• Graveyard Shift

Horror Villains Who Are Ruined By Having Backstories

List RulesVote up villains most ruined by their terrible, totally unnecessary backstories.

Horror movie villains are something of an anomaly in the film world; more often than not, the less you know about them, the more frightening they are. Unlike characters in any other genre of film, they operate on pure dream logic, and – because of that – the best film villain protagonists don’t require a raison d’être beyond terrorizing the other characters. Unfortunately, thanks to the sequelization of literally every modern horror film, every terrifying horror villain has received some kind of terrible backstory.

In most instances, characters ruined by backstory are given three or more films before a writer doles out an unnecessary backstory for a creature that’s meant to exist as a pure metaphor, but some horror writers don’t even wait for a sequel to wreck a perfectly fine film and provide a sad-sack story for the creature handing out ironic punishments to teens in the original property.

Continue reading to explore the worst origins of some of your favorite characters.

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  • Photo: Paramount Pictures
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    The Backstory, In a Nutshell: Jason Voorhees was horribly treated at summer camp. After he accidentally drowned, his mother lost her mind and began offing campers. After she was slain at that same camp, Jason came back to life and began taking out campers. He then met his end, was brought back to life via lightning, chained to the bottom of a lake, and then revealed to be a demonic worm that traveled from body to body, attempting to get rid of the sister no one knew he had. 

    Why It Ruins the Character: Jason Voorhees simply cannot exist without one of the not-so-great origins he's been saddled with. The only versions of the Friday the 13th film that truly function as well-made slasher films without turning into a comedy of errors are the first two films, and if you want to argue that the first film in the series is the only one worth watching, you wouldn't be wrong. Jason runs purely on revenge, so turning him into a supernatural creature with a predilection for offing campers (and that darn Tommy Jarvis) or a demonic thing that can only be taken care of by someone from his bloodline is just gilding the lily, and it does nothing for the character other than make him a copy of a copy of a copy of a bad universal monster. 

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  • Photo: DreamWorks Pictures
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    Sadako Yamamura

    The Backstory, In a Nutshell: There are multiple variations of Sadako's origin, but they all involve her being born with supernatural powers to a woman who was also psychic and who took her own life by jumping into a volcano. Sadako was later thrown in a well where she created a sinister VHS tape. 

    Why It Ruins the Character: Whether you've watched the Japanese or English versions of The Ring, you know that they each have one glaring flaw. Both films falter the moment they have to give the backstory of Sadako (or Samara), and they don't recover until the final five minutes of the film. This is the worst thing that can happen to a horror film, and it's why the monster in a film should never be explained. The moment a filmmaker has to stop their movie and fill the audience in on backstory that no one needed is the same moment that the spell is broken, and the viewer remembers that they're in a movie. The idea of Sadako is absolutely terrifying on its own.

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  • Photo: New World Pictures
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    The Backstory, In a Nutshell: According to Hellraiser: Hell on Earth, Pinhead's real name is Elliott Spencer, a captain in the British Expeditionary Force suffering from PTSD and survivor guilt. After losing his faith in humanity, he wanders the Earth sleeping with anything that moves and doing all of the substances that the early 20th century has to offer. At some point, he stumbles upon the Lament Configuration, and then he's off to the races. 

    Why It Ruins the Character: In the first Hellraiser film, Pinhead is nothing more than an otherworldly entity that shows up and dramatically ends people. The one thing that's immediately obvious is the visceral fear that the initial appearance of Pinhead creates. He's not just spooky, he's a legitimately frightening characterization of humanity when it grows bored of everyday life. Learning his life story removes all the bite from a character who should be nothing but. 

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  • Photo: Texas Chainsaw Massacre via Bryanston Pictures
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    The Backstory, In a Nutshell: Born to an unknown mother and abandoned in a dumpster, Leatherface gets a job at a slaughterhouse only to see it shut down. At some point on a spree, he cuts off a guy's face and wears it as a mask. 

    Why It Ruins the Character: Leatherface is meant to be a manifestation of the changing masculine and feminine mores of the '70s; he doesn't need a reason to exist. He's essentially the Minotaur in King Minos's maze, and regardless of the fact that the characters are already doomed the moment they appear on screen, he's the final signifier that no one will leave the film alive... or unscarred. Giving Leatherface such a maudlin backstory deflates the character to something more akin to Norman Bates with a subscription to 24 Hour Fitness and a penchant for chainsaws. The audience begins to pity Leatherface – and even side with him – rather than fear the destruction he wields at all times. 

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