Killer Body Counts
We take a look at some of cinema's most notorious killers and the number of victims they've terrorized.
The leaves have changed colors, there's a chill in the air, and the kids on your block are already plotting their elaborate revenge for the lousy off-brand candy you're planning on putting in the bowl, come October 31st. It's almost Halloween, gang, and in honor of the unholyday, your pals at RT decided it would be fun to compile a list of some of the most iconic serial killers in horror film history. You'll find Freddy and Jason here, of course, but we've also made room for a few less obvious choices, and we've scoured the internet to come up with our estimates. Let the slashing begin!
Haunting Grounds: The Psycho series, Bates Motel (TV)
Estimated Body Count: 17
Has there ever been a cinematic slasher more pitiable than Norman Bates? The poor guy is practically at war with himself, and his mom nags him from beyond the grave. Heck, every time he makes friends, they seem to end up dead. If Psycho exerted a profound influence on the slasher genre (and onscreen violence in general), it wasn't because Norman was a particularly prolific killer. Alfred Hitchcock's original (and the sequels) depicted a man in the clutches of inner torment and madness that was so gripping and scary that it didn't need buckets of blood (or, in one memorable case, chocolate syrup) to be deeply unsettling. And if you ever wanted to know more about Bates' relationship to his mother, A&E premiered its Bates Motel television series in March of this year, starring Freddie Highmore as a young Norman and Vera Farmiga as his manipulative mother.
Haunting Grounds: The Jeepers Creepers series
Estimated Body Count: 20
When Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer wrote "Jeepers Creepers" in the late 1930s, they surely never guessed their snappy little pop ditty would go on to provide the theme song for a murderous winged creature who possesses a bee-and-dog-like ability to smell fear and can regenerate body parts by ingesting those of his victims. And that's not all -- the Creeper can also overcome overwhelmingly negative reviews, too! Although critics kept 2001's Jeepers Creepers from a Fresh certification, the Creeper was back just two years later with a sequel, and there was even talk of a third installment. Not bad for a bad guy who's limited to a single 23-day feeding frenzy every 23 years, right?
Haunting Grounds: The Thing from Another World, The Thing, The Thing
Estimated Body Count: 20
Human beings have long been fascinated with outer space, and what might be lurking there -- which helps to explain the enduring appeal of John W. Campbell's 1938 short story, Who Goes There?, about a malevolent alien rescued from an icy grave by an Antarctic research team, and goes on to repay the favor by forcibly (and messily) assimilating every living creature within reach, including 20 unlucky scientists and a handful of dogs. Campbell's creature -- referred to as the Thing -- has provided rich fodder for filmmakers over the decades, inspiring 1951's The Thing from Another World, John Carpenter's simply titled 1982 cult classic The Thing, and, most recently, the 2011 prequel/reboot The Thing.
Haunting Grounds: The Jaws series
Estimated Body Count: ~21, if you count the whale in Jaws 2
Most of the slashers on our list are bona fide film icons, but few of them can boast of having changed the entire industry the way Peter Benchley's great white shark did: Before Jaws' 1975 debut, studios actually held their big films out of the summer market, believing the vacation months to be a commercial graveyard. Almost $500 million (and lots of bloody ocean water) later, a franchise was born -- and although the third and fourth installments aren't good for much besides unintentional humor, the original remains a certified classic with a 98 percent Tomatometer rating. Granted, the kill count here takes into consideration the havoc wreaked by multiple great whites over the course of the franchise, but it merely illustrates what Benchley already knew: the ocean is scary enough even without a gigantic bloodthirsty shark chasing you around, so tossing one in the mix just ups the ante.
Haunting Grounds: Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, Red Dragon, Hannibal, Hannibal Rising, Hannibal (TV)
Estimated Body Count: ~25 (and who knows how many more?)
Before 1991, you may not have even known what fava beans were -- but after Anthony Hopkins' first appearance as Doctor Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, nobody ever thought of them the same way again. Like Jason Voorhees, Lecter doesn't appear in much of the famous reboot -- he's only in a little over 15 minutes of Lambs -- but it was the first time we actually witnessed the good doctor rack up a few kills on screen (both Manhunter and its remake Red Dragon only imply Lecter's murdered some folks), and audiences had a clear, um, appetite for the flesh-craving serial killer's brand of mayhem: he's gone on to appear in a number of other books and movies. Earlier this year, we even got a television adaptation -- similar to that of the Psycho-themed Bates Motel -- of the good doctor's early adventures, starring the always spooky Mads Mikkelsen.
Haunting Grounds: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre series
Estimated Body Count: 30
The twisted true-life tale of grave robber Ed Gein has inspired many notable cinematic grotesques, from Norman Bates in Psycho to Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs. However, Tobe Hooper may have done the most to immortalize Gein in the annals of perverse pop culture by emphasizing his habit of making clothing out of human flesh. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre introduced Leatherface, a developmentally disabled fellow under the control of his cannibalistic family. Though he started out as a pretty timid guy who was as afraid of visitors as they were of him, Leatherface came out of his shell in the sequels and reboots, making up for lost time in liberally employing his Poulan 306A.
Haunting Grounds: The Hellraiser series
Estimated Body Count: 35
By the late 1980s, the slasher genre was starting to feel a little stale -- and then along came Pinhead, the sadomasochistic leader of the extradimensional pack of hooligans known as the Cenobites. The spike-headed hook fetishist wasn't featured heavily in 1987's Hellraiser, but Pinhead's combination of creepy appearance, selective taste for victims, and clear fondness for gruesome torture stole the movie; throughout the eight-film series (four of which were released straight to DVD), Pinhead has remained the only constant, and for good reason: although his body count may be relatively low, no one else can match his prowess with a sharp, well-placed hook.
Haunting Grounds: The Scream series
Estimated Body Count: 36
One of the rare slasher antagonists who's a killer by committee, Ghostface terrorizes the self-referential Scream series with a revolving door of mask-donning, knife-wielding psychopaths. Their motives are different (peer pressure, revenge, etc.), but the results are the same, no matter who wears the Edward Munch-inspired getup: teenagers will turn up dead, following the conventions of horror movies. And, as with other horror franchises, the body count increases with each sequel; in all, this council of killers is responsible for at least 36 slayings.