Archive for May 30, 2013

10 Film Villains Who Scare Me

You’d think that after Scream people wouldn’t ask me what my favorite scary movie is, but they do. I have no real answer, but I like to play with lists of answers. “Favorite” is a bit too general, though, so today I want to challenge myself not just with favorite horrors, of which I have many, but with scary horrors, of which, nowadays, I have few. Can I come up with 10 horror movie villains that actually, as Buffy would say, give me the wiggins?

Before the official list begins, an important note:


This is God,” says Freddy Krueger, and, alas, this man is disqualified. As an adult, I cannot possibly pass any objective judgment on Freddy’s scariness. To know why, see the intro to my book Gothic Realities.

Now, on with the show.

10.George W. Bush, from Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)


Okay, a stunt to get your attention… or is it? The film does masterfully villainize a then-sitting president. It heightened my existing fears.


9. Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th PART TWO (1981)


Jason was initially just a kinda big guy wearing a bag on his head that had one hole cut for an eye. He stalked after people quickly, hacking with whatever was handy. And his cheesy immortality wasn’t yet clear. He was just a scary, crazy dude intent on killing you if you crossed his path.


8. The mobs, from M (1931)


Yep, I think the people who come after the child murderer are scarier than the child murderer (although Peter Lorre’s performance is creepy as hell).


7. Pyramid Head, from Silent Hill (2006)


I chose Pyramid Head because he’s the most iconic, but really, all the beasties in the Silent Hill franchise that I’ve seen–both films and bits of several games–are genuinely nightmarish in a rare way.


6. Ju-On, from Ju-On (2002)


Not the scariest Japanese horror film by a long shot, but the curse may be the scariest villain both because of its inevitable operations and because of the tragic way it plays out IN THE JAPANESE VERSION ONLY. The American version makes no sense.


5.Vukmir, from A Serbian Film (2010)


The incarnation of the need to add the word “mass” to the exploitation and consumption of everything.


4. Mademoiselle, from Martyrs (2008)


Like Vukmir, a limit-seeker, but civilized… and asking bigger questions. How far she’ll go to get answers, how much she cares about those answers, is what makes her scary. Am I capable of wanting to know that much?


3. Klaus, from In a Glass Cage (1987)


Nazis asked questions, too. And raped, tortured, and murdered people. Old people. Middle-aged people. Children. Klaus preferred children. And now he’s a victim’s victim. The potential to feel sorry for him makes him even scarier.


2. Hill House, from The Haunting (1963)


It preys on loneliness and the need to belong, a person’s most intimate vulnerabilities. It makes people doubt you. It makes you doubt yourself. You feel stupid. You hate yourself at times like that. You know that feeling. That’s how it gets you.


1. Sharks, from Open Water (2003)


Horror doesn’t have to stem from elaborate themes and psychological sophistication. The movie doesn’t even have to be particularly good. I had a rare, tight-muscle-and-skin, fast-breathing, elevated-heart-rate experience seeing Open Water in the theater. Its simplicity allows the fear:

  1. Trapped in the water. As our bodies are built to survive only short times in water and then only in certain circumstances, this situation is not one we are programmed to seek.
  2. Predators nearby. We make kids laugh by threatening to gobble them up. But the threat of kids getting eaten is central in fairy tales for a reason. Fighting to keep beasts from eating us, if not fighting cannibalism, is part of our evolutionary memory. Again, we are programmed for wariness in such a situation.
  3. Sharks. Stephen Colbert makes a similar point about bears. Some have said cats have an attitude toward dogs similar to my own feeling about sharks. I’m not wary of sharks. Sure, I’ll pet a little one at an aquarium or something, but the very idea of meeting a big one in the ocean–it’s just not an option. I’m not wary. I’m REPELLED. Open Water ain’t makin’ my top ten favorites list, but sharks… are… scary. Period.

Blog Tour Update: Seeing the Dark Sun!

I’m in the middle of a “blog tour.” The idea is that I write things–guest posts on any topic I like, answers to interview questions, or posts from the perspectives of characters from Burning the Middle Ground–or the blog reviews me, or the blog puts up an excerpt from the novel–and for about a month, one blog after another shows off something related to my work. I’m almost halfway done, and it’s way fun. And people I’ve never heard of are liking my Facebook author page (if you haven’t done that, please do!), so maybe it’s working. Unlike with big presses, people aren’t hearing about BTMG all at once… it’s a slow build… if it builds anywhere (that’s up to you; please, share this post!). Here’s the halfway recap.Click on the image to get to the blog.

1. Read 2 Review: Guest Character Post by Sara Cox


Sara, a minor character in this book (but I have plans for her, mwah-ha-ha), shares her opinions on protagonist Ronald and fellow antagonists Mike and Jake. Then she briefly gives her own perspective on Ronald’s visitation by the ghost of 10-year-old Fran McCullough.

2. Readings Sunshine: Book Review


I chose an image of the synopsis in English, but the page is in Portuguese first–I’d love to have a multilingual, multinational readership! Scroll down from this synopsis and see magical words like “I recommend it to everyone who likes horror stories and dark fantasy.”

3. Spellbindings: A Guest Post on Building Horror/Fantasy Worlds


Burning the Middle Ground is written to stand alone, but it’s part of a world I’ve been building for more than a decade. Little pieces like this one come closer to showing you how big that world has gotten than the glimpses you get in the novel… which, like I said, stands alone, but is intended as the first of a trilogy that gradually brings the details I’ve built in stories’ backgrounds into the foreground for epic confrontation.

4.Beagle Book Space: Tour Spotlight


It’s quasi-osmotic: puppy goodness leeches into book goodness.

5. SpecMusicMuse: Review


This guy is a sharp reader and says great stuff about my work. He also doesn’t like the fact that I’ve structured it how I do–with a significant backward time leap for part two before I resume the present-day action in part three–but for the most part, I feel warm and fuzzy, particularly since he’s right about the middle and end tying into the much larger universe.

5. Workaday Reads: Guest Post


So this is one of the guest posts by me, rather than by a character, and it addresses a question I often get–I’m a film professor, so is my writing cinematic? The answer of course, is both yes and no. Interestingly, I address exactly why I do the thing that SpecMusicMuse didn’t like… but of course I wrote this guest post before seeing that review. Small mental world, eh?

And that’s all for now. Coming soon: a guest post about why I think the smartest people like horror, a character post by Winston Beecher about the McCullough Tragedy and Brian McCullough in particular, an interview, and more reviews. Keep reading!