By definition, the villains in horror movies are supposed to be terrifying. Whether it’s their looks, their voices or just their ruthless actions, being someone people want to run away from is kind of in the job description.
But the actors who play these monstrous parts are just regular people trying to make a buck. Once you pull off the masks, you might be shocked at how nice (and attractive) the people who bring our most demented killers to life are.
Keep reading to see what some of horror’s most terrifying villains look like in real life and what they’ve done, aside from scare the crap out of you!
Michael Myers — ‘Halloween’ (1978)
Played by: Nick Castle
When “Halloween” hit theaters in 1978, Michael Myers — the hulking, silent killer in the white William Shatner mask — became a staple of nightmares. The movie grossed nearly $50 million in the U.S. on a $325,000 budget and helped ignite the slasher movie craze of the 1980s. In that film, Myers was actually played by several actors, but the man most often behind the mask was Nick Castle, who’s had an amazing career behind the camera. He wrote the scripts to 1991’s “Hook” and 2007’s “August Rush” and also directed ‘90s comedies “Major Payne” and “Dennis the Menace.” Castle will return to the role of Michael Myers in the 2018 remake of “Halloween.”
Michael Myers — ‘Halloween’ (2007)
Played by: Tyler Mane
In 2007, filmmaker/musician Rob Zombie remade “Halloween” and it became the highest grossing movie in the series. For his version, Zombie cast Tyler Mane, a former professional wrestler, as Michael Myers. Mane played Myers in the remake and its 2009 sequel. Mane recently told Entertainment Weekly that wearing the mask for the first time was bizarre. “[I] put the mask on and was handed that huge knife,” he said. “It was just so surreal.”
Freddy Krueger — ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ (1984)
Played by: Robert Englund
It’s been nearly 35 years since Freddy Krueger and his bladed fingers made us dread falling asleep — but people still consider him among the scariest villains in horror history. The iconic character was brought to life by Robert Englund in eight movies from 1984 to 2003. Englund started his career as a classically trained actor performing Shakespeare on stage until he landed his signature role. He’s been married to his wife, Nancy Booth, since 1988.
Jason Voorhees — ‘Friday the 13th’ (2009)
Played by: Derek Mears
Along with Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees belongs on the Mount Rushmore of modern horror. The towering serial killer, who terrorized Camp Crystal Lake behind an iconic hockey mask, was played by Derek Mears in the 2009 remake, which was a big hit with audiences. The Bakersfield, California, native has said that when he was a kid he had a “cheapie grocery store version” of Jason’s mask and he used it to scare his older sister. Mears, who stands at 6 feet 5 inches tall, is considered by some fans to be the best actor to ever wear the mask.
Candyman — ‘Candyman’ (1992)
Played by: Tony Todd
Ask anyone who’s seen “Candyman” about the scariest horror villains ever and they’ll almost surely include that character. In the ‘90s horror trilogy, the Candyman was a mythical killer who would appear for people who said his name five times while facing a mirror. Tony Todd, a charismatic and deep-voiced actor, played the creepy character to perfection. He first made his name in the theater and continues to act on stage today. If you’ve never seen Todd in “Candyman,” you might remember him from the dozens of other movies and TV shows in which he’s appeared, including the “Final Destination” movies and NBC’s “Chuck.”
Regan MacNeil — ‘The Exorcist’ (1973)
Played by: Linda Blair
Perhaps it’s unfair to call little Regan MacNeil the villain of 1973’s classic “The Exorcist” — she was just a girl who got possessed by an ancient demon, after all — but vomiting on people and saying unspeakable things about a priest’s mother means the description is apt. The unfortunate girl whose head could spin like a top was played by 13-year-old Linda Blair. Blair was nominated for an Oscar for her performance and reprised the role in 1977’s “Exorcist II: The Heretic.” Aside from acting, Blair is a staunch supporter of animal rights who hasn’t eaten meat since 1988 and works to rescue abandoned dogs in her free time.
Pinhead — ‘Hellraiser’ (1987)
Played by: Doug Bradley
Full disclosure: Pinhead on the cover of “Hellraiser” used to scare the crap out of me when I browsed the video store as a kid. The sadistic, extradimensional being with a voice that made Barry White sound like Mickey Mouse was played by English actor Doug Bradley in eight films. Bradley has said he spent six hours getting the makeup applied in his first outing as Pinhead and that he kept tripping over the full-length skirt the character wore. Aside from his time spent tearing your soul apart, Bradley has also done some voice acting and has even written a book about horror monsters.
