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
Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) is a graduate student who enjoys a life of luxury and privilege with her professor husband in their gorgeous loft, spending evenings drinking wine and dining with colleagues. In her fervor to outshine and outmaneuver older male colleagues, Lyle's study of urban legends for her thesis focuses on the people living in the Cabrini-Green public housing project to further her work.
In an effort to study the phenomena of the Candyman, Lyle forces her way into the housing project, sneaks into off-limit areas, and puts the life of a young mother and her son in danger in her pursuit of thesis material. While ultimately punished with the fate of doom and an eternity of wreaking vengeance whenever summoned via mirror, Lyle's actions disrupt an entire neighborhood of struggling and socioeconomically forgotten people who must endure the police presence and malevolent force she awakens without regard for others. The lives and welfare of these people are never the focus of Lyle, no matter how hard she attempts to convince herself that is the case.
Actors: Virginia Madsen, Tony Todd, Vanessa A. Williams, Xander Berkeley, Ted Raimi, + more
Directed by: Bernard Rose
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