They might keep us up at night, but there’s something about horror movie bad guys that capture our imagination. Whether it’s their grotesque appearances, their sinister personalities, or the bloodshed and gore that follow in their wake, we just can’t stop watching them. As we follow them with both terror and delight, we often ask ourselves — “How did this maniac come to be?” Here are the origins to some of the most evil, most vile villains to ever grace the silver screen:
Jason Voorhees — The physically-deformed, mentally-challenged Jason was born to an already-imbalanced Pamela Voorhees, a cook working at Camp Crystal Lake. The boy was somewhat shy and reclusive, with his abnormalities often the cause for bullying from other kids. His mother Pamela, however, saw fit to protect her boy by any means necessary, even though she wasn’t quite playing with a full deck to begin with.
Pamela snapped, however, when Jason drowned due to the negligence of two amorous camp counselors. The following year, two counselors were caught making love when they were brutally murdered. Camp Crystal Lake understandably shut down after the tragedy.
Unfortunately, that didn’t stop people from trying to reopen it. Every year that someone tried to bring Camp Crystal Lake back to life, someone’s life was taken. The mysterious killer’s identity was discovered years after, when the sole survivor of a vicious attack learned that the murders were the work of none other than an enraged (and deranged) Pamela Voorhees. Using her wits and will to live, the survivor managed to decapitate Pamela, putting a stop to the killings for good.
But the killings didn’t stop. A few months after the harrowing ordeal, the survivor suddenly disappeared. Many began to wonder if Pamela Voorhees had found a way to return and avenge her dead son.
Only, Jason wasn’t dead. He somehow survived the drowning incident and had been in hiding for years. Upon finding his mother’s severed head, the imbalanced Jason was enraged and vowed revenge upon all those who dared wander into Camp Crystal Lake. So the slaughter continues…
Freddy Krueger — Born out of rape and put up for adoption, Freddy Krueger spent a difficult childhood under an abusive alcoholic stepfather. The boy would eventually grow up to be a sociopath, withdrawn from the rest of the children and secretly learning to enjoy the pain from his adoptive father’s beatings. He eventually got revenge on his father by killing him in cold blood.
When Krueger reached adulthood, he married a woman named Loretta and had a daughter, Kathryn. Unknown to his wife, Krueger had developed a fondness for murdering children, having tortured and slain 20 kids over the years. He kept records of the killings and his instruments of torture in a secret room in the basement. When Loretta discovered the ghastly room, Freddy killed her in front of his own daughter, as she was “snooping in on daddy’s special work.”
Krueger was eventually discovered by the authorities and arrested for his crimes, which earned him the moniker “the Springwood Slasher”. Unfortunately, an error in the signing of the search warrant rendered the evidence inadmissible, and Krueger was set free. The victims’ parents, however, decided to take justice into their own hands. They stormed into the boiler room where Krueger committed the murders and burned him alive.
Moments before his death, however, Krueger was approached by three dream demons in search of a malevolent soul. They offered Krueger the chance to “be forever” and turn nightmares into reality, in exchange for continuing his evil work in the dream world. Krueger happily accepted, and gained the power to exist in people’s dreams, control them, and cause actual physical harm to them. Krueger would continue his heinous work through these newfound abilities.
Hannibal Lecter — Cold, cunning and ruthless, the cannibalistic Dr. Hannibal Lecter is a serial killer unlike any other — a brilliant man with a twisted outlook towards life. Born into an aristocratic Lithuanian family, Lecter’s earliest years were privileged ones. At the time of Hitler’s Blitzkrieg, things changed and his family fled to their forest lodge. They were unable to escape tragedy however, as Lecter’s parents and family retainers were eventually killed by a German bomber. Lecter and his sister Mischa were left to fend for themselves.
Tragedy struck once more when a group of former Lithuanian collaborators attempted to loot the lodge. Lecter and Mischa were taken captive by the looters, led by one Vladis Grutas. Starving and desperate, the looters resorted to eating Mischa. Lecter watched in horror as Grutas and his men cannibalized his sister, and he would never be the same again. Lecter would eventually escape captivity; however, the ordeal traumatized him and he became mute.
Lecter was later found by the Soviets and returned to his castle, which had been converted into an orphanage by the war effort. The boy was severely disturbed, attacking and severely wounding many of his fellow orphans. However, it seemed that the attacks were purposeful — Lecter resorted to violence only against the bullies.
