Picking them off one by one: 10 Psychos in Movies

It’s a well documented fact that Psychos don’t necessarily just exist in horror movies, but there are also many portrayals of the twisted and demented that span a wide array of other genres. We took some time to rack our brains and think of just 10 of the most imaginative and original portrayals, spanning several decades.
Believe me, it was tougher than you might think. We were left with an endless list of some that sadly didn’t make the cut that we’re hoping to get round to a part Part Deux in the not too distant future. Notably, we left out the following, but these are still high up in the Psycho ranks; Health Ledger as The Joker in Chris Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining, Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female, Jeremy Renner in Dahmer, Gunnar Hansen in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Matthew McConaughey in Killer Joe & Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, Kane Hodder in the Friday 13th franchise, Gregory Smith as Slick in Jason Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun and so on.

So as you can imagine, after leaving so many greats on the blood-soaked cutting room floor, we were faced with a such a task of picking off 10 Psychos, one at a time.

The following are just 10 of D//E’s best selected on-screen Psychos from movie history:

10. Neville Brand - Judd (Eaten Alive, 1977)

Brand started his big screen career in D.O.A. (1950) but it wasn't until he played the villain who killed the main character played by Elvis Presley in Love Me Tender that he became well known. He has the distinction of being the first actor to portray outlaw Butch Cassidy in the film Three Outlaws, opposite Alan Hale, Jr. as the Sundance Kid. But as well as being a big-budget regular, in 1977 he was cast perfectly as Judd, a psychotic redneck who owns a dilapidated hotel in rural East Texas. He kills various people who upset him or his business, and he feeds their bodies to a large crocodile that he keeps as a pet in the swamp beside his hotel. The expression on his face is completely psychopathic, you can clearly see it’s a man conflicated with whats right/wrong and that there is a battle between a split personality going on.

9. Danielle Harris - Jamie Lloyd  (Halloween IV, 1988)

Danielle Harris is an American actress and film director, best known as a scream queen for her multiple horror film roles, four of them in the Halloween series. In fourth installment of Halloween, Danielle Harris (Jamie Lloyd) spins the franchise on it’s head and adds a whole new dimension to the role, bringing in a new female lead and villain for future movies. The film iconically ends with Jamie standing at the top of the stairs with the scissors in her hand, covered in blood, with Dr. Loomis screaming as Richard, Rachel and Sheriff Meeker as they stare in horror.

8. Christian Bale - Patrick Bateman (American Psycho, 2000)

“…there is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are probably comparable: I simply am not there.” Patrick Batemen is the perfect example of man torn between a corporate life on Wall Street, but underneath a heavily conflicted guy who on the surface appears perfectly fine, but deep down, he has a darker side than any his peers. The scene where Patrick Batemen is profusely sweating when his colleagues reveal their brand-spanking new business cards is by far the highlight of the film and I’ve never seen Christian Bale more suited to a role.

7. Kathy Bates - Annie Wilkes (Misery, 1990)

The well known 1990 adaptation of Stephen King’s classic Misery, earned Kathy Bates an Academy Award for her outstanding performance. The performance was built up steadily until it reaches one of the greatest crescendos in Cinema, which was ‘The Typewriter scene’.

6. Ezra Miller - Kevin Khatchadourian (We Need To Talk About Kevin, 2011)

We Need to Talk About Kevin was a 2011 British-American psychological drama-horror film, directed by Lynne Ramsay and adapted from Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name. Critics described it as “A portrait of a deteriorating state of mind”. The movie was subject to a long process of development and financing which began as early as in 2005, with filming commencing finally in April 2010. Unknown Ezra Miller was cast perfectly as Kevin. After reading the script (and still to this day Ezra still hasn’t read the original book), he was able to bring a whole new dimension to the character with his dry wit and sharp, evil-brooding-what lies beneath eyes.

5. Skeet Ulrich - Bully Loomis (Scream, 1996)

Despite having an accomplice (Stu), Billy is undoubtedly the main killer in Scream, and frankly the only good killer in the entire over-bloated Scream series. Like other psycho killers in the movies mentioned above, he is unable to distinguish the boundaries between fiction and reality. His character is partly named after a character (Dr Loomis) in the Halloween series.

4. Robert De Niro - Max Cady (Cape Fear, 1991)

Cinema-goers were astounded when first introduced to Robert De Niro’s interpretation of Max Cady in Martin Scorsese’s remake of Cape Fear in 1991. Right from the intense prison training work-out scenes and up to the fact that he just keeps coming back to life right at the end. This is right up there with Robert De Niro’s performance in Taxi Driver. De Niro’s character is possibly the creepiest character we’ve ever seen and there was no lengths he goes to in order to get revenge. He creeps his way into the family, including the befriending and stalking of the lawyer’s young daughter, in high school. The film has one of my favorite scene of all time, infamously known as ‘The Fireworks scene’, the next time you see the smoking/mocking De Niro, he’s gone and you’re left wondering whether he is a figment of the main character’s (Nick Nolte) paranoid delusional imagination.

3. Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Sheri Moon Zombie - The Firefly Family (The Devil’s Rejects, 2005 / House of 1000 Corpses, 2003)

It’s an exception, but we agreed collectively, that the Firefly family from both Rob Zombie-helmed films, should be included in our list. What’s great about these characters is how they brought with them, something from every one of the best horror movies ever made. Even before and ever since these movies, the trio of actors have worked closely together, because simply, they have this ability of unleashing such a great chemistry. Their kind of like a modern dark twist of the Marx brothers, and the clue is Zombie himself even named the characters in those films.

2. Anthony Hopkins - Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs, 1989)

It is fact. Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs is one of the most terror-inducing and memorable characters in any movie genre history. Anthony Hopkins played the perfect role of a cold, strategic, calculating and insane psychiatrist. What’s different to any other actor in any genre, is the way he carries it off with absolutely zero emotion, yet smart, witty and even manipulative in the way he made you and the characters in the movie like his character despite being the murderous psychopath that he was.

1. Anthony Perkins - Norman Bates (Psycho, 1960)

Anthony Perkins was an American actor and singer. He was nominated for a multitude of Academy Awards for various films. However, it was Psycho that was his best and most known performance as came about as deranged Hotel Manager Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Noir-classic. Perkins played the role so well, that it’s one of those parts that could never be recreated. The Vince Vaughn performance in the Gus Van Sant movie, failed to encapsulate any of the original fear and mystery elements and appeared very wooden and insincere. The movie probably was the first of it’s kind and did a surreal thing of bringing its audience in, isolating them and making them feel particularly vulnerable. Perkins put in a maverick performance, making the audience feel this was a safe, pleasant young-looking guy, only to remove the pretense with some techniques never before seen.

So there you have it, some act behind their masks (Gunnar Hansen) and some really carry the weight of the roles with their enigmatic and charismatic performances. But in the end, all totally and uniquely different.

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