It’s usually the case that when you’re looking for the most profound examples of personified evil, you turn to fiction. Thanks to the freer limits of imagination, writers can create figures of untold, unfiltered villainy whose acts are so compelling precisely because they’re so far removed from the normal, moral integrity of decent people. You know, as well as pricking the interest of the inherent capacity for evil that Shakespeare said is within us all.
For that same reason, there’s a special level of interest reserved for those portrayals of evil in films and TV shows that are based on fact. We might not like to believe that seemingly normal people are capable of unspeakable, unthinkable evil, but watching their acts on screen – even fictionalised – is utterly compelling. It’s car crash viewing, in essence.
To that end, you’d think that film-makers would do their best to do dark justice to those real-life inspirations for their characters: after all, there’s nothing more terrifying than the idea that something so heinous actually happened. So it’s fairly odd to note how many on-screen villains are actually fundamentally sanitised versions of the real deal.
Sometimes, Hollywood holds back, even when they’re portraying villains…