Whether a killer following a pattern like The Grabber in The Black Phone or an evil curse in Smile, several 2022 horror films have featured unique villains. The most thrilling villains feel familiar enough to be scary, as they follow classic tropes like creepy clowns, but they don’t feel like they’re copying another else.
From villains who captivate in well-crafted slashers to an early example of a clown who evokes fear everywhere that they go, there are many horror movie villains who have influenced many other eerie characters.
While clowns have become a staple of horror movies, from the cult movie Killer Klowns from Outer Space to Art the Clown in Terrifier, there’s an early clown character from a 1924 movie who deserves credit for starting this frenzy. Lon Chaney played a scientist who suffers personal trauma and becomes a clown who asks various clowns to slap him at a Paris circus.
Paul Beaumont begins calling himself “HE who gets slapped” and is horrifying as, like Terrifier, he seems to find great pleasure in pain. While Stephen King’s clown has become a classic, and the IT prequel series about Pennywise will likely be chilling, it’s fun to go back to an early example of how clowns freak people out. Paul knows that people are haunted by clowns as there’s something terrible about the sad expressions on their faces.
When A Stranger Calls is an early example of a slasher movie featuring phone calls as babysitter Jill Johnson (Carol Kane) answers the phone to hear Curt Duncan (Tony Beckley) on the other end of the line, threatening to kill the children. While Duncan might not be as famous as other slasher villains like Ghostface, he creates an atmosphere of fear by using the phone, and that has influenced many other films from this genre.
Besides being a great horror movie about babysitting, When A Stranger Calls also introduces a killer who is a seemingly regular, ordinary person. Duncan isn’t supernatural or powered by an ancient curse. The fact that he’s evil but looks like everyone else is chilling.
Iconic slasher villains have backstories, motives, and strong appearances. Jason Voorhees first appeared in the first Friday the 13th film in 1980, and while his mom Pamela (Betsey Palmer) is the killer in the first movie, Jason carries on this dark legacy in the rest of the franchise.
Horror fans are deeply familiar with Jason Voorhees’s hockey mask, and this costume makes him one of the earliest slasher villains who are easy to recognize because of the way that they look. Slasher villains like Freddy Krueger and Ghostface who are motivated by wanting to get revenge on people who wronged them and who wear an obvious costume owe a debt to Jason Voorhees. It’s hard to argue with how famous his mask has become.
Trick ‘r Treat will always be a horror movie gem to watch at Halloween and also introduces a fully original villain. Sam ensures that the Trick ‘r Treat characters follow Halloween rules and it’s unclear for much of the film that Sam is actually evil as he seems like another child looking for candy and chocolate.
There is no other villain like Sam, as he makes the October 31st holiday feel dark and menacing instead of fun and exciting. He believes in his cause and is upset that people would dare to celebrate the holiday the way that they want to instead of following his strict and narrow view. Sam follows horror movie rules himself as he has a certain look (wearing a burlap sack over his head) and has a reason for killing. He’s perfect for the movie and is always fun to see.
Pearl (Mia Goth) is one of the best horror villains of the 2020s and one of the most unique villains, period. It’s Pearl’s motivation for killing that ensures her a firm, impressive place in the slasher genre. If Pearl wanted to kill people who come onto her property for no real reason at all, that wouldn’t be memorable. Instead, Pearl is haunted by the dreams that she had during her youth and she takes out her pain, resentment and regrets out on younger people.
The perfect prequel Pearl shares more of this character, and it’s amazing to think that Ti West’s two movies X and Pearl only were released this year, as this villain has become so unforgettable. Having Pearl carry around the pain of the past makes her a truly original antagonist. She isn’t getting revenge on specific people who wronged her but, instead, sees the whole world as an obstacle.