Some horror movie monsters instantly achieve iconic status and proceed to slash, mutilate and maim their way through an ever-increasing stack of sequels until the inevitable jump-the-shark moment when they’re shelved (until it’s time for a gritty, dark reboot).
Others … well, others don’t quite get that chance. For every Michael Myers, there’s a dozen wannabes stalking the shadows of lesser-known horror films, just trying their hardest to scare people. They fail miserably, of course, but where would we be as a civilization without the likes of …
Evil Trees in The Triffids
They’re trees. And they walk around on their roots and spit poison at you. To be fair, most of the world is blind by the time the Triffids land via meteor, so they have something of a leg (root?) up on humans. Believe it or not, the film has been optioned for a reboot as of 2014.
A Killer Cookie in The Gingerdead Man
It’s hard to tell what’s actually scariest about Gingerdead Man: The monster’s convoluted origin story (murderer’s ashes are mixed into gingerbread dough, which is then struck by lightning), the fact that the filmmakers went to great lengths to make it actually resemble Gary Busey (which is legitimately terrifying), or the fact that there are three installments in the saga, four if you’re counting the crossover Gingerdead Man vs Evil Bong. Oh, and the murderer’s name is Millard Findlemeyer.
Worms in Squirm
Another entry in the “____ + electricity = horror movie” canon, Squirm’s titular squirmies are just regular ol’ worms who have been electrocuted. In defiance of all the laws of nature, this somehow doesn’t just kill them, it makes them the killers! Also they scream now. Fantastic film.
Amorphous Triple-Mandibles in The Langoliers
According to Stephen King, the langoliers are what eat up the past once we’re done living it. (Uh, hmm. Okay.) According to the 1995 made-for-TV version starring a seriously slumming David Morse and a hyperactive Bronson Pinchot, they are kind-of shiny meatball monsters with teeth that don’t pay any attention to conventional dental wisdom. And they fly.
Monster Drug Turkey in Blood Freak
(Caution: Really bad gore special effects)
A biker who really likes marijuana eats some bad turkey and becomes a monster turkey whose demonic thirst can only be sated by the blood of other addicts. It’s okay, though, because if you make it through this entire weird exploitation/drug-awareness campaign of a movie, it turns out … it was all a dream. (Yes, they were using that cop-out as early as 1972.)
Mutant Cannibals in C.H.U.D.
Okay, so the idea of sewer monsters is an old one, and these monsters, with their Christmas-tree light eyes are more hilarious because of their name. They’re called “C.H.U.D.” — for “Cannabilistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers.” Now, I’m not sure if the “dwellers” part is understood to be plural, so I don’t know whether to call them “C.H.U.D.” or “C.H.U.D.s,” but I sure do love saying it, and so does the guy narrating this trailer. Somehow they make trucks explode, too, which seems like a stretch, but hey … C.H.U.D.!
Giant Rabbits in Night of the Lepus
Giant murderous rabbits. Science’s greatest mistake, according to the trailer. And they roar, for some reason. Janet Leigh reportedly took her role in this film because it was being shot by her house, which strikes us as exactly the kind of justification we’d need for making a movie.
The Leprechaun in Leprechaun
Pre-fame Jennifer Aniston in bright white high tops and acid wash shorts over spandex. Sorry, for the clumsy segue, but that’s just the only worthwhile part of this schlockfest. There are seven of these films. Kudos to Warwick Davis for staking his career on them, but his titular leprechaun has to be, bar-none, the most irritating movie monster of all time. He talks so much, he makes Freddie Krueger seem taciturn. Also he raps at one point, in what has to be the high-water mark of awkward “won’t it be funny to make this character rap” scenes in cinema.
Goblins in Hobgoblins
Does anyone else miss Don LaFontaine, the guy who did these trailer narrations? I could listen to him read from the phone book. Anyway, Hobgoblins belongs to the group of cheap Gremlins knockoffs that flooded theaters after the initial film was a hit. Like Gremlins, they tried to toe the line between comedy and horror, but unlike Gremlins, they failed miserably. The best thing about this clip is that someone calls them “trash cats” in the YouTube section.
Frogs in Frogs
Actually, the title is kind of a misnomer. In Frogs, humans are almost kind of the lower animal, because we polluted the Earth too much. In that way, it’s fairly prescient, but given that all the frogs really do is croak in close-up, they don’t really seem that threatening. Also, humans are quite adept at killing animals, so I have a hard time believing they’d actually pose a threat. Plus, Sam Elliott is in this and there’s no way that dude would have a problem killing frogs.
Joe Estavez as Soultaker
Joe Estavez will take your soul. And he will do it by walking after you verrrrrry slowly in a black coat and eyeliner, doing his best to look like a man haunted by his situation. This movie taught me that souls are made of green … stuff.
The Devil in Rock ‘N’ Roll Nightmare
Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare is a fairly paint-by-numbers slasher flick about an unfortunate band getting killed off until (twist!) it’s revealed at the end that Satan is behind the whole thing. Satan possesses the lead singer’s girlfriend and turns her into … himself (?), at which point — and I stress that I’m not making this up and it’s amazing — Randy reveals that he’s actually an angel who engineered the entire thing to mess with the devil. Randy then transforms into his real form (which involves eyeliner, a cape and a Speedo), and he and the devil have a horrifically unconvincing battle scored to some prime ’80s hair metal. Then the devil just sort of gives up mid-fight and disappears into the warm glow of some $9.99 fireworks the producers must have bought at a roadside stand.
Any inanimate object, as rendered ‘monstrous’ by Stephen King
There are plenty of inanimate-object-come-to-life films (Death Bed, De Lift) but Stephen King has really been to the well the most times. First, there was Christine, about an indestructible killer car. Fine. Then King made all machines evil in Maximum Overdrive, where we’re treated to malicious arcade games and vending machines as well as evil cars. (Also, King narrates the trailer for the film — which he directed — making sure to trash-talk all the other adaptations of his films while simultaneously looking scarier than anything that occurs in the Maximum Overdrive. And it’s soundtracked by AC/DC.) Finally, in 1995, moviegoers were treated to King’s “killer inanimate object” theme once more with the movie version of his short story called “The Mangler,” which is about a laundry folding machine that kills people. Thankfully, he sobered up and stopped doing stuff like this.