What scares you? Is it something ephemeral, like the concept of death or failure? Do sharks and slithery things give you nightmares, or is it Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers who keep you up at night? In the realm of terrifying monsters, it's hard to pick the absolute scariest one. Fear is, after all, purely subjective. Many things go bump in the night, but not all of them are created equal. Sure, some monsters will stick with you from childhood until you're old a grey, but others ... well, they lack a certain Je ne sais quois. Not these ones, though. No way.
The /Film horror team put their heads together to come up with an immense list of horror movie monsters that gave them the frights, and together they whittled that list down to 30 contenders. Here are your scariest horror movie monsters.
The Overlook Hotel
Stephen King is known for a prolific career full of terrifying monsters. One of his most iconic and terrifying creations was The Overlook Hotel. The Overlook first graced the pages of King's 1977 novel "The Shining" before its 1980 feature film debut. When troubled writer Jack Torrence moves his family into the Overlook as its winter caretaker, he soon discovers that the hotel is full of predatory spirits of deceased guests. What's worse, it wants to corrupt Jack in an effort to take his son Danny because of his nascent psychic abilities.
The Overlook isn't merely a haunted hotel, it's a sentient being with malicious desires and intent. It also happens to be able to corrupt its guests and ensnare them forever. What really drives the terror home is the fact that its horrors are completely personal, using Jack's alcoholism and isolationist tendencies to turn him against his own family. It's a sentient, corrupting hotel that knows its victims and weaponizes their deepest weaknesses against their loved ones in a cycle of blood and death. Few things are scarier. (Jeff Ewing)
The Man With Fire In His Face
James Wan has created countless monsters throughout his career, but "Insidious" introduced one of his mightiest. The Man With Fire in His Face, aka Lipstick-Face Demon was an instant frightener when the first "Insidious" trailer played. As the minutes-long teaser plays out, we see glimpses of Lin Shaye as a medium, Rose Byrne as a family protector, and then Patrick Wilson's face — at first. Behind Wilson's father figure seated at the dinner table leers Wan's Darth Maul wannabe, peering into the camera, taunting Wilson from behind. You needn't even see "Insidious" to fear the demon, thanks to possibly the most iconic horror trailer moment of the last decade.
As a resident of The Further, Red-dy Krueger "seeks to bring pain and chaos to the world of the living by possessing a human body." He's distilled hatred with a snarling face, designed like he's the dictionary definition of "Satan's Little Helper." The demon lures Dalton Lambert (Tyler Simpkins) into his lair, chains the boy down, and tortures him to his heart's ill content.
"Insidious" is crammed with tremendous scares, so many due to the demon's daunting stalks as even his blackened figure brings that added spike of anxiety. Once you see the red face, you'll never sleep again. (Matt Donato)
The Predator has been through quite a few iterations over the years. Some of them are scarier than others, but none of them hold a candle to the original from 1987's "Predator." Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in the film directed by John McTiernan about a group of special forces commandos who go into the Central American rainforest to rescue hostages from guerrilla forces. Unfortunately, they also encounter the Predator, an alien warrior who travels from planet to planet, hunting the universe's most dangerous prey.
The original Predator was played by Kevin Peter Hall in a monster suit. Initially, the Predator appears to have a smooth, metallic face, but this is revealed to be a helmet. He's actually got some mega mandibles and a whole lot of razor-sharp teeth under there. He's terrifying because he's the galaxy's greatest hunter, with cloaking capabilities and lots of practical battle skills. He can be pretty cool when he's on your side, like in the "Aliens vs. Predator" series, but it's never good to be his prey.
Fans of the series will get a chance to see that in action in Dan Trachtenburg's prequel film, "Prey." (Danielle Ryan)
One of the scariest monsters in 21st-century horror never shows its true face. Still, the spirit of King Paimon lingers in the dark and quiet terror of every moment of "Hereditary." Ari Aster's feature debut coats the air with a choking sense of wrongness from early on in the movie and lets the dread of Paimon's unseen force escalate into a wild and horrific climax. Audiences will have forgotten to breathe by the time Alex Wolff's Peter flings himself through a window and shuffles, possessed, into his treehouse shrine.
