You know who they are – Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, and Chucky. Even casual horror fans could name these slasher movie villains. And while they may not be able to immediately rhyme off their names, odds are casual fans would at least recognize Jigsaw, Ghostface, or Pinhead. But what about the unsung slasher villains? Since Black Christmas set the template for the slasher movie, the horror subgenre has produced a lot of movies. Some got sequels, others were one-off’s, but they all had a killer stalking and slashing teens on screen. True, for every Michael Myers, slasher movies gave us an unremarkable (Sorority Row) or simply ridiculous killer (The Gingerdead Man). Yet somewhere in between are the slasher villains who stood out even if it wasn’t enough to elevate their respective movies to Friday the 13th status. Below are 10 unsung slasher villains who don’t always get the respect they deserve.
Angela Baker – The Sleepaway Camp Franchise
If not for its shocking ending, Sleepaway Camp likely wouldn’t have left much of an impact on horror fans. By and large, it’s a rather generic, though occasionally exploitative and nasty, slasher movie. But that ending guaranteed at least one sequel for camper-turned-killer, Angela Baker. What many horror fans may not realize is that four sequels followed Sleepaway Camp. But which Angela Baker is our unsung slasher villain? Three different actresses – Felissa Rose, Pamela Springsteen, and Carrie Chambers – have played the role. Felisa Rose’s ‘Angela’ starred in more straightforward slashers, whereas Springsteen’s Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland boasted more black humor. For our money, it’s Springsteen’s ‘uber-optimistic’ ‘Angela’ who’s the most fun to watch. Armed with cheesy one-liners and callbacks to other slasher villains, Springsteen’s ‘Angela’ just wanted the campers to have fun.’
Jerry Blake – The Stepfather Series
What’s wrong with wanting your kids to sit down together for dinner, respect their elders, and embrace old-fashioned family values? Nothing – at least if you’re The Stepfather’s Jerry Blake. As compared to other movies on this list – and generally most slasher movies – The Stepfather benefited from casting a strong actor in Terry O’Quinn as its antagonist. Though there’s two sequels and a remake, O’Quinn only turned up for the first two movies. None of the movies boast the creative kills associated with the subgenre. And Jerry Blake lacks the flash of his masked psycho-killer counterparts. But O’Quinn’s portrayal of a man obsessed with having the ‘perfect family’ sets the character apart. And O’Quinn breaking down as he says, ‘Who am I here?’ is classic.
ChromeSkull – Laid To Rest and Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2
Arguably, Laid to Rest and its sequel are among the most brutally violent slasher movies in recent memory. As far as contemporary slasher villains go, ChromeSkull, or Jesse Cromeans, is something of an enigma. A distinct chrome mask, a distinct knife, and a distinct modus operandi, ChromeSkull makes up for personality with pure savagery. And the sequel teases out some elaborate ‘murder corporation’ under ChromeSkull’s guidance. Certainly, there’s got to be some horror fans interested in seeing where director Robert Green Hall was going with his character and budding franchise. Too bad that rumored third movie never materialized.
Art the Clown – Terrifier
Art the Clown makes the list for two reason. First, clowns are just generally creepy – at least according to a segment of the population. Second, Terrifier tops the Laid to Rest movies in terms of brutal violence. And pardon Pennywise the Clown, but Art the Clown is the most terrifying ‘killer clown’ in horror. David Howard Thornton’s performance as Art the Clown is simple and straightforward. With no dialogue, Thornton relies on body movements and facial expressions to get under the audience’s skin. And get under your skin he does. Even when he is just staring motionlessly into camera, Art the Clown delivers a maximum creepy quotient.
Cropsey – The Burning
No mask here, though he probably should have re-considered, The Burning’s Cropsey easily earns a spot on this list. Very loosely based on the New York urban legend, The Burning’s version of Cropsey is a former summer camp caretaker seeking vengeance after a prank leaves him horribly burned. Like the movie itself, Cropsey never achieved the level of fame as a certain other slasher camp killer. But The Burning has earned a loyal following in no small part due to Tom Savini’s makeup effects. Not surprisingly, Cropsey looks gruesome and he puts those garden shears to good use in the movie’s infamous raft scene.
The Driller Killer – The Slumber Party Massacre Series
In total, there are three Slumber Party Massacre movies. Each movie has a different incarnation features a very different ‘Driller Killer” with little concern for continuity. Only one ‘Driller Killer’ matters, however, and it’s Slumber Party Massacre II’s Atanas Ilitch. As the movie’s supernatural rockabilly ‘Driller Killer’, Ilitch is pure B-movie gold. He’s up there with Leprechaun. Clearly influenced by Freddy Krueger, ‘The Driller Killer’ is a wise-cracking killer played by Ilitch with a manic energy. It’s a ‘lightning in a bottle’ performance that Ilitch was sadly never given a chance to repeat. Does the movie – or its killer – make sense. Not in the least. But The Driller Killer may be one of the most underrated killers in slasher movie history.
The Mountain Man – The Cold Prey Series
Cold Prey is a straightforward, conventional Norwegian slasher movie. Aside from its snowy setting, it’s pretty much is content to trade on the familiar. Everyone knows that a good slasher film needs a memorable villain. Nonetheless, it’s workmanlike retread of slasher tropes made for a good enough movie to spawn both a sequel and prequel. In part, Cold Prey’s ‘Mountain Man’ may have something to do with the movie’s small following. An ambiguous, yet tragic, backstory, a creepy and imposing look, and some physicality behind the role make ‘The Mountain Man’ an unsung slasher villain.
Leslie Vernon – Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
Okay, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon wasn’t all that original upon its release. There’s bits of Man Bites Dog mixed in with meta-horror sensibilities. Nevertheless, it’s all in the exaction. And its story of a documentary crew following serial killer-in-training Leslie Vernon effectively blends dark humor with horror. Much of Behind the Mask works in large part due to Leslie Vernon himself. Nathan Baesel isn’t a recognizable name, but as “Leslie Vernon”, he’s believable as the “up-and-coming” slasher villain. Baesel brings boyish enthusiasm to the role that’s funny in and of itself given the obvious contrast to what his character aspires. And Leslie Vernon boasts a rather unique mask and look that stands out.
Harry Warden/The Miner – My Bloody Valentine
Spoiler alert – Harry Warden isn’t ‘The Miner’ in My Bloody Valentine or its remake. If you haven’t seen original 80s Canadian slasher, it’s a hidden gem of a horror movie. Atmospheric, gory, and occasionally scary, My Bloody Valentine has earned its cult following. While the remake is a bit of a different beat, it’s one of the better re-imaginings that surfaced in the 2000s. Both movies have ‘The Miner”, which is a look that was meant for horror movies. And the pickaxe makes for a pretty effective slasher villain weapon.
The Collector – The Collector and The Collection
If The Collector felt like a Saw movie – with a bit of Laid to Rest thrown in – there’s a good reason for it. Originally, the story about a masked killer who breaks into homes, kills people with elaborate traps, and keeps or ‘collects’ one live victim for his next home invasion was supposed to be a Saw movie. But it ended up as its own thing spawning an arguably better sequel and a potential future third entry. As for the titular ‘Collector’, the silent S&M-masked killer boasts enough of a demented aura to overcome his movie’s ‘Torture Porn’ familiarity. And like the horror movie killers, the movies only offer the slightest clues as to his identity.
4 thoughts on “Unsung Slasher Villains: Ten Underrated Killers From Slasher Movies”
Nice idea for a post! Great list and gives me some ideas of new films to watch! I love the picture at the top too, really eye catching.
I absolutely hate the Collector movies.