It’s almost Halloween, so we tapped one of our favorite horror writers, J. Lincoln Fenn, to talk about something scary. After all, the villain in her new book, DEAD SOULS, is the Devil himself, so she should know! She came through with a stellar list of movie baddies who go above and beyond…
It’s not unusual for the villain to get the best lines in a movie or book, to tear up the screen or the page with a wicked glee that’s both terrifying and compelling. When I set my mind to include the literal devil (called Scratch in Dead Souls), I wanted him to sneak past people’s natural filters, to make that initial touch so casual and ordinary that readers could put themselves into that bar and onto that stool, before they, like Fiona, realize the horror they’ve gotten themselves into.
The best villains do this, repel and attract. They make us want to cover our eyes, and peak through them. Here are five of my screen favorites who I’d cast in a heartbeat as Scratch.
Sure he plays the romantic lead or action hero in many a film, however his turn as Sweeney Todd in the Tim Burton film of the same name was nothing short of mesmerizing. A man hell-bent on revenge, he’s blinded to the point where he becomes his own worst enemy, destroying or almost destroying the very things he loves most in the world. It’s a performance that draws us into his vengeful plot, leaving us as broken at the end as the bodies in the basement.
Leonardo di Caprio
A brutal performance in Django Unchained required language so horrific that Leonardo himself had a hard time reconciling himself to the script, playing the only villain that even Tarantino didn’t like. Truly the epitome of how power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, you can’t help but watch him steal every scene, a character that’s the very embodiment of the most evil, and legally sanctioned, system of violent oppression in our nation’s history.
He can play over the top, comic-book evil like Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, explore more complex shades of it as literal evil twins in Legend, and even win an Oscar nomination in his portrayal of a trapper with a bad attitude in the exceedingly grim and violent The Revenant. And yeah, he looks like the kind of gent who would be happy to knock back a Guinness or two while drinking a mark under the table, Scratch style.
Admit it, you secretly root for Loki, and why wouldn’t you when he’s so much more interesting than the straight-shooter Thor. Kenneth Branagh’s direction to Hiddleston was to model his performance on a nastier version of Edmund in King Lear with a dash of Peter O’Toole, which brings a complex pathos and emotional edginess to the part despite the fact that the man is wearing tights and uttering lines like “You mewling quim.”
Let’s face it, Idris can play anything. And even when he’s a good guy, like the titular character in Luther, there’s a sense that he’s never too far from crossing the line to the other. I doubt the Irish-ish accent would be much of a stretch, and he does jaded, haunted, and bitterly ironic with a natural ease I think even Scratch himself would envy.
So that’s my take – pick up a copy of Dead Souls to see if I’m even close in my casting choices. And I’m curious to know who your favorite bad guy is, and why, in the comments below.