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Everyone knows the titans of horror, but let’s take a look at some less-heralded horror icons who deserve more fear fanfare.

When you think of horror, I am sure a few names immediately come to mind: Freddy, Jason, Michael, Ghostface, Chucky… just to name a few.  And while these characters are certainly iconic, they overshadow some other amazing horror characters that are just as worthy of serious fandom. Though they may not sell as much merch, these characters are no less memorable, scene-stealing, and worthy of icon status.

In no particular order, let’s take a look at some of my favorite, underrated horror icons.

1. Esther, Orphan (2009)

Orphan

This movie is about a young girl, Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), a Russian orphan that is adopted by Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard).  Kate becomes more and more suspicious of Esther’s behavior, as she seems to speak and act much differently than an average 9-year-old would. After committing several horrible acts in the film, and attempting to seduce her adopted father (yikes), we get a shocking reveal.

We discover that Esther is a 33-year-old woman that is left looking like a child due to a condition that has stunted her growth.

Talk about a plot twist! I remember watching this film for the first time when I was 12 and feeling my jaw drop when Esther’s secret was revealed.

This film does not get the love that it deserves; however, with a sequel (technically a prequel) in the works, perhaps more people will see just how awesome (and terrifying) Esther is!

WHERE TO WATCH: Orphan is available to stream on Hoopla or you can rent on most VOD platforms.

2. Group of Strangers, The Strangers (2008)

After a young couple, Kristen (Liv Tyler) and James (Scott Speedman) stay at a vacation home, they are greeted by unexpected guests. But these aren’t ordinary visitors. These guests, known as the strangers, hide their faces with masks and have malicious intentions for the young couple.

This terrifying film is based on true events, and it’s especially unsettling because of just how realistic it is.

It’s not hard to imagine yourself in the horrific scenario experienced by Kristen and James. I will never get over the response from one of the strangers, “Dollface” (Gemma Ward), when Kirsten asks why this nightmare is happening to her and her husband. Dollface simply responds, “Because you were home.” Absolutely chilling!

In 2018, we got a sequel to this film (The Strangers: Prey at Night). Despite that, I don’t hear enough people talking about how great the original film is.

WHERE TO WATCH: The Strangers is available to rent on most VOD platforms.

3. Jerry Dandrige, Fright Night (1985)

Horror fan, Charley (William Ragsdale) discovers that his next door neighbor, Jerry (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. Not only is he a vampire, he is responsible for the disappearance and murder of several people. To help him take down Jerry, Charley enlists the help of his girlfriend, Amy (Amanda Bearse), best friend Ed (Stephen Geoffreys), and former vampire hunter, Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall).

As a kid, this film really creeped me out, yet I still found myself practically obsessed with it.  There is just something about vampires being scary rather than sexy (looking at you, Twilight) that has always drawn me in (though Sarandon manages to give audiences a bit of both).

There was a sequel released in 2011 that polarized audiences. Though many enjoyed the updated take, it’s pretty hard to beat the original — an undeniable horror classic.

WHERE TO WATCH: Fright Night is available to rent on most VOD platforms.

4. Annie Wilkes, Misery (1990)

When famous author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is involved in a horrible accident, he is taken in and cared for by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). Paul realizes that Annie is not just a good samaritan; she is actually an obsessed fan of his work and will do anything to keep him with her — and in helping him craft her version of the perfect ending for his famous series.

When you think of great Stephen King adaptations, there are certainly many contenders for most iconic characters. However, I personally feel Annie is such an underrated character in King’s twisted world. This is helped considerably by how well the amazingly talented Kathy Bates plays her in the film. She embodies the character so well that it’s hard to believe she’s playing a fictional character.

As good as the film is, the novel version of Misery is so much more gruesome So, watch the film. Then, if you can stomach it, definitely read the book!

WHERE TO WATCH: Misery is available to stream on HBO Max, Showtime, Cinemax, and Directv (or rent it on VOD).

5. Cecilia, The Invisible Man (2020)