FROM "THE BLACK CAULDRON"
WARNING: THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!
I have to admit, being an adult who grew up with this movie as a kid it really doesn't hold up as well as I thought it would. There were actually only a few things that did hold up, and one of the few things that held up is the film's villain, The Horned King. This was a villain who I found to be very cool, as well as really scary when I was a kid, and despite the actual film being a very mediocre Disney film, I still didn't have the heart to leave this villain off my list. What are the things that I still find to be awesome about this villain; let’s take a look.
As we get a look at his terrifying skeleton face with green rotting flesh; he reaches out his hand that slowly covers the camera before immediately cutting to a dead skeleton of a soldier. We then discover that the room is full of dead soldiers as the Horned King casts a scary looking shadow on the wall in that dark hellish room, while talking to his soon to be army of how eager he is to bring them to life. As a kid and even now as an adult I always find myself amazed at what a scary as hell villain he is! His design is so dark and grim that I still find myself being intimidated by it, as well as getting a little scared. He almost reminds me of Skeletor from that animated show with the gay overtones "He-Man" if he were actually scary and intimidating. His voice is so demonized that it doesn't sound human at all. What surprises me is he's voiced by 2 time Oscar Nominated actor John Hurt who you may know him as the guy that had the Alien inside him in "Alien" and "Spaceballs"; or as John Merrick in "The Elephant Man"; or hell, even as Aragorn in Ralph Bakshi's animated film (That this film seems to have taken a lot of influence from) "Lord Of The Rings". I seriously never would have guessed that it was him! The dark and cold voice that echoes is so scary that I get chills every time I hear it; it's really that scary of a voice.
However, the thing that scares me the most about this villain is his bright red eyes. I have never seen red eyes as scary as his! The first time we see his bright red eyes is when he tells the Pig to show him where the Cauldron is and those red eyes come straight out of nowhere, leaving you completely unprepared for the surprise and still to this day, I jump a bit when he first he reveals his red eyes, which also brightens his green rotten skin. The second time we see those eyes is in the climax as he comes after our hero, and for me, that was the part where his evil red eyes scared me the most, because we don't just see lifeless eyes glowing red like we did before, we see the pupils as well, which makes the scary eyes that we saw earlier scarier. While being the only two moments in the film when his eyes turn red, I feel like if he did that more often it would probably lose the effect that most people who saw this film (Including myself) had.
I think my favorite scene with him in the movie is the scene when he shows up to a celebration that his henchmen are having. While his henchmen are partying, all the comedy and color in the scene is suddenly sucked out as they hear the sound of eerie wind, which silences everybody and turns their happy faces into looks of fear. Once the candles go out, blue lightning lights up the room forming a circle, which suddenly bursts into flames and after a big explosion, the Horned King appears surrounded by red smoke. Now that's how you make an entrance to a party. The Horned King quietly sits on his throne like the King that he is, while holding a chalice, and when the hero refuses to have the Pig show him where the Cauldron is, he accepts his decision but tells him that the pig is "no use" to him and crushes his chalice. As a result, Hen Wen's head is placed on a chopping block with dried out blood and is about to have her head sliced off by a shiny razor sharp axe held by a scary looking executioner, which makes Hen Wen shield her eyes. Dude, that's pretty hardcore for a Disney film. She lives of course, but it's still a very tense and hardcore scene. On top of it, this scene leads to the first reveal of his red eyes! This scene is easily my favorite scene with the Horned King in the whole entire movie.
When the Horned King finally has the Cauldron in his possession, the scene that follows is another awesome moment for the villain, as well as being one of the few highlights in the movie. After he taunts the heroes who are tied up, he calls upon his army of the dead; puts a body of one of his skeleton soldiers inside the Cauldron; and releases the Cauldron's powers. Throughout this sequence we get some really cool CGI (The first time Disney has ever used it in an animated film); some surreal and scary visuals; great voice acting from John Hurt; and we finally get to see this dead army come to life, which is pretty cool.
Surprisingly, this moment was so good, that Disney decided to put the Horned King as the final villain in a walk-through attraction at Tokyo Disney called "Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour"; where he plans to bring back his evil army with The Black Cauldron, before a guest on the tour kills him.
