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How to Create Great Horror Villains

Glenn Benest gives advice on how to create great horror villains to elevate your scripts chance of attracting an A-list actor.

by Glenn Benest

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How to Create Great Horror Villains by Glenn Benest | Script Magazine

Do you love horror films like I do? Then you might enjoy the webinar I’m giving on October 28 at 1:00 pm. Or you can watch anytime for up to a year. Especially when it comes to horror, this subject is crucial for creating a screenplay in this genre.

Not just in horror but in all genres, much time is spent working on your protagonist but very little time is spent on the villain of your piece, the antagonist.

And strangely enough it’s the villain that oftentimes steals the show when the character is written with real craft and understanding of the human psyche. Think of Keith Ledger as the Joker or Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs. They made those movies and if written well, they attract big name stars.

So we must give a great deal of consideration to the villains. And especially in scary movies, the real hero is the evil person or creature.

Let me make one point that is crucial about the villain. We want a multi dimensional character but we never want to sympathize or feel sorry for this creation of ours. Why?

Because if I feel sympathy then my feelings are mixed and ambivalent and I don’t know how to feel. We always want the audience to hate the villain and root for the protagonist.

So what is the difference here? Let’s take Hannibal Lector. He is a fascinating villain. He’s absolutely terrifying, he’s a psychopath, a cannibal and has no compunction about killing those who get in his way. But he’s brilliant and fascinated by others – like Starling – the protagonist of the piece.

He actually cares about her and at one point says something like: the world would be a far less interesting place without her in it. He even uses his psychological prowess to get a cell mate next to him to commit suicide because the guy threw his semen on Starling and that was inexcusable for Lector.

So though he’s a monster, he’s also got a code of honor and he’s chivalrous. How fascinating. He has contradictions which always makes for a great character, whether it’s your protagonist or your antagonist. These great characters are not just one thing – they have many dimensions. That’s what makes them real.

Do I feel sympathy for Hannibal Lector? Do I empathize with him or feel sorry for him in any way? Absolutely not. It’s the fact that he’s a multi dimensional character that makes him more terrifying to me, because it makes him truly human, as Ted Bundy was or any of the great serial killers.

I use many examples about great villains in my upcoming webinar, including the villain from my new novel, INK. Join me on Wednesday October 28th or watch later to get insights into Creating Great Horror Villains – or any villains for that matter. We’ll see you then!

Get tips on creating amazing characters in Glenn Benest's webinar
Creating Great Horror Villains