He was eventually found by his uncle, Count Robert Lecter, and taken to his new home in France. There, he met his aunt, the Lady Murasaki, and he fell enamored with her. One day, a butcher named Paul Momund made obscene comments at Murasaki while she and Lecter were out and about. The boy retaliated by viciously attacking Momund. Momund, enraged by Lecter’s actions, took it upon himself to confront the Count. In the heat of the confrontation, Lecter’s uncle suffered a heart attack and passed away. Lecter blamed Momund for the Count’s death, and exacted his revenge by decapitating the butcher. Eerily recalling the cannibalization of his sister, Lecter then proceeded to slice the cheeks off of Momund’s severed head and eat the flesh.
Momund’s murder alerted the authorities, and much suspicion was directed towards Lecter. However, due to the Lady Murasaki’s intervention, and Lecter’s own ability to fool lie detection machines, he was found innocent of the murder. Lecter went on a fruitful academic life at the Lycée, capped by earning the recognition of being the youngest student to ever be admitted to a medical school in France. While on his studies at Paris, he chanced upon one of his family’s old paintings, and was reminded of the horrors of his past. He returned to the lodge where he was held captive as a child, hoping to give his sister a proper burial. As he searched the premises, he found the dog tags of the looters responsible for his sister’s brutal murder. He would then hunt each member down and murder them in vengeance.
Though his appetite for revenge was sated, his bloodlust was not, and Lecter continued to kill those who would cross him. He grew a fondness for the taste of human meat, and often disposed of his victims by including them in his epicurean dishes. An internship in Baltimore would eventually bring “Hannibal the Cannibal” to American shores, where he would continue his work with a terrifying and savage sophistication.
Michael Myers — “Pure, unadulterated evil” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot in horror films, but few of the antagonists embody it as well as Michael Myers. The silent hulk is an unnaturally powerful and resilient killing machine, dispatching his victims with cold brutality.
Myers was a bright child, speaking and reading at a rate that was advanced for his age. When he turned five, however, things changed and he slowly began showing signs of autism. The boy grew quiet and reserved, showing a strange preoccupation with certain objects and staring into blank space. On Halloween of 1963, the then-six year old Myers walked into his household kitchen, grabbed a butcher knife, and stabbed his older sister to death. The boy was later found sitting stoically outside the house, and seemed emotionally dead.
Psychiatrists were puzzled by Myers’ actions — he had absolutely no motivation to kill his sister, and no insight could be gained from his unwavering silence. The only time that Myers would ever show some sign of emotion was when his younger sister, Laurie, would come and visit; the boy would inexplicably start grinding his teeth and staring at her. After years of fruitless study, Myers’ psychiatrist could come up with no other theory than the boy being pure evil.
Unknown to anyone else, however, was the fact that Myers’ babysitter, Mrs. Blankenship, was a member of the mysterious Cult of Thorn. The cult believed that in order to bring balance to the conditions that bring about conflict in humanity, a chosen individual must kill all the members of his family. The young Myers was chosen to carry out this act, and was bestowed with the Curse of Thorn. It would be this curse that attributed to Myers homicidal urges, as well as his supernatural strength and seeming immortality. As long as his bloodline existed, Myers would continue to hunt his family down, killing anyone who would get in his way.
Norman Bates — No other killer is a more popular cautionary tale than Norman Bates. Undergoing severe emotional (and implied sexual) abuse from his mother as a child, Bates’ mental state had become incredibly fragile. Things worsened when Bates’ father died, leaving mother and son to fend for themselves. Bates’ mother constantly warned him about the evils of sex, and told him that all women — save for her — were whores. This cycle of abuse and the demonization of all other women created an unhealthy co-dependence between the two.
That co-dependence was challenged when Bates’ mother suddenly took in a lover. Feeling abandoned by the only other person he felt safe with, Bates extracted his vengeance by poisoning both his mother and her lover with strychnine. Both horrified with what he had done and obsessed with his mother, Bates then took to preserving her body and acting as though she were still alive. In order to preserve his rapidly-crumbling psyche, Bates maintained the illusion of having a mother by developing a separate personality — “Norma” Bates. Bates would then go on to manage the family motel as both Norman and Norma.
His mother’s influence would never leave him, and Bates would continue to perceive women as “evil” and “dirty”. Whenever the “Norman” persona would become infatuated with ladies staying at the motel, the “Norma” persona would take over, leading Bates to dress up in his deceased mother’s clothing and murder the women. He would speak in his mother’s voice and scold himself (“Norman”) for forgetting that women were filthy whores, and that “mother” was the only one who mattered. Eventually, Bates’ fragile psyche would eventually break down, and the murderous “mother” would completely take over.
Leatherface — Two men would come to be known as the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. The first was Bubba Sawyer, a mentally-retarded man under the control of his twisted family. Raised by a group of deranged cannibals, Bubba did the Sawyers’ dirty work in killing the people who would eventually become his family’s chili. Bubba had no true personality, only acting through the different personas of his masks made from human faces. As such, Bubba was different from most other serial killers in that he killed primarily out of fear, or out of his family’s orders.
