5 Horror Villains Who Aren't As Bad As They Seem

There are three kinds of villains in horror movies, because I'm arbitrary. First, you have your vengeance monsters: Jason, Freddy, Jigsaw, Pumpkinhead, that Grudge lady. Then, there's your evil maniacs who kill just because they can: Michael Myers, Chucky, Leatherface, the Hitcher. The first makes little sense when you think about it. None of the people Jason killed ever did him wrong; he's got some real issues with cause and effect. And Freddy never really deserved much vengeance in the first place, but supposing he did, how is anyone left alive on Elm Street these days anyway? The second group aren't really worth thinking about because they don't really have an interesting motive.

But there's a third category: the weird and wild fantasy land of crazy killers that are out to achieve a real goal of some kind. These are the monsters you can get behind. They're go-getters. They have jobs! You can respect what they're doing because it damn well needs to be done. Or at least it has a point.

#5. Existential Thrills

Dimension Films

You could argue that a killer like Chucky does what he does for the fun of it, but when it comes to the full experience of death, no movie villain can trump Pinhead. Of course, you need to be clear which Pinhead you're talking about here, because in the sequels Pinhead is just a glorified Michael Myers who jammed Q-tips in his face in lieu of a Shatner mask and raided an S&M fet party for his wardrobe. But the first Pinhead, way back in Hellraiser Part 1, he was something special.

Dimension Films
You're our horrifying snowflake.

The name Hellraiser clearly confused a lot of viewers and studio executives, who decided the movie should be about slightly perverted, semi-sexual hate demons. In the first movie, that's not true at all. They're totally perverted, overtly sexual sensation explorers. It's a huge difference. But the key is that they're not demons. They're not from hell. You might think you're in hell if you go to Pinhead's house, but that's just because you don't get where he's coming from, which is a place where you can be tortured so severely that the lines between life and death and pain and pleasure lose all meaning. Which sounds super twisted, but hey, everyone needs a hobby.

ColorBlind Images/Blend Images/Getty Images
And is this any more humane?

Pinhead and his little friends the Cenobites never meant to just murder people outright or punish them like the silly sequels imply. They want to push the limits of what it means to sense things, to feel all sensations simultaneously, like pooping while watching the saddest movie ever on a roller coaster that ends with you getting a raise while your grandma dies in a field of hot, nekkid ladies. You don't even know what to feel when it's all over, but you definitely felt something. So if you need to be flayed alive and have meat hooks jammed up your ass to get there, well, Pinhead's willing to do that for you.

#4. Reproduction And Freedom

Universal Studios

John Carpenter's The Thing is awesome in so many ways that if it came to your house and ordered you to make a sandwich, by God you'd do it without question and then let it have the comfy seat on the couch. It's a nearly flawless horror film, due in no small part to the fact that the villain is incredible. What the hell is the Thing? It doesn't even get a name, just general terminology, because it's so hard to wrap your head around. Every piece of it is alive, every piece wants to live, but somehow they can work together as a whole as well, and its only goal is to get free. And if that means eating Wilford Brimley, then so be it.

Universal Studios
Though many find his blood to be unbearably sweet.

In the original film, the aforementioned diabeetus spokesman is convinced the Thing could consume the entire world if it escapes, and it very well could, but you have to wonder if it wants that, since it does try to build a spacecraft to leave. And it showed up in a spacecraft as well, so it has intelligence. It's advanced, probably more intelligent than the humans it replicates, even though at no time does it attempt to establish a dialogue or explain what it wants. It doesn't care what the hell the humans think any more than it cares what the dogs think. They're a means to an end.

Imagine you crash on an alien world and you're incapacitated. The locals find you, you wake up, and what happens? You're going to want to get the hell out of there, because if there's one thing we can all be assured of it's that aliens (in this case humans) want to probe asses. Even the Thing knew that. And since its physiology is so fluid, it could literally turn into nothing but asses and be probed until time ends. Who would want that? Actually ... well, no, that would get tiring.

Universal Studios
"What? This is what asses look like on my planet."

So the Thing hatches a plan to escape, and that plan includes subterfuge. Hide in plain sight. Turn into one of the bad guys. This is the oldest trick in the book. Even Indiana Jones killed the odd Nazi to put on the uniform. The Thing could have been his world's Indiana Jones, and Kurt Goddamn Russell kept fucking up his plan to bring back some really cool Earth swag to his peoples' museums. Thanks, asshole.

#3. Preventing Greater Evil

20th Century Fox

Clive Barker, the man who gave us Pinhead, also dropped an under-appreciated film back in the day called Nightbreed, based on his story Cabal. And maybe it wasn't a faithful adaptation, but that doesn't make it any less of a cool movie, especially in terms of the monsters -- this movie went balls-to-the-wall with monster effects, possibly even literally in some scenes. But those aren't even the bad guys.

20th Century Fox
It's like Ocean's 11 on Thalidomide.

Canadian director and extremely unsettling-in-a-super-calm-way dude David Cronenberg stars in the movie as a psychologist treating a patient who has terrible serial killer dreams. And his dreams come true. And here's a 25-year-old spoiler for you -- the real killer is the doctor himself.

So, long story short, the hero goes to this insane Canadian cemetery where an entire city of monsters exists underground, and the doctor follows to try to kill them all, also while explaining his evil plan along the way -- Dr. Decker has been killing Breeders. The kind of people who become Nightbreed are the ones he's knocking off. What a bitch, right? The Nightbreed are presented as noble, almost like an oppressed native tribe, just trying to live their lives while the world of man stomps a mud hole in their dirty hides. What shitty jerks we all must be.

20th Century Fox
"Especially the one you call 'Chad.'"

The only problem with the idea of the Nightbreed as the victims is that, in the very first meeting with them, our hero gets bit by a Rastafarian monster with terrible skin who declares he's "meat" when challenged on the matter. Humans are meat. They eat people. So fuck those guys. In the grand scheme of things, it might be cool to have a bunch of really awesome-looking monsters around, but not if they're going to eat you. This is the point in the story when you start sending Dr. Decker letters of support in his mad-serial-killer quest. They paint him as the villain at every stop, but at the end of the movie, Cronenberg hasn't tried to eat a single person, so he's still ahead of the game.

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Felix Clay

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