Stephen King created many of the monsters and villains that terrified us in the 20th and 21st Century. Remember being terrified by the scary clown in the sewer and the blood pouring from the ceiling at prom in Carrie? His characters have haunted and stayed with us years, but there’s something great in that. We can’t quite say why horror and thrill is so great, but they are. Here’s a look at nine of the best villains King ever wrote.
1) Randall Flagg
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Flagg is one of King’s recurring characters, appearing in two of his most successful works, The Stand and The Dark Tower series. Like most of King’s villains, Flagg searches for absolute power in devastating ways, however, the reader can empathize with Flagg’s followers. He is charming and exudes an air that lets you believe he deserves your trust. Flagg is a fan-favorite because people love to hate him.
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What could be worse than a terrifying shapeshifting clown monster? You may think, “Well I’m not afraid of clowns“, but Pennywise can turn into whatever you most fear. When you look down the drain or the canal or the sewer, your worst fear will be staring right back at you. He picks children off one-by-one when they’re most vulnerable. As a reader, you just want to scream at the kids in these one-on-one encounters with Pennywise, “GET OUT!- STOP TRUSTING THIS GUY!” But alas, they cannot hear us…
3) Jack Torrance/The Overlook Hotel
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Jack Torrance is fired from his job as a school teacher after fighting with a student. To top it off, he beat his son Danny before he even arrives at The Overlook Hotel. Jack already exhibited traits of a callous villain in the beginning of the novel. Instead of trying to hide his ugly behavior like he had been doing, he becomes engulfed whole by it entirely at the hotel. Insteasimplylying beating his son, he tries murdering Danny – and his wife – laughing like a psychopath and partying with the ghosts of the hotel. He’s fun yet terrifying to watch.
4) Kurt Barlow
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Like most vampires, Barlow lurks in the shadows, never showing his face (we ‘see’ is much later in the story). His business partner, Richard Straker, holds the front of their new antique shop while Ballow hunts for victims and starts head a vampire army in Jerusalem’s Lot. The final act of Salem’s Lot, when we start to deal directly with Ballow, are truly terrifying. He is cunning and always one step ahead of our heroes, Ben Meare and Matt Burke. Reading Salem’s Lot will remind you how scary vampires can be!
5) Pet Sematary
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The horrors of the cemetery are exposed when Louis Creed ignores Jud Crandall’s advice that “Sometimes dead is better” in Pet Semetary. This cemetery hangs over the town waiting for buried corpses to reanimate. The first victim comes back from the dead is the family cat, Church. We see the power that the cemetery has over the reanimated corpses, changing the cat’s carefree nature into a mean-spirited violent creature that terrifies Louis’ family. People that you once knew and cared for come back only to kill. What makes the cemetery so terrifying is that it lies there asking: How can you live knowing that you can bring back your loved one and you didn’t? How can Louis ignore that this power is attainable?
6) Margaret White
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Carrie may have the power, but her mother is the true horror in this story. She makes it so that her poor daughter can’t find solace at home or at school. Her mother, Margaret, is an uber-religious sadist who mentally and physically tortures her daughter. Carrie is constantly bullied yet Margaret causes her to be even more fearful to come home. Prom night may be the most remembered part of King’s first novel but act one, where we see the different ways Margaret tortures her daughter are particularly disturbing. From being locked in a small kitchen closet for hours, Margaret hurting herself and claiming Carrie’s thoughts of sinning were the reason, and even attempting to murder her daughter before the prom, are some of the scariest in King’s career.
Prom night may be the most memorable part of King’s first novel but act one, where we see the different ways Margaret tortures her daughter are particularly disturbing. From being locked in a small kitchen closet for hours, to Margaret hurting herself and claiming Carrie’s thoughts of sinning were the reason, to even attempting to murder her daughter before the prom, are some of the scariest in King’s career.
7) Annie Wilkes
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King makes an overweight southern nurse into one of the most ruthless villains ever written in Misery. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted any protagonist to escape more than Paul Sheldon. He wasn’t taken to the hospital after a life-threatening car crash and subsequently abused by Annie, a nurse… She is his most dedicated and most unstable fan – not letting him escape her clutches. She threatens Paul to write a novel, or she’ll kill him. Just hearing her footstep are enough to raise the reader’s blood pressure.
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You’ll need to watch three hours of puppy videos on Youtube to recover from Cujo. This rabid dog terrifies a town, similar to the shark from Jaws, with his merciless killing of innocent townspeople. Cujo acts to protect his owner in any way possible, which extends to killing anyone who comes close. This story reminds us that sometimes humans are not the top killers and that animals can be just as deadly.
9) Greg Stillson
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Our first sight of Stillson in The Dead Zone is of him kicking a dog to death, giving us a good indicator of just how horrible of a man we are going to read about. Stillson hides his obvious psychopathic behaviors well enough to run for governor and then president. The only people in-the-know about what hides behind Stillson’s nice handshake is Johnny Smith due to his clairvoyant powers, seeing that Stillson will cause a nuclear war if he becomes president. This character is so terrifying because he’s so real: a power-hungry man who only wants to benefit himself. Politicians make fun villains.
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