Join us as we go through our favourite cinematic creatures. Whether they’ve creeped us out, made us cower behind our couch cushions, or tugged on our heartstrings, we can never forget these freaky creatures, and we don’t think you should either!
Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning. Arguably the most iconic monster of all time, this hulking mass of mismatched body parts first graced our screens way back in 1931. A significant departure from Mary Shelley’s original vision of an eloquent, tragic creation invoking existential dread in its creator, the movie version is most often associated with a cackling mad scientist and a rampaging corpse. In its time the film’s depiction of the monster was deemed disturbing enough for horror actor Edward Van Sloan to appear on screen and warn the audience not to watch the film if ‘you do not care to subject your nerves to such a strain.’ Cheesy by today’s standards, but the influence of Frankenstein will be felt for years to come.
A genuinely wonderful representation of grief and trauma, The Babadook is the titular monster of a 2014 horror movie of the same name. The creature has a perfect role in the movie, making its presence known in flashes and background movement, building up the tension and dread as it leaves ominous messages in the home of Amelia Vakan, a single mother struggling to raise her six year-old neurodivergent son after her husband died in a car accident. The creature's primary message "the more you deny me the stronger I become", parallels the destructive power of unprocessed grief. The more Vakan struggles to ignore The Babadook, the worse the situation gets and the more she lashes out at her son. The final confrontation between her and the monster is utterly horrifying, but strangely carries with it an intense catharsis; I won't spoil the ending, but it's safe to say the film handles its core theme of grief bewilderingly beautifully. Also of note is the fact that The Babadook is sometimes joked to be a queer icon, after Netflix mistakingly placed it in the LGBTQI+ section of its streaming service. I like this film a lot, and I've thought about it a lot, but a queer reading of its titular antagonist is unfortunately, beyond my capabilities.
First witnessed on an ill-advised sleepover in the dead of night with half the group being set against watching, Freddy has ended up as a weirdly familiar and nostalgic monster for me. First hitting the screen decades before I was born, it seemed I would lose out on the bad puns, weirdly charismatic energy and art department perfected gruesome violence. Freddy is a weird mix of a genuinely dark character, a terrifying set of abilities all undercut by 80s campness and gaudy effects, which for me created a character I could and would proceed to watch again and again. Robert Englund’s consistent and brilliant performance shines throughout. The dream like feel of all of the movies put us right in with the characters, and the way almost every movie ended with dramatic sacrifices to defeat Freddy only for him to come back worse than ever in the next movie, hits too close to a metaphor about the futility of good vs evil considering it was definitely done a cash grab. Maybe that’s why it works so well. Freddy is creepy and scary but fun to watch and never dull.
‘Mr Tusk’ from Tusk
Blurring the lines of what constitutes man, animal, monster, and humour, the Mr Tusk of 2014’s Tusk is many things, but to look at? Certainly monstrous. One of the most horrifying films of the body horror genre (at least in my opinion) Tusk follows crass podcast host Wallace (played by Justin Long) as he is drugged and captured by Michael Park’s eccentric and reclusive Howard, an old man with a debt to repay to Mr Tusk, his walrus friend from long long ago. If you were expecting to be eased into the body horror, think again. Wallace, fairly quickly into his time with Howard, wakes up to find that his leg has been amputated and not long after is promptly transformed into Mr Tusk himself (or rather, some crude and horrifying likeness of him). Pieced together with the skin and body parts of other unfortunate people, Wallace now resembles the most effed up looking walrus / person you may have ever seen. It is his conditioning into walrus-dom that is the most grotesque part of his new existence however, as he eventually loses all sense of self and humanity. The most monstrous aspect of the film altogether though is ultimately Johnny Depp’s lacklustre turn as a Canadian detective. Shocking.
‘The Monster’ from Possession
There are many metaphorical monsters to Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession: violent abuse, marital disintegration, the Cold War, impending nuclear doom… But there is also one wonderfully grotesque literal monster too, although arguably one that is still in some way metaphorical (it’s a somewhat oblique film to be quite honest). Isabelle Adjani as Anna speaks often of her other lover, cruelly taunting husband Mark, played by Sam Neill. Mark has many fairly monstrous fits of his own in response to this, caught with Anna in a strange and claustrophobic cycle as they reconcile then fall out again, for reasons largely indecipherable to the audience. Without its monster it would still be a fairly interesting and arresting take on the disintegration of a marriage, but when Anna’s other lover is revealed to be a bizarre tentacled creature Possession passes over from psychological melodrama into something far beyond that – crossing several genres and somehow making the film make even less sense than before. The monster and its living situation of an abandoned flat beside the Berlin Wall are ripe for contextual reading but I believe it is best enjoyed on a schlock horror basis. The monster design is one of my favourites, deceptively simple – a mandrake-like indistinct but humanoid mass of appendages, oozing various unknown fluids, that somehow manages to be far more disquieting than other designs with more complexity. Something about its simplicity is disturbing on some instinctive level, and all the more so for Anna’s bizarre intimate and obsessive relationship with it.
The Creature from the Black Lagoon
One of the 1950’s quintessential movie monsters lost to time, the creature from the Black Lagoon is truly terrifying. Also known as the ‘Gill man’ he is a humanoid lagoon creature discovered in the Amazon by Dr Carl Maia. After they discover fossilised evidence of a link between man and fish, the creature becomes curious about the beautiful Kay Lawrence, girlfriend and colleague ofichthyologist Dr. David Reed. It stalks the team down river until they reach the Black Lagoon, where he proceeds to viciously maul half the expedition team before eventually being riddled by bullets and disappearing back into the depths. At the time, the makeup and FX by Jack Kevan, who worked on films like The Wizard of Oz, were bone chilling and cemented its place in horror history.
Carry on screaming ‘Oddbod’
On a lighter note, comedies most prolific series ‘Carry on _’ had a horror themed halloween entry by the name of ‘Carry on Screaming’ which had a daunting yet lovable henchman named ‘Oddbod’. Wolfman-esque Oddbod was a man and monster combined completely by accident one night when the genius vampire Dr Fettle (a sort of Dr Frankenstein with sharper teeth and a penchant for innuendo) surged him full of electricity. Quickly put to work, he and his junior, also named Oddbod, set about the task of finding women to kidnap to turn into living mannequins to sell to the local shops. Impossibly strong, towering above the tallest man and sharp wolf like teeth, these furry giants weren't all bad but definitely a force to be reckoned with.