With Halloween creeping around the corner, it’s time to get the scary movies out. After you’ve dispensed sweets to the demanding hordes of costumed kids, bolt the door, assemble the leftovers, dim the lights and prepare to be subsumed under a tsunami of pure unadulterated fear.
But what to watch? Given how many slasher flicks there are to choose from, you could be forgiven for your indecision. So here’s a good place to start – a rundown of the most fearsome liquidators to have stalked our screens…
Michael Myers (Halloween)
Might as well start with the Mack Daddy of Murder himself, Michael Myers. The season’s true apex predator, Myers lurks in the darkness wearing a white death mask and gripping a big-ass Kitchen Devil. Mikey doesn’t have the gift of the gab – he’s yet to utter a word in any of the films – but then speech was always extraneous to the art of butchery. Like several on this list, the boiler-suited basket case is virtually invincible.
The brainchild of horror imagineer Clive Barker, who also dreamt up Hellraiser, Candyman appears when dumb victims say his name into a mirror five times (just, eh…don’t?). Having had his hand amputated by a vengeful posse hired by his lover’s father, Candyman – the son of a slave – ended up with a hook, which proves even handier for goring his quarry. Incidentally, the resurrected madman earned his moniker after being smeared in honey and stung to death by bees.
Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street)
Freddy Krueger was the very stuff of nightmares – before filmmakers turned him into a wisecracking one-line machine in a slew of cash-grab sequels. But I digress – let’s remember the real Freddy, the gruesome, pitiless slayer with blades where fingers should be. Krueger earns his berth on this shortlist owing to his unconventional method of terror: he stalks and kills his teenage prey in their dreams, thereby bringing about their deaths in reality.
Jigsaw is the sadistic maestro from the admittedly wildly overcooked Saw franchise. Although he looks like a perfectly ordinary middle-aged bloke, if you see past the avuncular façade, you’ll detect all kinds of craziness. Jigsaw, a.k.a. John Kramer, relays his depravity via a creepy amanuensis named Billy the Puppet and takes great pleasure in putting his victims through the ringer before they’re inevitably launched off this mortal coil.
Stephen King’s invented plenty of memorable baddies, but Pennywise is perhaps his most disquieting creation. And anyone who watched (through splayed fingers) the film version as a child will testify to the many sleepless nights they endured in the aftermath. Pennywise the clown appears every 27 years to strike fear into the hearts of children in Derry, Maine. A shape shifter, he is able to take the form of whatever his prey fears most and once enticed a young victim into a storm drain with the promise of balloons. “They float, Georgie. They float.” Shudder!
Jason Voorhees (Friday the 13th)
Jason needs no introduction, but for the uninitiated, he’s a deranged killer who drowned as a boy in Camp Crystal Lake due to staff negligence. Years later he’s back – and guided by a freewheeling sense of grievance. Donning a hockey mask and armed with an improbably long machete, the raptorial hunter sets about menacing the counselors of Crystal Lake. Oh, and you haven’t got a snowball’s chance in hell of stopping him. Like fellow maniac Myers, JV seems to be protected – from bullets, explosives, androids – by a dark and mysterious forcefield.
Leatherface (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
For my money, Leatherface is the scariest executioner of them all. Although he doesn’t have any superhuman powers, he does have a chainsaw and he’s not very particular about using it. Belonging to a family of inbred hicks, Leatherface is a lumbering oaf who wears a mask made of human skin and takes orders from his demented relatives. A butcher by trade, he is almost always apparelled in a blood-stained apron.
Pinhead – or Hell Priest, to give him his proper title – is the primary antagonist of the Hellraiser franchise. A demonic being whose facial piercings appear to betray a certain punk ethic, Pinhead belongs to an extra-dimensional realm but every so often appears on Earth for the entirely reasonable purpose of, er, harvesting souls. Wicked.
Patrick Bateman (American Psycho)
Patrick Bateman is the scariest kind of murderer: the one you don’t see coming. Handsome, charming and successful, Bateman has a penchant for Valentine Couture suits, O’Malley glasses and leaving an endless trail of mutilated bodies in his wake. In both the novel and film, there’s a degree of ambiguity about whether egocentric yuppie Bateman is actually a murderer or a fantasist. But isn’t fantasising about murder almost as bone-chilling as carrying out the act?
Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)
By far the most cunning killer on this list, Hannibal the Cannibal is also the most environmentally friendly: rather than bury your corpse, he eats it. Lecter, a high-flying forensic psychiatrist turned fiendish serial killer, gets his jollies from such pursuits as listening to Bach, hobnobbing round Venice or eating human liver (with fava beans and Chianti, natch). Still, at least you’re likely to enjoy a stimulating conversation with him before he devours your flesh.
Did your own favourite worst demon not make our list? Feel free to pop suggestions in the comments section and share the scare.