Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills picks his top 11 icons of horror

Photograph by Jeremy Saffer

Ice Nine Kills recently released their new album, The Silver Scream, a 13 track tribute to all things horror. Each song is based off a horror movie or icon, so we spoke with the killer vocalist Spencer Charnas at Rock and Shock last weekend to find out who made the list of his all-time favorites horror heroes… or villains. We also listed the songs on The Silver Scream inspired by his choices. See who made the cut below.

1. Michael Myers / Halloween (Inspired the song “Stabbing in the Dark” on The Silver Scream)

In many ways, John Carpenter’s 1978 classic Halloween is the godfather of the slasher film. It was the thing before the thing, in the sense that the term slasher movie probably wasn’t even used until Michael Myers and Halloween and all of the movies that came in it wake. But no matter how many knock offs and imitations of Michael Myers there are and have been over the past 40 years since the films release, none have quite matched the terror of that faceless white emotionless mask.

2. Pamela Voorhees / Friday the 13th (Inspired the song “Thank God It’s Friday” on The Silver Scream)

Admittedly by Sean Cunningham and Victor Miller, the writer and director, Friday the 13th was a copy of Halloween. Halloween was making a lot of money in the box office, and they wanted to rip it off. While it was obviously influenced by Halloween, it did bring a really cool new setting. They took it out of Any-town USA and put it in a remote setting like a summer camp, and to my knowledge there were no horror movies that were ever set at a summer camp. That setting is scary in itself because it’s removed from parental supervision, and deep in the woods there’s really nothing scarier than that and just the whole backstory behind who Jason was and that he was neglected by the counselors and drowned in the lake. It featured one of the greatest twist endings ever in horror that you are assuming these killings are being done by a big strong man because the way in which the people are killed and generally there weren’t too many to my knowledge female killers in movies until then, so that big reveal that Betsy Palmer was in fact the murderer was pretty genius. It was a brilliant casting decision to pick Betsy Palmer because she was known as a very wholesome actress. She had a lot of success in her career, and I don’t think had played anything like a villain before, so that was great.

3. Freddy Krueger / A Nightmare on Elm Street (Inspired the song “The American Nightmare” on The Silver Scream)

A Nightmare on Elm Street also came in the wake of Jason and Michael and the whole slasher craze, but what was so interesting about this film is that the killer wasn’t hunting you in Haddonfield or Camp Crystal Lake or any sort of real setting, but in your dreams. That movie was so genius because you know no matter what you do, you can have a gun with you at all times, you can lock yourself in a room, deadbolt the door, but nothing can stop you from falling asleep. Therefore nothing can stop you in your demise at the hand, or glove rather, of Freddy Krueger.

4. Leatherface / The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (Inspired the song “Savages” on The Silver Scream)

Leatherface is definitely another one of my favorites, and one of the only ones I can think of that came out before Halloween. I think Tobe Hooper’s direction and the whole idea that they were pitching it as true events, which it isn’t really true, but it’s sort of loosely based on Ed Gein, and just the whole idea of a not just a single killer, but a family of cannibals out there in rural Texas is obviously every travelers’ worst nightmare. It’s also funny that it features John Larroquette’s voice as narrating that opening scene. That’s just so funny because he was obviously a more comedic actor from shows like Night Court, and I think what was so genius about that film is that when people think of Texas Chainsaw, they think of violence and extreme gore, but in reality that first film is really light on gore. It proves the point that what the audience doesn’t see is sometimes more vicious and horrible than what they could show you on screen. What you can make up in your imagination is the scariest thing.

5. Billy / Silent Night, Deadly Night (Inspired the song “Merry Axe-mas” on The Silver Scream)

Released in 1984—the same weekend as A Nightmare on Elm Street, and actually preformed better than A Nightmare on Elm StreetSilent Night, Deadly Night was pulled from theaters because of the controversial marketing of the film. It featured a killer Santa Claus, and parents were very upset at that and picketed outside the theater, but it was just a brilliant mixture of horror and comedy. I don’t know if it was intentionally funny, but I thought it was really funny, so I’ll go with that one. Plus, the killer has some really cheesy, awesome lines, so funny. We do a song about that on the album, too, “Merry Axe-Mas.”

6. Pennywise / IT (Inspired the song “It Is the End” on The Silver Scream)

That novel/movie/character really reinforced that idea of clowns being so scary. I think that probably John Wayne Gacy must have served as some sort of inspiration for that book because he was a real killer that dressed as clowns and killed people then would do a kids birthday party then go back and out kill people. So, I think taking something that is diametrically opposed to what you think is evil, which is a clown—someone who’s there to provide laughter and joy for children—and having that character be the devil underneath that makeup is a genius move. Tim Curry and Bill Skarsgård both did the character justice.

