Three Legendary Monsters That Deserve Their Own Major Horror Movies

So, with Halloween nearly upon us, I find myself thinking about some of the great monsters of Horror cinema; from the all-destroying titans of Japanese Kaiju films to the mind-bending terror of Lovecraftian inspired shoggoths like in John Carpenter’s The Thing.

Still, I can’t help feeling that, with the wellspring of folklore and mythology we’ve built up around the world over the years, we have a lot of missed opportunities.

Now to be clear, I’m aware that there are some smaller horror movies (and non-horror movies) made about some these guys and I will try to touch on those that I’m familiar with where applicable, but that’s not what I’m talking about as a whole. I want to see these guys have big, successful, and legitimately AWESOME movies about the giant swaths of blood, death, devastation, and fear they tear through wherever they travel. Because let’s be honest, you kinda want to see a big budget, special effects gore-fest about…

The Manticore

It isn’t often you see a mythological creature you could buy as an apex predator.
Source: Villians Wiki

With a human face, a lion’s body, a tail of poisonous thorns, and a mouthful of dagger-like teeth, the Manticore – derived from early Persian meaning ‘man-eater’ – is exactly what one might think of when you think of a creature built only for the hunt; combining some of the deadliest natural weapons with a cruel intellect that surpasses most people.

Now, I’m aware that the Manticore was featured in Percy Jackson and The Olympians (A.K.A. discount Greek mythology Harry Potter) but there, he was more of a brutish pet than the cunning predator that legend built him up to be.

My personal take on the Manticore would be more of a Cheshire Cat-like villain (imagine the smile on that beast) who, like most cats, enjoys playing with and tormenting his prey. You could have him set up his victims in an elaborate hunting ground full of puzzles and riddles ending in death traps (alluding to his possible inspiration from the Egyptian Sphinx) in a mythological take on the Saw franchise.

Failing that, you could just make a campy Horror Comedy and get Ninja Sex Party to do the theme song for you.

The Wendigo

There’s something about crimson red on pale white that’s naturally unsettling.
Source: Ancient Origins

Probably among my favorite of North American folklore creatures, many native tribes of the northern U.S. and Canada speak of a violent spirit that would stalk and possess humans during the winter when the threat of starvation and famine loomed. Those possessed would become a Wendigo – an insatiable, cannibalistic monster overpowered by the need to feed on human flesh. Its endless state of starving pain leaves it with a gaunt, wiry frame that gives it a ghoulish appearance.

There have been attempts to make the Wendigo mainstream – most notably the Marvel comics interpretation and their appearance in the game Until Dawn. But I feel the best use of a creature such as this would be to place our heroes in an isolated area with no escape (easy to do given the Wendigo’s association to winter weather) and build tension among them by leaving them accusing each other of being a Wendigo while finding a way to fend of the spirit that continues to possess them one by one and flee back to civilization.

The Jersey Devil

How do you come up with something that can be described as ‘demonic horse-headed velociraptor?’
Source: Weird NJ

Up to now, the creatures I’ve described have been from ancient mythology and folklore. But this one may have been the first MODERN folk monster I’ve ever heard of.

The Jersey Devil, named for its native home of Pine Barrens in southern New Jersey, is one of the most unsettling creatures I could imagine. In addition to its unearthly appearance looking like a bipedal goat-like demon with large wings, horns, and a forked tail, it’s also known for it’s blinding speed and a “blood-curdling scream” that I can only imagine sounds like the Witch King from Lord of the Rings.

Ever since I saw this guy in The Wolf Among Us, I’ve wanted a proper horror interpretation for this generation of horror fans. I’ve said in the past that the secret of good Horror is to capture a basic human insecurity or fear common with the modern zeitgeist and make a monster based around it. And I think Jersey captures a fear we don’t often see – the anxiety of parenthood.

See, the oldest tale of the Jersey Devil cites him as the thirteenth child of a woman named Deborah Leeds in 1735. She cursed him in her frustration after birthing so many children. When he was born, he butchered the midwife immediately before racing up the chimney and – according to some stories – began slaughtering the children in the area.

Rework that myth a bit so that the unborn child could sense his mother’s aggression towards him and, fearing for his life, made a Faustian bargain to gain the beastly strength to defend himself and take vengeance on all unloving parents by murdering their children and you have the makings of some great nightmares on screen.

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Horribly Good: The Importance of Horror and How To Do It Right

“Before I kill you, I’d like have a serious conversation about the importance of fear in human society…”
Source: Comic Vine

Summer has only just started and my mind is already on Halloween – mostly due to the happy news that my cousin is getting married on All Hallows Eve and everyone is going to be in full costume.

Of course, when my mind goes to Halloween, it also extends into thinking on horror stories. As such, I’ve been enjoying some campy horror films and playthroughs of horror-themed games and pondering the nature of the scariest form of entertainment.

You see, back in my day (or at least among my circle of childhood authorities), horror had a bad reputation owed to the quickly improving field of special effects in films making for more realistic violence and the stories becoming more brutal in their subject matter to compensate. This always struck me as an odd reaction that some people had. It left me asking, “Why are so offended by a horror story that manages to ACTUALLY be horrifying?”

Because, my beloved Field Operatives, that is the point of horror stories; to put a less than savory aspect of life on display and make you understand why you need to be afraid of and/or despise it.

Every good horror story, or at least the best remembered, works by making a monster out of a major aspect of daily life that the creator feels needs to change or a social issue that they feel needs addressing. For example, there are plenty of propaganda films from the Cold War era that attempted to be direct about “The Red Scare” taking over the world, but most were quickly forgotten at best and laughed off at worse. But do you know what story inspired by the fear of the loss of self in that era has survived the test of time? That’s right, Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

All good horror stories employ this philosophical symbolism; Eraserhead‘s mutant baby and the fears of parenthood, The Cenobites from Hellraiser being the manifestations of human vices, Jason Voorhees and the debate on premarital sex, and so on.

Sadly, it’s this formula that also causes a lot of tension with detractors of the genre. These films have to hit very close to a cultural nerve to be effective – so close that they are often accused of being guilty of the very evils that they preach against. This was the case with the 1978 film Day of the Woman (better known as I Spit On Your Grave) which was meant to be an accusatory finger pointing at male chauvinism and rape culture but was criticized for being chauvinistic itself.

Of course, even the films and games that lack this sort of philosophical storytelling, though terrible for the most part, can still have some merit for the creator if not for the audience. Movies like Street Trash may just be a parade of melting bodies, but it was a chance for the creator to explore new special effects. Games like Five Nights at Freddy’s may just be a string of jump scares, but it was a successful experiment in using the Uncanny Valley effect to create unsettling character designs and audio.

So, if you’re an aspiring horror film/game maker, here’s my advice to you; find something you care about, something that you think is a serious problem in the world today, and build a Frankenstein Monster out of all of the worst parts of it to show your audience how terrible it is and make sure it stays in their minds for the rest of their lives. Not only will you create a memorable story, but it will be a story that helps guide your audience against the evil it represents.