The Horned King also gets a really gruesome death in the film. After when the heroes stop The Black Cauldron's magic, the Cauldron begins to destroy the Horned King's castle by sucking everything up. As he fights with our main character in the climax, who he tries to feed to the Cauldron; the Cauldron instead wants him, and as result, The Horned King gets sucked towards the Cauldron and the powers graphically suck out his skin; and just as we see the bones getting sucked in, his body explodes and he vanishes. Whoa, that's got to be one of the harshest deaths that I've ever seen happen to a Disney villain!
Speaking of Maleficent, the Horned King has two Dragon like creatures called Gwythaints, who look like the offspring's of Maleficent in her dragon form. How uninspiring can you get? I mean Disney is ripping-off its own stuff? They aren't even good rip-offs either, all they really do is kidnap Hen Wen and track down our heroes; there's not a single moment where any of the heroes fight against them and when they start charging for our hero, they get stuck and completely give up. That's completely lame!
What about the Horned King's dead army that the film was building up too? While the scene when they come alive is cool, all they do really is slowly march, that's it. At first they were scary when they came alive, but once they start marching, they become boring really fast. Much like the Gwythaints, they never fight against our heroes, or stand in the way of a creature that saves our heroes. They just wake up, march, and die. Alright, there is a moment when they attack a few of The Horned King's living henchman, but it's so brief and so unexciting that it's not even close to being cool or scary. Originally there was going to be a few deaths (That were actually pretty gruesome in Disney standards), but Disney decided to cut it so the film wouldn't get an R rating. Considering what I'm seeing, I actually wish Disney animated those scenes.
Out of all the Horned King's lame henchmen, his assistant The Creeper is the one I hate the most, even as a kid. Everything about this creature I find to be annoying and obnoxious. His design is annoying; his humor is annoying; his threatening side is annoying; even when The Horned King strangles him throughout the film he's still annoying. Not only does The Horned King find him annoying, but so does his henchmen! I get that he's supposed to be the annoying misfit of the group, but man is the annoying aspect of him done way too well. Seriously, I wish The Horned King would strangle this creature until he's completely out of breath and drops; or even better, feed him to The Cauldron to suck all the life out of him. Instead of dying at the end (As I would hope) he lives at the end, as he gloats about the death of his former master! Much like half of the characters in the movie, he is one of the worst ones in the film!
For those of you who are thinking that he's low on the list because of his lame henchmen, that's part of the reason, but not the heart of my reason. The real reason why I put him low on the list is because, despite being a really scary as hell villain that never stops being scary and intimidating, he sadly isn't that interesting of a villain. If he was an evil spirit that just spreads evil to others with no motivation or army, nor can he be killed much like "The Headless Horseman" or "Chernabog" for example, I actually would put him higher on the list. However, since he is meant to be a scheming villain with a plan, an army, and all that stuff, he's pretty boring. Aside from that scary ass voice from hell, his character and personality is really dull. I'm not saying that I don't like the scary and intimidating personality that he keeps throughout the movie, it's just that I wish he had a bit more of a personality. I mean there are plenty of Disney villains who can be fun while also being crap your pants scary at the same time, like Frollo, Judge Doom, and The Queen from “Snow White” for example. This guy on the other hand is just played out for scares, and as a villain who's meant to be a leading antagonist that wants to rule the world, he's seriously not all that intriguing. By the way, and I'm probably over analyzing, but where exactly did The Horned King come from and what's his back story. I normally don't ask these types of questions in fantasy films, but considering that the Horned King is a dead guy who plans to bring a dead army back to life, how did he come back to life? Is he a King whose survived centuries, if that's the case how did he manage to stay alive all these years? In fact, what gave him the right to call himself a King? Also, if he has magical powers, why doesn't he use them more often? Ok, ok, I'm seriously over analyzing, but let’s just say considering that this guy is a dead King, and that there's a war going on that involves him, I seriously would like to know a little about his origins, or at least know why there's a war going on in the first place?
While The Horned King is a boring antagonist that we know very little about with really annoying and boring henchmen, he's still one of the scariest Disney villains that I've ever seen because of his build up; design; voice; unsettling presence; gruesome demise; and those devilish red eyes!
"Soon the Black Cauldron will be mine."
-The Horned King