From drama to action, from horror to thriller, villains—be they animal, artificially intelligent, supernatural, or human—are the bedrock that keeps us engrossed in the story. Granted, we need that connection with the good guys, lest we set down that book and gain six pounds on a three-day DorNet binge (Doritos and Netflix). But a great villain is just as essential—possibly more so—in keeping those pages turning. Sure, we need to find out how our hero saves the day, but admit it: deep down, what we really want is that awesome rush that comes from a good scare.
Animals make fantastic villains. There’s no fear so raw, so primal, than the threat of some hungering, unpredictable beast stalking us, waiting for its chance to sink its fangs into our flesh. An animal can’t be reasoned with. Toyed with. It hunts and it fights—right to the bitter end. It’ll go down swinging, and it’ll take an arm or a leg with it. Kudos to Cujos.
Artificially Intelligent Villains
The term itself scares me. Anything that smacks of computer intelligence, neural networks, hive minds or collectives, conjures an image of cold, unfeeling decision-makers that, despite what we mere mortals like to believe, are superior. They’re stronger. Faster. Make better, quicker decisions.
These binary bastards would snuff us out in the blink of an eye—which for them, is an eternity. Think it can’t happen? Ask guys like Elon Musk (and many others in the scientific community) who’ve been raising all kinds of red flags about how dangerous artificial intelligence has—and will—become. So, yeah—they make great villains—imagined, and real.
These nasty fuckers really scare the shit out of me. While I won’t say I believe in ghosts, I will say that I don’t know if they don’t exist. So … what’s so scary about supernatural villains? In a word, everything.
Who the hell wants to wake up at 3:00 a.m., only to find some semi-transparent dead dude at the foot their bed? I wouldn’t bother to scream. I’d just shit myself.
Let’s not forget pure evil. Demons, soul suckers, dark angels, whatever … they can inflict our worst fear of all. We might never admit it—publicly, anyway—but every damn one of us is terrified of going to hell. Who wants that?
Don’t get me started on things like vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, and other messed-up creatures (yeah, I’m including these “villains” like bloodsuckers from Transylvania under the “supernatural” umbrella). These things are out for one thing: survival. They kill, they maim, they take. Just like us. They are (just like us), animals. And when an animal is cornered, they’re even scarier. They’ll bite us. They’ll bleed us. They’ll rip us to shreds. Worse? They’ll fuck with our heads.
Ah, the best for last. In my humble opinion, we’re the most frightening villains of all. As a species, we’re generally comfortable with others—in other words, we trust. But when pitted against a human monster, trust turns to terror. It’s as if an unspoken covenant has been broken, and all bets are off.
A human villain is cunning and cold. It’s ruthless. It can bleed; it can feel. But it won’t be denied; won't be defeated. Not in its mind. It believes it’s superior. Unstoppable. And that, my friend, is truly terrifying. It’s. Too. Real.
Who, or what, are your favorite villains? Drop me a line in the comments below. I’d love to hear what scares the shit out of you.
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