Author extraordinaire Stephen King has given the world dozens of complex novels full of unforgettable characters. Noble heroes and everday heroines play out their fascinating stories while staying at enormous wealthy resorts or living seemingly normal lives right in the heart of downtown suburbia. Clashing with King’s good guys are a smorgasbord of the weirdest, nastiest and even somewhat magnetic bad guys. For every good guy or gal we root for, there has to be an equally wicked man or women to keep things moving and interesting. Here are my picks for most memorable, intriguing and just downright slimy villains borne of the frightfully fertile mind of shock master Stephen King.
Annie Wilkes – Misery
Every great author has to have fans. In King’s novel Misery, Annie Wilkes is the super, duper uber fan of all time. Pity she’s as crazy as a corn dog.
King’s Annie Wilkes is every writer’s nightmare. She’s someone so feverishly loyal, so pathetically prideful that when her beloved fictional character Misery is killed off, she takes it so personally it’s either a rewrite and reimagination or Mister Man Paul Sheldon will soon find himself six feet under. Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her searingly complex portrayal of the deranged literary lunatic opposite a underated James Caan playing Paul Sheldon. Bates took King’s creation and conjured up one of the most eerily fascinatng characters ever seen on film.
Andre Linoge – Storm Of The Century
“Give me what I want, and I’ll go away.” This is the haunting demand of Andre Linoge as he terrorizes the simple townsfolk of Little Tall Island.
King wrote this disturbing tale expressly for television as a mini-series, so there was no novel source to draw from or change. Despite this story being a script, King’s three dimensional characters and complex story telling structure is more than evident and when the final action plays out, it stands as one of King’s greatest achievements. Actor Colm Feore plays Linoge with an unsettling intensity, but also with such quiet intellectual fiercness we find ourselves truly fascinated about the mysterious man’s origins – if he even is a man at all. This plot question mark on the character and the tale in general may be Storm Of The Century’s most compelling element, because while much is answered at the conclusion, enough remains unsolved for King to perhaps tackle one or even several more stories dealing with the shocking aftermath.
Margaret White – Carrie
Margaret White’s teenage daughter Carrie posesses a mental power so formidable, it could bring her fame, fortune or even great global political power. Instead of celebrating her daughter’s abilities or just delighting in them, she manipulates the young girl with religion, and abuses her both verbally and physically.
An abusive parent of any type is arguably a formidalbe villain in any genre, here Mrs. White’s refusal to commune with anyone except her strict religious beliefs brings both pity to the character, but also fosters a strong anger towards her. Brian DePalma’s 1976 film version is probably the most popular or critically acclaimed movie adaptation and Piper Laurie as Margaret White opposite Sissy Spacek as Carrie remains an unforgettable cinematic duo. Laurie’s near total transformation into a frizzy haired raving prophet stuffed full of biblical verse, but little human compassion transfixes all who see her and when she hurts her daughter Carrie we feel every stinging word and physical attack as if she was preying upon us.
The Overlook Hotel – The Shining
Though the human villain in The Shining is named Jack Torrance, King’s fictional spooky hotel The Overlook is the real villain of the story. Numbering among the human bad guys are paranormal ones, who have no pressing need to ever check out of the maginficently creepy hotel.
Fashioned after the massive real life Stanley Hotel in Colorado, the hotel is a kind of crossroads of supernatural evil – a resort for the otherworldy and wicked. Like the chilling vibe in King’s previous novel Salem’s Lot where the nightmarish Marston house was also a sort of energizer battery for evil energy, the Overlook seems to be able to influence certain suspectible types like Jack Torrance into committing unspeakable acts of horror. Though King adapted his own novel for the great ABC mini-series, it’s director Stanley Kubrick’s vision of the tale most know and love. Kubrick used massive soundstages to film in and his use of lighting, color and sound turn the Overlook Hotel into a truly memorable villainous character.
Randall Flagg – The Stand
Randall Flagg is the Walkin Dude – a man of many names and personas. One thing is clear about this guy -he’s bad news.
King is on the record saying The Stand is his favorite novel – the one that came out closest to his vision. With as charasmatic, yet still powerfully frightening villain as Flagg to drive the action, King outdid himself with the creation. Flagg’s supernatural powers range from teleportation to shape shifting and more, however his power to seduce weak minded people into his awesome army of evil is perhaps what’s most intriguing about him. Often, Flagg gives those who defy him a choice – at least a semblance of one. It is this Faustian bargain that sees him compared to Satan or some demonic force which has plagued mankind since time began. In 1994, a TV mini-series was released based on King’s novel with Jamie Sheridan assuming the role of Randall Flagg. Sheridan played Flagg like a dark hippie version of Jim Jones or David Koresh – a likeable, attractive cult leader who motivates throngs of admirers to his side – while lavishly punishing those who dared to cross him.