The Creeper — ‘Jeepers Creepers’ (2001)
Played by: Jonathan Breck
The Creeper, who appears in the “Jeepers Creepers” movie trilogy, is an ancient, nightmarish figure who pops up every 23 years for 23 days and is able to replace parts of his body with his victims’ remains. In all three films, the villain is played by Jonathan Breck, who is, perhaps, a little more attractive than you’d expect for someone whose biggest role has been spent behind a mask. In 2017, Breck said that his silent character originally had a speaking line in the first movie but that producer Francis Ford Coppola decided to cut it. “I have to say it was the right call,” he told IGN.
Damien Thorn — ‘The Omen’ (1976)
Played by: Harvey Spencer Stephens
In 1976, audiences around the world were freaked out by a child thanks to “The Omen.” In that horror classic, little Damien Thorn turns out to literally be the spawn of Satan, much to the chagrin of his parents and anyone else he crosses paths with. British actor Harvey Spencer Stephens was 4 years old when he played the part, which would be his only major acting role. As an adult, Stephens has worked as a property developer and was reportedly married with a child. In 2017, Stephens embraced his inner Damien for real and was arrested for injuring two cyclists in a road-rage incident.
Esther — ‘Orphan’ (2009)
Played by: Isabelle Fuhrman
Creepy kids are hard to top when it comes to memorable horror villains and Esther, the mysterious Russian girl from 2009’s “Orphan,” is another great example. While adoption activists were not fans of the film, it grossed nearly $80 million worldwide thanks, in part, to the chilling performance of 12-year-old Isabelle Fuhrman. Fuhrman is the daughter of former CNN reporter-turned-soup-chef Elina Fuhrman. Now 21, she’s continued to act, working on projects including “The Hunger Games” and Showtime’s “Masters of Sex.” She also does charity work, including with L.A.’s Love & Art Children’s Foundation.
The Pale Man — ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (2006)
Played by: Doug Jones
Although “Pan’s Labyrinth” was more fantasy than horror, its creepy, child-eating monster, the Pale Man, was certainly the stuff of nightmares. The memorable creature was brought to life by Doug Jones, the Indiana-born actor who was also responsible for the aquatic creature in 2017’s Oscar-winning “The Shape of Water.” Jones is a contortionist, which he has called a valuable skill for an actor who plays monsters. Portraying creepy creatures wasn’t what he initially wanted to do in his career; he’s said his dream as a young actor was to play a silly character like Gilligan from “Gilligan’s Island.”
Jigsaw — ‘Saw’ (2004)
Played by: Tobin Bell
Jigsaw (aka John Kramer) has been terrorizing audiences since 2004’s “Saw” became a box-office phenomenon. The sanctimonious serial killer has been played by Tobin Bell in eight movies (so far). Before landing that iconic role, you might have seen Bell in movies like “The Firm” or “Mississippi Burning.” Off-screen, he has two adult sons and was married for 25 years, before his wife filed for divorce in 2018.
The Headless Horseman — ‘Sleepy Hollow’ (1999)
Played by: Christopher Walken
The Headless Horseman, the grim specter from Washington Irving’s iconic story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” has been scaring Americans since 1820. In 1999, director Tim Burton brought the story to life and chose legendary actor Christopher Walken to ride the black horse. In flashbacks, you see the character (with his head still attached), showing Walken with terrifying teeth. In real-life, Walken has said he has a phobia of horses. He’s been married to the same woman, Georgianne, since 1969.
Frankenstein’s Monster — ‘Frankenstein’ (1931)
Played by: Boris Karloff
In horror lore, it doesn’t get much more iconic than Frankenstein’s monster. The undead creature was notably brought to life in 1931’s “Frankenstein,” a movie so classic the Library of Congress selected it for preservation. British actor Boris Karloff played the monster and became a horror legend because of his terrifying transformation. Karloff did plenty of other work, including voicing the Grinch in 1966’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” He once called the monster his “best friend,” saying, “I owe everything to him.” Karloff died in 1969 at the age of 81.
The Wolf Man — ‘The Wolf Man’ (1941)
Played by: Lon Chaney Jr.
Universal’s classic monster film “The Wolf Man” terrified audiences in 1941 thanks to its dramatic makeup effects and the performance by Lon Chaney Jr., who had to sit in the makeup chair for six hours a day. Before breaking out as the Wolf Man, Chaney lived in the shadow of his father, who was an icon of silent horror films of the 1920s. Chaney would go on to act with Hollywood icons like Gary Cooper and Jerry Lewis before passing away in 1973 at the age of 67. He and his wife were married for 36 years until his death.
Count Dracula — ‘Dracula’ (1931)
Played by: Bela Lugosi
The blood-sucking vampire Count Dracula has been terrifying people since the 1800s — and he’s done the same to movie audiences since 1931. That year, “Dracula” became a surprise hit. Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi played Count Dracula after playing him on stage for two years. Lugosi, now a horror icon, died in 1956 at the age of 73. He was married five times.