The second man to wear the many masks of Leatherface was Thomas Hewitt. Hewitt was often bullied as a child due to his muteness, mental retardation, and the facial disfigurement he suffered as a result of a flesh-eating disease. He was eventually diagnosed with mental degeneration at the young age of twelve.
Hewitt eventually tried to live a normal life, finding work in the very meat factory he was born in. Unfortunately, health inspectors order the factory to shut down, and Hewitt’s boss and co-worker urge him to leave. Hewitt’s refusal to follow orders leads the two to call him a “dumb animal” and a “retard”. The insults trigger Hewitt’s memory of the cruelty he suffered in his childhood, and the years of abuse cause him to finally snap. He grabs a sledgehammer and bludgeons the two to death. As he goes around the factory, he chances upon a chainsaw, which would eventually become his weapon of choice. The murder is then discovered by local sheriff Winston Hoyt, who tries to stop Hewitt. Hewitt is saved, however, by his uncle, Charlie Hewitt, who kills Hoyt and assumes his identity.
The abusive Charlie takes advantage of Hewitt’s mental retardation and manipulates him into doing his twisted work. Hewitt becomes the family’s most prominent murderer, supplying them with the human flesh needed to supply their meat shop. Hewitt, sick of the ridicule he’s received because of his hideous appearance, eventually makes a mask by slicing off the face of one of his victims, creating Leatherface as we know and fear him.
Jigsaw — John Kramer once made a living as a simple toy maker. He treated most aspects of his life with complacency, including his romantic relationships. His inability to make commitments eventually caused his girlfriend to leave him. However, even this didn’t help him realize the damage his indifference was doing to his life.
He had an epiphany, however, after one fateful hospital visit. He had been getting severely ill, often to the point of vomiting. He was later diagnosed with cancer and an inoperable brain tumor. Faced with his fast-approaching mortality, Kramer finally realized how much of his life he allowed himself to waste. While at the hospital, he became increasingly sensitive to people he perceived were wasting their lives as well. Heroin addicts and suicide attempters, in his opinion, failed to realize how precious life truly was.
Depressed with how futile he saw life was, Kramer decided to end it all and commit suicide. However, he survived the attempt, despite having driven his car over a cliff. Clinging on to the remaining bits of life he had made him realize just how valuable it is to be alive. Instead of ending his own life, Kramer vowed to help others take control and embrace their own lives.
Unfortunately, in Kramer’s own twisted perspective, that entailed bringing them to the brink of death. Just as he had his realization in the midst of anguish and looming death, so too, would his “subjects”. Kramer then spent the next few months following and observing people who he thought needed saving. He then fashioned cruel and sadistic puzzles that would “save” them by making them endure intense physical and mental torture. Kramer proceeded to abduct his subjects and force them into the specially-designed puzzles, in which they could only either escape with an increased appreciation for life, or die a horrible, agonizing death.
Most of Kramer’s subjects suffered the latter. At the end of each “experiment”, Kramer would cut off a small puzzle-shaped piece of flesh from the corpse, meant to represent the piece of humanity missing in the victim — the survival instinct. This odd modus operandi would later lead the authorities to dub Kramer the “Jigsaw Killer”.
Pinhead — The diabolical creature known as Pinhead was once a human by the name of Elliot Spenser. A captain of the British Army, Spenser engaged in the Battle of Flanders. Watching the carnage around him made him realize just how cruel mankind can be, and he eventually lost his faith in all humanity and in God, saying “to us, God fell at Flanders, too”. Shaken by post-traumatic stress disorder from the events, Spenser turned to a hedonistic lifestyle to take the edge off.
Spenser eventually found himself turning to baser forms of pleasure as he made his travels. He soon learned of the Lament Configuration, a puzzle box created by a Frenchman by the name of Phillip Lemarchand. It was rumored that solving the puzzle would open a gateway into Hell. After much effort, Spenser finally acquired the box and promptly solved it. To his surprise, hooked chains shot out of the box and dragged him down to Hell.
Trapped inside one of Hell’s many chambers, Spenser was tortured in gruesome fashion. A grid-like pattern was slowly carved onto his head, forming hideous scars. At each intersection of the grid, large nails were driven into his flesh. Spenser somehow grew to associate the pain with pleasure, and eventually learned to enjoy his own torment.
Spenser then began to lose all memories of his life. Once his former identity was completely wiped out, his transformation into a Cenobite, a servant of the ruler of Hell, was complete. He soon became the executor of the Lament Configuration, emerging from the box once the puzzle was completed. He and his Cenobite cohorts then examine the boundaries between pain and pleasure by putting whoever opens the Lament Configuration through excruciating, seemingly-endless torture.
