2013: The Year in Villainy

2014 is almost here, and with it, the yearly “Best-of” lists from all corners of the Interwebs. Best movies, best books, best TV shows, best Tuesdays, you name it. But we don’t really go for that sort of thing here at thezombieroom. Instead, we prefer to reflect on the year in all of its evil cinematic glory. Here then, in no particular order aside from the first two, are my favorite movie villains from 2013.

NOTE: This is not a comprehensive list of ALL movie villains from 2013, just my favorites. Not included are any villains from movies I haven’t seen yet. Also, there may be SPOILERS.

Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness

 2013 villains khan

My favorite villain of the year was Khan, played so wonderfully by Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek Into Darkness. He was everything a classic movie villain should be: a smooth, suave, super-smart, creepy badass. It was a very good year for the Batch of Cumbers. He gave a great performance as Khan, and made him into a character you could feel sympathy for instead of just a two-dimensional bad guy. Even though it’s a character who’s appeared in other versions of Star Trek, Cumberbatch put his own spin on Khan, turning him into a guy you kind of felt sorry for (sort of), even as he was committing horrible acts of evil. It just didn’t get any better for cinematic villainy in 2013.

Kruger in Elysium

 2013 villains kruger

Coming in at a very close second is Kruger, played by the wonderful Sharlto Copley. In addition to having an awesome name, Copley is fast becoming one of my favorite actors. I’ve only seen him in three films (District 9, The A-Team, and Elysium), but in those three films he’s shown he has a lot of range as an actor. The characters he plays in all three of those movies are completely different, but he makes all of them work. The character of Kruger in Elysium isn’t as multilayered as Khan in Star Trek, which is a little unfortunate. Not much explanation is given for his psychotic evil badness, so he is admittedly a bit two-dimensional in that respect. You could also argue that the lack of backstory for him makes him even creepier, but what is never in doubt is that holy crap is he scary. Copley turns him into the kind of character who scares the crap out of you, but at the same time his performance is so magnetic he steals every scene he’s in.

General Zod in Man of Steel

 2013 villains zod

Zod is a classic example of a bad guy who is 100% convinced that what he’s doing is right. He’s motivated, and he’s committed, and that makes him scary. Man of Steel was a controversial movie among superhero fans, I still stand behind it as a good movie, although some of its flaws have become more apparent to me. Michael Shannon’s performance as Zod, however, is not one of those flaws. Shannon gives an intense, crazy-eyed performance that makes Zod a formidable enemy for the Man of Steel. One of the problems I’ve had with Superman as a character is that it’s hard to be concerned about him when his survival is never in doubt because he’s so much more powerful than everyone else, but Zod turns that into a moot point. When the hero is as powerful as Superman, you need a villain who is just as powerful, and Zod fits that description nicely.

Viper and Silver Samurai in The Wolverine

 2013 villains viper

I really like The Wolverine. It got a mixed reception, but the more I watch it the more I like it. When I first saw the movie, I didn’t really like the character of Viper, I guess I didn’t get what her purpose was in the story. But on subsequent viewings, something clicked for me. She’s extremely creepy, especially in the face-peeling scene above. I also understood more how she fit into the story, so that helped.

 2013 villains silver samurai

I am also a big fan of the Silver Samurai. He’s so fricking cool. There’s a plot twist involving him that I know turned some people off, which I can understand. But for me it worked. Two memorable villains in a movie that was, for me, the best X-Men related movie since X2, all the way back in 2003.

The Kaiju in Pacific Rim

 2013 villains kaiju

Guillermo Del Toro loves monsters. The monsters in Pacific Rim are of both the mechanical and biological kind, and they are all badass. They’re big, scary, and extremely powerful. The kaiju are the towering Godzilla-esque monstrosities that emerge from the sea to destroy us. Just look at that big dude up there. You don’t need me to tell you why he’s awesome. Del Toro’s monsters speak for themselves.

The Mandarin (sort of) in Iron Man 3

 2013 villains mandarin

Ok, so, everyone knows by now that Ben Kingsley’s character wasn’t actually the Mandarin, right? He was just a decoy and Guy Pearce was the real villain. It’s a weird plot twist, and (as with much of the plot of Iron Man 3) I’m not entirely sure where it came from. The reveal that Kingsley’s character was just a drunk, washed-up stage actor was kind of funny, even if it didn’t make much sense. Guy Pearce is a great actor who plays a great bad guy, even if his character’s motivation in Iron Man 3 also didn’t make much sense.

