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Suzzanna, known as the "queen of Indonesian horror".
Suzzanna, known as the "queen of Indonesian horror".

A horror icon is a person or fictional character that is considered to be significant to horror fiction within mediums such as film, literature, television, or video games.[1][failed verification][2][failed verification]


Pre 1900s: literary beginnings

Examples of early horror icons began with the Werewolf or Lycanthrope introduced in the 1500s,[3] the Frankenstein monster as introduced by Mary Shelley in 1818,[4] and Dracula introduced into literature in 1897 by Bram Stoker.[5]

1900s-1920s: early film icons

One of the earliest horror icons in film dates back to 1913 with The Werewolf, which is one of the earliest werewolf films. In the 1920s, Dracula and Frankenstein's monster had movies released. Their presence in literary history led to them becoming among the most famous horror film icons. Dracula's first known appearance in film dates to 1921 with Dracula's Death, which achieved mild success. The second attempt a year later would give birth to one of the best known early horror icons, Count Orlok from Nosferatu.

1930s: Universal Monsters appear

Dracula is one of the original horror icons. (Image shows Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula from the 1931 English language film Dracula—part of what would later be known as Universal's 30s horror cycle, or Universal Monsters.)
Dracula is one of the original horror icons. (Image shows Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula from the 1931 English language film Dracula—part of what would later be known as Universal's 30s horror cycle, or Universal Monsters.)

The Universal Classic Monsters series began in earnest with the 1931 film Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, whose performance was instantly lauded. The same year's Frankenstein, with Boris Karloff in the role of the monster, and The Mummy, also starring Karloff—this time in the role of the mummy Imhotep—were equally successful and cemented each character, as well as their actors, as horror icons.

1940s: Universal Monsters become a franchise

In the 1940s, sequels to Dracula and Frankenstein were produced, and when The Wolf Man (1941) was released a new horror icon had risen to prominence, the werewolf. Besides regular sequels Universal also began to cross over their horror icons in films such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man and House of Dracula.

1950s: Universal's later years and Hammer's birth

Due to the success of Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein in 1948 the early 1950s would feature more comedic takes on the Universal icons such further instalments in the Abbott and Costello Meet... series. This rendered the old icons less frightening in most viwerers eyes. Due to this the middle of this period saw a shift away from the classic single monster villain to creature features often starring as aliens and mutated animals. In 1954 Universal seem to have caught on to this and released Creature from the Black Lagoon led to the Gill-man becoming the last of the classical Universal Monsters. Later during the decade British filmmakers began making more Gothic and modern versions of Dracula and Frankenstein, at the forefront of this was Hammer Productions. The so called "Hammer Horror" period would feature the beginnings of new film series for several of the icons created by Universal in the decades prior, this time in full color with blood and sensuality, Christopher Lee's take on Count Dracula beginning with Horror of Dracula in 1958 would go on to become one of the best known versions of the character.

1960s: Hammer Horror series and psychopaths

During the 1960s Hammer would continue what they started the decade before; 1957's The Curse of Frankenstein, 1958's Horror of Dracula and 1959's The Mummy would all receive many sequels, regularly starring Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing who would go on to become considered horror icons in their own right. Another well known horror icon, Norman Bates from the Psycho franchise was depicted on film for the first time in 1960.

1970s: slashers emerge

Many modern horror icons originate from the 1970s. The decade featured many psychopaths similar to the last decade but these villains are often more inhuman or inspired by real life serial killers of the era. These films often also focused more on graphic violence compared to the 1960s due to a rise in independent filmmaking. The Ed Gein inspired Leatherface from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) was one of the first killers to be predominantly recognizable for not speaking and hiding his face with a mask, something which the characters The Phantom (based on the real life killer of the Texarkana Moonlight Murders) from The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) and Michael Myers from Halloween (1978) also would do. The success of Halloween ushered in a slew of rip-offs in the decade following, one of the most notable of these, Friday the 13th, began production already in 1979. The Phantom would also go on to be influential in a lesser extent during the 80s and decades after, mainly due to many other films using copies of his simple sack mask for their killer.

1980s: slashers and vampires

One of the earliest 1980s horror icon is Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th franchise. Freddy Krueger from the hugely influential A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise almost instantly became an icon owing in large part to Robert Englund's performance. Pinhead from Hellraiser went on to become an icon mainly due to his unique design. Chucky from Child's Play was a later icon of the 1980s slasher killers boom, he became well liked due to his sense of humour, a trait inspired by the later Freddy Krueger. Besides the slashers the 1980s also saw a fairly large amount of vampire films, one of the best known being The Lost Boys whose villain David has become one of the most iconic vampires in pop culture. Another iconic 80s vampire is Jerry Dandrige of Fright Night. Both characters have been analysed to have had strong homoerotic subtexts.

1990s: self-reflective era

The 1990s saw a backlash to the saturation of gory slashers in the decade prior and the horror icons of this decade are mostly subversive versions of the tropes seen before. Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs is a fully human serial killer who is intelligent and sophisticated, the Candyman is an inversion of racial issues in many slasher films, Scream's Ghostface is in large part a self-referencial parody of slasher killers.


