princess Lili (sorry, Tom Cruise). As Darkness attempts to seduce her, his way of speaking and his trembling laugh accentuate his power, making the audience fall under his spell just as easily.
3. Possessed Deer Head – Evil Dead II (1987)
While Evil Dead II has an entire laughing scene full of possessed inanimate objects, such as books and lamps, laughing hysterically alongside Ash Williams, there is nothing quite as memorable as the deer head. Mounted on the cabin wall, the white eyed deer suddenly cocks its head towards Ash and gives us one of the best laughs in horror history. The sound and the way the head moves is so unnatural and unnerving it works so beautifully in this zany film.
2. Freddy Krueger – Nightmare of Elm Street
The voice and laugh of Freddy Krueger is one of the most recognizable things in not just horror, but film history. Krueger may have turned out some comedy gold over the years, but he always remained scary. The idea of someone killing you off in your sleep is just as scary today as it was 35 years ago when the franchise started. Krueger’s laugh is almost essential to his longevity, always highlighting is insanity, his power, and (of course) his crazed personality.
1. Chucky – Child’s Play
Brad Dourif’s performance as the knife-wielding killer doll is iconic. After saying some voodoo words, serial killer Charles Lee Ray finds himself in the body of a Good-Guy Doll. Just like with our runner-up Freddy Krueger, Chucky has become a more comedic killer as the years have gone on. And the funnier Chucky gets the more he tends to laugh. At this point it’s hard to think of Chucky and not immediately hear his cackle in your head.
So there you have it, some of the most maniacal villain laughs in horror history. Any of your favorites not make this list? Let us know on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group!