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Be afraid: Seven of the scariest movie monsters and villains ever

Looking back at seven of the scariest fictional characters on the big screen

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Jack Torrance (The Shining) If Jack Nicholson ever read the Stephen King bestseller on which this 1980 thriller was based, it wasn’t evident in his performance. The Jack Torrance of the novel was a self-pitying, weak-willed academic who was possessed by the creepy Outlook Hotel, but in the end at least allowed some form of pathetic absolution. In the film, director Stanley Kubrick gave Nicholson free reign, so his version of Jack simply went nuts and reached for the ax. In one fell swoop, Nicholson took lifetime ownership of the phrase: “Heeere’s Johnny!”

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Pennywise the Clown (Stephen King’s ‘It’) Nearly every role in this 1990 miniseries based on King’s novel was miscast. The two male leads were played by John Ritter and Harry Anderson, of Three’s Company and Night Court fame, for heaven’s sake. But former Rocky Horror Picture Show fixture Tim Curry was perfectly cast as Pennywise, a nasty clown that lives beneath the streets of a creepy New England town and pulls in little kids through the sewer grate. Pennywise was scary when being funny. When in demon mode, with pointed teeth and glowing red eyes, he’s the stuff of nightmares.

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Regan MacNeil (The Exorcist) Looking back, it’s hard to believe that Linda Blair was only 13 when she played the potty-mouthed, pea-soup-spewing posessee of Satan in this 1973 hit. The things that came out of her mouth! Blair does a commendable job essaying the personality shift from sweet to evil and it’s a pity her career went downhill the day after the film’s release. If you haven’t seen the extended version, watch it just for Regan’s terrifying spider-walk down the stairs.

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Samara Morgan (The Ring) Did someone say scary kid? Actress Daveigh Chase provided nightmare fodder for millions of people in 2002 horror blockbuster. Moviegoers were long haunted by her performance as the water-sodden and long-dead girl in the cursed video, who climbs out of the well and ambles jerkily right out of the TV screen so she can GRAB YOU! Made you jump.

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John Doe (Seven) As portrayed by the always creepy Kevin Spacey, the character of serial killer John Doe appears sparingly in this 1995 crime drama, but a little Kevin Spacey goes a long way. Soft-spoken and mad as a hatter, Doe kills his victims in accordance to how each one transgressed one of Seven Deadly Sins, and you can actually visualize him setting it up. Do you remember the room with all the air fresheners?

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Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs) The thinking-man’s cannibal was first introduced in Thomas Harris’ 1981 novel Red Dragon, and my how he’s grown. Lecter has been portrayed on film and TV by four different actors, but obviously the 1991 feature The Silence of The Lambs features the benchmark portrayal by Sir Anthony Hopkins, and not just because it won him the Best Actor Oscar. To date, Hopkins is the only actor with the correct blend of sophistication and bloodlust for the role. With his Lecter, the hunt is the victory.

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The Leprechaun (Leprechaun) Forget the Lucky Charms, here’s the real Leprechaun. Warwick Davis played the nasty little man in the 1993 horror-comedy Leprechaun (starring a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston) and he’s still playing him today. The plot for each movie is simple: Someone steals Leprechaun’s pot of gold. Leprechaun then slaughters a lot of people while growling, “Where’s me gold?” There have been five sequels including Leprechaun in the Hood and Leprechaun Back 2 Tha Hood.

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