Please note that this is not a list of the BEST villains in Scifi/Fantasy, just the creepiest. These are the insidious shadows and barely-suppressed manic grins that make your skin crawl. What’s really surprising about this list is how many of these are from network television shows, and how they’re way scarier than most horror films.
10. The Hitchiker, The Twilight Zone
For those of you who are too young/uninformed to know what this entry is but still hate M. Night Shyamalan, I have good news: The Twilight Zone made a metric fuckton of scary (for the ’60s) TV episodes that outtwisted M. Night way before his movies even got terrible. One of my personal favorites is “The Hitchhiker,” the story of a woman who keeps seeing the same creepy homeless man no matter where she drives. Naturally she has to drive on the most deserted roads and of course she has to stop and get out of her car at several points, because this was back when we all wanted our cars to use a tank of gas over the course of five miles or so.
What makes it creepy: Society and its multitudinous civilians have given us the impression that we’re always safe, that help is never that far away. This episode shrinks that feeling of safety down to two areas: 1) The inside of an otherwise empty car and 2) Moving. If you don’t have both those things, you’re suddenly not safe. Don’t drive at night after this episode.
9.The Puppetmaster/Bloodbenders, Avatar: The Last Airbender
“The Puppetmaster” was just about the creepiest episode of children’s television I’ve ever seen. It happens in Season 3, around the time the writers realized that if Katara could “bend” her own sweat, she could probably do it to other bodily fluids as well. So did they depict her stopping a hemorrhage? Blowing awesome snot rockets? Introducing the most creative form of birth control ever?
NO. They gave us a creepy-ass old woman who could literally control people by bending their blood.
What makes it creepy: She can control people by bending their blood. Also, it looks really painful. Or maybe arousing?
8. Hands of Blue, Firefly
I don’t know what these men are technically called. I’d prefer they stay nameless, but we’ll call them the fanon-deemed “Hands of Blue” for clarity’s sake, which is better than “Blue Myself Twice”
Firefly was cancelled much too young, but one good thing that came out of that was never knowing what these guys really wanted. Having them stalk our heroes through the episode “Ariel” and killing their own men while River freaked out was confusing enough to be really, really creepy. It’s all based on knowing the victim’s reaction rather than the villain’s motivation, so you never know what will happen next.
What makes them creepy: They seem to be immune to their own weapon. Unlike Men in Black, when they set off their flashy-thingy, they wear no protective gear. They look like humans, they wear no armor, but they’re curiously emotionless as everyone around them pukes blood out of every orifice.
7. The Pale Man, Pan’s Labyrinth
Pan’s Labyrinth took fantasy and mythology and made it insidious and terrifying. All of it reflected the horror of the real world happening outside of Ofelia’s addled little mind. Nothing was creepier than the Pale Man, an emaciated creature that sat and starved at a feast, the only thing on its plate being its own eyes. It mirrored Ofelia’s stepfather, who kept an abundance of food locked in a barn, waiting for people to try and take it so that he could kill them.
What makes it creepy:
Enough. Fucking. Said.
6. Vasha Nerada, Doctor Who
The “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Damned”, Steven Moffat’s two-parter mindfuck really dug into the most basic human fear: the fear of the dark. The Vasha Nerada are sentient shadows that latch onto a host and strip them of their flesh. You never know which shadow might have an aerosol piranha in it, and you never see it coming. You just look down and suddenly you have two shadows. And then you know you’re dead.
What makes it creepy: I always thought I was afraid of things that might be hiding in the dark. Now I’m afraid of the dark itself.
5. GLaDOS, Portal
Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System (GLaDOS) is creepy the same was HAL is creepy in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s terrifying to imagine our robotic creations trying to murder the tits out of us. What GLaDOS has on HAL is the format of Portal itself. You think you’re just playing a typical puzzle game and she’s the annoying Navi telling you what to do. It’s helpful, but bland, and she even has the cool, neutral robotic voice.
Then she starts slipping in little things that make you wonder, like “Cake and grief counseling will be available at the conclusion of the test.” Then you start seeing stuff like this:
Then she starts trying to kill you.
What makes it creepy: The fact that since it’s a video game and not a movie, you have to play her psychotic little game. It’s like the difference between taking a roller coaster ride in a haunted house and walking through one on your own two feet.
4. Reavers, Firefly
I’m not going to include a picture of the Reavers, even though there are plenty of them online, because I think that Serenity ruined this villain, but Firefly got it right. Our biggest fears are the things we can’t see, control, predict, target or change: a disembodied voice, movement in the dark, the certainty of death in exactly one hour.
In the pilot episode, we learn that, if Reavers catch civilians and are feeling generous, they will rape them to death, eat their flesh and sew their skin into their clothes. In “Bushwhacked” we see first-hand what they’ll do to their victims, including impaling them on hooks and chaining them to the ceiling. But we never see their faces.
What makes them creepy: Their simultaneous ubiquity and absence. They orbit the story but never enter it, leaving only their gruesome trail as evidence. We never see them in the act of destruction. To do so would give us something concrete, which we would learn not to fear. Our imaginations will always provide something better.
3. The Weeping Angels, Doctor Who
The Angels are Moffat’s masterpiece. Statues are ubiquitous and there’s something especially macabre and morose about angel statues. What if they were all out to get us? What if, every time you blinked, you might open your eyes to this?
What makes it creepy: This goes along the same lines as never actually seeing the Reavers. We’re not afraid of things that move really fast, because we can gauge the distance and feel safe, like maybe there’s a chance we could outrun it, even if it’s a cheetah or a goddamn train.
The Angels bypass that feeling of safety. You never see them move. You close your eyes for an instant and they’ve jumped 2, 10, 20 feet. And suddenly you’re aware of how difficult it is not to blink.
2. The Gentlemen, Buffy
What makes it so creepy: What the hell isn’t creepy about this villain? Take your pick: the terrifying death-head’s smiles, the perfectly coordinated movements, the silent communication, the unhurried, careful gestures, the economy and delight in precise, sadistic surgery, the fact that they’re all played by mimes…
Oh, and they take away your voice. You literally can’t scream for help while they cut your heart out.
1. Edward, Twilight
Imagine, for a moment, that you want to write the story of a demon seducing a normal human girl. First, he finds a way to make his perverted obsession with drinking her blood sexy. He tells her, in the creepiest way possible, that her blood smells like flowers. You want him to stalk her, spy on her while she sleeps, keep her from her friends and steal her from her family. Your final plan is to make her reject a normal human life and fully embrace a dark, depraved, soulless existence of damnation.
Sure it sounds like standard fare, but this is how you make it super creepy:
What makes it creepy: Have the demon pretend to be good, pure, and right throughout the story. Pretend that he has the best intentions. Make him so good at it that he fools everyone, including the reader.
Now that’s a creepy twist.