From Boris Karloff’s Monster to Bela Lugosi’s Dracula and Robert Englund’s Freddy to Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Lecter, the genres finest portrayals of villains have always been and shall forever remain lauded. With that in mind, I felt it was time to shed some light on a handful of the most underappreciated, yet memorable evil-doers that haven’t always gotten the recognition that they so clearly deserve.
Robert De Niro as Frankenstein’s Monster (Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 1994)
Seems a bit odd to have one of the greatest American actors in cinematic history on this list, but De Niro’s performance in Francis Ford Coppola’s epic was one for the ages. De Niro ran the gamut of emotions that Frankenstein’s Monster was intended to evoke — disgust, sympathy, anger and fear — but it was not the inhuman strength displayed ripping the heart from the chest of Dr. Frankenstein’s beloved or even the struggle to find acceptance as with Karloff’s Monster, but rather the dialogue that left viewers frozen in wide-eyed horror.
“Not things learned so much as things…remembered.”
When asking Kenneth Branagh’s doctor for “a companion. A female,” De Niro indicated that “I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine, and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one,” then head quivering with delicious enjoyment, “I will indulge the other.” Later, when Frankenstein looked to abandon the very task he had promised, De Niro assured “If you deny me my wedding night. I will be with you on yours.”
De Niro’s Monster left no doubt that he kept his promises.
Everett McGill as Reverend Lester Lowe (Silver Bullet, 1985)
Though Silver Bullet’s jaw-dropping performance belongs to Kent Broadhurst, if you’re a regular reader of iHorror, you are fully aware of my affinity for not only this Stephen King adaptation, but for McGill’s portrayal of Reverend Lowe. How far a man would go to protect himself, even when he begged of the horror, “Let it end, dear God. Let it end.”
From the reveal to a car chase that ended with McGill rocking an eye-patch and menacing five o’clock shadow, we learned that little Marty was going to have a terrible accident.
“Well Jane…little brothers sometimes do that.”
Eat your heart out, Negan.
Dan O’Herlihy as Conal Cochran (Halloween III: Season of the Witch, 1983)
Understated performances can feel the most unsettling, and that was indisputable in the case of O’Herlihy as Cochran. True, some knocked (and still knock) the third installment of Halloween for a villain not named Michael Myers, but the calm, composed exterior of Cochran was never rattled, even when things were falling apart around him.
Rather than panic as his Stonehenge plot unraveled, O’Herlihy simply offered something of a mocked golf clap. And his little spiel directed at a fettered Dr. Challis (Tom Atkins) told the tale of the festival of Samhain, when “the hills ran red with the blood of animals and children.” His gleeful “trick on the children” was cemented with every ounce of seething disdain that crept from his mouth at little ones “begging for candy.”
Evil intent with a dash of impunity. The very definition of horror.
Tom Noonan as Francis Dollarhyde (Manhunter, 1986)
It has to be said, I have always had an odd fascination, dare I say obsession with the Thomas Harris character who always takes a backseat to Hannibal the Cannibal.
While Red Dragon allowed greater opportunity for Ralph Fiennes to explore not only what created but continued to affect the Tooth Fairy, Noonan was precisely what I saw in my mind’s eye when reading Harris’ novel of the same name. The power, a life lived in imagination and dreams, and the God-like manner and horror of his Becoming.
The scene which encapsulated the essence of Dollarhyde (and left viewers ghastly white) came with Freddy Lounds (Stephen Lang) glued to an antique wheel chair and threatened with having his eyelids stapled to his forehead. With intense anger pulsating through every pore, Noonan’s delivery of “You owe me AWE” was enough to cause collective incontinence in the healthiest of audiences.
Just a few of my favorites. Tell us about yours.