The Halloween decorations may be back in the bargain bin for another year, but some shows are never done scaring you. You plucked up the courage to vote and now it’s time to peek from behind the cushions as we unveil the five villains that CultBox readers thought were the best at terrifying you through your tellybox…
#5: Sherlock’s Moriarty (11.3%)
Not a man you want to be trapped in a lift – or swimming pool – with, Moriarty’s brief appearance in Sherlock‘s Series 1 finale caught everyone off guard because, after all we’d learned and assumed, he wasn’t the brooding mastermind we were expecting.
There’s something about the unpredictably upbeat nature of Andrew Scott’s diabolical fiend that sends a shiver through us due to the fact it sits in direct counterpoint to the horrific actions we’ve witnessed beforehand.
His sing-song voice, the overt expressions, the boyish glint in his eye… This is a man who enjoys his work and that’s chilling – not least because, if you remember, his work did involve blowing up an old woman.
#4: It’s Pennywise (11.7%)
There’s an anecdote that Tim Curry did such a good job as Pennywise that other members of the cast of It avoided him on set. True or not, you can certainly believe it.
Doing for children’s entertainers what Jaws did for the beachside industry, Pennywise the Clown is the favourite form of the inter-dimensional demon formerly known as ‘It’.
Though It takes the form of its prey’s deepest fear (spiders, werewolves, the classics basically) it has an affinity for bringing out the coulrophobe in us all by camouflaging as the scariest, murder-iest, clown of all time.
Even worse is that it’s not being villainous on purpose: it’s just doing what comes (un)naturally to it. You can’t reason with It anymore than you can reason with a shark. It’s primal, and it’s the primal fears Pennywise makes us feel.
#3: Being Human’s Herrick (14.3%)
Part of you loves Herrick. That’s why he’s so frightening. He’s funny, he’s charming, he drinks hot chocolate, but just as you’re taken in that facade will drop and he’ll tear your throat out.
That he chooses to disguise himself as a policeman makes him all the more sinister, not simply because it allows him to go anywhere, but because it’s emblematic of how extensively and seamlessly the vampires have positioned themselves in places of power in our world.
In Series 3 he’s scary for a slightly different reason, as we’re constantly on-guard as to whether he’s truly a broken amnesiac or just putting on an act, and actor Jason Watkins plays it beautifully. His return to full Herrick-ness is still one of the most chilling moments in Being Human‘s run.
#2: Heroes’ Sylar (14.7%)
Polling remarkably high, some voters obviously have good enough memories to recall that first season when Sylar was actually scary.
Back when Heroes started Sylar was but a name whispered in fear; an uncatchable shadow who was known for taking the brains of his victims. Who was he? What did he want brains for? The mystery surrounding Sylar was both frightening and compelling. Thanks to Zachary Quinto and his eyebrows, when he was finally revealed he didn’t disappoint.
He had the soft-spoken charm and sudden temper of a serial killer and, combined with the ability to telekinetically saw off the top of your head (remember that sound effect?), he was a genuinely scary foe.
The only people who weren’t scared of him were the show’s writers, who were unafraid to completely ruin his character in later seasons.
#1: Doctor Who’s The Master (17.7%)
“I… am… The Master!” hissed Derek Jacobi, and all at once a new generation was introduced to the the most evil man in the universe. Laughing maniacally on our screens for 40 years now, The Master’s had a long and distinguished career of terror that puts everyone else on the list to shame.
Taking as much joy in chaos and death as The Doctor does in wandering the universe, his unhinged genius and utter disregard for life make him the ultimate psychopath. He’s even given Hannibal Lecter a run for his money by snacking on a couple of humans.
Roger Delgado played him as the gentleman villain, John Simm played him as a more caricatured baddie, while Eric Roberts… erm… played him. But whatever the face, we’re never in doubt that The Master is pure, drumbeat-fuelled evil.
Beneath the psychopathic fanfare, The Master’s always a man with a plan, and he’s willing to use every piece on the board – from sentient killer plastic chairs (Terror of the Autons) to the Time Lords themselves (The End of Time) – to further his aim of universal domination.
Who do you think is cult TV’s scariest villain? Let us know below…