The Top 5 Scariest Characters in Film/TV
Last year for Halloween I counted down the scariest moments from my childhood. This year I thought I’d do it for adult films.
As a kid I hated the feeling of being afraid and couldn’t imagine I’d ever be a fan of horror. However, it happened though it’s rare for a film to really honestly scare me anymore. It’s probably because I study film production and can almost always see the strings as it were. So when a film/TV character does scare me it makes me take all the more notice. Again, I’m not restricting myself to just horror films as there have been some truly scary people in other genres. These are what I personally find to be the scariest. Just don’t expect to see things like Freddy or Jason on this list as I didn’t watch those kinds of movies. As with these other articles *SPOILERS*.
Honorable Mentions: Pennywise the Dancing Clown (“IT”)
This is one of those things that I had YEARS of build up before finally seeing it. While it didn’t really scare me, it was like “Jaws” in that I understood why it scared as many people as it did. Clowns have never scared me, I don’t have that particular phobia. I don’t even really get it honestly. Except with certain specific examples and this is one. Tim Curry strikes that great balance of a funny clown and terrifying monster that delights in scaring little children before devouring them. With modern reappraisals of the miniseries it hasn’t exactly stood the test of time. Curry as good old Bob Gray is really what makes that series. Everything else doesn’t come close to him. For that reason I am really looking forward to the upcoming remake. All we have to go off of is a photo for now. In my opinion, it looks like they’re going in the right direction.
5.) Twisty the Clown (“American Horror Story”)
I know I just said in the honorable mentions that clowns don’t scare me, but then this character appeared. “American Horror Story” is a show where each season is a new story with no real connections to others. For season 4 they decided to go with a story about a freak show. So it wasn’t a big issue to jump here at this season. However, I ended up so frustrated that I don’t know if I can continue with the show. First, there’s the fact that Twisty is NOT the central antagonist like the first couple of episodes imply. I realize this was always the plan, but it’s still a gamble. No matter how well you pull it off there are going to be some people who honestly wanted the red herring. However, in this particular case it’s kind of like the Mandarin twist from “Iron Man 3” in that the actual villain is such a let down. I HATE Dandy, I hate everything about him and if I ever do a most annoying characters list rest assured he’ll have a place on it. But let’s not get off topic, in the beginning of the series Twisty was a clown who would kidnap children from their homes. He kills anyone who might stop him while causing the town to suspect the freaks from the local Freak Show. That’s a creepy enough idea, but something really interesting happened when they revealed his backstory… he got scarier. The rule of thumb is that the more you know about a character’s past the less scary it becomes. In general I tend to agree, but when the rule is broken… it’s broken.
Here’s Twisty’s backstory; he was once a well-loved (though slightly mentally challenged) clown in the circus. He loved entertaining the kids and was a huge draw. However, some little people who also worked at the circus were jealous of his fame. They drove him and the children away by spreading rumors that Twisty was molesting the kids. It wasn’t true in the slightest, but you know how rumors like that tend to go down. Soon he was out of a job and place to live. He eventually came up with the idea to create toys as he is first and foremost an entertainer to kids. Unfortunately for him the local shop owner didn’t want to sell them. In a moment of frustration, he ended up scaring the child he tried to convince playing with it. Seeing no way forward he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the head. But ended up just blowing off his lower jaw which is why he wears the mask that covers the lower half of his face. Very sad and tragic, but it’s while he’s telling this story that we learn his motivations. He’s still trying to entertain the kids. He kidnapped them to “save” them from the mean old parents who want to force them to do chores. He wants to make them laugh and keep them safe (by locking them into little cages) and doesn’t get why the children don’t want to stay.
He’s still a fascinating and tragic figure, while still remaining scary as someone who is that removed from reality in their head. He’s obviously extremely dangerous. He dies in probably the first 3rd of the season with Goddamn Dandy taking over as main villain. Creators did you not recognize how rare it is to create a character that works on those levels?! While the show didn’t utilize him like it should have, John Carroll Lynch and the writers created one of the best scary clowns in fiction. Seriously someone remake that season correctly with Twisty front and center as the monster with zero Dandy.
4.) Annie Wilkes (“Misery”)
Another entry, another Stephen King character. He’s the master of horror for a reason. After all of these years it’s probably still the best horror film made from one of his books. Rob Reiner and William Goldman seemed to actually have improved upon the story. For those who don’t know, “Misery” is about a famous romance novels author (Paul Sheldon) who is looking for a change in his writing career. After finishing his latest novel at his getaway in the mountains, he drives back home. Unfortunately it’s during a blizzard and he’s knocked off the road. While surviving the crash, he most certainly would have died from the injuries and being buried in the snow. However he is found and saved by his number one fan, Annie Wilkes. She brings him back to her remote home and as an ex-nurse she knows exactly how to take care of him. Although he’s still confined to a bed from his injuries. Very quickly he begins to realize that she is not all there in the head. Like many great scary performances, what makes this work is that it’s not all just the dark aspects. That would get old fast. It’s seeing that she’s quite good at hiding her craziness… at first. Also, seeing how nice and perky she is especially after she’s just done something terrible.
When Paul first wakes up in the bed and audience first meets Annie, she’s actually fairly charming. Yes we can tell even in these scenes that there’s something sort of sad about her. However, the film takes a major turn after she has finished reading Paul’s latest novel. She learns that he’s killed off the main (and her favorite) character thus ending the series. This happens in the middle of the night, implying that she obsessively read the whole thing til the end. Paul awakens and she’s there standing at the foot of the bed. Now at this point we got a few “previews” of how crazy she can be when she and Paul have a minor argument. In this scene we get the full force of her rage at him for this book. I can remember when I first saw this in high school and after each of these moments I was practically frozen in my bed.
While some may see these moments as a bit over-the-top, they really highlight some of the quieter scenes. For instance, later when she forces him to burn his new manuscript and he does his best to talk her out of it. The way she so casually slashes the gasoline on him while giving her retort. It just works wonders because we’ve seen what this woman does when she’s angry. Believing that she’ll set him on fire is completely possible. Knowing that every happy smile could instantly turn into an excuse to do something like hobbling him just makes you examine every conversation they have. Speaking of the hobbling scene, it’s incredibly well done. Annie not quite being her super nice self and also not quite her screaming monster self either. Yes she’s doing something horrible, but the way she talks to him during the scene and explaining the history in such a calm matter of fact way. The two approaches just work together so naturally. At one point we learn some of her past and it turns out she’s a baby killer. The reason she’s an ex-nurse is because she was killing babies in the hospital. Like Paul when he finds the scrapbook, we’re just left to imagine what her motivations (or lack thereof) for doing such a heinous crime were. The fact she actually doesn’t seem like the kind of person to cross that line makes it so much more insidious. Kathy Bates deserved her Oscar for this role just like the film itself earned all of the praise it continues to get to this day.