I believe the band ‘Set It Off’ said it best in their song, “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing”:
“Beware, beware, be skeptical, of their smiles, their smiles of plated gold,
Deceit so natural, but a wolf in sheep’s clothing is more than a warning…”
The horror genre had kick started with monsters such as vampires, but as time went on, we were introduced to a new breed of monster: humans. They hide in people we trust or people who don’t appear suspicious at all, so you need to choose your allies and enemies wisely.
As a general rule, only characters, who by their actions and/or interactions with others are wolves in sheep’s clothing, make the list. Therefore, characters that get demonically possessed do not appear since it’s not the actions of the character, but the actions of the demon itself through the character’s body, that occur.
So, in no particular order, here are the ‘Ten Horror Characters That Don’t Appear as Villains at First’:
Warning: Spoilers ahead
01. Norman Bates in Psycho (1960)
One of the classic examples for this list. When we first meet him, Norman is this nice guy working at this motel in the middle of nowhere and acts very hospitable to Marion Crane. There are a few things that are off such as his taxidermy obsession and his issues with his mother, but the audience chooses to ignore it. Once Marion’s sister, her boyfriend, and a private investigator they hired arrive at the motel to figure out Marion’s murder, Norman starts acting paranoid and hides that (unaware to the characters) he obviously was the one who killed her.
After the private investigator is killed (of course, Norman did it), his paranoia only grows as he puts his mother’s corpse in the cellar of the house on the motel property. It isn’t until the end when we realize that he was the one who killed both Marion and the private investigator and that his mother was just a split personality he invented after he killed her and her boyfriend in the past. Norman is actually very different from his book counterpart here since Hitchcock wanted to make him a bit more sympathetic since the version in the book’s split personality only came about when he was drunk, not that he was mentally unstable and had mommy issues. I personally believe that Hitchcock changed both the story and character for the better.
02. Dr. Henry Jekyll in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
Yet another classic example of the topic for this list. In this version, Jekyll is obsessed with the idea that men have both good and evil in them. He’s really kind and wants to marry his fiancée despite her father wanting them to wait. Jekyll even rescues a bar singer who gets attacked outside of her home. However, once he takes the formula and becomes Hyde, his nice demeanor completely goes out the window in favor for a more violent and cruel personality. As Hyde, he kills people and causes damage wherever he goes.
It all ends when his friend, Dr. Lanyon (a combination of Utterson and Lanyon from the books), finds out that Jekyll and Hyde are one in the same and Jekyll is killed during a struggle with the police. I thought that the performance by Fredric March was well done on both personalities and it showed a lot.
03. Rose Armitage in Get Out (2017)
Slight spoilers for a three year old movie, so feel free to skip if you wish. Rose is Chris, the protagonist’s, girlfriend. When we first meet her, she is taking Chris to meet her parents and defends him from a racist police officer. As the story goes on and Chris starts noticing that there’s something wrong with everyone involved in the family, Rose acts oblivious..until he finds out that he wasn’t the first African-American boyfriend she has had.
When Chris tries to leave, he gets blocked by Rose’s family. He asks her for the keys, but she just holds them up and doesn’t give them to him. This was shocking for the time and the way it was done was brilliant. Later, when he escapes, Rose goes after Chris and he tries to kill her, but can’t bring himself to do it before his best friend rescues him. In an interview with Allison Williams, Rose’s actress, she said that she was picked to make the audience trust her, which makes the reveal even more shocking.
04. Billy Loomis and Stu Macher in Scream (1996)
Fun Fact: Ghostface was done by two people, not just one person doing both, the killings and the calls. These are those two people behind Ghostface. Billy Loomis is the protagonist, Sidney’s, boyfriend while Stu Macher is Billy’s best friend. At first, Billy and Stu are shown to be normal teenagers until deaths start happening: the principal is stabbed to death in his office and Stu’s girlfriend, Tatum, is crushed by a garage door. Later, after he and Sidney have sex, Billy is “killed” by Ghostface. The situation only gets worse and worse when Stu and Randy accuse each other of being the killer and Billy is revealed to be still alive.
However, at that moment, Billy revealed that he and Stu were behind everything the whole time and were both working together as Ghostface (Billy was doing the kills while Stu did the phone calls). They reveal to Sidney that they were doing this not only because of their obsession with horror movies, but because they wanted to kill Sidney and frame her father because he was having an affair with Billy’s mother. The film ends with Sidney defeating them herself. I remember being blown away by this twist since I thought it was just one guy doing everything, not two. It was creative and I wished that there would be more twists in films like this.
05. Mrs. Voorhees in Friday the 13th (1980)
This is just my opinion, but I found the original Friday the 13th to be boring and slow paced. However, the ending caused my interest to peak when Mrs. Voorheese, the actual killer, showed up. At first, she was a nice lady that was talking to the final girl, Alice Hardy, saying that she’s a friend of Steve Christy, the owner of Camp Crystal Lake. However, she goes insane when she reveals that her son, Jason, was the boy who drowned years ago and blames the counselors for not doing anything since they were having sex at the time. She then tries to kill Alice who decapitates her.
