Blood! Guts! Explosions! All these things are great and are some of the most important components of most horror films. What’s a scary movie without a big scare? What’s a horror movie without a truly gruesome death scene? It’s hard to imagine some of the spookiest or goriest movies out there without these elements. Although these are integral pieces it’s nuanced details that push the story forward, drive the narrative, and round out the filmgoing experience.
Movie monsters and horror icons come in all shapes and sizes and, over the course of 90 to 120 minutes, learning where they came from is crucial. Some classic tropes have survived over the decades but can become played-out if not executed properly. Accolades go to those that take a different route to explain their particular “baddie”. Fortune favors the bold they say.
This is a tip of the hat to ten of the more unique origin stories in the horror genre!
10. Bughuul – Sinister (2012)
Scott Derrickson’s Sinister (2012) put an interesting historical twist on child possession and family murders by taking inspiration from a real-world demon.
The entity known as Bughuul is portrayed in the film as an ancient Babylonian deity who would feast on the souls of children after having the child kill their own family. It is said that images of this demon act as a door for it to enter our realm and possess children, and is responsible for countless deaths. Bughuul is in part drawn from the Canaanite god Moloch who is most often associated with child sacrifice. Religious allegory can be terrifying when you look back to less “civilized” eras and see what was done in the name of the gods. Bughuul is pretty creepy but, like Moloch, is only the influencer. It’s what they require from those they’ve ensnared….
9. Valek – The Nun (2018)
Next on the list is another villain heavy on the religious influences.
Valek is a vicious entity that, although explored in The Nun (2018), first appeared in The Conjuring 2 (2016). The demon Valek was summoned during the medieval era by an obsessed Duke and was destroyed and entombed by Christian Knights with the literal blood of Jesus Christ. Centuries later the abbey containing the tomb was bombed during World War 2; opening the rift and unleashing Valek back into the world. Taking the form of hideous nun she is a sight to behold as an inverted holy figure. She has weaved in and out of other films in the Conjuring universe proving that she is not easily taken out. An ominous and far-reaching presence.
8. Chucky – Childs Play (1988)
The infamous Good Guy doll is possessed by a homicidal serial killer named Charles Lee Ray. Ray is shot while trying to evade the police in a toy store and, as one does, invokes the power of Voodoo to transfer his soul into the doll. Now lovingly called Chucky he’s free to continue murdering while masquerading as an innocent child’s plaything. He quickly discovers that the spell has its complications and needs to transfer his essence out of the doll and into the body of the first person he revealed himself too. Voodoo has too many rules. And thanks to the power of Voodoo and movie-making profits he’s been resurrected to terrorize again and again over multiple films including an upcoming reboot!
7. Godzilla – Godzilla (1954)
Man’s quest for more and more destructive weapons for the war machine led to the development of the Hydrogen Bomb in 1952. Underwater testing led to the irradiation and transformation of a sea creature to gigantic proportions. Now radioactive and over 150 feet tall the mistake born of humanity’s lust for power has flipped the tables on them. It’s a theme used more than once over the decades, especially in the giant monster genre, but none are more iconic and more beloved than Godzilla. Over a multitude of films Godzilla has played the role of villain and also anti-hero but his origin has been consistent. Play with fire = birth giant radioactive lizards.
6. Samara – The Ring (2002)
2002’s The Ring is an American adaptation of the Japanese horror film Ring (1998) and introduced one of the creepiest creatures out there – Samara.
The spirit of Samara possessed a VHS tape which would kill the viewer within 7 days unless they made someone else watch it. The tape came about because she, when alive, possessed psychic abilities including the ability to imprint images onto objects and inside people’s heads. As an adopted daughter she drove her step-parents mad with her abilities and was ultimately suffocated and dropped into a well. She managed to survive the suffocation attempt but was trapped in the well for 7 days before dying. The original Japanese version went into more detail surrounding their Samara, named Sadako, but US adaptation does a bang-up job at bringing the scares all on its own.
5. Michael Myers – Halloween (1978)
Michael Myers makes the list, which is a conundrum for a rundown of villain backstories, because he really doesn’t have one.
The story goes as follows: A six-year-old Michael Myers stabs his sister, Judith Myers, to death on Halloween night in 1963. That’s it. No explanation why. No real motive. That’s literally all the background audiences get. It’s the mystery behind it that makes this one memorable. Fifteen years later when he resurfaces and returns to Haddonfield, Illinois he’s described as being an empty vessel filled with pure evil. That’s some scary stuff right there. Years after the original, the sixth installment of the franchise, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995), attempted to put a more occult spin on his origin but if you ask me…nothing beats John Carpenters vision of the mysterious Shape.
4. Pinhead – Hellraiser (1987)
Clive Barker’s (Nightbreed, Lord of Illusions) novel The Hellbound Heart gave birth to a truly unique horror villain that stood at the forefront of an entire franchise; Pinhead.
Pinhead’s story began before he was an emissary of Hell, before becoming a Cenobite, when he was Captain Elliot Spencer. Just a human being who had become disheartened with mankind during his service in World War I. Looking for forbidden pleasures led to him seeking out and opening a gateway to Hell known as the Lament Configuration. Transforming him into the Hell Priest Pinhead. All humanity has been drained out of his person leaving only evil in its wake. Now serving the deity Leviathan, Pinhead seeks out and tortures all who make the mistake of opening the box looking to fulfill their selfish desires.
3. The Tall Man – Phantasm (1979)
This is a weird one. And considering who else is on the list that’s saying something.
The “mortician” that appeared in the first film is actually a man named Jebediah Morningside. Jebediah was a mortician in the 1800’s who became fascinated with death and sought to find a way into the land of the dead. He constructed a machine that enabled him to travel through time and space and returned horrifyingly changed as The Tall Man. Now he abducts corpses and transforms them into diminutive dwarf-like creatures or killer chrome flying balls.
I told you it was weird.
2. Louise – Spring (2014)
Although Louise is not a villain in the traditional sense she is portrayed as the antagonist for at least the first half of the film….so on the list she goes.
At first glance she seems harmless enough but what lies inside is something truly different. Louise is actually over 2,000 years old and suffers from an extremely rare genetic disorder. Every 20 years she needs to become pregnant and use the stem cells produced in the process to regenerate herself. Making her practically immortal. During the process however her body shifts through various forms from humanity’s evolutionary past. Resulting in some grotesque visuals but making for a very unique character. The only thing that can stop the cycle is for her body to produce oxytocin which will only happen if she falls in love.
1. Dracula – Dracula 2000 (2000)
The number one spot on this list goes to a classic villain that received an upgraded backstory in the somewhat mediocre Dracula 2000.
Tales of vampires, and Dracula specifically, have been told countless times in various media. Most people have heard some version of his story whether it’s the classic Dracula (1931) or the fantastic Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) or anything in between. What this film did was give his origin a very different spin. Here, Dracula is none other than Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. After his deceit he attempted to hang himself but was instead cursed and forced to live as a vampire. It also fully explains Dracula’s aversion to crosses and silver.