A lot of horror fans assume that the “Slasher Flick” was killed off in the 90s, with the most likely culprit being Wes Craven’s loving satire, Scream. While it’s true that the many incarnations of Ghostface helped to expose the subgenre’s overused tropes and weaknesses, slasher movies never really died; they just became less mainstream as the years went by.
Nevertheless, the 2000s actually had a surprising amount of innovative slashers. Not only were we graced with grittier and more menacing re-imaginings of classic villains like Michael Myers and Leatherface, but we also saw quite a few attempts at original antagonists attempting to follow in their footsteps.
That’s why I decided to compile this list of the most underappreciated slasher villains from the 2000s, as I think there’s a lot to love about that strange era in horror when filmmakers tried their best to combat the cynical outlook of a post-Scream world. Naturally, these aren’t the *only* good slashers from that era (hell, we had gems like Hatchet‘s Victor Crowley and arguably even Jigsaw), but characters that I think deserve more attention from horror fans.
Keep in mind that we’ll be focusing on the characters themselves rather than the overall quality of their respective films, and don’t forget to share your own favorites with us in the comments below.
Now, onto the list!
The Reeker – Reeker
A supernatural twist isn’t uncommon among slasher villains, but the Reeker stands out as a rotting harbinger of doom. Created by Dave Payne, this unique antagonist can be described as the physical manifestation of the desert itself, hunting down his ill-fated victims like a death-obsessed force of nature.
His zombie-like gait and dilapidated garments are cool enough, but the Reeker’s characteristic distortion effects are what really cements him as an otherworldly monster. Reeker and its sequel, No Man’s Land: Rise of the Reeker, may not be masterpieces, but the unique premise and memorable villain make them worth a watch if you’re in the mood for some desert-based thrills.
The Mountain Man – Cold Prey
Boasting films like Dead Snow, Trollhunter and Thelma, Norway is no stranger to horror, but one of their most important contributions to the genre has to be the murderous Mountain Man from Cold Prey. For those who haven’t seen it, Cold Prey (originally titled Fritt Vilt) is an unapologetically straightforward slasher with a frigid setting and a badass killer.
The Mountain Man’s design might be deceptively simple, but he more than makes up for that with an intimidating presence and absolutely brutal kills. From a distance, his ragged winter clothing and menacing gait actually give him an “Abominable Snowman” vibe, which adds even more tension to an already-thrilling film and its excellent sequel (better not talk about the third one, though).
Mick Taylor – Wolf Creek
I heard about Wolf Creek long before I actually watched it, as a couple of schoolmates explained the film’s horrific plot to me during recess after having seen it over the weekend. Young Luiz was absolutely terrified by their account, but years later I finally watched the damned movie and fell in love. Greg McLean’s direction is solid and the leads are likable, but Jon Jarratt absolutely steals the show as the lovably psychotic Mick Taylor.
A sociopathic bushman with a deep hatred for tourists, Mick is the pinnacle of Ozploitation terror, and proof that you don’t need a creepy mask or nightmarish mythology to become a memorable slasher villain. In spite of a gritty and down-to-earth first outing, Wolf Creek‘s antagonist was popular enough to return in both an over-the-top sequel and a woefully underseen television show, assuring us that Mick Taylor still prowls the Australian wilderness, having the time of his life gutting unsuspecting travelers.
Babyface – The Hills Run Red
Babyface may be the only killer on this list that never returned in a sequel or spinoff, but that doesn’t make this doll-masked murderer any less memorable. I won’t spoil the fun by revealing the truth behind The Hills Run Red’s spooky antagonist, but suffice to say that this meta-commentary on horror is a surprisingly gruesome throwback to 70s schlock.
In typical slasher form, Babyface first appears to be yet another mute villain, but he actually has one of the most chilling and memorable lines in the movie, as well as an appropriately gnarly design. While I’d love a return to the violent world of Dave Parker’s The Hills Run Red, this original outing still holds up as a satisfying midnight movie with a legitimately scary killer.
Chromeskull – Laid to Rest
The creation of dedicated horror hound Robert Hall, a practical effects god and a damned fine director to boot, Chromeskull is much more than a slick outfit and shiny mask. This snuff-film-producing killer serves as a showcase for Hall’s impressive gore effects and manages to both scare audiences as he pursues innocent victims while also entertaining us with beautifully over-the-top kills.
As I’m writing this, we were just hit with the tragic news that Hall has passed away, leaving behind a treasure trove of contributions to the horror genre. While we may never see the planned third entry in the Laid to Rest saga (it wouldn’t feel right to have anyone else behind the camera on these films), Chromeskull will remain as an indie icon, created by a die-hard horror fan for the enjoyment of others like him.
The Collector – The Collector
The Collector holds a special place in my heart as one of my favorite horror films and an example of why slasher movies would benefit from more likable protagonists. Josh Stewart’s resourceful thief Arkin is just as memorable as the hulking Collector himself (wonderfully played by Juan Fernández), and seeing them face off against each other among nasty deathtraps makes for a thrilling experience.
However, this list is all about the villains, and I can’t even remember the last time we saw a killer as dedicated to his gruesome craft as the devious Collector. Armed with cruel devices and a creepy leather mask (not to mention those eerie dead eyes), the Collector intimidates both physically and psychologically, always one step ahead of his unfortunate victims.
The Collection may have gone a bit too far in exaggerating the killer’s abilities, but I’m still dying to see another sequel. Unfortunately, The Collected was apparently abandoned by producers after only 8 days of shooting, so we can only hope that Marcus Dunstan and his crew can somehow regain the rights to the production and let the Collector wreak havoc once more.