For some reason best left to psychologists, there are people who are attracted to what I call ... sex creeps. This type of character goes beyond what is called jolie-laide in women, a term that directly translates to pretty-ugly, although is generally used to describe "unconventional" beauty. There's no real correlation between the jolie-laide and the sex creep. No, the sex creep is attractive but prone to certain, shall we say, peccadilloes that go beyond the pale -- dating blow-up dolls, crashing cars to get off, dabbling in experimental gynecology. These guys all slime their ways between the lines.
In any case, here are seven of my favorite sex creeps. You might also notice there's a certain director who shows up a few times on the list -- he's an honorary sex creep as well. I hope he takes his title in the complimentary manner in which it's given.
James Woods as Max Renn in Videodrome (1983)
Max is a greasy cable exec who's looking to push the envelope when it comes to programming; when he finds a show called Videodrome that seems to be all torture and snuff, all the time, he thinks he's struck TV gold. His new paramour Nicki Brand (Debbie Harry) thinks so too -- she's totes into watching the show before they get it on; she also enjoys getting her ears pierced during sex, being cut, and burning herself with a cigarette. Max's initial disgust is tinged with titillation and he eventually becomes a full-on freakshow. He makes out with, whips, and screws a television -- and then he grows a vagina-like slit in his stomach. Long live the new flesh!
Julian Sands as Percy Shelley in Gothic (1986) and Dr. Nick Cavanaugh in Boxing Helena (1993)
Shelley, his wife-to-be (and eventual author of Frankenstein) Mary Shelley, Byron, Byron's lover, and Byron's personal doc, Dr. Polidori, indulge in all sorts of hedonism that leads them all to a long dark tea-time of the soul. Shelley's hottest fantasy is realized when he peeps a mechanical stripper with eyes for nipples. Any questions?
Sands was also in Jennifer Chambers Lynch's infamous first movie Boxing Helena. As Dr. Nick Cavanaugh, Sands makes those reality TV plastic surgeons look like soccer moms. This critically reviled flick follows Dr. Nick as he captures his former lover Helena (Sherilyn Fenn) and holds her hostage. You know what makes it really easy to hold someone hostage? If you chop off their arms and legs. That's love.
Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet (1986) and Feck in River's Edge (1987)
Gangster Frank Booth's hobbies include huffing gas, drinking Pabst's Blue Ribbon, torturing people, and pretending to be a baby while having sex with siren singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini). But don't overlook Hopper's role as Feck in River's Edge, where he plays a pot-growing, one-legged, former Hell's Angel. Feck lets the local kids come around, even the supremely annoying tweaker Layne (Crispin Glover), as he sits and chills out with his blow-up doll Ellie. Feck relates to the kid who killed his girlfriend and left her at the river's edge because he killed his girlfriend too, once. But now his girlfriend can only be killed by a safety pin.
Jeremy Irons as Beverly Mantle and Elliot Mantle in Dead Ringers (1988)
Irons was indelibly marked with the sex creep moniker with his dual roles as totally effed-up twin gynecologists who become obsessed with a woman with a rather interesting anatomical tidbit. "I've often thought that there should be beauty contests for the insides of bodies," says Elliot. And they create their own freaky gyno instruments, too. Cronenberg also directed this pervy fantastia, naturally. Irons gets bonus points as well for his role as Humbert Humbert in Lolita (1997).
Brad Pitt as Early Grayce in Kalifornia (1993)
Pitt's status as the World's Hottest Daddy (with World's Hottest Mommy at his side) almost makes me forget how good he is at being psycho in Kalifornia as a serial killer with a dirty beard and some serious sinus problems. He's the yang to the yin of his road trip pals, arty yuppies Brian (David Duchovny) and Carrie (Michelle Forbes). In between violently murdering folks who have the misfortune to cross his path, Early enjoys telling his girlfriend Adele (Juliette Lewis) how to behave like a lady, ignoring his own personal hygiene, and listening to Brian and Carrie have sex. The crème de la creep is when he catches Carrie watching him have sex with Adele in the back of Brian and Carrie's car. Carrie, a photographer who specializes in nude photography and is the antithesis of Adele, is horrified but can't look away as Early smirks at her and keeps on keepin' on.
James Spader as James Ballard and Elias Koteas as Vaughan in Crash (1996)
No, no, no! Not that Crash! I'm talking about David Cronenberg's adaptation of the late, great J.G. Ballard's lusty ode to car crashes. Ballard (the character) finds himself sucked into a world where fetishists have car crashes on purpose to get off after he himself has an accident that kills the man driving; his wife, played by Holly Hunter, and he start having a raucous affair with their car wreck as its central theme. Meanwhile, they meet Vaughan, a photographer who introduces them to a brave new world of car crash performances and people who really dig scars. Lucky for Ballard, it all makes for some great pillow talk with his wife.
Spader is also a serial sex creep, whose admirable sleaze has been on display in a wide variety of movies like Pretty in Pink, sex, lies, and videotape, White Palace, and Secretary.
Viggo Mortensen as Nikolai in Eastern Promises (2007)
While Eastern Promises is low on the "body horror" factor that director Cronenberg is known for, there's no debating that Mortensen's Russian mob henchman is as greasy as his pompadour. While there are definite Cronenberg touches, like when Nikolai puts out his cigar on his tongue, channeling the Debbie Harry scene in Videodrome mentioned earlier, this is a pretty straight-up crime thriller. (And a fantastic one, at that.) The scenes of Nikolai getting tattooed in his undies while sipping a shot of vodka and kicking mobster ass in a sauna while naked are fairly normal eye candy for female movie-goers, but the sex creep comes out when he sniffs the hair of Naomi Watts' big-hearted nurse is the anti-Aragorn.
Hey! Speaking of hair-sniffing, here's a bonus for you: Crispin Glover's Thin Man in Charlie's Angels managed to keep the actor as weird as possible while also snagging him a big Hollywood check so he could save up for that castle of his in the Czech Republic and make crazy films starring people with Down's Syndrome and screaming snails. The Thin Man has his own fansite!