Roundtable Discussion: What do you think the de facto horror icon is for the new millenium?

Horror Movie Icons

[Seeing has how we’re on the brink of October, I thought it was time to reconvene the Midnight Society Strange Kid Roundtable and what better way to bring it back than with a conversation about monsters! This week we’re joined by Michael Corbett, Brittney-Jade Colangelo, Kristy Jett and John Cozzoli. We asked our roundtable participants to choose who (or what) they felt best represented the horror genre for the new millenium… here’s what they said.]

Sam (Trick ‘R Treat)

MICHAEL CORBETT: I’m changing the question, because the answer to the actual question is kind of depressing. The 80’s had Jason and Freddy and Michael, the 90’s had Ghostface and that guy in the raincoat that was really mad at Jennifer Love Hewitt. The new millennium however, is not so lucky. The honest answer to the original question is Jigsaw from the Saw franchise, and I’m not okay with that. Saw was a brilliant film, Saw 2 was an acceptable film and from there the series descended into a nonsensical mess that went on for far too long. I’d love to say the ghost from Paranormal Activity is the new icon, but I can’t accept an icon you can’t see. Plus, the series seems to be following in Saw’s footsteps, which is a huge disappointment.

So instead, I’ll be answering the question: Who should be the de facto horror movie icon for the new millennium? The answer to that one is simple: Sam, the nefarious little trick-r-treater from the ridiculously under-appreciated film Trick ‘R Treat. Sam is the living embodiment of the Halloween spirit and he delights in mayhem the night brings with it. If you haven’t heard of Sam or Trick ‘R Treat, it’s because Warner Brothers got scared off by the Saw franchise and never gave the film a theatrical release. Apparently people aren’t capable of seeing two movies in October. Warner robbed us of not just the best Halloween film in decades, but also our next great horror icon. I’ll happily give Sam all the praise he deserves, and never got from the studios. If you haven’t seen Trick ‘R Treat, get on it, Halloween is just around the corner.

Jigsaw (SAW)

BRITTNEY-JADE COLANGELO: While it pains me to admit that the face of one of my most hated horror franchises is the de facto monster of the new millennium, I cannot deny the importance and impact that John Kramer aka Jigsaw of the SAW series has had on horror films. The latter films in the franchise have been less than positively acclaimed from critics, but the SAW series is undoubtedly what started the recent obsession with gore and torture porn horror films. Horror films no longer rely on actual scare tactics, but rather gross out scenarios and over the top gore.

Even if modern horror films aren’t within the bounds of a “torture porn” film, they still have extremely graphic death/gore scenes to feed the hounding desires of modern audiences. We’ve all become far too desensitized and the SAW franchise was the first of its kind to bring this extreme showcase of violence to a modern audience. SAW films were filled with unique and elaborate kills, something that had never been done for mainstream horror films. Whether or not the series has been quality is completely irrelevant, as the box office numbers prove that the audience of the new millennium craves all things gore.

Leslie Vernon (Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon)

KRISTY JETT: To me, at this point in the game when the brilliance of Michael, Freddy and Jason has all but been forgotten in the face of the new slashers and horrid sequels that multiply as quickly as a wet Gremlin there is no other villain who surpasses Leslie Vernon. Behind The Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon came out of nowhere and helped to reinvent the genre we all hold so dearly. I find the film to be the greatest deconstructionist horror film of the last decade plus. Leslie Vernon himself has the wit, comedy and charm of a Dream Master-era Freddy, with looks that compete with Patrick Bateman. He allows us to peer behind the curtain, or behind the mask as it were and still saves back enough to surprise us at the end of it all.

