When you think of horror movies, it’s hard to ignore the work of Wes Craven. The acclaimed writer, director and producer revolutionized the genre with a career spanning four decades of thrills, kills, violence and terror. And while , we’re always down to watch .
Today would have been the horror mastermind’s 77th birthday, and we’re honoring the occasion with a look back at Wes Craven’s greatest villains. Our list runs the gamut from psychopaths and cannibals to cold-blooded killers, with even a couple supernatural terrors added to the mix — proving once and for all that the filmmaker was never short on creativity.
1. Pluto — The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
The Hills Have Eyes had enough strange cannibals to go around, but Craven’s most fondly remembered creation from the film is Pluto. Brought to life with maniacal glee by Michael Berryman, Pluto took pleasure in hunting the film’s protagonists through the Nevada desert, bringing us some of Craven’s most creative kills along the way.
The director’s villains typically have plenty of personality, and Pluto is no exception to the rule. But the cannibal stands out thanks to Berryman’s imposing physicality. The actor has a rare condition leaving him without sweat glands, fingernails, hair or teeth, a look perfect for Pluto as well as the various B-movie villains the actor has played throughout his career.
2. Maximillian — Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)
Did you guys know that Wes Craven and made a movie together? Fans are quick to forget Vampire in Brooklyn, the pair’s 1995 which cast Murphy as Maximillian, a Caribbean vampire traveling to New York City to stalk his latest prey. And it’s even easier to forget that, despite the laugh’s you’d expect from Murphy, Maximillian is actually an evil blood-thirsty killer.
Craven’s horror touches balance out the typical comedy you’d expect from an Eddie Murphy movie. Sure, Maximillian is suave and charming, but he’s also a nightmarish monster who commits numerous acts of murder in the movie.
3. Krug Stillo — The Last House On The Left (1972)
Wes Craven made his directorial debut in 1972 with The Last House On The Left, along the way bringing us one his of most lethal villains in the form of Krug Stillo.
Having recently escaped from prison, Krug leads a group of sadistic criminals as they torture, rape and eventually murder two innocent girls. And what makes him truly terrifying is the fact that he’s not just some movie monster. He’s a real man that reflects all the worst qualities of real-life criminals.
4. Jack Rippner — Red Eye (2005)
Craven’s known first and foremost for his horror films, but in 2005 decided to dip into the world of thrillers with Red Eye. The film follows a hotel manager, played by , forced to participate in a terrorist scheme by as Jack Rippner. Oh, and the whole thing takes place on a red-eye flight from Dallas to Miami.
The director’s horror skills make him an easy fit for the taught twists and turns in Red Eye, all orchestrated by Rippner. The terrorist brings a cerebral element to the film that sets this apart from most of the director’s work. Rippner isn’t a typical horror villain, but he has plenty in common with Craven’s other creations. Like the best horror characters, Rippner’s smart, capable and knows exactly how to achieve his dark goals.
5. Horace Pinker — Shocker (1989)
Electricity can be pretty deadly, especially when it has a mind of its own. Shocker brought fans one of Craven’s more imaginative concepts, and follows the tale of serial killer Horace Pinker, who’s sentenced to death by electric chair only to come back in the form of pure electricity.
At the start of the film, Pinker seems like just another slasher villain out to kill. But Craven breaks the formula with his fantastical twist, turning the killer into an electric monstrosity to allow him to murder in more creative ways. In the end, Pinker is one of the creator’s most powerful and deadly characters.
6. Ghostface — Scream (1996)
By the ’90s, Wes Craven was already venerated as a horror pioneer. But thankfully he wasn’t done yet, with and leading a new revolution in horror filmmaking.
Scream impressed fans with its self-referential examination of the horror genre, and Ghostface is the perfect embodiment of that style. The killer is so good because he’s studied the greatest horror movies, and knows how to craft his own clever kills after seeing legends like , and Craven’s own Freddy Krueger do it on the big screen. Ghostface succeeds as a commentary on typical slasher villains as well and is a memorable character in his own right, which is exactly what we’d expect from a master like Craven.
7. Freddy Krueger — A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)
Of course, we couldn’t complete this list without . After all, he’s easily Craven’s most iconic villain, and one of the .
Freddy’s so great because almost everything about him is unique. He has a distinct look thanks to his striped sweater and fedora, rocks a one-of-a-kind weapon , and on top of it all can hop into your dreams to kill you in your sleep. The dream mechanic served Craven and his team best, allowing them to craft horrific kill scenes that defied all real-world logic, in turn making Freddy even more original. Sadly we won’t get another Freddy Krueger film from Craven himself, but the thought of the boogeyman’s return still haunts our dreams.
Who do you think is Wes Craven’s greatest villain? Let us know in the comments below.
President of the Salacious Crumb Fan Club. Staff Writer at Movie Pilot. Twitter: @Matt_Kranis