Hi everybody, it’s October and that’s the season of witches, ghosts and ghouls and everything scary. In the Halloween spirit, I thought I would compile a top ten list of all-time scary monsters. I’m going to ignore the horror and thriller genres and focus on monsters from Geek culture, fantasy and Science Fiction.
This is my personal list of favourite monsters, and I’ve tried to compile it on a combination of special effects (for it’s period of production,) threat level, general creepiness and overall impact. There are numerous honourable mentions of course, the monster from Cloverfield, the Predator, Weeping angels.
But for me, this is the best of the best. Oh and even though these movies have been out for ages
POTENTIAL SPOILER WARNING.
Number 10: Harry Potter: The Dementors
First introduced in The Prisoner of Azkaban, Dementors are originally the much feared guardians of the previously mentioned prison for wizards and witches. Despite the wizarding world being home to many strange and wonderful creatures, the Dementors stand out as the creepiest and vilest of them all.
Beautifully foreshadowed by their freezing effect, your first warning of a dementors approach is your breath or nearby glass freezing. Their weapon is to suck any joy, happiness or warmth out of your soul, leaving the victim a catatonic mess. Their only weakness is a Patronus spell, an expression of the caster’s happiest moments in the form of an animal avatar made of light. This overloads the dementors and causes them to flee…briefly.
Number 9: Lord of the Rings: The Balrog
“The flames roared up to greet it, and wreathed about it; and a black smoke swirled in the air. Its streaming mane kindled, and blazed behind it. In its right hand was a blade like a stabbing tongue of fire; in its left it held a whip of many thongs.”
This is Tolkien’s description of a monster brought majestically to life by Peter Jackson in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s name translates directly from elvish to “Demon of Might”. The Balrog was a Maiar spirit equivalent to Gandalf and Saruman but in Demonic form, corrupted and seduced by Melkor and a servant of Morgoth.
The Balrog had escaped from Angband after the War of Wrath and sought to hide in the quiet depths of Moria. It slumbered until the dwarves, led by King Durin, took over the mines and delved too deep in their greed for the priceless Mithril. They awoke the Balrog and were destroyed, and hence it was known as Durin’s Bane.
The image of the Balrog in the first of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was a visual masterpiece, but also a bone of contention to Tolkien purists, as it was made far larger and slightly differently to the traditional description.
Number 8: Doctor Who: The Daleks
A Dalek is a mesh of a mutant, squid-like creature in an armoured shell as formidable as a tank. They were created by Davros, on the planet Skaro. They appear in many Doctor Who adventures and are synonymous with the show. Their popularity with the fanbase is untouchable and timeless.
In the original run of Doctor Who (1963-1989) the Daleks were incredibly frightening to an audience not yet de-sensitized to murderous aliens. They are relentless, genocidal and deliberately purge all positive emotion like compassion, love and kindness from themselves.
Originally their greatest weakness was stairs, they could only seem to glide on smooth floors or flat ground. The more recent incarnations have added to their abilities. This includes the ability to hover and fly, use nanobots to turn humans into pseudo Daleks, be protected by forcefields and travel in time like their Time Lord enemies.
Their standard issue disintegrator gun is powerful enough to ‘kill’ the Doctor, or at least force him to regenerate a life. The gun can be changed for specific tasks and can be replaced with a machine gun, flame throwers and all sorts of exotic weaponry. They have advanced to be equals to the Time Lords and engaged them in a time war, forcing the doctor to put both species in a time loop and removing them both from the universe, for the sake of all other species…except he doesn’t and they come back, time and time again.
Their metallic grating voice is one of the most iconic things about them and when they get riled up and start screaming “Exterminate” you know you’re in for a bad time. Nicholas Briggs created the iconic voice with a Moog Modulator unit, millions of kids did the same thing by talking into a fan.
Number 7: Pans Labyrinth: The Pale Man
A true monster in every sense of the word, this vile and horribly creepy creation is a cult classic, so renowned that even Monty Burns appeared as the creature in Simpsons Treehouse of Horrors XXIV. The creature appeared as Ofelia’s second quest from the Faun, to retrieve a dagger. The Pale Man is a bloated, wrinkled, corpse-like atrocity. It is blind, but has eyeballs it can put in it’s hands to see.
It lures children with it’s massive and sumptuous feast of beautiful and tempting food. When someone eats something from the enchanted feast, the trap is set, and the Pale man captures the child (or faerie) and eats them.