If there’s one slasher/villain people should train their eyes to, it’s him. If you watch the films that have come out since his inception you can see traces of him everywhere. Leslie Vernon is the greatest horror villain to come out of the mid-2000s, and he should be the one to take his rightful place atop the horror throne come 2013…

Mankind (–)

JOHN COZZOLI: My quick reaction was “zombie,” but that’s too easy. Too obvious. There’s more underneath all that festering flesh, something else going on in the whole zombie dynamic in popular culture. So I started thinking more about the real monster that’s cleverly hiding within the zombie’s shambling corpse, and buried in every other monstrous creature we fear (or laugh at these days) to some degree.

That monster would be us.

Joe and Jane People. Through every culture, every horror meme, and every folktale, the monster of the story can’t be a monster without us, and often becomes more “monstrous” because of us. We’re the missing link, the monster of monsters, the blueprint to follow when Jason and Freddy start tearing it up, or vampires turn vegetarian, or when demons start possessing. We’re the alpha to every monster’s omega.

More scholarly works on horror would probably label this that mysterious “Other.” But I think there’s more to it. Social influences, personality influences, and biological influences congeal to produce the thing that’s not so strange to us anymore because its traits are our traits, and we fear it most because it can be alien and familiar at the same time. I never liked using the term “Other” because it implies we have no collective ownership in the monster-making, and the Other is someone or something acting outside the philosophical, religious, or societal rules. But here’s the kicker: it isn’t. It’s acting within those rules as we define them and as we live them.

Zombies, vampires, werewolves, serial killers, mutated offspring, they’re clear examples of how we ourselves become the monsters we fear the most. Even Frankenstein, made up of various parts of people, provides a clue as to who the de facto horror movie monster or villain is for this day and age. It’s us, maybe all dressed up for killing and terrorizing, but still plain old you and me being the best monsters who victimize ourselves.

Join the discussion! Got a favorite toy commercial from your childhood? Post a comment below and share it with the group.

Written by Rondal

Rondal is the Editor-in-Chief of Strange Kids Club and a creative instigator who tackles each day with Red Bull-induced enthusiasm and a mind for adventure. Rondal has written for other sites including Rue Morgue, Fuel Your Illustration and Bloodsprayer. His obsession with horror movies, 80s animation and action figures is considered unhealthy by medical professionals.

2237 posts
  • I gotta go with Sam!

  • Gonna have to go with mankind… There was that glut of torture-core flicks all through the ot’s that were all ‘man vs man’-centric.

  • Hmmm.

    As gnarly as Trick R Treat is and as fun as Sam was for the film , I can only take him in as a host character for the stories involved. He was just interlude , like Creeper from Creepshow or The Crypt Keeper was on the HBO Series. I love all those characters but I can’t give them a cast as THE ICON of this time.

    Jigsaw is probably the most noticeable in the list presented. The first movie re inspired that nitch of who done it in slasher flicks a lot like we got from the first Scream flick. Jigsaw was malicious , methodical and highly intelligent. I LOVE mastermind bad guys. He even had henchmen. The henchmen. If the character himself Jigsaw hadn’t been taken out of the story this would be my pick but it came down to the people he had taken in to carry on his work. That’s awesome , but Jigsaw isn’t there and I really hated the would be crew that followed in his wake.

    Leslie Vernon is probably my favorite on this list just because I get a lot of that 80’s slasher feel embodiment from the movie. It even host Kane Hodder and Robert Englund as characters in the movie. Leslie is fun , and funny BUT the documentary school project thing messed it up a tad. It gave it it’s structure for that story. It wouldn’t have been that movie without that set up but knowing the character now and with the high likeness of the next chapter of him coming I can only hope they do it up as an actual movie. Leslie rocks but the way the first film did , it took some away I feel.

    Humanity is evil. It truly is , but I have always known that. I watch the news local and world and get that we are just inching towards imploding. The pitch of us in the monsters that lurk is spot on also. Those creatures wouldn’t be there if we didn’t put them there. Reality / Fiction we’ve got doomsday covered human race! That’s why I turn to the obvious fantasy though. I know what were doing and even with the creature pitch its to vast and easy almost to label it ICON.

