With guys like Fred Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Leatherface dominating the cinematic slaughter scene (the new Texas Chainsaw killed the competition this weekend), it’s easy for horror fans to forget about the little people. But, we at FEARnet embrace the little people and think that they deserve their moment in the spotlight just as much as the big guns. So, we have put together a list of underrated psychopaths in horror cinema who we would like to thank for their thoughtful contributions to the horror genre.
Corbin Bernsen does crazy quite well. His performance as a psychotic dentist who wants to rid the world of filth is what makes The Dentist as enjoyable as it is. The film itself is just OK, but Bernsen's performance is great. Watch out for Mark Ruffalo in one of his first feature film roles. The Dentist 2 goes a little off the rails. But, Bernsen's performance in both films is still spot on. It's a shame that more horror fans don't hold Bernsen's turn as The Dentist in higher regard.
The grotesque supernatural life form, known as Pumpkinhead, has a small franchise under his belt, yet he is all but forgotten amongst mainstream audiences, which is sad, as the first Pumpkinhead film was very good. Its successors unfortunately weren't of the same quality as the original. But, nonetheless, Pumpkinhead is a memorable and welcome addition to the world of homicidal horror baddies.
Mick Taylor is terrifying, but, not for the usual reasons. Taylor is frightening because he is seemingly so unassuming and mild mannered. He isn't the inbred, disfigured, mask wearing, psychopath that we expect to see in a back woods horror film. Perhaps that's why John Jarratt's portrayal of Mick Taylor in Wolf Creek often gets overlooked when we think of iconic horror killers. In reality, Jarratt's performance is what makes the movie. Good news for Wolf Creek fans: a sequel is reported to be in pre production and John Jarratt is said to be attached.
Lou David’s turn as Cropsey in The Burning was what set the film apart from numerous other Friday The 13th knockoffs. His performance is brutal and unflinching. The wake of destruction that he leaves in his path is astounding. His shears could have taken their place beside Freddy's glove, if the film had spawned a franchise. But, since there wasn’t another outing for Cropsey, the character never received the mainstream recognition he deserved. You can see more about Cropsey’s performance in The Burning in our picks for horror films that should have had sequels.
Leslie Vernon deserves the award for most Meta horror killer - ever. Scott Glosserman, who co wrote the script and directed Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon put together a great film. Glosserman's efforts combined with Nathan Baesel's portrayal of Leslie Vernon produced an excellent movie and an iconic and likable character. Vernon eventually developed a cult following. But, perhaps Anchor Bay's decision to only run the film theatrically in a VERY small handful of theatres is why Behind the Mask didn't find its audience until DVD. A sequel is said to be in the works, but due to financial obstacles, it hasn't begun shooting. Maybe the second time around we will find Leslie Vernon getting the recognition he deserves.
Angela Baker, of the Sleepaway Camp films, became popular with cult audiences via a shocking performance from Felissa Rose and subsequent performances by Pamela Springsteen (With Rose reprising the role in Return to Sleepaway Camp). Angela holds the distinct honor of being the first transgendered serial killer in cinema. In spite of holding such a title, Angela is commonly overlooked in favor of better known horror icons. It's too bad that Angela doesn't get more credit. She is by far the most unique character on our list.
There would be no Friday the 13th: Part Two and certainly no Jason X or Freddy Versus Jason if it weren't for Mrs. Voorhees. Pamela Voorhees kicked off the series of events that led to decades of her son Jason tormenting and butchering fornicating teenagers. Pamela Voorhees deserves a large piece of the credit and or blame for what Friday The 13th has become. Sadly, casual horror fans forget that the violent matriarch of the Voorhees clan even existed (As was evidenced in the first Scream film, when Casey tells Ghostface that Jason was the killer in the original Friday The 13th).
Joe Spinell's performance, as Frank Zito, was drastically underrated outside the horror community, but is the primary reason Maniac has developed a rabid cult following amongst die hard horror fans. Spinell's creepy, compulsive, viscous portrayal of Frank made the film what it is. Maniac is reportedly still banned in Germany and England (30+ years after its initial release). When the remake was announced, much controversy arose amongst loyal fans of the film, regarding who would portray the epic role of Frank in the remake. Few actors are able to create characters that invoke such a strong reaction from their audience; and thus the reason why Frank graces this list.
Damien is one of the most cold blooded, calculating horror killers of years past, and he wasn't even old enough to drive, his first time out. Yet Damien rarely gets credit for helping to shape the future of killer kid cinema and horror films in general. While The Omen went on to ‘spawn’ several inferior sequels, the original still stands with classics of its time like The Sentinel and The Exorcist. Needless to say, Harvey Stephens' masterful portrayal of Damien, in the original film, is an integral part of what makes the film a classic.
Candyman has never been given his due. Tony Todd turned in sufficiently jarring performances in the first two Candyman films; the first Candyman being one of Clive Barker's best and most haunting adaptations. The third, of course, is another story. But, for two films, Candyman delivered the scares and is a very unique, very creepy character. It's always shocked me that Candyman doesn't ever rank up there with fan favorites like Leatherface and Michael Myers. For us, Candyman is the most criminally underrated horror killer of our time.
We would like to extend honorable mention to Annie Wilkes (Misery), Cheng Lai-sheung (Dream Home), Mr. Slausen (Tourist Trap) and Mahogany (Midnight Meat Train).