Thursday, June 25, 2009

Crimson King: Stephen King's 10 Best Antagonists

He's the King of horror for a reason, and though not everything in his massive body of work is a masterpiece, when it is, it is. So, we'll take a look at the darkest, baddest characters the King holds to his credit.

10. Jack Torrance (The Shining)- What's scarier than having an antagonist hiding in the shadows is realizing piece by piece that he's standing right in front of us. Jack is driven slowly insane by the Overlook Hotel throughout the story, in a cold isolated hotel with only his wife and son. While the book and movie are very different, and each goes about Jack's madness in their own way, both are very well-executed.

9. Blaine (The Dark Tower)- The insane, suicidal, riddle-loving monorail from The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands and The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass. In short, he is just one disturbed, crazy motherfucker even if he is only a programmed talking monorail. He's the literal crazy train. Blaine wants to die and wants to take our heroes down with him, as well as destroy an entire city. While the city cannot be saved, his game of riddle telling with the heroes makes for nail biting reading.

8. Christine- The touching story of a boy and his first car. One messed up romance, and a really unhealthy relationship. Christine will let nothing come between her and Archie Cunningham, her owner/lover. She is a vengeful 1958 Plymouth Fury, and the name is far too appropriate, as this is one crazy furious bitch. Also, this car is pretty much indestructible. One hell of an entertaining, obscurely creepy read, and John Carpenter's film is overlooked.

7. Carrie White- Carrie is a completely sympathetic character. High School is hell for her and things just don't seem to go well for her at all. We want her to be okay. We want her mother to accept her, we want the boy to like her for real, we want to be prom queen. But this is a high school fairy tale in which NONE of these things come true. What were left with is a girl now controlled by the one aspect of herself she actually tried to hide. After the prank at prom, Carrie's uses her telekinesis to destroy everyone and everything around her, and our sympathetic heroine is barely even human anymore. In all honesty, the true villain of the piece is the mother, but Carrie is one who kills hundreds of people, and the image of her in her blood stained prom dress has become iconic.

6. The Crimson King (The Dark Tower)- The overbearing antagonist of the Dark Tower series comes in late in the game. The Crimson King is not so much as scary as his lead henchman (we'll get to that dark man later) nor as his ambitious goal. He wishes to bring about the true destruction of everything. Not just the world, not just the universe, but every world in every universe. True ultimate destruction.

5. Pet Sematary- The MicMac Burial Ground is the subtlest of evils. We don't understand what happens here, not really, but we see the product and it is frightening. One of King's most disturbing books, one of his most successfully horrifying films. What we know about this place is what we hear through old-timer Judd Crandall. And we know it is bad. The message "sometimes dead is better" gets clearer and clearer as the story goes on.

4. Mr. Barlowe ('Salem's Lot)- The master vampire of King's smalltown horror, which he once claimed to be his scariest book. And it's definitely one of them, if not the top spot. Salem's Lot is half homage to Stoker's Dracula, half smalltown creeping horror. He spreads his evil through the town and these, lemme tell you, are NOT your metro Anne Rice or sparkly Twilight vampires.

3. Annie Wilkes (Misery)- Every celebrity's worst nightmare... the ultimate fan. She starts off so nice, a kindly, portly woman taking in a writer after an accident and insisting that she's his biggest fan. But when she keeps the writer captive, we see how insane she really is. Kathy Bates performance as the chilling character earned her a well deserved Academy Award.

2. Pennywise (It)- A cosmic entity with a hunger for all life, but especially prays on children, it see into the deepest parts of your soul and take the form of everything you were ever afraid of. And it's favorite form to appear in is a clown. With this character, King personified fear and dread itself in one eccentric, laughing monster. One of the scariest creations in all of literature.

1. Randall Flagg (The Dark Tower, The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon)- The walking dude, the dark man, he goes by many names and can appear in any King work ...if he hasn't appeared already. He IS King's villain. Whether he be the ultimate embodiment of charismatic evil (as in The Stand) or a crazed, power-hungry sorcerer (The Eyes of the Dragon), or in King's epic masterwork, The Dark Tower, both. He is beyond psychotic, both evil and likable, and bears many similarities to the Devil Himself. The impact he has had on King's writing is profound (not without a sense of irony for a Dark Tower reader) and there could be no other top spot than this.

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