Real people




Make-up artists





See also


  1. ^ a b Joshi, S. T. (2006). Icons of Horror and the Supernatural (Vol 2). Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313337826. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  2. ^ Silver, Alain; Ursini, James (2007). The Gangster Film Reader. Hal Leonard Corporation. pp. 325–332. ISBN 978-0879103323. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  3. ^ Stewart, Caroline Taylor (28 September 2020). The Origin of the Werewolf Superstition. Library of Alexandria. ISBN 978-1465594334.
  4. ^ Young, Elizabeth (2008). Black Frankenstein: The Making of an American Metaphor. NYU Press. ISBN 978-0814797150.
  5. ^ Brodman, Barbara; Doan, James E. (2013). The Universal Vampire: Origins and Evolution of a Legend. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1611475807.
  6. ^ Jason Buchanan (2014). "Stephen King's Desperation". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  7. ^ "Horror icon John Carpenter subtly slams the Walking Dead". 4 July 2016.
  8. ^ a b c staff. "20 Greatest Horror Directors". Total Film. Retrieved September 26, 2014.
  9. ^ "Horror icon and creator of the modern day zombie, George Romero, has died". 17 July 2017.
  10. ^ "Horror Icon Rob Zombie Tells USDA to End High-Speed Slaughter Nightmares". Archived from the original on 2019-05-24.
  11. ^ Jacob Dressler (September 6, 2019). "Tom Atkins In Talks For Lead Role In 'The Collector' Sequel 'The Collected'". Screengeek.
  12. ^ "Tom Atkins Stars in Trailer for POLYBIUS Based on Popular Urban Legend". 16 January 2019.
  13. ^ "TSC #33 Halloween 3: It's Miller Time with Tom Atkins". Horrorphilia. October 14, 2014.
  14. ^ a b c d e f g h i Parker, Mary (December 13, 2010). "Top 13 Greatest Horror Actors". Horror News. Retrieved September 26, 2014.
  15. ^ "HORROR ICON OF THE MONTH: JEFFREY COMBS". Truly Disturbing. March 1, 2013.
  16. ^ Aaron Williams (December 6, 2011). "Exclusive: Jeffrey Combs Looks Back at Re-Animator and Ahead to His Newest Projects".
  17. ^ Jan Siery (October 20, 2018). "An Interview with Horror Legend Barbara Crampton". (Interview).
  18. ^ Haleigh Foutch (June 8, 2018). "A Deep-Dive with Jamie Lee Curtis on 'Halloween' & Her Legacy as a Horror Icon". Collider.
  19. ^ ahlephia (January 1, 2012). "HORROR ICON OF THE MONTH: JAMIE LEE CURTIS". Truly Disturbing.
  20. ^ "Peter Cushing is the Greatest Horror Icon Past Present and Future". A Classic Halloween. April 23, 2017.
  21. ^ "Peter Cushing: Horror Icon". Bloody Good Horror. May 2, 2008.
  22. ^ "Cryptic Rock remember the late horror icon Peter Cushing". Cryptic Rock. May 26, 2013.
  23. ^ Courtney Devores (March 23, 2017). "Q&A with horror icon and veteran actor Sid Haig". The Charlotte Observer.
  24. ^ Brad Slaton (July 8, 2016). "Sid Haig – A Conversation With A True Horror ICON". Tom Hollland's Terror Time.
  25. ^ "Horror icon Sid Haig, actor from 'House of 1,000 Corpses,' dies at 80". Entertainment Weekly.
  26. ^ "New Documentary Profiles Horror Icon Kane Hodder". Entertainment Weekly.
  27. ^ POSTMODERN VAMPIRES: Film, Fiction, and Popular Culture - page: 185
  28. ^ "HORROR ICON OF THE MONTH: BILL MOSELEY". Truly Disturbing. April 7, 2018.
  29. ^ "PHILIP ANSELMO And Horror Icon BILL MOSELEY: 'Dirty Eye' Video". May 4, 2017.
  30. ^ Meagan Navarro (September 16, 2019). "Looking Back at Horror Icon Bill Moseley's 10 Most Memorable Roles". Bloody Disgusting. Retrieved September 16, 2019.
  31. ^ Clark, Mark (2004). Smirk, Sneer and Scream: Great Acting in Horror Cinema. McFarland & Company. pp. 100, 102. ISBN 0786419326. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  32. ^ "Horror artist Suzanna dies". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 2022-12-11.
  33. ^ Chibnall, Steve; Petley, Julian (2001). British Horror Cinema. Psychology Press. p. 83. ISBN 9780415230032. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  34. ^ "Trick or Treat Studios & Horror Icon Tom Savini Team for Zombie Mask Collection". 14 January 2019.
  35. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Francis, Jr., James (2013). Remaking Horror: Hollywood's New Reliance on Scares of Old. McFarland. p. 52. ISBN 9780786470884. Retrieved 26 September 2014.

Further reading