They say branding is everything, and these 13 horror icons have looks and a signature style that transcends their films and even the genre itself.
The first thought of the word horror causes most people to think of slaughters or rampaging monsters pursuing their prey. But like most films, even horror films depend on the styled looks of their characters. Villains and heroes are often symbolized by a certain clothing accessory or just a style of attire. A few characters became icons solely because of their style.
Here is a list of those horror characters whose fame/infamy reached beyond horror fans to make them cultural icons.
The Babadook is not a person or being, but rather a manifestation of depression, fear, guilt, and self-loathing. Still, it packs a mighty wallop. Upon seeing the shadowy figure’s silhouette, the demon-faced being with a bizarre hat and sinister claws, that image will never leave your mind. Considering the Babadook was in the film for ten minutes, this is an amazing achievement.
12. The Tall Man
Angus Scrimm’s mortician from another world/dimension gives the classic grim reaper image a classy but intimidating image in Phantasm. The suit is a perfect late 1970s black suit purposely worn a few sizes too small to accentuate his height (along with platform shoes). Schram’s height and semi unkempt hair give him the aura of a wild beast hiding under a sheep’s wool. Even after his secret is revealed, he doesn’t back down with razor focus. The image of him walking towards you is one of the most damning in horror history.
11. Rick Grimes (and That Hat)
Rick Grimes is the de facto leader of a group of survivors from a post-zombie-apocalypse, in the zombie/drama The Walking Dead. In the first half hour of the show, the deputy finds his uniform and his hat. The hat is the symbol of Rick and the survivors. And even when his son wore it, you know it means Rick Grimes is there, ready to fight zombies and other humans. The hat is Rick.
10. The Hammer Ladies
Hammer horror is known for its bevy of lovely ladies — from the 1950s through the 1970s — from vampire twins to Dracula’s ancestors, and sinister countless others. Iconic actresses like Ingrid Pitt and Veronica Carlson graced many films and helped define the studio’s signature style. The look was obvious, with exposed bosoms and tight Victorian style dresses. The ornate, and yes, sexy style of wardrobe was always the show-stopper in many of the films. Sometimes, this was the only (or primary) reason some folks watched. While they weren’t always the best acted or best written films, you definitely know a Hammer film when you see it. The style is undeniable.
9. Billy from Saw
Many films showcase an evil genius. But there are few films where the villain himself isn’t the one with the iconic brand — but rather his symbolic stand-in. In this case, it’s Billy, the animatronic puppet that gets the spotlight. Billy sported a miniature tuxedo, red bow tie, and creepy white face; a puppet with bright red lips, in a half smirk. The decision to send him into scenes on a tricycle just added to the figure’s excessive creepiness. And it’s this puppet that became the unmistakable “face” of the franchise.
8. The Cenobites from Hellraiser
Those leather/ latex wearing demon-like beings — with their leader, Pinhead, a name hated by creator Clive Barker (he called him “Hell Priest”) — just stunned the horror and non-horror fans. Here was a group of deformed beings that managed to be both appealing and appalling at the same time, heavily adorned with skin and body part accessories. Pinhead wore a latex bodysuit and a cape (a tip to Dracula), with long needles protruding from his face and scalp. His friends looked more alien but strangely captivating in their provocative wardrobes. They terrorized viewers — demons who longed to devour souls. They were nightmare creatures who only appeared in their costumes to disturb and scare the hell out of everyone they encountered.
7. Carrie White from Carrie
The angst-ridden teenager, Carrie White was the iconic outcast of outcasts. For most of the film, she mouses around in conservative clothing that only a deranged religious maniac such as her mother would consider sinful. However, Carrie’s most famous outfit is the pale pink silk gown she wore in the film’s climax. Her blood-drenched gown and psychotic stare, as she snaps and goes apocalyptic in the film’s cataclysmic ending, is remarkable and unforgettable. She looks like a beautiful demonic wraith.
6. The Bride of Frankenstein
In the second film about the original mad scientist-created zombie, we’re graced with the presence of Elsa Lanchester as a startling but beautiful reanimated woman. She was created as a mate for the monster, but she ended up wanting nothing to do with her intended. Her shocking appearance and bandage clothing (almost a wedding tunic dress) which gave her a stunning mummified image was owed to famed costume designer Vera West. The white lightning streak in her hair is more than window dressing; her image is recognizable almost anywhere in the world.
Their disheveled, torn clothing befits the reanimated damnation that falls upon the planet. Any living person can picture what a zombie resembles — old, bloody clothing of all sizes and styles. What a zombie wears isn’t important. You still know it is a zombie. From ‘Chilly Willy’s’ aged suit in The Night of the Living Dead to Michael Jackson’s unforgettable red leather, a zombie is a zombie. It’s a style that is easy to emulate but impossible to forget.
4. Frankenstein’s Monster
The original reanimated human, Frankenstein’s creation wears an undersized suit and worn clothing. With his dead set eyes and pale color, he became one of the most iconic figures of horror from Universal Studios. Like his intended Bride, the monster’s unmistakable image is legendary in horror history.
3. The Wicked Witch of the West
The Wizard of Oz’s stylish villain is one of the most beloved and recognizable characters in all of cinema. When she wasn’t cackling threats or meeting a soppy demise, her pointy hat and dark maxi dress set the tone for witches (and wizards) in all future films. Since then, all who have dared to don the pointy hat owe a debt of gratitude to the unforgettable baddie from Frank Baum’s novel turned film.
2. Dracula and His Brides
In all of his incarnations, the greatest vampire legend was the Count himself. Bela Lugosi’s cape and suit alone stand have helped define the look of the vampire for decades of cinema. And those flowing, torn, white nightgowns became the famous representation of his harem of female accomplices. Later incantations of Dracula ditched the classic look in favor of more 19th-century aristocratic clothing (see Coppola’s version). However, show a picture of that cape and suit to anyone — and nine out of ten people will say Dracula. It’s hard to top that level of branding.
1. Masked Killers
Jason Voorhees. Michael Myers. Leatherface. Three of the most iconic horror villains of all time. What makes them so memorable and so deeply ingrained in our cultural awareness? It can easily be argued that it’s all about the costumes — or in case, that one very important accessory. Where would these killers be without their iconic masks? Thanks to a wayward hockey mask, a weathered William Shatner one, and another made of victims’ faces, we were given the birth of horror legends and unstoppable film franchises. These masks alone have the power to define a brand. Nothing else is needed. They represent the ultimate image of horror, fear, and KILLER style.