Count Dracula — ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’ (1992)
Played by: Gary Oldman
Since Lugosi’s immortal performance, plenty of actors have played Dracula — including Oscar winner Gary Oldman in 1992’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” Fifteen years before Oldman wore heavy makeup to play Winston Churchill in “Darkest Hour,” he underwent a drastic transformation to play the vampire. Aside from Dracula, Oldman has appeared in dozens of movies, including the “Harry Potter” and “Dark Knight” franchises. In late 2017, he got married for the fifth time.
Leatherface — ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ (1974)
Played by: Gunnar Hansen
In 1974, “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” frightened audiences with its stark, realistic style and raked in nearly $30 million on a $140,000 budget. In it, Icelandic actor Gunnar Hansen played Leatherface, the chainsaw-wielding nut who makes clothing and furniture from his victims’ bodies. Hansen later said the shoot was brutal, including 26-hour days in the Texas heat. Hansen acted in other horror movies but never appeared as Leatherface again. He wrote a book about the making of the classic film in 2013. In 2015, he died at the age of 68.
Isaac — ‘Children of the Corn’ (1984)
Played by: John Franklin
There were several creepy kids in “Children of the Corn,” but none more so than the young preacher Isaac. The fanatical young child was played by John Franklin, who was actually 23 years old at the time. According to the Huffington Post, Franklin has a growth hormone deficiency that makes him look younger than he is. In 2016, he told OWN that he decided to quit acting after 9/11 and became a drama teacher.
Samara — ‘The Ring’ (2002)
Played by: Daveigh Chase
In 2002, “The Ring” made its viewers scared to watch a VHS tape (how dated does that sound now?) for fear that a cursed girl named Samara would crawl through the TV screen and kill them. Nevada-born Daveigh Chase was just 12 years old when she was cast as the creepy, long-haired girl. Far removed from her terrifying breakout role, Chase also voiced Lilo in Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch” and co-starred in HBO’s “Big Love.” In late 2017, she was arrested when she was caught riding in a stolen car in Hollywood.
Chucky — ‘Child’s Play’ (1988)
Played by: Brad Dourif
Over the course of seven films since 1988, the possessed doll Chucky has been shocking audiences for decades. In the original “Child’s Play” movie, West Virginia-born Brad Dourif played the serial killer whose soul inhabited the creepy doll, and he’s voiced Chucky in every movie since. But Dourif’s career has been far from one-note; he’s acted in more than 100 movies and TV shows, including “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” In 2018, MGM announced it was rebooting the franchise without Dourif’s involvement.
Pennywise the Dancing Clown — ‘It’ (2017)
Played by: Bill Skarsgard
In 2017, the new movie adaptation of Stephen King’s “It” became a cultural phenomenon, becoming the highest grossing R-rated horror movie in history. Part of why the movie did so well was the ultra-creepy villain, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, played perfectly by Swedish actor Bill Skarsgard. He comes from a family of actors, his father being “Mamma Mia” actor Stellan Skarsgard and his older brother being “Big Little Lies” star Alexander Skarsgard. Despite breaking out as the scary clown, the 28-year-old actor says he isn’t concerned about being typecast.
The Collector — ‘The Collector’ (2009)
Played by: Juan Fernandez
This movie was almost a prequel to “Saw” but ended up as its own standalone story about a sadistic serial killer known as The Collector. Dominican actor Juan Fernandez brought the killer to life. Fernandez has been active in American entertainment since the early ‘80s, working in series like “Hill Street Blues” and “Miami Vice,” as well as in movies like “A Man Apart.” As The Collector, Fernandez wore a creepy mask that was so claustrophobic he could only hear his own breathing and see out of two small holes. Aside from acting, Fernandez has also worked as a model.
The Predator — ‘Predator’ (1987)
Played by: Kevin Peter Hall
You might find “Predator” in the action section but the titular creature is straight out of a nightmare. The ruthless and highly intelligent Predator was portrayed by Kevin Peter Hall, a former basketball player who stood at 7 feet 2 inches tall. The Predator arguably wasn’t Hall’s most loved role, though, as he also played the sasquatch Harry in “Harry and the Hendersons.” In 1991, Hall died of pneumonia at the age of 35. He was married to “Sesame Street” actor Alaina Reed and was stepfather to her two kids.
The Leprechaun — ‘Leprechaun’ (1993)
Played by: Warwick Davis
When “Leprechaun,” a slightly silly horror film about a killer leprechaun, hit theaters in 1993, it was most notable for featuring Jennifer Aniston’s movie debut. The film didn’t get good reviews and wasn’t a massive moneymaker, but actor Warwick Davis was memorable as the title character. Fantasy fans will remember Davis from 1988’s “Willow” but he’s also had big roles in the Star Wars and Harry Potter film franchises. Davis and his wife, Samantha, have been married since 1991 and they have two kids. Davis has been cited as an inspiration for others with dwarfism.