Halloween costume ideas? The RN&R film critic picks his favorite movie monsters.
For Halloween, I've compiled a list of the great monsters that have scared me the most. This is not a list of the typical monsters that would generally show up on such a compilation (Dracula, the Mummy, Shia LaBeouf). These are the monsters that gave me, specifically, the heebie-jeebies. I am weird, so, consequently, some of my selections are weird.
Jaws): Bruce, the pet name Spielberg gave to his great white shark star, is unrelenting, unhinged and totally unsympathetic. There’s a friendly nude lady swimmer helplessly alone? He’ll eat her. How about a little boy minding his own business on his inflatable raft thing? Lunch. Dogs? Brunch. Some crusty dude who amazingly survived the shark apocalypse that was the Indianapolis? His date with a shark’s gullet has finally come. Bruce is my winner for all time movie monster.
The original King Kong was just a puppet, but, man, that thing was nasty when you took a bunch of pictures of him and edited them together. The dude was biting people’s heads off and smooshing them into the ground with his feet all the way back in 1933! I’ll also give props to the Peter Jackson incarnation, a tremendously effective use of CGI. Rick Baker’s ape suit in the 1976 remake was OK, but that giant robot one in the same movie was stupid.
(Halloween): Some white spray paint, a store-bought William Shatner mask, some overalls; put them together, and “Voila!” you get the all-time greatest psycho stalker. John Carpenter’s slasher movie has never been topped in the genre, and I doubt it ever will be. His take on this monster is the only one that matters. Rob Zombie should be ashamed of himself.
(The Thing): John Carpenter’s creature took on many guises in one of the scariest movies ever made, but none was more terrifying than the infected oatmeal spokesperson, Wilford Brimley. Remember that moment where he shoved his hand in a friend’s mouth and just started melting his face? I do, and I wish I didn’t. When I watch The Firm, I like to pretend that the evil security guy played by Wilford Brimley is actually the Thing-infected Wilford Brimley.
(The first two Alien movies): Acid for blood, extending teeth things, those big-assed heads. Structurally, these things are everything you wouldn’t want to encounter at a party. Also, basically, they are not very nice at all.
(The Descent): The cavemen who never left the cave. They are an ancient race of bat-like cannibals who eat girls and ruin their spelunking expedition.
(Near Dark): This is my choice for scariest vampire, although the original Nosferatu and those things in Salem’s Lot score high for me. Gary Oldman was a little too romantic as Dracula, and Bela Legosi always made me laugh. Nope, Paxton’s punk rock vampire in Kathryn Bigelow’s forgotten classic gets my vote for creepiest bloodsucker.
(Return of the Jedi): It almost ate Luke Skywalker, and it definitely ate the Gamorrean Guard. Bit that sucker’s head right off. Scared me a lot more than the stupid Sarlacc Pit.
(Twin Peaks): Great monsters sometimes appeared on TV first. The actor who played the murderous Bob (Frank Silva) for the David Lynch classic series turned him into a terrifying, rabid demon clad in denim. Credit must also be given to Ray Wise and Kyle MacLachlan for being just as scary when Bob possessed them. Sadly, Silva died in 1995, so he won’t be part of the planned third season of Peaks due to air in 2016.
Pippi Longstocking: I’m putting it in the middle of the list, but the reality is that this monster gives me the willies more than most. I’m not talking about the American version of Pippi that came out in the late ’80s, although she was kind of spooky. I’m talking about the Swedish one dubbed in English. She’s a thousand different maladies thrown into a blender for a disgusting nightmare frappe. That hair … those teeth … that voice that didn’t match up to the way her mouth was moving. She’s evil. Pure evil.
(Hellraiser): Pinhead and the lot are about as freaky as it gets, putting nails in people’s heads and pulling skin off with chains. They also, as my editor Brad Bynum pointed out, have a bite-sized snack named after them at your local Cinnabon.
(A Nightmare on Elm Street): I’m talking the Freddy from the original flick, and not the Groucho Marx wannabe he became in later installments.
Frankenstein's Monster: My editor got on my case to include some of the classic Universal monsters. Honestly, while I enjoyed the films, they didn’t really scare me at all. Upon reflection, I suppose Boris Karloff’s stitched together concoction throwing a girl to her drowning death because he ran out of flower petals is quite chilling.
(Jurassic Park and The Lost World): A combination of great animatronics and CGI, the nastiest dinosaur ever to grace screens made a triumphant, horrifying entrance in the original, terrorizing two kids and Jeff Goldblum. The monster went to San Diego in the sequel, where he ate the screenwriter and somebody’s dog.
Laurence Olivier a.k.a The Dentist
(Marathon Man): The dude looked sweet and meek, like a grandpa who would give you a dollar and let you pick something out of that gross hard candy dish. And then he asked the question “Is it safe?” followed by grueling sessions of dentistry without the aid of pain numbing gasses or liquids.
Spiders: I don’t care if it was a fake giant spider, or a real spider crawling across some actor’s face. I’m not even going to pick any movies in particular. To me, all spiders are living proof that monsters do indeed walk amongst us. They must be stopped!
Romero zombies: There have been a lot of zombies over the years, but none beat the Romero zombies of Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. I especially like the zombies with mint chocolate chip ice cream colored skin in Dawn.
(Creepshow): While we are on the subject of Romero, I must give props to that Crate Monster in Creepshow. Those teeth and the way they took a bite out of somebody’s head will always stand as an all-time great movie gross-out (the drool!). Walking Dead fans, did you see the crate marked “Ship to Horlick’s University” sitting around Terminus in the season five premiere? That was a tribute to the Crate Monster!
The Blob: The old dude getting that space smegma on his hand and having it slowly dissolve him was damn scary, even if the original film was a little goofy. The remake starring Kevin Dillon was actually quite awesome, featuring a blob that allowed you to see people melting inside of it.
Those Little Bastards from the original Don't Be Afraid of the Dark:
Oh god, I hate these little light sensitive precursors to Joe Dante's Gremlins. There's just something so awful about their immobile faces staring up at you. I'm glad my smartphone comes with a flashlight so as to repel them if they really do exist.