The very wealthy hold a place in society that allows them to act as supervillains if they so choose, providing money to cover up wrongdoing or push a political agenda incompatible with the existence of the poor. There are even those very rich folk who off people in an effort to appease their god complexes brought on by having enough money to buy and sell life as they see fit, expecting no repercussions due to their ability to afford the best in defense lawyers. It's no big leap then to see the 1% portrayed as villains in horror movies like Ready or Not, The Purge, and a plethora of other films released over the last 50 or 60 years.
Sometimes the cruelty is the point with these villains, as illustrated in The People Under the Stairs, and other times the insatiable lust for power moves the rich to unspeakable means to justify their end goals. Other times, a clear inability to understand the feelings of a different socioeconomic class pushes their ignorance into villainous territory, as seen in Candyman. Their inability to see the less fortunate as people is the root of their villainy as they create deadly games with the lives of others in order to feed their own egos and line their pockets further.
Mommy (Wendy Robie) and Daddy (Everett McGill) live in a home in the midst of an impoverished neighborhood, hoarding their wealth and capturing the children of less fortunate families and keeping them in their house of demented rules. If the children call out for help, they reap the punishment of breaking the rule "speak no evil" - a tongue cut out. The product of inbreeding and wealth borne of price gouging in the funeral business and then real estate, Mommy and Daddy use their wealth to keep up appearances while hunting the poor around them.
Director Wes Craven's commentary on the 2015 Blu-Ray release of the film suggests that "the whole society of the United States” is represented by the home of Mommy and Daddy, which reinforces the idea that wealth is locked away from the struggling poor and hoarded by those already flush with abundant money.
Actors: Ving Rhames, A. J. Langer, Bill Cobbs, Sean Whalen, Brandon Adams, + more
Directed by: Wes Craven
The government is the rich villain in this film, creating a day where all residents of the United States can commit transgressions with immunity from prosecution during and after the event. While the entire idea of the Purge is based on allowing everyone to release their pent-up aggressions for one day in an effort to minimize mayhem the rest of the year, the real objective is to eliminate the "less desirable" members of society: the poor and disenfranchised.
As the first movie opens, the Sandin family and their rich neighborhood prepare for the 12-hour Purge by arming their expensive security systems and remaining locked inside their vast mansions to avoid the chaos going on outside their door. The reality of the event lands on the Sandins' doorstep when their son allows a young African American man chased by privileged white Purgers into the home. The subsequent films in the series all delve further into the reality that poor minorities spend the evening either perishing, attempting petty transgressions to help their families, or hiding in community buildings with insufficient ways to keep the incursion at bay.
Meanwhile, the rich government stands by and watches to ensure their end goal of eradicating the poor is ultimately met.
Actors: Lena Headey, Ethan Hawke, Adelaide Kane, Edwin Hodge, Chris Mulkey, + more
Directed by: James DeMonaco
Bill Whitney's (Billy Warlock) family is rich and eccentric, leading him to distrust them. As it turns out, his family is actually a different species that engages in strange rituals where the creatures melt and merge together to exhume nutrients from targets.
The film uses the different species of the antagonists as an allegory for the way the rich often act as though they are a fully different animal than the poor, creating a satire marking the rich as evil entities willing to suck dry anyone that gets in their way. Not only can they end someone financially, but they can take a life without repercussions impacting their lifestyles or lowering their numbers.
Actors: Devin DeVasquez, Billy Warlock, Evan Richards, Ben Meyerson
Directed by: Brian Yuzna
The classic Edgar Allan Poe story is obvious in its portrayal of the rich and privileged as villains, and that continues in the 1964 film starring Vincent Price as Prince Prospero. When a deadly plague infects a village, Prospero burns it down and retreats into his heavily fortified castle to feast and celebrate with other nobles as the poor perish in agony.
In another case of the elite refusing to see others as on the same social or human level as themselves, Prospero forces prisoners to fight to the end before releasing one to the burned village to succumb to the Red Death. He also forces his soldiers to slay villagers seeking asylum from the Red Death, sealing his own fate in the blood of others. When the Red Death infiltrates the grotesque party of Prospero, it becomes clear that the Prince created his own hell and grim fate in his cruel treatment of the poor.
Actors: Vincent Price, Jane Asher, Hazel Court, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, + more
Directed by: Roger Corman