After the success of Barbarian at the box office in its opening weekend, it looks set to become one of the biggest horror movies of the year. That is indeed a promising start for it as it is released in a year full of acclaimed horror titles like The Black Phone, Prey, and Nope.
But in a genre filled with many murderous villains and terrifying ghouls, it’s refreshing for filmmakers to try something new with the antagonists, especially if they are able to strike fear without taking a single life. From hit franchises to independent gems, there are some that strike fear in the audiences while offering creative ways to scare the protagonists.
10/10 The Entity – The Entity (1982)
Adapted from the pages of the 1978 novel of the same name, the movie starred Barbara Hershey as a mother who becomes the victim of a ghost who stalks and abuses her. As everyone around her questions these allegations and claims of an invisible threat, she must confront the supernatural force that has overtaken her life.
With the movie’s focus on domestic and sexual abuse, the sinister unnamed ghost and the movie is just as relevant today as it was back in 1982. It may not kill anyone throughout the running time, but its horrific actions have a deep psychological impact on this motherly character that makes it a sinister and cruel entity.
9/10 Tomás – The Orphanage (2007)
Before he eventually directed movies like The Impossible, A Monster Calls, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, J.A. Bayona made his directorial debut in 2007’s The Orphanage. After purchasing her old orphanage to renovate it into a disabled children’s facility, Laura is soon visited by the ghosts of the children who used to live among the grounds.
Originally set to be a ghostly foe for her, Tomás was able to make her feel unsettled with his noises and masked appearance that made everyone question his motives. But by the end of the movie, he not also shows himself to be a victim, but also had pure motives of his own, transforming him into a tragic character.
8/10 Annabelle – Annabelle Comes Home (2019)
The third entry in the Annabelle series and the seventh set in The Conjuring franchise saw Judy Warren and her babysitter, Mary Ellen, get caught in a series of haunts after Mary’s friend enters a room filled with some of the Warren’s creepiest items. And to make matters was for them, the haunted doll has been freed to prey on her victims.
Despite the deaths and brutal activities that occur in the previous movies in the entire horror franchise, Annabelle Comes Home didn’t see her kill anyone this time around. The movie may feature many jump scares and intense moments, but the demon that possesses her doesn’t get lucky with the children and teenagers this time around.
7/10 Mrs. Ganush – Drag Me To Hell (2009)
After directing the original Spider-Man trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, Sam Raimi returned to the horror genre with Drag Me To Hell. An elderly woman places a curse on a loan officer after refusing to extend her mortgage, where after three days, she will be in Hell for eternity.
Played by Lorna Raver, Mrs. Ganush is able to torment and punish the helpless loan officer with wicked conviction to the extreme. Without any attempts to kill and having little screen time, she is able to deliver a punishment far worse than death which only made her an intimidating and immovable force.
6/10 The Blair Witch – The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Easily one of the biggest surprise hits of 1999, The Blair Witch Project was unlike other horror movies at the time and popularized the found-footage filmmaking seen in some titles today. The movie follows three students as they attempt to make a documentary about the local entity known as the Blair Witch.
Despite the eighty-one-minute running time, the movie offered plenty of scares despite the villain’s lack of presence and killing blows. The filmmaking and the audience’s imagination is what made it such a scary force as the three students find themselves deeper and deeper into her clutches without so much as a hint of her.
5/10 The Watcher – The Watcher In The Woods (1980)
Regarded by some today as a cult classic, The Watcher in the Woods was a Walt Disney movie unlike any other and perhaps one of their scariest to date. After moving to the countryside in England, two American sisters find themselves involved in a supernatural mystery hidden within the woods.
Unlike some other villains on the list, The Watcher simply wants to return home and is doing everything in its power to do so. With no interest in killing, it does everything it can to return home, going as far as to scare children in order to aid it.
4/10 The Aliens – Signs (2002)
Following on from success of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan directed Signs, a 2002 sci-fi horror that saw a farmer and his family finding themselves encountering odd crop circles. But they soon learn that they have been formed by aliens that have appeared around the world.
Unlike most alien invasion movies, their intentions remain unclear, and their secrecy remains a mystery. But they do twist the farmer’s world upside down before they discover their weakness to water, unable to kill anyone before they must forfeit.
3/10 The Crooked Man – The Conjuring 2 (2016)
Ed and Lorraine Warren returned to cinemas in the 2016 sequel that saw them attempt to rid of a demonic presence in a family home in London. As well as the deadly demonic nun known as Valak to contend with, there was also The Crooked Man, a tall, lanky figure who enjoys tormenting his victims.
He may not have much screen time compared to other demonic characters nor committed murder, but he did leave an impression as he managed to make audiences feel uncomfortable with his unnatural and stiff movements. His lack of empathy does make him a cruel antagonist though as his haunts result in people getting terribly hurt and in danger.
2/10 The Ghosts – Poltergeist (1982)
This year marks the 40th anniversary to this supernatural horror classic that remains one of the best to this day that traumatized many children. Produced and written by Steven Spielberg, the Freeling family’s home are invaded by various evil spirits, who all torture and scare each family member in unique ways.
These angry and restless spirits may not take anyone’s life with them beyond the grave, but that didn’t stop them from being responsible for some of the goriest and unsettling scenes in 1980s horror. From peeling the skin off faces to possessed toys scaring children, they know no bounds to get what they want.
1/10 The Babadook – The Babadook (2014)
This Australian horror movie became a big success as audiences were treated to a new antagonist in the horror market as well as a brilliantly dark and twisted story. After trying to calm her son’s challenging behavior, a widowed mother starts to see visions after reading a book about the Babadook.
As well as becoming an icon for the LGBT+ community, the Babadook is able to unnerve and scare even the biggest of horror enthusiasts with great sound design and creatively disturbing visuals, all of which come from a lack of murderous attempts. Add to that and his eerie reveal after a series of truly horrifying scares and this is one of the best villains in horror in the 2010s.