"Hereditary" makes Paimon terrifying by refusing to explain him, instead offering clues and details leading up to the final, gruesome revelation that the family's tragedies have all been in honor of the dark deity. Viewers don't know exactly what he wants, or why, but it's clear that he gets it by causing deep hurt and tremendous fear. The fact that his manipulations feed on situations that can happen to anyone, like mental illness, accidents, aging, and death, makes Paimon's power all the more frightening. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
American Kaiju cinema isn't as popular as it should be, which is a shame because "Cloverfield" is such a phenomenal experiment in perspective and destruction. The title references Project Cloverfield, which the American government uses as a codename for the film's creature. An extraterrestrial beast crashes into the ocean and begins destroying New York City, which we witness through the found-footage perspective of partygoers now fleeing for their life.
There's no defense, and nowhere you can escape given the Kaiju's gargantuan size. How is that not pit-of-your-stomach horrific?
Let's cover all the ways Clover — the eventual nickname of the mega beast — can cause harm. Maybe his gigantic stomper crushes you underfoot, or perhaps he chews you in half. Clover could topple a skyscraper or bridge and crush you under debris. The helpless feeling that "Cloverfield" stirs is the ultimate horror vibe, and that's without even acknowledging the violent minions Clover releases from its body that causes victims to explode when bit.
Clover is one of the great American monsters since Y2K, causing a million ways to die that we will never forget. (Matt Donato)
Often dubbed one of the scariest movies of all time, "The Exorcist" caused fainting spells, walk-outs, and shudders of disgust when it premiered theatrically in 1973. Archival footage of audience reactions at the time shows that people were far more scared of Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) than her possessor, Pazuzu. "She turned her head around," one young woman stuttered in horror after leaving the screening, immediately hiding her face in her date's jacket. Even the mere mention of the scene was too horrifying to handle.
It makes perfect sense why a 12-year-old girl, covered in neon-green vomit and with blood oozing from every orifice, continues to inspire nightmares as opposed to the stony-faced Pazuzu. Something seemingly harmless and gentle is transformed into an inhuman threat, her demonic voice change and physical contortions an affront to human nature itself. She is at once innocent and corrupted, and there's no concrete explanation as to why she was marked for possession. This is what's truly so terrifying about Regan: If the Devil chose her to be his vessel, what's to say he can't claim you?
Forget Catholic guilt — "The Exorcist" is the ultimate example of Catholic anxiety. (Natalia Keogan)
Ron Underwood's classic 1990 creature feature, "Tremors," achieves an incredible feat: making 'roided-out earthworms threatening.
Originally theorized as extraterrestrial — "I vote for outer space. No way these are local boys," says Earl Basset (Fred Ward) — the sightless underground monsters, also called the unimaginative "Dirt Monsters," are discovered to be prehistoric rabble-rousers who like to eat livestock, cars, and the occasional bit of human flesh as a treat. Their snake-like appendages are strong enough to hold a running truck back from escape, and they are patient enough to lay siege to their potential lunch for days on end. When they descend upon the high desert, mountain-bound town of Perfection, Nevada, it's an all-you-can-eat buffet: sensing the vibrations humans make (walking, bouncing on a pogo stick, dribbling a basketball, etc.), it's easy for the creatures — dubbed "graboids" by store owner Walter Chang (Victor Wong) — to spot their next meal.
But there's one thing they don't count on: a pair of aimless handymen (Kevin Bacon and Ward), a seismologist, and a Republican prepper couple with way too many firearms. (Anya Stanley)
Godzilla is one of the most iconic and enduring monsters in the history of cinema. He's also right at home on this list as one of the most terrifying.
Ishirō Honda's 1954 masterpiece was born from the anti-nuclear movement following World War II and the H-bomb testing at Bikini Atoll, with the titular kaiju serving as a stand-in for Japan's well-founded fears of nuclear annihilation. After the war ended, the U.S. military occupied Japan and essentially banned all press coverage of the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hiding the catastrophic fallout from the rest of the world. Though the occupation ended in 1952, the U.S. military used the Marshall Island of Bikini Atoll well into 1954. This would become the site of the most powerful nuclear bomb ever detonated by the United States: Castle Bravo.
And thus Godzilla was born. His skin was designed after the keloid scars covering the bodies of Hiroshima survivors, and his atomic breath wreaked the same havoc on the people of Japan that the U.S. military had subjected them to. The film opens with a haunting homage to the Lucky Dragon No. 5, the first casualty of Castle Bravo, only Godzilla ensured they never made it home.
Godzilla remains an indelibly horrifying creature not because of his size or appearance, but because of the history that created him. It's just that simple. (Ariel Fisher)
"The Descent" is one of the 2000s greatest horror triumphs. Y'all wanna explore caves with claustrophobic passageways? Be my guest. Shimmy your way around stalagmites and venture into pitch-black unknowns at your own peril because you might find imp-like, feral beasts that toss bones picked clean of flesh into a bloody pool.
Neil Marshall's Crawlers are a species of humanoids who've evolved underground, physically adapting to the landscape of subterranean cave systems. Their ears are pointed, noses rigid and flat against faces like a bat, exhibiting nocturnal traits on top of their predatory instincts. Crawlers scale walls, hunt using echolocation, and don't need flares to see. The way Crawlers scamper, gliding across slippery rock faces that would cause veteran spelunkers to pause, is enough to make you stay away from any cave entrances.
Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), Juno (Natalie Mendoza), and their friends are no match for the creatures that view the humans as invaders, as Crawlers chew, chase, and massacre them with ease. (Matt Donato)
Remaking a classic horror movie is one of the biggest risks a director can take, but for David Cronenberg, "The Fly" helped solidify his reputation as one of horror's greatest masters.
"The Fly," a remake of the beloved B-movie of the same name, showcases the revolting demise of Jeff Goldblum's Dr. Seth Brundle, a brilliant scientist who believes he has discovered the key to teleportation. In what would become quite possibly the biggest drunken mistake ever put to film, Dr. Brundle attempts to test his telepods on himself, unknowingly merging himself with a housefly in the process. The results are grotesque, as Dr. Brundle slowly transforms into the monstrous creature known by horror fans as Brundlefly. His body mutates and falls apart, growing increasingly more repulsive by the hour.
Thanks to the Academy Award-winning practical makeup work of Chris Walas and Stephan Dupuis, the unsightly vision of Jeff Goldblum's metamorphosis has been effectively terrifying (and grossing out) audiences for nearly four decades. (BJ Colangelo)
As Bela Lugosi famously said as the vampiric Count Dracula, "There are far worse things awaiting man than death." The legacy of the Universal Monsters films spans nearly a century, but it all began with the vampire classic, 1931's "Dracula."
The true terror of Bela Lugosi's performance as the Count is not in jump scares or dramatic makeup effects, but rather in how undeniably electric he is on screen, able to successfully lull us into his trap with a well-placed smile and the delicate raise of an eyebrow. His vocal pattern has become the default for what Count Dracula should sound like, providing the perfect combination of creepiness and captivation.
The character has been reinterpreted by a multitude of actors including Christopher Lee, Lon Chaney Jr., Gary Oldman, and even the puppeteers on "Sesame Street," but Bela Lugosi is the defining Dracula who paved the way for all future bloodsuckers and children of the night. (BJ Colangelo)
The Tentacle Monster
Andrzej Żuławski's psychological horror drama "Possession" is a film that feels as if it defies description. Better suited as an experience rather than something to watch, "Possession" tells the story of Sam Neill's Mark, a spy who upon realizing his wife, Anna (played by Isabelle Adjani) is seeking a divorce, is thrown into a world of nightmarish psychosis as he slowly uncovers the truth of his wife's infidelity.
The film was banned in many places upon its release in 1981, due in large part to the way horror and sexuality are visually intertwined throughout. "Possession" is a film as horny as it is horrific, with Adjani's Anna seeking the pleasure not of a random lover, but of a gooey, gruesome, tentacled monster. The creature is given minimal screen time, but the image of it writhing on top of her is enough to sear itself into the subconscious of anyone watching. The monster's impact on both Anna and Mark inspired two of the most grueling performances in horror history.