You know what? Let’s just move on.

The Zombies in World War Z

 2013 villains zombies

This movie caused a bit of a furor among fans of the book when the first trailer was released, showing the movie’s unconventional take on the undead. This is another movie I like more with repeat viewings, and I think the filmmakers deserve credit for putting a new twist on the zombie-apocalypse subgenre, even though the movie’s zombies are pretty much the polar opposite of the book’s zombies. The movie and the book may share the same title, but I think they should each be taken on their own terms.

Space in Gravity

 2013 villains space

This one is a bit existential, since the villain of this film wasn’t an actual physical entity. But was any other villain as relentlessly committed to killing its film’s protagonist as outer space was? Seriously, space really, REALLY wanted Sandra Bullock dead. Gravity is a harrowing 90 minutes, and makes you grateful to be standing on solid ground.

Owen Shaw in Fast and Furious 6

 2013 villains shaw

Fast Five was a fun movie, but its villains were a bit boring. Drug cartel bosses and corrupt cops are boring. With Fast Six, they fixed that problem with Owen Shaw, a thoroughly dastardly fellow played by an actor I like named Luke Evans who always kinda reminds me of Orlando Bloom only, you know, manlier. He kidnaps the wife of one of the protagonists and runs over a bunch of civilians in a tank, so you know he’s not messing around. When you can hold your own in a fight with Vin Diesel and Dwayne “Samoan Thor” Johnson, your bad guy cred is pretty high in my opinion.

The Blanks in The World’s End

2013 villains network

The World’s End was my favorite movie of 2013, and its glowy-eyed robots were both funny and creepy, much like the villains in the previous two films of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright’s epic Cornetto Trilogy.

Butch Cavendish in The Lone Ranger

2013 villains cavendish

The Lone Ranger was the weirdest movie I saw in 2013. The WTF factor of this movie was higher than both Iron Man 3 AND G.I. Joe Retaliation, which for me is really saying something. I still don’t know what to make of this movie, but one thing I do know is that William Fichtner gave a great performance as Butch Cavendish, the cannibalistic outlaw whose gruesome visage is way too scary for a kid’s movie.

Loki and Malekith in Thor: The Dark World

 2013 villains loki

Loki is a great character, he’s got to be one of the most charming villains around. He’s so popular that fans want him to get his own movie. Who knows if it’ll ever happen, but it would be fun to see. You can tell that Tom Hiddleston has a blast playing this character, and it’s not hard to see why. He has so much personality and is always fun to watch. You’re never quite sure what’s going on in that scheming head of his, and an unpredictable character is an interesting character.

 2013 villains malekith

Malekith doesn’t have as much personality as Loki, but he’s still a badass villain with plenty of equally-badass henchmen, and he proves to be a formidable opponent for The Mighty Thor. You probably wouldn’t guess that he’s played by former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, which is also pretty cool.

So there you have it, thezombieroom’s annual roundup of the cream of the crop in cinematic villainy. Who knows what dastardly evil awaits us in 2014?

Happy New Year, everyone!

Scary Scenes from Non-Horror Movies

I recently read this article from a pop-culture website I like where the various writers on the site wrote about their favorite scary scenes from movies. What really interested me about the idea of listing scary movie scenes, as opposed to scary movies in their entirety, was that it left things open for a much wider range of films. There are plenty of scary scenes in movies that themselves are not otherwise meant to be particularly scary. So, I decided to completely rip off that list I read online and create my own list of movie scenes that scare me, the only requirement being that none of these movies are actually horror movies themselves.

Gravity and The Grey (the entire movies)

scary scenes gravity scary scenes the grey

A friend of mine described Gravity as being “Like The Grey, but in space.” It’s an apt comparison. Both films are survival stories of the most harrowing variety. These are two of the most relentlessly intense and suspenseful films I have ever seen. The Grey is more punishing to watch, due to its graphic violence, but Gravity takes one of my biggest fears and puts it right up there on the screen, front and center. And it’s right there on the poster I pictured above. Alone, floating through space, slowly running out of air, completely helpless…shudder. When I first saw the trailer for Gravity, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle it. But I did, and I’m glad I did. Neither one of these films is an easy watch, but both are very much worth the effort. You might even learn something about yourself. I’m pretty sure I did.

Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson Return to Their Roots

scary scenes spiderman poster scary scenes king kong

Before they started making blockbusters, Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson cut their teeth making ultra-low-budget horror films. Raimi’s most famous was of course The Evil Dead, and Jackson’s was Brain Dead (or Dead Alive, whichever title you prefer). But neither filmmaker left their horror roots completely behind. In Spider-Man 2, there’s a scene in a hospital where Doctor Octopus’ robotic arms come to life and kill a roomful of doctors. It’s an intense, frightening scene, made all the more startling by its appearance in what is otherwise a pretty family-friendly movie. Raimi even throws in a reference to The Evil Dead and its sequels when one of the doctors picks up a chainsaw in an attempt to ward off the murderous appendages.

scary scenes doc ock

Peter Jackson, meanwhile, seems to have a thing for bugs.

 scary scenes kk worms

Remember this scene? Of course you do. Who could forget the bug pit in King Kong? The completely unnecessary, thoroughly squirm-inducing bug pit scene? Where this poor sap gets his head chomped by a giant worm monster? That’s Andy Serkis by the way, he played Gollum and did the motion capture for King Kong himself. Peter Jackson repaid him for all his hard work by feeding him to a giant sharp-toothed slug-monster (true story). YouTube comments on this scene include such gems as “Oh my God, giant urethras devoured Smeagol holy shit” and “Christ this looks painful and disgusting.” Well said YouTube commenters.

 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

And if anyone tells you they weren’t squirming through the entire Shelob scene in Return of the King, do not believe anything that person tells you ever again, because that person is a LIAR.

Heck, Jackson even co-founded Weta Digital, the special-effects company that worked on all three Lord of the Rings movies, King Kong, and a little movie you may have heard of called Avatar, also known as the number one highest-grossing movie of all time.

 scary scenes weta

That lovely gentleman? That’s a weta, one of the world’s largest insects.

scary scenes bugs

Look familiar now?

Drowning and Claustrophobia in The World is Not Enough

scary scenes twine

I wrote about this Bond flick last year at Christmas, and I bring it up here because the final showdown in this movie encompasses not one but two of my worst fears, said fears being drowning and really enclosed spaces. Generally I’m not that claustrophobic, but being trapped in a really confined space would freak me out to be sure. And drowning is just…well…gah. I don’t want to even think about it. Watch the scene in The Grey where the guy drowns and you’ll see what I mean.

Bond’s final showdown with the villain in The World is Not Enough takes place on board a sinking nuclear submarine. I have no desire to ever be on a submarine, combining really confined spaces with being underwater just does not sound like fun to me. In the movie, the sub is of course flooding, and Bond and Christmas Jones (there she is again, much as I try to forget about her) are in danger of drowning the entire time, while attempting to stop the villain from blowing up Istanbul. The scene freaked me the hell out when I saw the movie in theaters when I was around 11. It’s lost some of its impact for me since then, but it’s still a tense, effective sequence.

 scary scenes christmas jones

Of course, every scene that has her in it is also scary, but for entirely different reasons.

Beating of a Sensitive Area in Casino Royale

 scary scenes casino royale

Yes, this scene. We all remember the one. You’re all squirming right now just thinking about it. I’ve traumatized you all just by mentioning it. Let’s just move on.

Every Time the Joker is Onscreen in The Dark Knight

scary scenes joker

Well, okay, this image won’t have you feeling any less traumatized I suppose. But seriously, I still almost can’t believe that’s Heath Ledger. He disappeared into that role so completely it’s just mind-boggling. Ledger’s Joker is one of those characters who’s so terrifying you almost can’t look at him, and yet Ledger’s performance is so magnetic he steals every scene he’s in, and you find yourself unable to look away. The Dark Knight is a modern masterpiece, a sprawling crime epic that deftly mixes social commentary and real-world relevance with the requisite genre elements required in superhero movies. Thanks to Ledger’s disturbingly mesmerizing Joker, it also mixes in quite a bit of white-knuckled terror.

Escape from the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin

 scary scenes aladdin

Don’t judge me. This scared me when I was but a wee lad. I think I mentioned in my “I Miss the 90’s” post that seeing Aladdin in the theater when I was a kid is one of my earliest moviegoing memories. It was also one of my most traumatizing, since the scene where Aladdin escapes from the Cave of Wonders on the magic carpet with Abu and the lamp scared the heck out of me when I was like 4. There are plenty of other Disney movies with scenes that can scare little kids and I’m sure there were some that scared me too, but for whatever reason that one scene in Aladdin really got to me when I was little. I suppose that’s a little ironic, since I’m now an action-movie junkie.

So, there you have it. Proof that a movie doesn’t have to be in the horror section at the video store in order to still potentially traumatize you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a movie to watch.