There's always a villain in a horror film. They supply story conflict, forcing our protagonists to face their own death and rise victorious. Sometimes, villains are cloaked in everyday life as your next-door neighbor, a 9-year-old child, or the family pet. Other times, villains assume the shape of supernatural entities, malevolent forces, or otherworldly beings transported from a different dimension. For every masked serial killer, a vampire ventures out for blood and a ghost causes mayhem in someone's attic.
In 2022, several villains stole the show in otherwise lackluster films and still others stood head and shoulders above their competition. But who are the most powerful villains of the bunch? Below, /Film sifts through the wealth of last year's film releases to rank the eight most powerful baddies, those beings that can rip heads from their victims' bodies and crush bones into dust. It's not necessarily that fans root for antagonists, but it sure helps the viewing experience to have villains that are captivating onscreen and stay with you long after you've left the movie theater. Horror is a villain goldmine when it comes to villains, so we certainly had our work cut out for us.
8. Michael Myers (Halloween Ends)
We've come to expect Michael Myers (most recently portrayed by James Jude Courtney) to have brute strength. Across the "Halloween" franchise, the popular Boogeyman has been the stuff of nightmares. Rob Zombie's films excluded, Michael's body count is at least 160 and surpasses the likes of Jason Voorhees. While the 1978 original film sees the masked killer only slaughtering a handful of people, he went on to wreak havoc on Haddonfield for years, starting in the 1981 follow-up and through eight additional rampages.
As strong as he is, Michael does have his physical limitations. According to the most recent timeline, David Gordon Green's reboot trilogy, Michael is just a man with supernatural qualities. So, he's not likely to hold his own against other titans on this list, not even chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. In "Halloween Ends," the slasher icon took a backseat to Corey Cunningham (Rohan Campbell), a babysitter-turned-accused-killer and social pariah. Instead of his usual slicing and dicing, Michael spent the majority of the final installment hiding out below the town streets in a sewer tunnel and slowly building up his strength with each kill. In all, he only killed three people 一 nurse Deb (Michele Dawson), a cop named Doug Mulaney (Jesse C. Boyd), and eventually Corey. When Michael does show up in the finale to fight Laurie, he demonstrates the strength he's known for and nearly kills his archnemesis. Unfortunately, that doesn't warrant a higher ranking. Sorry, Mikey.
7. The Mother (Barbarian)
You could argue The Mother (Matthew Patrick Davis) in "Barbarian" is a victim, a result of years of rape and torture at the hands of serial rapist Frank (Richard Brake). An outcast, she uses the tunnels beneath a newly-renovated home, now an Airbnb rental, as her safe space. She possesses an almost childlike bewilderment but also a dark, tortured spirit, and expresses her pain and anger in the form of grisly violence.
Arriving in Detroit for a job interview, Tess (Georgina Campbell) books the house on the outskirts of the city and soon discovers the rental has been double booked. She's wary of Keith (Bill Skarsgård), who has already settled in, but concedes that it's best to stick around and try to contact the host. Eventually, Tess decides to spend the night and figure things out in the morning. Through a series of unfortunate events, Keith winds up a victim of The Mother, yanked off his feet into the depths below.
The Mother can claim great strength and the advantage of the unexpected, with the tunnels supplying plenty of nooks and crannies in which to hide. The element of surprise actually rates as her biggest asset. But traces of humanity would be her own undergoing, her Achilles' heel, as she takes mercy on Tess and actually pleads for Tess to kill her in the end. Either way, she's an undeniable force and represents what happens when humanity sours and collapses under its own weight.
If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
6. Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre)
There's a moment in the newest "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" during which Leatherface slaughters a bus full of partygoers. It's brightly lit with neon, music is bumpin', and the purr of screams cut the night air. "Try anything and you are canceled, bro," someone promises, filming the entire encounter on their phone. Leatherface proceeds to tear through the bus, as many aboard claw at the windows. It's the type of scene that burrows into the back of your head; you won't ever forget it.
Leatherface has always been known as an unstoppable killing machine. Down in rural Texas, he's racked up dozens of bodies over the years and doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. The 2022 reboot sequel (or "requel") did away with the franchise's lore and went back to basics. With the film's serious tone, Leatherface displays a little more bite than he has for a very long time. When a group of gentrifying millennials come to town, Leatherface isn't too keen on their presence. Simply put: they've walked right into the belly of the beast. Leatherface is awakened, and his killing spree is as gruesome a sight as ever.
Leatherface's mindless, primal strength has always given him the upper hand. He may not be able to compete with the supernatural beasts found elsewhere on this list, but he is the one to beat when it comes strictly to hand-to-hand combat 一 Predator excluded.
5. The Smile Entity (Smile)
The Smile Entity preys on mental illness. In "Smile," the creature jumps from person to person, drawing them into a vicious cycle of death. If you see someone smiling and witness their suicide, the entity latches onto you until it's your time to die. When Dr. Rose Cotter (Sosie Bacon) meets with troubled youth Laura (Caitlin Stasey), the latter warns of the devilish being before slicing her face with a shard of glass. Thus, the cycle begins over again.
The entity follows Rose and takes on the personas of strangers or someone she knows. That's the most terrifying part. She just doesn't know who she can trust. Even her therapist's visage becomes one of the Entity's skins. With such power, it's hard to imagine Leatherface or Michael Myers being able to do much damage.
