Last week when I compiled a list of horror icons from the last fifteen years or so, the disappointment in the quality of modern horror was pretty evident. [ Top 5 Modern Horror Icons ] I also am well aware that the current crop of decent slashers is severely lacking and is far inferior to what we had more than two decades ago. So I set my sights on those titans of retro horror movies, hoping to restore the faith in horror fans, making them realize that as long as we still have those to fall back on, the pain of today’s current slashers can be eased a little.
My reservation about making the list was that it would be redundant, because everyone has mostly grown up with these characters or has heard of them in some way shape or form. So when I set out to make this list knew that there was going to be no way of including every single person’s favorite in the top five list. The only thing to do was look back and make sure to hit on the ones that were most effective to me and hope for the best, but realizing that most would people’s choices would be pretty universal. One last thing I wanted to do to make the list a little more unique while still touching on the obvious choices was to try and include a couple of my more memorable characters from some of the more recognized horror films that were not necessarily slashers and giving the ones that may have been left out their due in the honorable mentions; so if you don’t see your favorite between five and one, have no fear they could still be recognized in the footnotes!
5. Ash (Evil Dead): I love the EVIL DEAD films and the one thing I always loved about Bruce Campbell’s character, Ash, was that he didn’t always start as the wisecracking bad ass that he became in the later films. You got a chance to watch him grow a little between being a terrified victim to confident hero and the journey was pretty awesome. Ash is the originator of some of my favorite one liners from ARMY OF DARKNESS, and because of his performance from those films I more than feel that justifies him being recognized as an icon in horror.
4. Regan (The Exorcist): One of my favorite horror movies of all time is, THE EXORCIST. I don’t feel like I really need to explain why Regan should be on the list but that would make for a pretty short paragraph if I didn’t. To this day nearly every horror fan can look back and tell you everything they loved about the exorcist, and they all lead back to moments of Regan being possessed by the devil. The character is infinitely memorable and frightening, from the infamous crucifix, the 360 head spin and the vomit scene, it’s all something that will be remembered forever in horror movie history.
3. Jason Voorhees / Pamela Voorhees (Friday the 13th): The FRIDAY THE 13TH films will always be one of the staples in the slasher genres, along with others on the list. Current horror movies borrow elements from them a remake has already come and gone. Sure the higher the sequel numbers became the cheesier and more predictable they got, but no matter how bad the movies became one thing was usually pretty clear, there was always a pretty awesome kill to feast your eyes on. Jason’s strength and intimidating stature always made him a formidable opponent for the teens he was slicing and dicing. Jason’s mother Pamela started the whole thing off with a bang, so it would have been a crime to not include her in the mention.
2. Michael Myers (Halloween): Always a staple in the horror movie marathon around Halloween, and another classic that has spawned a remake and a sequel to go along with the remake. While the back story provided in the Rob Zombie version is an interesting way to go about showing the killer in training, the mythos of Michael Myers was always more terrifying when you had no idea what was driving the madman. His tall and lurking presence was menacing and creepy, as well as his slow plodding pace. I always really dug the simplistic look of his costume, the stark white mask with the brown hair and the black jumpsuit; the look was simple but also easily identifiable to this day.
1. Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street): If you look past the wise cracking cheesy jokester that Freddy became later on during the sequels you will find the dark and disturbing vengeful demon that stalked Nancy and her friends in the original NIGHTMARE. He had a very sinister disgusting look as a man burned from head to toe, looking to terrorize and brutally murder the children of the parents that killed him. Robert Englund will always be immortalized as the true Freddy, even though a remake saw Jackie Earle Haley strapping on the knifed glove in the remake. The idea behind A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET always gave me nightmares as a kid and the character of Freddy is easily one of the more recognizable and universally known slashers from the 80’s along with the other two mentioned above.
Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre): It’s been a very long time since I revisited the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but one thing was always certain that Leatherface was undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with. Leatherface shares many of the same characteristics that the top slashers possess, but he definitely goes about his business in a much more chaotic fashion, which makes me kind of regret not giving him a space in the top five. My only justification is that while I really do love the character, my initial impression was not as favorable as it later became, and I really wanted to make room for a couple other characters that I loved right off the bat.
Pinhead (Hellraiser): The farther I delve into this list of honorable mentions the more I wish I would have just done a top ten instead of five. Pinhead was a killer I so desperately wanted to put high on the list of the top five, because his look with all those nails/pins sticking out of his head really disturbed me when I first laid eyes on him as a young kid. The film he is prominent in is just as disturbing as he is, and gave me nightmares for years. The downside falls in the same area as the rest, where the sequels just started to destroy that initial impression, and while his look will always be etched in my memory, the creep factor has increasingly diminished over the years.
The Tall Man (Phantasm): The odd thing about The Tall Man in this list is that I knew that I wanted to include him in some way because of how creepy and menacing he was in the PHANTASM films, but I somehow knew that he wasn’t going to end up in a top five. While when I was younger the PHANTASM films really captured my imagination and creeped me out, the lasting effect just wasn’t there. It didn’t quite strike me at a deep level like many of the other killers in the list. He is still however a key figure in the field of horror icons.
Chucky (Child’s Play): For me even though I ultimately didn’t put him in the top list, the topic just wouldn’t be complete. I watched the original CHILD’S PLAY at a VERY young age, and from then on I could barely look at my toys the same way let alone be in the same house as many of the dolls my sister had laying around the house. I remember a gas station right near my house that was giving away one of the Good Guy dolls and I was terrified to go in there until they got rid of the thing. Chucky has since gone the same route as the rest of our beloved killers, getting sequel after sequel and even SOMEHOW spawning a plastic child in SEED OF CHUCKY. One thing will never change though, Chucky has always been a dominant figure from my childhood and the Good Guy doll so desperately trying to transfer his soul into the body of young Andy deserves his recognition.