10 Deeply Depressing Origin Stories Of Horror Villains

And you thought you had a tough childhood?

Michael Myers
Paramount Pictures

What makes a good horror movie villain? Sure, cool kills, a neat gimmick and a really big knife are all important, but that's not what makes your Jason Voorheeses and your Freddy Kruegers truly compelling, iconic monsters. Well, not completely... the glove and the hockey mask are cool.

No, what often separates the best horror villains from the worst are those glimpses of humanity; that 'one bad day' which turned them from Regular Joe to unstoppable killing machine. The best horror villains are those who we can sympathise with, to an extent; a tragic figure like the Phantom of the Opera, or Frankenstein's monster, who we can root for even once the blood starts flowing.

That's not the case every time though, and sometimes less is indeed more, but what links each of the figures on this list is that 'one bad day' (or several years, for some) which inexorably changed the face of cinema forever. Even if you don't sympathise with them, you'll understand. Even if the film itself is bad, you'll feel for what they endured. Here, then, are ten of the most depressing.

Don't expect to see Freddy Krueger pop up anytime soon though. That guy's a child murderer.

10. Hannibal Lecter

Michael Myers
Orion Pictures

What makes a man like Doctor Lecter? For years, Hannibal the cannibal was a mystery, with little known other than what we learned during his appearances in Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. We knew the what, but not the why. Once Thomas Harris' trilogy came to an end - and with it, the movies too - audiences were left clamoring for more. And so, Hannibal Rising.

Published in 2006, the book and its subsequent adaptation tell the story of Hannibal, and how he became the man-muncher we know and love today. What makes a man like Doctor Lecter?

Intense childhood trauma will do it; namely a young Hannibal and his baby sister, trapped during World War II with a squad of ruthless deserters. With food running scarce, the soldiers turn on the children for nourishment, starting with Lecter's baby sister. They're not a selfish bunch though, sharing a few morsels of baby Mischa with her traumatised brother...

Some may argue that knowing this spoils some of Doctor Lecter's mystique, making him as base and banal as the rest. And, while young Hannibal's bloody vengeance upon the soldiers almost redeems the story, it's a definite case of less being more.

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A film critic and professional writer of over ten years, Joel Harley has a deep and abiding love of all things horror, Batman and Nicolas Cage. He can be found writing online and in print, all over the Internet and in especially good bookstores.