The power of ambivalence. How is it I am repelled and drawn to stories about the psychopath? Do you believe there’s a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde inside all of us? Perhaps that’s the allure of this anti-hero–his cleverness and seductive power. If one focuses upon the horror story which centers around a psychopath, there are plenty of great examples in film over the years. Can you narrow him/her to one?
The term itself has a complicated definition and certainly Hollywood and television has distorted the clinical concept of what is a psychopath. I read a fascinating article about Misrepresenting the Psychopath in Hollywood here. It has been easy to sweep up characters who portray abnormal characteristics such as: manic-depression, schizophrenia, bestiality, extreme violence, and egomania and dump them into the giant box labeled “psychotic”. If you enjoy thrillers or suspense, chances are there’s a character, whether protagonist or antagonist, and he or she is “psychotic”. Consider the films Wall Street or The Wolf of Wall Street. Clinical definitions would categorize both protagonists as psychotic with huge appetites for greed and experts at manipulation. They are passionate but not disturbed like Norman Bates or Hannibal Lector. Still, when one thinks of psychotic characters in film, these two “crazy” characters pop into most people’s minds.
There are quiet monsters and loud monsters. There are characters who do not complete violent acts but enjoy manipulation and never kill anyone. Most all have high intelligences and are charismatic and exude power. Based on that definition, here are my favorite character psychopaths:
Halloween is upon us–which psychopath is your favorite in film?