The horror film genre has always had its fair share of iconic figures, a trend that started with the Universal monster films of the 1930’s & 1940’s and has continued throughout the last 80 years. However recently that trend of horror icons has shifted away from villains and monsters that the audience can grasp onto, raising the question, who, if any, are the new modern horror icons?
What makes a horror icon?
An Instantly Recognizable Distinct Appearance
Throughout the 1980’s and into the 1990’s there were an abundance of recognizable horror icons; Jason Vorhees, Freddie Kruger, Chucky, Michael Myers, Pinhead, Candyman, Ghostface, the list goes on and on. Aside from their desire for brutal murder, the thing these icons all have in common are their distinct appearances. From their unique masks to their terrifying faces, outfits & weapons, these characters all have something visceral about their appearances that instantly draws the viewer in. These characters become larger than the films they’re in and, similar to superheroes, the general population would be able to name a few of these horror icons without having seen one of their films.
An Abundance of Sequels
Now, more isn’t necessarily always better, but having a large library of sequels does help to build upon the lore of the Horror Icon while also keeping the interest in the franchise alive. Using horror icon Michael Myers from the Halloween Franchise as an example. In Halloween 2 (1981) we learn that Michael is the brother of Laurie Strode, which establishes his continuing driving motive throughout the franchise. Regardless of how wild the plot in this series may get, Michael Myers is the only consistency throughout. You can replace his victims, his motives in each timeline, but the one thing that remains the same, the Icon. Between 1978-2022 there have been 13 Halloween films, only one of which has not featured Michael Myers, with the largest gap of time between these films being 9 years. This helps keep the franchise and character constantly present in the pop culture stratosphere.
In more recent decades, the 2000’s & 2010’s, the new horror icons started to become fewer and farther between. Obviously excluding the Saw franchise with Jigsaw, which completely dominated the horror zeitgeist throughout the 00’s. The Paranormal Activity films were also consistently released and popular during this time frame, but this franchise doesn’t have a visual representation of what a horror Icon is. The Conjuring “universe” has given us Annabelle and the Nun, but the series focus is more on the demonologist couple, The Warrens. The Purge series also has consistent releases, but focuses on an event and not on a consistent character to grasp onto. Since roughly 2003 the remake/reboot craze has brought a lot of these previously mentioned characters back into the forefront. Particularly with SyFy’s Chucky(2021-), Scream (2022), and the latest Halloween Trilogy (2018-2022). As much as I love that these older IPs are getting renewed attention, it raises the question again, who are the New Horror icons?
Also Read: Top Horror Films of 2022 Ranked
Within the last 5 years there have been some absolutely incredible new horror films and filmmakers. A24 has been releasing some of the best non horror and horror films out there. Jordan Peele, Mimi Cave, Ti West, Zach Cregger, Damien Leone all had an amazing 2022 with the release of their horror films. So as we roll into the 2020’s, out of the Pandemic’s haze and into the future, who will we see as the new horror icons on the other side? Will Art the Clown find more victims to terrorize for years to come? Will we continue to follow Pearl throughout the 20th century on her murder spree? I look forward to the future of horror and who these new icons will be, whoever they are…