In the end, Rose decides to confront her mother's death and forgive herself by driving out to her abandoned childhood home. The Entity takes on the form of Rose's mother and tricks Rose into believing that she's escaped the house. Rose douses The Entity in gasoline and lights it on fire. She then drives to Joel's (Kyle Gallner) apartment, but when he starts smiling, she realizes she never left the house. The Entity has sunk its proverbial fangs into her neck, and there's no escape. The Entity is a powerhouse of evil and the kind of terror you just hope and pray you never come across.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
4. Ethan (Run Sweetheart Run)
In "Run Sweetheart Run," director Shana Feste zigs when you expect the story to zag. Pilou Asbæk, as the angel-turned-demon Ethan, lays the charm on thick with an unexpected performance. Cherie (Ella Balinska), a young law student, wants desperately to prove herself to her boss. She's given the opportunity to meet a client named Ethan over a lavish dinner, and the pressure is on. Ethan is good-looking, the conversation flows naturally, and nothing appears to be amiss until later on, when he asks Cherie to come into his home for a nightcap. Cherie reluctantly accepts the invitation, knowing exactly what is at stake. Then, the switch happens. Ethan's true nature comes to light in one of the film's most upsetting moments, as he breaks the fourth wall and stops the audience from entering his house. Cherie's screams fill the night air and then, disheveled and bloody, she dashes into the street.
Asbæk goes totally unhinged. Ethan boasts an insatiable thirst for blood and can sniff out a scent from miles away. Adding insult to injury, he's able to take on the form of anyone he wishes. He's certainly a formidable foe, a representation of the patriarchy, a slimy, venomous snake hellbent on destruction and keeping men in power. Instead of fulfilling his original duty (keeping the peace on Earth), he lets the worst of human nature ooze out, resulting in chaos and more bloodshed. The scary thing is: he could be literally anyone.
3. Predator (Prey)
Set 300 years in the past, "Prey" details the beginnings of the alien creature known as the Predator. Naru (Amber Midthunder), of the Comanche tribe, aspires to be a hunter, but the rest of the tribe won't take her seriously. So, she trains solo in the woods with her dog Sarii at her heels. Seeing an object crash into the Earth's atmosphere leads Naru to believe it's a sign for her to hunt for something … something that's hunting her. One morning, instead of heading out with the other women, she slips away into the surrounding wilderness to track down the unknown creature.
Maybe it's a poor decision, but Naru proves to be a worthy adversary against a near-unstoppable supervillain with preternatural strength, agility, and invisibility. Further, the Predator's thermal vision gives it a clear advantage, enabling it to sneak, track, and pounce without raising any red flags. That makes it easily one of the most dangerous, even volatile, villains on this list. Despite Naru ultimately taking down the space beast through ingenious plotting, the Predator remains a horror titan for a reason.
2. Pinhead (Hellraiser)
Cenobites dabble in the darkest pains and pleasures of human existence. Led by The Priest, otherwise known as Pinhead (Jamie Clayton), the extra-dimensional demonic beings entice with a mysterious puzzle box (the Lament Configuration) and promise the most sensational experiences. What many don't anticipate is the pain that comes with those experiences, typically in the form of metal hooks, chains, and other devices.
When Riley's (Odessa A'zion) brother Matt (Brandon Flynn) goes missing, Riley discovers the Lament Configuration in a storage unit and believes it could be tied to Matt's disappearance. Her search leads her to an abandoned mansion, owned by a millionaire named Roland Voight (Goran Višnjić), and it is there that Riley comes face to face with real evil. Pinhead offers to resurrect her brother if she's willing to mark three sacrifices. Riley refuses but ultimately ends up satisfying that number when it becomes clear there are those around her who can't be trusted.
Pinhead not only tempts with pleasure but preys upon grief and vulnerability. An addict, Riley is a sufficient target as she struggles with her own personal demons. She's never seen a demon quite like this before, however. Pinhead revels in tantalizing sensory experiences, something that connects people from all walks of life. The real fear comes with the notion that everyone has their vices and could very well become Pinhead's next victim.
1. Occulonimbus Edoequus (Nope)
Going up against an alien creature is a futile effort. Aliens beat the house every single time. In Jordan Peele's "Nope," an alien, known as a Occulonimbus edoequus, comes to Earth and first takes the form of a fluffy cloud. Settling in a field not far from the Haywood Ranch, the alien reveals itself as a shiny silver disc; you know, the typical UFO formation. Siblings OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Em Haywood (Keke Palmer) recently suffered the loss of their father, Otis (Keith David), who died when coin-like discs fell from the sky, and they immediately suspect that what they've seen is a real-life UFO. They race to Fry's Electronics to buy cameras, figuring they can capture images of the supposed creature.
Occulonimbus edoequus not only dodges the camera but can siphon power from electronic devices. Any and all plans go straight out of the window. During a particularly grisly sequence, the alien sucks up the entire crowd at the Jupiter's Claim theme park, as well as ringleader Jupe (Steven Yeun), and devours them, crushing their bones and draining their blood. Later, the alien makes its way back to the Haywood farmhouse and spews the blood back down to Earth. When the alien reveals itself, the UFO form morphs into a living, breathing entity with flowing, fabric-like expanses of flesh. It's almost butterfly-like in the way it moves and flutters in the air. If you think even Pinhead could survive this, you'd be dead wrong … literally.
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