8 Incredibly Terrifying Grandparental Figures In Films

By  · Published on August 16th, 2012

by David Christopher Bell

It’s always smart to look up to those who’ve managed to stay alive for considerably longer than we have; clearly they did something right. In the world of villains and murderers – this quality goes double, for it means that they are not only capable of murder but also cunning enough to get away with their evil deeds.

Here are some older mentors and parental figures that you straight up do not want to mess around with. Stone-cold killers in wrap-around sunglasses.

8. Abby and Martha in Arsenic and Old Lace

There’s something ridiculously terrifying about death coming in the form of two merciful old ladies. The fact that they regard the whole process of killing old single men as a charity and only go after the nice guys makes it even worse.

Sure – it’s a comedy, but it wasn’t a comedy to that poor bastard in the window seat. Also there’s the fact that they make their delusional nephew do all the hard work of digging graves by telling him that he is digging for the Panama Canal, which is just mean. If the jig is ever up, you bet your ass they’ll be finding poor Roosevelt’s fingerprints on the shovel and no one else’s.

What makes these two sweet spinsters so scary is how lucid they appear to be from start to finish. Passing as eccentric old ladies, there seems to be no harm in joining them to a cup of wine.

7. John Rooney in Road To Perdition

Anyone who can humiliate James Bond is automatically badass in my book – it helps to be Paul Newman as well.

Rooney is scary because of the heavy amount of compassion he exhibits to those around him despite having very little value for human life. You feel bad for the guy as he regrettably orders the slaying of one of his favored henchmen to save his sociopathic son – forgetting entirely that the man is still a cold blooded murderer himself. Even at the end – after you’ve rooted for the hero the entire film, when John’s number is finally up he takes it with a sad dignity that you can’t help but to feel bad for.

It’s just so easy to forget that the man is a ruthless crime boss, which is exactly why you should never let your guard down around him. The scariest enemy is the one that instills doubt in your actions.

6. Grandpa Sawyer in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

While we see him way past his prime, he was the man who started it all. Along with his late wife he managed to raise a party of cannibals, including the star of the show, Leatherface. Of course, just because he’s old doesn’t mean that he can take you out – you just have to stand very still for a long period of time.

Still – his scene is one of the more disturbing ones of the film, and he’s the reason. He appears to be barely alive, almost as if he is some zombified supernatural being. I guess eating human flesh all your life isn’t as good for you as one would think.

Gramps was played by John Dugan in the film – and I think it’s interesting to note that he will be apparently reprising the role in the upcoming Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D, a film we all no doubt saw coming but didn’t want to emotionally accept.

5. Emperor Palpatine In Star Wars

I wanted to avoid any wizards or devils or anything like that because it seemed like cheating – however Palpatine is kind of the ultimate evil master so he had to be on here somewhere. The guy can shoot lighting from his hands, and he’s like 80. Imagine the kind of stuff he could do back in the day.

The man plays both sides like a pro – acting as the caring chancellor while slowly setting up the dominos one by one as a secret Sith lord. The best part? He seems to have no good reason to do any of it. The man has no allies, no motive; he just wants to destroy the galaxy and rule over the rubble for some unspecified reason.

And even on the small scale he’s a terror. He manages to plant fear into Anakin, twist him over to the dark side (not that it was very hard convincing that dunce) and make him hunt down and try to kill his own children. What a perfect asshole.

Read on!

4. Il Duce In The Boondock Saints

Really? Six guns? Come on, man. I know it looks cool – but I did a little research and you just dropped about four thousand dollars worth of guns on the street and ran away. You could purchase three M16s with that kind of money you’re just burning like that. I know you’re a cold-blooded killer – but can’t killers be frugal?

Also, sunglasses and cigar smoke tends to be hard on the eyes, which is probably why you couldn’t hit three guys crowded together and standing still. If you want to look cool doing something go learn skateboarding or something, okay?

He does look really cool with six guns strapped to him like that, though. It only makes sense that a man who puts so much attention into theatrics would end up being who he ends up being in this film.

3. Minnie and Roman Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby

Really no better way to hide ritualistic Satanism than the shroud of an eccentric old couple; even by the end of the film when Rosemary is gentling rocking Lucifer himself it still just feels like any other old person party with the beige suits and heavy drinks. No doubt after the film ends they all gather round to play some Trivial Pursuit while eating crackers and cheese from a TV tray set up next to the Satan-cradle. In other words, it’s probably the coolest party ever.

Minnie and Roman are so nice that it’s hard to think that Rosemary would mind letting them conduct her demonic impregnation. They really seem to make evil seem not so bad with their coddling and rambling stories. Sure – they work for the dark prince, but everyone’s got their bullshit, right? Considering all the support she is going to be getting as a new mother, it’s no wonder she ends up going along with it all in the end. After all – I don’t think that kids going to be allowed at day care.

2. Kurt Dussander in Apt Pupil

You know you’re dealing with a good actor when you see them play a sinister ex-Nazi in hiding, a holocaust victim turned magnetic superman, and finally a big robed wizard all in the span of four years and never even flinch at the transitions. There’s no moment where you watch any of these performances and have trouble accepting it, despite how drastic the last role was. I guess that’s kind of what you’d expect from a career that spans 50 goddamn years.

Out of it all, alcoholic ex-Nazi Kurt Dussander has to be the scariest role of Ian McKellen’s career. Seemingly a monster-turned-harmless old man, Kurt proves to still have a ruthless side as he pretends to be his adolescent would-be blackmailer’s grandfather and mentor – at times even helping the young boy. Of course that only goes so far, as Kurt is also much more than cunning.

Probably the all-time freakiest part of this performance has to be the scene where the kid brings him an old uniform and makes him try it on, resulting in Kurt becoming lost in memory – something that isn’t exactly a good for an ex-Nazi to do.

1. Janine ‘Smurf’ Cody in Animal Kingdom

This woman is like a switchblade in that the time it takes for her to go from unassuming and razor sharp can only be measured in nanoseconds. Based off the real life crime family mom Kath Pettingill, actress Jacki Weaver was bombarded with nominations for her performance, including an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

She’s just terrifying, and embodiment of almost every other person on this list put together: she’s compassionate, two-faced, ruthless… like Palpatine she is able to manipulate the situation from both sides, and probably can shoot lightning from her hands if she had to.

The worst part is that while she shows only the deepest empathy to her sons and grandson – she has no problem sending them into certain death, going so far as to ordering a hit on her own freaking grandson in the film. This sweet old lady is ice cold.

There just has to be more I missed. This I know. Tell me, what are some other movie mentors and grandparents that you can think of that you’d never want to cross?

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