Probably the most disturbing thing in this sequence is the pile of empty children’s shoes, the only remnant of it’s victims. Despite not being particularly fast or seemingly powerful, it is the sheer evil and flesh crawling bizarreness of this monster, that puts it this high on the list.
Number 6: Jurassic Park: The T-Rex
Without a doubt, Spielberg used every directing trick in the book when creating Jurassic Park and particularly when introducing his apex predator the T-Rex.
Scale and aspect was used extensively in the movie to portray the storyline. Our first vision of his menagerie of terrors is mankind looking down on them as they hatch, like gods of creation looking down on their lesser beings.
By using an aspect ration of 1.85:1 Spielberg gave the audience 24% more vertical room so when man finally meets a dinosaur he changes the shot so man is dwarfed by them. Symbolically displaying our frailty in a natural world without technology. He uses framing such as shooting the T-rex through the window with the actor as a frame of reference to give a true point of scale.
Also using the less is more philosophy, Spielberg created a far more intense atmosphere than it’s successors. For a movie that’s 127 minutes long, there is only 14 minutes of Dinosaur shots. The use of foreshadowing and allusion rather than gratuitous CGI seen in the later installments, created a real tension and spiked awareness.
The introduction of the T-Rex is an eternally memorable one. Foreshadowing it’s arrival, the ripples in the glass of water on the dash was one of the hardest shots of the film. The team couldn’t replicate Spielberg’s vision, until one night a crew member noticed a particular frequency from a guitar would cause the ripple effect desired. A guitar string was run down through the car to the ground and plucked to create the effect.
Also possibly the most nerve wracking scene, where the T-rex smashes down through the plexiglass sunroof and attacks the kids, happened completely by accident. The animatronic head fell too far during shooting, knocking out the sunroof and chipping the T-rex’s front teeth.
Number 5: Star Wars: The Rancor
Despite its clunkiness by todays standards, the Rancor was an iconic monster for it’s day and lives on with fans in various video games, comics and books. The Rancor was beautifully foreshadowed, Jabba the Hutt uses the trapdoor to drop his exotic dancer Oola into it’s pit when she rejects his advances. We didn’t know what was lurking down there, but we knew it couldn’t be good.
When Luke defied Jabba and was dropped into the pit, a Gamorrean was dragged in with him. It’s squeals of terror as it is chomped in half by razor sharp teeth is probably as gory as Star Wars would ever get.
The special effects team tried a combination of rod puppets, and actors in a suit. But it simply wasn’t going to fool a generation of people already used to Muppets. They opted for a miniature set, with a rod puppet with cable actuators to operate arm motion. To try and counter act the stiffness of the puppet they shot in high speed, low speed and reverse to vary the movements.
From a plot perspective, the scene was interesting, because later in the story it seems to be implied that all the separate actions of the Heroes, throughout the first act, were predicted and planned for by Luke.
However the Rancor seemed to be the one thing Luke hadn’t planned on, or prepared for, and could have been the one point where things didn’t go his way.
Number 4: Gremlins
While Gremlins are rambunctious, mischievous and sometimes pretty funny, make no mistake, these things are night terrors of a whole different kind. The Mogwai/Gremlin mythology seems steeped in oriental lore, but in reality, we have no actual explanation for their origin, or their appetite for mayhem.
Their historic origin was drawn from the experiences of WWII fighter pilots who claimed “Gremlins” sabotaged their fighter planes.
The original Gremlins script was far more horrific than the film, with Billy coming home to his mom’s head bouncing down the stairs. For a anti-Christmas family movie it has horror movie influences, such as the rules. Everyone remembers the rules, Light kills them, water makes them multiply and feeding after midnight causes a mogwai to become it’s evil alter ego after some time in a chrysalis.
Why so high on the list? simply the exponential multiplication factor, one can become a horde in hours.
Number 3: The Internet: Slender-man
Slender-man is perhaps the geekiest of all monsters, it didn’t originate from a movie or book, or even folklore. The creature is an invention of geeks, for geeks. The original imagery was created by photo-shopper Erik Knudsen under the pseudonym Victor Surge in 2009 in response to a competition run by the website Something Awful. This sparked a series of photoshopped images of Slender-man that were presented as real evidence of his existence.
Like the campfire horror stories we all know, the organic creation and retelling of stories about Slender-man started to create an illusion of reality. Using methodology similar to the Blair Witch project it artificially created it’s own authenticity online with pseudo websites and news reports. Slender man is always in the background, a tall, skinny faceless man in a black and white suit. Sometimes with tentacles coming off it’s back, always menacing but blended into the background. The photo’s context of amateurism bringing believability by the coyness of the subject, a little like bigfoot or the loch ness monster.
The fear of the faceless man watching is almost cultural. Slender-man only appears to those he is stalking, and those that photograph him accidently. People who develop photos and see something they have no recollection of and then seem to disappear or die mysteriously. He seems to stalk and prey on children wandering too close to the woods, but is fearless of discovery or exposure in daylight. He seems to control what people around him see.
He is known to psychologically torture his victims, drive them insane and motivate them to evil acts. His tales went viral on Creepy-Pasta, his legend spreading like many of our historical oral traditions.
Unfortunately, even though the legend was in decline, on May 31, 2014, two 12-year-old girls held down and stabbed a 12-year-old classmate 19 times. When questioned later by authorities, they reportedly claimed that they wished to commit a murder as a first step to becoming proxies for the Slender Man.
This was essentially the final straw and interest in the story has declined ever since.
Number 2: Starship Troopers: The Arachnids
Despite superficially seeming to be a goofy action movie, dripping with gore and stereotypical characters, Starship Troopers was actually a pretty clever political satire. It openly mocked the ugliness of Nationalism, Fascism and Xenophobia. It’s protagonists, the Arachnids, are portrayed as mindless, aggressive killing machines in propaganda shorts similar to the one’s used by Nazi’s. (Would you like to know more?)
When the human military, the mobile infantry, airdrops on the alien world Klendathu, in retaliation for an alleged bug meteor strike on Beunos Aires, it turns out that Arachnids are mindless, aggressive killing machines and there’s millions of them.
They are shown to be difficult to take out with firearms, they charge and fight to the last breath, ignoring the hail of bullets directed at them. There are several type of bugs, artillery bugs, tank bugs, brain bugs and warrior bugs. The commonest and most dangerous being the warrior.
With massive front pincers on a super-hard exo-skeleton, razor sharp claws and a hive mind, the warrior bug creates carnage on the battlefield. It has evolved to be the perfect melee combatant, it never retreats and never surrenders. Opponents are ripped apart, shredded and tossed casually away. (Unless the Brain bug wants to suck your brains to find out what you know)
I had noticed that main characters seem to have a far easier time killing these things than rank and file characters, plot armour runs thick.
They make number 2 on my list for sheer ferocity and capacity for gore and giblets.
Number 1: Aliens: Xenomorph
Introduced in the 1979 movie Alien, the Xenomorph on it’s own is the universe’s perfect biological killing machine. It’s the king of movie monster’s, superior in every aspect. It’s biology was based on parasitoid wasps, these insects inject their eggs into captured caterpillars and the wasp’s young eat their host from the inside out. In fact, a third species of wasp discovered in Australia, Dolichogenidea xenomorph has been named after the creature.
A single Xenomorph is a massacre waiting to happen, a hive with a queen could easily spell genocide for a populated planet. In a godless universe, there is only man….and the alien.
Their primary ability, to be able to take on characteristics of their host, means they are immediately adaptable to any planetary condition or atmosphere make-up. The Xenomorph in Aliens 3 burst out of a dog for a host and replicated a lot of it’s characteristics. Presumably if one burst out of a shark, it would take on many of it’s characteristics and be fully adapted to water.
The Xenomorph is covered in a thick plate armour, with razor claws and sharp teeth. It has a secondary mouth similar to the proboscis of the wasp it was inspired by. It’s secondary defense is an acidic blood capable of burning through plate steel, to shoot or impale would burn the attacker to death. It is highly intelligent and cunning, using it’s black exterior to devastating effect in shadow and night environments.
Their life cycle is highly favourable to survival, eggs can remain dormant indefinitely until a victim comes along, when detecting a suitable host the egg opens and a sub variant species popularly called a face hugger injects a Xenomorph embryo deep into the victims lungs. It is never clear whether a zygote or face hugger can be removed safely, although the offer is made to Ripley. The embryo will eat it’s way out of the host and burst out of their chest. The infant Xenomorph will grow incredibly quickly reaching adult size in hours or days depending on it’s food source.
Well that’s my list of scariest and freakiest Geek Monsters of all time. How did my list stack up to yours? let me know in the comments. And HAPPY HALLOWEEN.