Recently I watched the thriller Hush on Netflix. I’m not normally a thriller watcher, but every now and then the mood is (f)right. I enjoyed the movie and it got me thinking…
Hush is the classic psychopath-stranger meets lone girl in remote location. The victim just happens to be an author which is helpful in piquing my interest. The twist this time is that the ‘victim’ or protagonist is both deaf and mute.
A protagonist should be placed in a vulnerable position by the villain and I can’t think of a more vulnerable position than being deaf and hunted. Imagine being worried about someone breaking into your house and not being able to hear them at all. Are they breaking down the front door or standing just around the corner? Sound is a pivotal sense when it comes to engaging the flight or fight mentality.
Imagine screaming in pain, and knowing that not a peep was coming out of your mouth. You can’t call for help no matter how hard you try. The twin duo of deaf and mute make you more vulnerable and less able to protect yourself. Kudos to the writers Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel for choosing a protagonist that maximised the suspense.
Then my thoughts turned to villains. An evil villain like a psychopath is a scary proposition. When I consider villains they fit onto a scale something like this (where the higher the number the more scary they are):
- At the ‘weak’ end of the scale is the incidental villain. This is just someone who is going along with the flow, perhaps being dragged somewhat unwillingly along by peer pressure. They made a bad decision and its putting them into bad situations.
- Doing slightly bad things from necessity not choice is the subsistence villain. They might steal to feed the family, but they’re going to avoid hurting people if they can.
- The social villain. The louts and idiots who enjoy committing ‘medium’ level crimes. They normally travel in packs and like to think they are smarter because they ‘live outside the system’. Normally they started off as incidental or subsistence villains but then graduated up the food chain, so this group covers the boss down to the foot soldiers.
- Taking a giant leap in evil-rating is the sociopath villain. These individuals like to commit crime and hurt people. They can’t empathize and will only ‘behave’ if it is personally beneficial.
- Give a sociopath a high intellect and/or lots of money and they becomes a genius villain. They are the cream of the criminal crop. They’re not interested in becoming the biggest drug dealer, but running the entire city and/or world.
- The architect villain though is even scarier (in some respects). Sure they might be committing crime and hurting people, but their motivation is what makes them truly scary. They are doing it because it will eventually help us. They can see that our temporary pain will be to our eventual good. This villain will never rest because in their mind they are doing what is right.
- At the very top of the scale is the child sociopath.
(Take for example the movie Looper … laying aside my general dislike for a 5 year old child playing such an incredibly dark role).
I find a child psychopath more disturbing than an adult and I don’t think I’m alone. Is it because we inherently know that children are supposed to be innocent? Does a criminal act feels even more criminal when committed by a child? Is part of our fear related to their potential to hide their true nature? We know adults can be evil, but what if a child is evil now… how bad will they be in the future?
The mentally-deranged child is by far the worst villain.