You'll rarely find a great movie without a good villain and you'll generally find the best villains in genre films. Naturally, the Austin-based genre film festival Fantastic Fest introduces moviegoers to tremendous movie bad guys every year. With a lineup of horror, sci-fi and action movies from around the world, each festival offers a treasure trove of memorable antagonists. This year was no different.
Here are the scariest, meanest and most depraved villains to emerge from Fantastic Fest 2013. You will love to hate (or just plain hate) every one of these guys.
7. The Satellite Debris in Gravity
It may not be a person, but there are few on-screen adversaries that will get your pulse racing quite like the runaway satellite debris that drives the plot of Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity. Arriving like clockwork every 90 minutes, the remains of a carelessly destroyed Russian satellite menace two astronauts played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney throughout the film, always cutting off chances of escape and making their situation far worse than it already was. It may not have a face or a personality, but there were few villains more frightening then this wave of shrapnel traveling at 50,000 miles per hour.
6. Giff, the Terrifying Low-Level Redneck Criminal Scumbag, in We Gotta Get Out of This Place
We've seen plenty of nasty blue-collar criminals throughout cinema, but actor Mark Pellegrino brings something new to the table with Giff, the main antagonist in the terrifically sleazy noir We Gotta Get Out of This Place. With his gentle looks and easygoing voice, Pellegrino doesn't seem like the kind of actor who could play a character who makes his grand entrance by executing an innocent man, but it only adds to his mystique. It's a meat-and-potatoes kind of villain, a bad guy who knows what he wants and will hurt anyone who gets in his way. Pellegrino lays on the charm and menace, making him the most captivating character in the movie. You can't wait for him to show up again, but when he does, you immediately regret it.
5. Camiel Borgman, the Mysterious and Possibly Satanic Home Invader, in Borgman
We don't know who Camiel Borgman is. We don't know what he wants. Heck, we don't even know if that's his real name. But we do know that he's a masterful liar, an expert in the ways of violence and has a small army of accomplices who will do his surreal bidding without a moment's hesitation. As we watch him carefully infiltrate an upper-class family's home and put them under his spell, we can't help but ask ourselves who this guy is. The film offers no easy answers, but Jan Bijovet's creepy and charismatic performance tells us all that we need to know. Borgman may be a metaphor, he may be a supernatural threat or he may be just an uncommonly powerful drifter, but he's as evil as evil gets. He's just gotten very good at hiding in plain sight.
4. Colin, the World's Richest and Sickest Prankster, in Cheap Thrills
Casting David Koechner in Cheap Thrills was a stroke of genius on the part of director E.L. Katz. He's an actor we're accustomed to seeing in comedies; a big, friendly and weird guy with a booming laugh. Of course, that's why the character of Colin turns out to be so terrifying. After luring two old friends back to his home, the mysteriously wealthy Colin begins offering them outrageous sums of money to participate in increasingly weird and violent dares, seemingly for his own amusement. Suddenly, Koechner's goofy facade stops being funny and starts being unsettling. This is a guy who gets off one watching people hurt themselves and others. This is a guy who gives the same amount of weight to stupid prank that he does to extreme violence. It's a subversive twist on Koechner's usual screen persona and it's a showcase for how much his usual gigs haven't been letting him do.
3. Father, One of Cinema's Most Unsettling and Realistic Cult Leaders, in The Sacrament
You've probably seen character actor Gene Jones before, but you definitely haven't seen him in a role quite like that of Father in Ti West's The Sacrament. The head of an isolationist cult in the middle of the African wilderness, the self-proclaimed "Father" watches over his flock with a quiet but iron fist, keeping the majority brainwashed and the unhappy frightened. Although we've seen this type of miniature tyrant on film (and in the news) before, Jones' performance is something special. A seemingly friendly grandfather type with a gentle Southern drawl and a ready smile, he's actually a vicious monster underneath the surface. What's most terrifying about him is his conviction -- if he can't rule his tiny corner of the world then no one in that corner is fit to live. To say much more would spoil the true horror of The Sacrament, but the actions of Father in the second half of the film are some of the most deplorable and disturbing things you'll see in a cinema this year.
2. Benno, the "So Disturbing and Twisted That He Had to Be Based on a Real Guy" Villain, in Nothing Bad Can Happen
Knowing that the events of Nothing Bad Can Happen are based on a real incident make an already difficult and punishing film even more of a trial to sit through. Knowing that the character of Benno (Sascha Alexander Gersak) is based on a real person elevates him from unpleasant villain to front-runner for "nastiest person in the history of the world." A seemingly normal family man, Benno takes in a stray youth who loses his home and Christian support group. As time passes, Benno drops the veil of humanity and begins tormenting and torturing his house guest in the worst ways imaginable, all without real cause. Since his religious victim refuses to fight back or flee, we get to see Benno sink to some of the lowest lows ever seen on film, much of which cannot be described here. Nothing Bad Can Happen is an incredible and gutwrenching film and Benno is a villain that you will never forget.
1. Donald Rumsfeld, the World's Biggest Liar and Uncooperative Documentary Subject, in The Unknown Known
About halfway through Errol Morris' riveting documentary The Unknown Known, you realize that chief subject Donald Rumsfeld isn't giving the Oscar-winning documentarian behind the camera very many answers. In a weird way, this is one of the least informative docs you'll ever watch, but it's a perfect picture of Rumsfeld, who spends the film dodging questions and hiding behind alternate definitions and confusing, specifically worded phrases. What could have been a chance to talk openly about his controversial career ends up being a terrifying journey into the mind of a bureaucrat who brushes off the damage he's done to the world with a laugh and a quip. No Fantastic Fest villain can top him -- he's the real deal when it comes to villainy.
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