Chucky — Few stories are as bizarre as that of Chucky, the killer doll. One night in 1988, Charles Lee Ray, the infamous Lakeshore Strangler, was on the run from the authorities when he was mortally wounded in the chase. Without giving it much thought, the murderer decided to take refuge in an unassuming toy store. There, he desperately performed an ancient Voodoo ritual that would save his life by transferring his soul into a doll. The spell worked, and police found Ray’s lifeless body, unaware that the serial killer was actually sitting among the other toys.
Ray was eventually bought and given to a young boy named Andy Barclay. Ray, now called Chucky, eventually revealed his true nature to Barclay, and continued on his murderous ways. Telling Barclay his real identity turned out to be one Chucky’s worst mistakes, as he soon learned that he could only transfer his soul into the body of the first person he told his name to, or else be trapped in the body of the doll forever. Chucky would then hunt down Barclay, savagely killing anyone who got in between him and his only chance at returning to human form.
Kayako Saeki — The ghost from The Grudge suffered a tragic past. The daughter of an Itako (Japanese Exorcist), Kayako Saeki was often used as a tool in her mother’s rituals. As her mother drove the malevolent souls away from her possessed clients, she would guide them to Kayako, who would then “eat” the souls to keep them away. Because of this, Kayako was often the subject of gossip and cruelty.
She did her best to live a normal life, and eventually enrolled in a university. It would be here that she would meet one of her great loves, Shunsuke Kobayashi (Peter Kirk in the American version). Unfortunately, their relationship was never meant to be, and so Kayako had to move on from her feelings for him. She later met Takeo Saeki and married him. Together, they had a son named Toshio.
Years later, Kayako found Kobayashi in her life once again, this time as Toshio’s teacher. Her feelings for him were immediately rekindled, and she professed this in her journal. When Takeo found and read Kayako’s diary, he immediately grew jealous. He began to suspect that Kayako may have been having an affair with Kobayashi, and that Toshio was not his son. Obsessed and paranoid, Takeo violently attacked Kayako, accusing her of infidelity. Kayako tried to escape, but Takeo chased her down and shoved her, causing her to break her ankle. Kayako painfully crawled down the stairs, trying to get away from him. At this point, Toshio stepped out of his room and witnessed the carnage through the banisters. Takeo reveled in Kayako’s torment as she dragged herself to the front door. He snapped her neck and shoved her into a trash bag, which he took back upstairs to his bedroom. Noticing that Kayako was still alive, struggling to breathe, Takeo grabbed a utility knife and stabbed her to death. He then kept her body in the attic.
Takeo’s rampage was not over. Consumed by rage and jealousy, he grabbed Toshio and drowned him in the bathtub. For good measure, he drowned Toshio’s cat, Mar, as well. He decided to hide his son’s body in a closet. After massacring his family, Takeo went after Kobayashi’s pregnant wife and killed her. As he ran through the streets in a blood-crazed frenzy, Kayako’s ghost emerged from a dumpster and killed him.
The family’s spirits are now cursed to repeat the horrifying events that unfolded every time someone enters the Saeki household. The ghosts then torment their guests, eventually killing them.
Candyman — Daniel Robitaille was once a gifted painter. He was also the son of a slave in a New Orleans plantation. Ordered by the landowner to paint his daughter Caroline’s portrait, Robitaille slowly grew to love the girl. Robitaille and Caroline secretly had a torrid love affair, and the woman was soon with child.
This caused great scandal in those extremely racist times. Robitaille was hunted down by the landowner, who had organized a mob for his capture. Robitaille attempted to escape their cruelty by leaving town and running through the fields, but was caught just the same. The seething bigotry in the mob led to Robitaille’s subsequent torture — they sawed his hand off, and covered him in honey. A young boy, taunting Robitaille, tasted the honey and called him the “Candy Man”. The name caught on, and the crowd jeered Robitaille with chants of his new name.
The cruelty wasn’t over. Binding him near a beehive, they allowed Robitaille to slowly be stung to death. It was at this point that a forlorn Caroline appeared, grasping a small mirror. Caroline was restrained by her father and forced to watch her lover die. With his last breath, Robitaille parroted the crowd and uttered his new name, Candyman, as he stared into Caroline’s mirror.
Through some unknown force, Robitaille’s raging spirit was transferred into the mirror. With mirrors now acting as a sort of conduit for his soul, Robitaille is now able to re-enter the living world as a murderous spirit. Saying the word “Candyman” five times in front of a mirror summons Robitaille, who then lashes out against the injustice done to him through bloodshed.