    So I’m going to throw Victor Crowley , played by Kane Hodder , into the mix.

    Victor Crowley is from the Hatchet franchise. The first film showcased a slew of actors of famous slashers throughout the whole thing. Robert Englund , Tony Todd , and John Buechler who’s been a man of magic behind the scenes with special effects on a slew of classic horror and genre films we all love , acting as the crazy harbinger. More genre favorites appeared in the second film , Lloyd Kaufman , Danielle Harris , and R.A. Mihailoff.

    All these people would have been thrown up on this same discussion if the interwebs were kicking like they are back when Friday the 13th , Elm Street , Halloween , Candy Man and Texas Chainsaw Massacre were battling for ICON. Adam Green and Kane Hodder brought them all together for the Hatchet series. It’s all familiar ground , feel look and slasher lore story , but it’s on a new character.

    Victor Crowley is a killing machine that can’t and won’t be stopped. The kills are over the top , the stories left me well entertained and Adam Green carries that special kind of humor in violence that made it all just fit right. I got the guy who appears behind you like Michael , I got the humor an one liners from the cast that made me giggle like Freddy and I got the brutality of Jason being acted out by probably one of the best if not the best guy behind the hockey mask.

    I think the Hatchet series gives Victor Crowley everything a new era slasher needs to be icon.

  • Mister D

    An icon actually has to be an icon. “Mankind” gets disqualified by that measure.

    I love Sam, and I love Leslie, but neither film yet has the broad based appeal to put them in Icon of the Millenium status. Love it or hate it, the Saw franchise has been the definition of horror for most of the last decade and from my students’ feedback, it will be for them what Friday and Nightmare has been for me and mine, so I have to go with JigSaw.

    I would love for debates such at this to encourage the industry to create some new horror icons. Too many of our post-2000 horror films have been aimed at resurrecting old icons (ie remakes), or lacked an identifiable antagonist (zombie films, possession films, “mankind” films, ghosts, found footage). Think of Final Destination or Paranormal Activity. Who are the icons from those franchises? Let’s try making some new signature bad guys who can join the ranks of Dracula, Norman, Freddy, Pinhead and Ghostface.

  • I actually wrote a blog post about this topic after you first mentioned it on Facebook. I think the answer is overwhelmingly zombies. They are everywhere in popular culture, movies, tv – they’re an icon like Frankenstein or Dracula, Jason or Freddy. But why do they resonate with modern society so strongly? I shared a few theories here:

  • The answer is undeniably Jigsaw, it’s why I switched the question around, because as it was asked, there was really only one answer. If we’re defining “icon” by referencing Michael, Freddy and Jason, then Jigsaw is the only one that even comes close. The widely known face of a popular, and successful horror franchise. I’d go so far as to say Jigsaw is the only traditional icon horror has had since Freddy and Jason first wrapped up in the early 90’s. Ghostface was an iconic costume, but it’s just that, a costume. Worn by different people with different motivation. Jigsaw was a presence in all of the films and it was his ideas that continued to drive the narrative, shitty as the narrative became.

    The ghost in Paranormal Activity could certainly be considered, but its far too abstract at this point in my opinion. We don’t know enough about it and we’re likely never going to see it, so it’s hard for it to become the face of a franchise. The franchise itself will be iconic, but the monster won’t be.

    So, I said Sam should be, as he’s one of the coolest creations I’ve seen come along in awhile. Yes, he’s very much like The Crypt Keeper, in that he’s sort of the master of ceremonies for the film, but lets not forget he’s also one of the main character’s in Trick ‘R Treat’s final story. I want to see more of Sam, and more of Sam’s stories.

  • I Love “Sam”. He and Leslie Vernon are the only action figures I have. Trick R Treat is a fun movie that should have gotten more notoriety.

    Poison, Drowning, Claw or Knife..
    So many ways to take a life… is on the action figure box. So Cool.

    Love Horror movie