Dracula was a blood drinking warrior whose legend was turned into an allegory for Elizabethan sexual awakening. The wolfman was a combination of ancient folklore and a variation on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Frankenstein was a young girl’s attempt to win a bet among her literary peers while zombies seem to have erupted from ancient religions and slave mythology. Indeed, all horrors have origins, from restless sleep to real life experiences extrapolated down to their cautionary tale basics. Ghosts are former members of the living lost in the afterworld while demons and devils come from Hell’s half-acre. Whether roasted over a campfire or cooked up in the fertile brain of a writer, these creatures come from somewhere, and our affinity for terror is glad that they did.
So what about the modern monsters, the individuals and their offshoots who spend tireless hours working out their psychological shortcomings via death and dismemberment? Who amongst these inhuman atrocity experts has the most compelling origin story. With the release of the TV take on Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter hitting DVD and Blu-ray shelves this week, we got to thinking, and came up with this list of The 10 Most Intriguing Origin Stories in Horror Film/TV History. In each case, we’ve taken the backstory and made it the reason for placement. Similarly, we’ve avoid the classics since they all command their own individual discussions and dissections.
During the late ‘80s, everyone was trying to put a spin on the already moldy slasher film. Then director Tom Holland decided to place the spirit of a serial killer in the body of a child’s toy. Enter Chucky, otherwise known as Charles Lee Ray (played with expert evil authority by Brad Dourif), a murderous psycho and voodoo practitioner. When cornered by the cops, our villain transfers his spirit into an otherwise ordinary Good Guy doll and it’s not long before desperate mother Karen Barclay is buying it for her son. Once our maniac discovers his predicament, he turns play time into slay time.
Poor Frank Zito. His mother was an abusive prostitute who used to subject her unwanted son to all manner of horrific brutality before up and dying in a car accident, leaving him an orphan. And schizophrenic. And prone toward stalking women and scalping them. Indeed, as he’s aged, he’s turned into a slimy sleazebag with a penchant for following unsuspecting ladies, lopping off the tops of their heads, and taking said skin souvenirs back to his hellhole hovel so they can be placed upon stolen department store mannequins. So he can talk to them. And they call him a maniac? Pishaw!
Ed Harley is a simple country widower trying to raise his precocious son. Then some city slickers come along, get liquored up, and run over his kid with their motorcycles. When the boy passes on, Ed is so grief stricken that he seeks the help of a local bayou witch in order to get revenge. With her instruction, he unleashes the pumpkin demon of the title, a creature linked to Ed both spiritually and physically. As it kills, it becomes more like a man and he like a beast. By the end, our hapless dad is avenged, but not without losing himself as well as his kid.
According to sources, he began life as Elliott Spenser, a captain in the British Expeditionary Force suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and survivor guilt. Losing himself in a hedonistic lifestyle, he discovered the Lament Configuration puzzle box, solved its secrets and was instantly whisked away to Hell, where he ended up in service of dark forces bent on turning humanity on itself via the mixing of pleasure and pain. Along with the rest of the Cenobites, he will tempt those interested in exploring the extremes of both love and hate, good and evil, before condemning them to an eternity without them.
When he was a young boy, Michael Myers saw his slutty sister having sex. This apparently pushed the purely evil eight year old over the deep end. It wasn’t long before Michael took up the butcher knife, donned a clown mask, and really showed his sibling what penetration is all about. Decades later, his treating psychiatrist, Dr. Loomis, would argue that this was the most black, malevolent soul he had ever come across. Michael decided to prove him right by escaping an insane asylum, grabbing a William Shatner disguise, and terrorizing his hometown of Haddenfield, Illinois. Talk about a homecoming.