A lot of people believe that Jason was the killer the whole time, but his mother actually came first and she’s one of the few female slasher villains out there and is sadly forgotten most of the time.
06. Lawrence Talbot in The Wolf Man (1941)
I’m not sure if I’m cheating or not on this because The Wolf Man is a legit monster and not a human who acts malevolent, but not at first. Anyways, Lawrence Talbot was visiting his father after the death of his brother and he was just a normal guy. That is, however, until he got bitten by a wolf (later revealed to be a fortuneteller’s son as a werewolf) while trying to save a girl named Jenny, who was a friend of his love interest, Gwen.
When he turns, Lawrence kills people on instinct since he’s very feral in this state. First, he kills the gravedigger and several other people. While he does regret doing these things as a human because he sort of remembers it, I’m still counting him for this list. He’s a literal wolf, so maybe it does count in a way?
07. Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990)
When you become famous, you have a lot of people who like you. Some are sane while others..not so much. This is where Annie comes in. We first meet her when she rescues Paul Sheldon, her favorite author, from being caught in a blizzard after he got in a car accident. She seems nice enough..until she discovers what will happen in Paul’s next book: the main character, Misery, will be killed off.
She forces him to write a new novel where Misery doesn’t die and basically tortures him. It’s every writer’s worst nightmare. Let’s just hope that this doesn’t happen to the writers of The Last Jedi or Game of Thrones since the fans have been acting a bit like this. It’s almost a perfect reflection of obsessed fans. The actress who portrayed Annie, Kathy Bates, actually won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance and it shows. I remember being slightly freaked out by the character since I’m a writer myself and that I might end up having fans like Annie. The movie was still great though.
08. Carrie White in Carrie (1976)
Carrie is an interesting case for this article since unlike the other characters featured on my list, she’s a victim and isn’t really all that evil compared to some of the others. She’s bullied by her classmates excluding Sue Snell and Tommy Ross, disregarded by the staff with the exception of Miss Collins, the gym teacher, and even abused by her own mother. So, she’s basically had it rough. I mean, her mother is psychotic: she was locking her in the closet and smacking her with a Bible whenever Carrie did something her mother perceived wrong, while forcing her to read verses from it.
Now, the reason why I chose her outside of her being a classic example and being one of the few sympathetic and not really evil ones on this list, is the ending of the film (I’m sure you’re familiar with it, I mean, who isn’t?). To give a quick rundown on what happened, the main bullies, Chris and Billy, dropped pig’s blood on Carrie during prom right after she was named prom queen (which was rigged by Chris and her friend, Norma), so she loses it and kills everyone in the gym with her telekinetic powers before continuing her carnage outside and once she gets home. Her mother attacks her, leading to Carrie killing her with silverware using her powers. Carrie then causes the house to collapse in on itself, killing them both. It also ends with your typical “sequel bait” and obligatory jump scare.
In a way, it was karma and the audience roots for her to take out her bullies, but she still killed people regardless, which is why she made the list. Despite the fact that this film was made in the 70’s, it’s a bit terrifying how this all sounds like a modern day school shooter situation, minus the telekinesis. To sum it up, Carrie is a victim of bullying and mental and emotional abuse, but she still killed people despite how bad we feel for her and that’s the sad truth.
09. Jackson Rippner in Red Eye (2005)
When we first meet Mr. Rippner, he acts like a decent person towards Lisa until the big reveal that he’s actually a terrorist. He fits for my analysis article because at first, he’s not particularly villainous before he shows his true colors and makes the audience and Lisa feel tense when he starts acting cruel on screen despite the fact that minutes ago, he was being a nice guy with a charming smile and a kind personality complete with chivalrous actions.
It doesn’t help that the actor is VERY attractive too, making it easier for audiences to fall for him and the facade he puts on through the movie before revealing his true nature and fooling us all. Jackson basically has all the common psychopath traits (charming, charismatic, manipulation, the need to control people, etc.) and Cillian Murphy plays it off brilliantly in this underrated film.
10. Thomas and Lucille Sharpe in Crimson Peak (2015)
The reason why I picked these two is because Thomas starts off as a charming gentleman (kind of like Jackson Rippner) while Lucille, on the other hand, is shown as talented, but cold. Their true actions show when Lucille kills some butterflies in one scene and when Thomas acts incredibly distant. It shows their real selves while Edith is unaware how they actually act despite some of the evidence being right in front of her. It all comes together when they try to poison her multiple times after she marries Thomas and moves in with him and Lucille, along with the reveal that Thomas had been married multiple times before Edith and Lucille was put in a mental institution. They also kill each of the wives to gain their inheritance.
Again, like Jackson Rippner, Thomas is played by an attractive actor while Lucille is played by a pretty actress, making their actions uncomfortable because of their beauty. There’s another thing I would like to bring up is that the two characters are in an incestuous relationship. They are a devious gold digging pair with manipulative traits (well, Lucille has them more than Thomas does) and Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain do an amazing job, I would like to see them play devious characters more often. Although Thomas redeems himself in the end by helping Edith, I count him and his sister as being wolves in sheep’s clothing for their actions.
By the way can you think of any other characters in horror movies who deceive us? Anyone who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing?