Terror isn’t reserved for one day at the end of October. Sure, with Halloween on the horizon, our DVR’s are stuffed with more killers and monsters than normal, but a good scare can find you at any time of the year.
It’s only at Halloween, though, that we truly appreciate the gift of terror that we take for granted all year long. So, in the spirit of the season, we asked our readers what keeps them up at night.
In the interest of honesty, we should admit that most you answered “Obama” or “Sarah Palin”. While those answers are totally understandable, we focused on the monsters that lurk in a celluloid jungle.
From serial killers to child murderers to extraterrestrial terrors, our readers let us know which movie maniacs send chills up their spine. Is it Freddy, rampaging through your unconscious mind? Zombies, slowly moaning the guttural notes of your impending doom? Or is it a child’s toy that’s happiest welding a butcher’s knife?
We asked, you answered, and here it is: ventwing.com’s list of the most terrifying movie creations.
Proceed at your own risk.
Let’s get the disqualifications out of the way first.
Guys, we specifically asked for movie monsters. That means, if it’s not in a movie, it doesn’t count. We have a whole list of random answers you all provided on the next slide, but far and away the most frequent (and most off topic) responses we got were related to the president and his political rivals.
Given the current political climate, we can completely understand being filled with an unshakable sense of dread when it comes to our country’s future, no matter which side of the aisle you’re on. But that wasn’t the question we asked.
So, the following answers (while creative), were immediately disqualified:
- Idiot Cowboy and Darth Cheney
- The One you can’t see! The one in sheep’s clothing. ObaaaaaaMa!
- Ted Cruz and the T-baggers
- D**kless Cheney
- John Boehner (only that’s not how his last name was spelled …)
- Alibama and his boyfriend Michael (we assumed this was a shot at the president, but we could be wrong)
- Ob**tard the Illegal Alien
The political comments were so prevalent (and classy), in fact, that it caused one reader to say: “[R]eally, people?!?! Do you have to inject politics into EVERYTHING?!?! Or are some of these responses as far as your intellect will allow you to go?? Have fun, for crying out loud!!!”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
We also wanted to save some room for those contributors who really thought outside the box when it came to picking a movie monster.
They might not be movie monsters (a couple aren’t even in movies), they might not strike you as particularly scary, but here are fifteen off-the-wall things that truly terrify some of our more skittish readers.
- The dead baby in ‘Trainspotting’
- ‘Escape from Tomorrowland’ (a new super indie horror film that finds terror in the Magic Kingdom)
- “The sequel monster. It creates horribly high expectations and no satisfaction whatsoever…”
- Mrs. O’Brien from Downton Abbey (if idle gossip is a nightmarish concept)
- Your mom
- “All of them. I don’t like scary movies”
- “Squarewolves. They’re like werewolves only square.”
- “The cashier at the ticket window! Geez it costs enough to get into a film anymore!”
- Fundamentalist Christian preachers
- Paris Hilton
- Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls
- “Do home movies count?”
- Clint Eastwood
The Ones, part 1
We saw several monsters mentioned only once, but felt the need to show some love to these creepy crawlies, too.
The Pale Man The flesh-colored goon with eye balls in his palms has a serious problem with uninvited guests at his banquet.
Mothra No, this is not a put on, we actually got someone who is terrified that a giant, nuclear-irradiated moth is going to swoop out of the sky and carry them off for a midday snack. Nothing to fear, though, fearful reader! That’ll never happen. Not as long as Godzilla watches over us!
Norman Bates Perhaps the most relatable of our list’s monsters (it was all his Mom’s fault!), Bates still manages to harvest fear from the most unlikely of places. I mean, who’d have thought a schizo with mommy issues could have held such an esteemed place in movie history?
Gremlins Gizmo gets most of the fan love, but these horrifying little fiends with a taste for late night snacks are nothing to sneeze at.
The Creeper ‘Jeepers Creepers’ might have been a one-note horror film, but that one note was a dagger-weilding cannibal from the bowels of Hell. So, you know, it’s got that going for it.
Jack Torrance Portrayed famously by an axe-wielding Jack Nicholson, Torrance might not be a super successful psycho (he only kills one guy and then just ends up freezing to death like a chump), but one shot of a limping, unshaven Jack Nicholson sporting that insane grin is all you’ll need to understand why he merits a mention.
The Ones, part 2
Continued from previous slide:
Michael Myers With Halloween on the horizon, it’s only fitting that this mask-wearing crazy get some kind of representation. An unkillable fiend who’s determined to take out the family that sparked his insanity, Myers definitely has some real psycho street cred.
Grays Traditional aliens. We can hear you laughing, but they could very well be watching you right now, waiting to nab you with only a gleeful grin and an oversized probe. Still laughing?
The Mummy You might think it’s a little outdated, but there’s something to be said for a creature who has survived thousands of years in a tomb (and over a hundred in the public eye) waiting for a chance at revenge. You might not worry so much about Boris Karloff’s shambling toilet paper roll, but Arnold Vosloo’s wicked magician is certainly something you don’t want after you.
Jaws Spielberg essentially invented the summer blockbuster with his killer shark, and people have been avoiding the ocean ever since.
Chucky Just because his sense of humor is terrible doesn’t mean Chucky is a killer you write off. The guy has a higher body count than most movie villains, and he doesn’t even have a proper body. Anyone can scare you if they’re a giant insect who reproduces body parts or a creature with eyes in his palms. It takes real skill to bring the fear when you’re a two foot tall child’s plaything.
You knew these guys had to land here somewhere.
While George Romero’s rotting, relentless army of undead have kind of lost their scare factor, the themes of “zombie as social commentary” are stronger than ever thanks to a little show called “The Walking Dead”. Sure, a pack of groaning undead crawling relentlessly towards you is pretty unnerving, but zombies have always been less about being actually scary than they have been about revealing the true depths that humans will sink to.
Yes, the idea of a world inhabited by walking, flesh-hungry corpses isn’t exactly going to lull you into a nice, light sleep, but the scariest stuff in these films aren’t the monsters themselves, shuffling their way towards a meal.
The scariest bits come from the people who use the chaos afforded by the zombpocalypse to twist the world into their own insane vision. In other words, zombies aren’t scary, people’s reactions to zombies are scary.
Unless you’re watching “28 Days Later”; those fast ones are hella terrifying.
9. The Firefly family
Who, you ask?
While most people are blissfully unaware of Rob Zombie’s clan of murderous whackjobs, those who are know that there is plenty to be afraid of.
Though they got their start in Rob Zombie’s schlockfest “House of 1000 Corpses,” most of our readers tied them to that film’s sequel, “The Devil’s Rejects” which sees select members of the Firefly clan rape and kill their way across Texas in a failed effort to slake their bloodlust (and escape from the cops, I guess).
Over the course of almost two hours, people are sexually assaulted, bludgeoned, run down by a car, stabbed to death, and those are the ones we can tell you about. One dude gets his face literally cut off. And Rob Zombie doesn’t spare you a single, excruciating detail.
Seriously, “crazy” is a drastic understatement when talking about these folks.
8. Freddy Krueger
What’s worse than a child murderer? How about a demonic child murderer who can invade your dreams with malicious intent and almost god-like power.
When a serial child murderer was torched in his home at the hands of a mob of angry parents, he’s resurrected as a malevolent spirit who preys on the children of the people who murdered him. Freddy has been haunting teenagers’ dreams since 1984, most notably with his trademark bladed glove.
Knife fingers aren’t the scariest thing about Krueger, though. This sicko can manipulate the dreams of his victims to resemble the thing they most fear. He can turn your world in on itself until you are living in your worst imaginable vision of Hades.
This guy is so evil, he doesn’t even give Johnny Depp a respectable death (just Google it). Now, that’s just too heartless for words.
7. Hill people
Sure, the thought of being hunted and murdered by some abstract terror of science is undeniably scary. That’s not at issue. But, you guys were specific about which movie’s mutants of all the possible candidates most terrified you. That movie was “The Hills Have Eyes” and that pack of mutants was the hill folk of the Jupiter clan.
“Hills” tells the story of a very stupid family who are tortured and killed one by one after they take some unsolicited advice from a redneck and run into a pack of deformed freaks. Imagine the worst family trip you’ve ever taken, plus a little more rape and unthinkably horrible executions and you’re pretty close to what terrors are wrought on the Carter’s (and their dogs).
Another way to look at it is this: consider the mutants an uglier, meaner version of the Firefly family (though not quite as successful in terms of sheer numbers).
While the whole mob of hill people aren’t a total loss (there’s Ruby, after all), most of them are the evil, boil-covered, malformed stuff of nightmares. Ten minutes of their hijinks is enough to make you never want to take a roadtrip through the Southwest.
6. Hannibal Lecter
There are worse things in Baltimore than Stringer Bell.
One reader commented, “Anyone that looks normal, but is evil, is scary to me.” Therein lies the fear that Anthony Hopkin’s effete cannibal inspires. He doesn’t kill to survive. He doesn’t kill for revenge. He kills simply because it amuses him.
What’s worse is the guy evaded detection for years, even gaining notoriety among the Baltimore elite as a psychologist (side note: it’s fiction, so we can totally accept the fact that there is “high society” in Baltimore. It’s called willful suspension of disbelief). Lecter is so crafty that no one even bats an eye when the guy starts serving his victims at dinner parties.
While Lecter’s shining cinematic moment comes when he’s behind bars, incarceration does little to stem the unease that Hannibal the cannibal inspires. Is it his unflappable calm (even when he’s beating a police officer to death with a billy club) that makes him so scary? Is it his total lack of remorse? Or, is it that staggering intellect that makes Lecter seem in control of every situation, even when he’s bound from the chompers down?
Whatever it is, this is one sociopathic socialite you’ll want avoid taking a meal with.
An oldie, but a goodie. Vampires are another “it had to make the list” staple. These bloodsuckers have been frightening people ever since Dracula wound his way out of the Carpathian Mountains in 1897. Since then, this walking allegory for lust as a gateway to death has taken on a life of its own, outside the stuffy Transylvanian count with a taste for pasty chicks.
Today, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s still afraid of old school Dracula (even when he’s played to perfection by Christopher Lee). And you definitely won’t find people afraid of those sparkling sissies in the “Twillight” series.
But there is one riff on the blood-soaked undead that definitely sends a chill up our readers’ spines; the feral monsters from “30 Days of Night”.
Ok, imagine you live in Alaska. Imagine that your remote little town is starting to empty out, just as the state is plunged into it’s annual parade of endless night. Then, imagine your town is set upon by hordes of blood-sucking creatures who don’t talk, whose eyes are as black as coal and who will stop at nothing to devour every piece of you. Seriously, they’re like undead crack heads.
Add to that the knowledge that the only way to survive is to lay low and just try to wait until the sun rises … a month from now.
Even Josh Hartnett can’t ruin a premise that freaking awesome. And even being related by film genealogy to Robert Pattinson can’t erase the terror you’ll feel when you encounter these undead fiends.
4. Captain Howdy
You might not remember the name Captain Howdy (I certainly didn’t), but if you’ve ever seen “The Exorcist,” you will remember the face, because it’s probably still haunting your nightmares. Who would have thought a ten-year-old girl could be so terrifying (besides a ten-year-old boy, of course)?
It all starts when lovely little Linda Blair is possessed by a demon whose very silly name (Pazuzu) belies the evil it is capable of dishing out. Projectile vomiting, the head-spinny thing, crawling up the walls like a demonic crab (or that baby from “Trainspotting”), these are just some of the more innocuous things Pazuzu does to torture the people around it.
This little demon is best, however, when waging psychological warfare on the priests who are sent to exorcise it. So many amazing (but totally unrepeatable) quotes spill from the mouth of poor, little Linda Blair that it’s possible to forget the physical torment she inflicts.
It’s 40 years old, though, so what could be so scary about a little girl in green makeup? You’re tough – you sat through “Event Horizon” and didn’t shiver at all.
Go ahead, give it a watch. You’ll never play with a Ouija board again.
If you’re looking for a visual definition of “white knuckle terror,” just put your hands on the armrest of your favorite chair and turn on “Alien”. Then give it about half an hour.
Is the creature lurking in the shadows of the “so dark it’s ridiculous” spaceship Nostromo? Is it creeping silently through the vents? Or is it just gestating in one of your buddy’s chests, waiting to rip its way out when the time is right?
Fun side note: the actors in “Alien” had no clue that the little bugger was going to pop out of John Hurt’s chest. The script just said: “The creature emerges” and Ridley Scott, the film’s director, thought it’d be a hoot to see how the actors would respond if they weren’t prepared for that singular moment of bloodcurdling violence. So, the fear you see on the actors’ faces during that scene? Totally real.
The alien is faster than you, stronger than you, probably smarter than you, and let’s not forget the whole “you can’t wound it because it’s blood is acid” thing.
Sure, in later movies, the terror that a single one of these baddies could inspire was diluted by throwing waves of them at steroid freaks with big guns (still awesome; not scary), but the icy chill of fear will still take hold each time you join the crew for a ride on the Nostromo.
How best to describe Pinhead to the uninitiated …
Pinhead, so named because of his extreme piercing addiction, is the leader of a group of extra-dimensional patchwork monsters called Cenobites who get their jollies torturing and murdering unsuspecting puzzle enthusiasts. He spends his down time hanging from chains in a gothic Rubix cube.
Another way to put it is: Pinhead is the nightmarish extreme that Reaganites saw in 1980’s youth culture. Chains, leather, thinly veiled hatred for authority, and hedonism taken to it’s darkest, most violent possibility, this guy is what would happen if Victorian England and Ed Gein could hook up in the bathroom at a Billy Idol concert.
You can’t deny the guy’s got style, though. A departure from the mindless, drooling beasts that dominated horror films at the time, Pinhead is more closely related to Dracula in his origins. Oh, the guy can certainly get nasty when it’s called upon, and you’d be hard pressed to call him stoic (or sympathetic), but he’s certainly intelligent, eloquent and calculating.
Think of him as though Hannibal Lecter got turned into a demon. A demon with a fixation on kinky sex.
And so we come to our final entrant, our number one fiend … a clown.
Pennywise the Dancing Clown, to be exact. Pennywise, a.k.a. Robert Gray, a.k.a IT.
If you don’t recognize that name, you definitely recognize Tim Curry all clowned out and evil. Of course, anyone who has put themselves through the novel “It” knows that Pennywise is just a mask worn by an entity so monstrous, so evil and so otherworldly that to gaze upon it’s true form would instantly drive you insane.
Instead, the human mind, when confronted with It, just transforms the monster (through the magic of self-delusion) into the thing the mind finds most terrifying. Because, literally, coming face to face with the thing you fear most is less scary than looking at It in its true form. Wrap your brain around that one.
That’s the novel. In the movie version, It is a more garden variety fear-based entity who really looks like an outsized tarantula, but who spends most of its time in the guise of a children’s party performer.
You might ask why a creature of such unfathomable power would spend so much time in the form of a clown who gives off a major pedophile vibe (luring kids into the sewer with the promise of candy and balloons doesn’t help), but just a few seconds watching Tim Curry’s gleeful, maniacal turn and you’ll understand.
Curry’s turn is so scary, in fact, that you’ll breathe a sigh of relief when he takes the form of the Wolfman, or a mummy. Even a twenty foot tall rampaging spider doesn’t have the same spook factor as Tim Curry in makeup. Curry is so pants-crappingly terrifying that he can send a chill up your spine at noon in the middle of a crowded street by simply smiling and waving.
In fact, most of It’s scenes aren’t even shrowded in darkness. As opposed to most horror films that lurk safely in the shadows, “It” takes place in brightly lit small town America. Yet, the dancing clown still leaves you shivering with baked-in fear.
And that, dear readers, is the reason this clown is our most horrifying screen villain.
Good night, good luck, and night lights are sold at drug stores across the country.