7. Patrick Bateman / American Psycho

The Bret Easton Ellis novel was adapted into a brilliant film, and I think that brought something new to the whole slasher world because it wasn’t someone who was an outcast to society. It wasn’t someone who was bullied. It was someone who had led a very privileged life and was born into royalty so to speak, in the sense that his father owned this big Wall Street type company. Plus, the whole idea in the book that no one realizes that this guy is killing everyone because everyone is so superficial and fixed on all the appearance of things and possessions, I think it was a really cool statement about the excess of the 80s and how people were so consumed with themselves and money that they wouldn’t have even known if their co-worker was murdering half of the city. It also features a brilliant performance by Christian Bale, which he should have won an Oscar for that.

8. Victor Crowley / Hatchet

Hatchet features a brilliant performance from Kane Hodder who obviously played Jason more than anyone in the Friday the 13th series. The first Hatchet was just a really cool return to the retro vibe of 80s horror, and I just loved the way the movie was marketed. It wasn’t a remake, it wasn’t based on a Japanese ghost tale or anything like that, and the kills were really brutal. I think some of the best in the genre.

9. The Candyman / Candyman

Tony Todd’s portrayal of The Candyman was brilliant, and Clive Barker’s writing made that film really stand out in the horror community. I recently got to interview Tony Todd at the premiere of Hell Fest, that new slasher movie, which was pretty cool. He’s just a nice guy, really down-to-earth. He’s a great actor, and I think that was a really standout film.

10. Pinhead / Hellraiser

I think Hellraiser features some of the most poetic lines from a killer in any movie. Clive Barker must be some sort of literary scholar. I don’t know where he went to collage or how he learned to write like that, but it’s some of the most dark, twisted, evil but poetic monologues that I’ve ever heard in the horror world. His writing and Doug Bradley’s performance really made that a horror icon that you can’t not include on a list like this.

11. Ghostface / Scream

What makes that one so interesting and different than the others on the list is that Ghostface isn’t the same person from movie to movie. Ghostface and the whole idea of the killings is used as a vehicle for another person’s murders. I think if anyone is gonna check out a horror film, a good one to check out first is Scream because it takes the genre and flips it on its head and uses the clichés and makes them scary again. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson did an unbelievable job in that movie, and it was a real love letter to the genre, so check that one out.

Bonus: We had Spencer tell us which of the major slasher franchises are his favorite (aside from the originals). You might be surprised to find out what he chose.

Nightmare on Elm Street / Wes Craven’s New Nightmare

My favorite Nightmare on Elm Street is probably New Nightmare. Probably because it is very similar to the film Scream in the sense that its self-referential, and Robert England is in the movie playing himself the actor and Wes Craven is in it playing himself and the movie is in a movie. You’re on set of them making a new Nightmare on Elm Street, and Freddy Krueger, they begin to realize is real and they’ve created a monster by producing this film series. I think it was one of the most clever movies definitely in that franchise and maybe in horror in general.

Friday the 13th / Part VI: Jason Lives

That’s really hard, but I’d have to say, and probably for the same reasons, I really like Jason Lives because again it was self-referential and was the first Friday the 13th to inject humor into the formula. I think it was really masterfully done.

Halloween / The Curse of Michael Myers

I’m gonna go with an unpopular one and say Halloween 6, because I really like the look of that movie and they finally got the mask right again. It was the first one since part 2 where the mask was great again, and it just featured some really funny performances from Paul Rudd, who is just so ridiculous in that movie. And obviously Donald Pleasence’s monologues are always brilliant, but that one really sticks out.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)

The first remake was amazing. I really liked that one. It was the first one out of the franchise that felt like it had a really big budget, and it was, I believe, Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes did that, but when you think of sometimes their Freddy remake…I did think the Friday the 13th remake was great, Derek Mears was great. But the Texas remake was just really brutal. I mean, it was like disturbingly brutal, which I was impressed with because it was a major studio, and sometimes those studios hold back on the gore and they did not hold back at all.

Spencer on Remakes:
I’m all for them, because you know I’m a horror movie fan, and I’m just always desperate to see horror. I would say one of my favorite remakes is the one they did for My Bloody Valentine, which was in 3D, and that was actually really well reviewed, too, which is unusual for horror and especially a horror remake. But again, it wasn’t pretending to be something it wasn’t, just celebratory of the retro style of the 80s slasher craze. The dialog was tongue-in-cheek and the kills were very violent, but there was this wink to the audience that we’re having fun here.

While many of the songs on the new album are inspired by this list, let’s all hope there will be more if there is ever a sequel to The Silver Scream.

You can pick up Ice Nine Kills ode to horror, “The Silver Scream” here:

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