Life gets pretty weird after you do the dirty deed with a gigantic tentacle beast. (BJ Colangelo)
The Possum Marionette
"Possum," the depressing, psychological horror film directed by Matthew Holness, who cult horror fans may know as the creator and star of, "Garth Marenghi's Darkplace," tells a story as disturbing as the terrifying puppet monster that gives the film its title.
The story follows a disgraced children's puppeteer named Philip Connell (Sean Harris) who is forced to revisit his childhood home where his feeble uncle now resides. The only bag he brings on his journey is a leather duffel bag that houses a spider-like marionette called Possum that continually haunts Phillip throughout his visit. He tries to discard the puppet, but no matter what he does, Possum seems to make its way back to him. For most of the film, only the puppet's massive spider legs are visible, making the reveal of the spider's human face all the more horrific.
More than just a mere marionette, Possum is the manifestation of Phillip's disturbing past, and its grotesque appearance is a direct reflection of his anguish. (BJ Colangelo)
David Bruckner's "The Ritual" is about a lot of things like toxic masculinity, the pain of growing apart from your friends, and the dangers of camping, but it also happens to feature one of the coolest original creature designs in recent memory.
After a group of friends played by Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Sam Troughton, Robert James-Collier, and Paul Reid go on a trek into the woods, they discover an ancient evil, a kind of Norse giant called a Jotunn. One of the friends completes a pagan ritual and manages to summon Moder, a Jotunn whose spirit is tied to that particular forest and happens to be the ill-gotten son of Loki, God of Mischief. That's when things get really interesting.
Moder is a horrifying creation. He's part stag and part human corpse, with a man's torso for a face, and arms hanging down below his mouth like a warthog's tusks. He's also huge, towering high into the trees.
"The Ritual" is a slow-burning nightmare, but once Moder shows up in his gory glory, it's well worth the wait. (Danielle Ryan)
This entry really only needs three words: he's the Boogeyman. Michael Myers holds an esteemed place in the horror baddie pantheon by virtue of being one of the earliest and simplest slasher icons — pre-Jason Voorhees, pre-Freddy Kreuger.
Originally titled "The Babysitter Murders," John Carpenter's 1978 film "Halloween" established the coverall-wearing, blade-wielding killer as a silent, stalking force of evil. "The Shape," as he's known in Carpenter and Debra Hill's script, killed his older sister on Halloween night of 1963 when he was a child, and following a lengthy stay in a mental institution, Michael escapes and returns to Haddonfield for more slicing and dicing.
Stare into his shock-white mask to see what Dr. Loomis (the Ahab to the elusive Myers' white whale) called "the blackest eyes, the Devil's eyes." Few have gotten that close and lived to tell the tale, though.
Only appearing on one night of the year in one specific town, but so un-killable as to prompt a slew of sequels and re-quels, Myers is more myth than man at this point. (Anya Stanley)
In the intricate lore of James Wan's Conjuring-verse, Valak is the closest thing paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren have to an overarching Big Bad. The demon gets his time in the spotlight in "The Nun," but has also made appearances in three other movies in the franchise to date. First summoned by a Romanian Duke, the fallen angel soon gets cozy on earth and begins possessing nuns at a secluded monastery.
Valak's fear factor depends on what face he's wearing: in "The Nun," the demon masquerades as a nun, showing off his ability to infiltrate the most respected orders of the religion that rebukes him. Valak's nun form is decidedly freaky, but he can be even scarier when he's less obvious.
Despite being able to take over human bodies, Valak seems compelled to taunt his prey. He spells his name in blocks behind Lorraine's head while she sleeps or appears in the back of one of Sister Charlotte's photographs without her noticing. His show of force is sometimes blatant, but other times he can be more sinister and creeping in his methods. No matter what form he takes, he's freaky as hell. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
Steven Spielberg delivered perhaps one of the most universal terrors in cinema history in 1975 with "Jaws." Not only did he essentially create the summer blockbuster as we know it, but "Jaws" introduced us to one of the most terrifying monsters to ever grace the silver screen. So what made the shark affectionately known as Bruce so terrifying? This was a little too close to reality to be comfortable.
It all starts with that famous tagline, "You'll never go in the water again." Virtually anyone who has ever seen "Jaws" has likely experienced a moment of hesitation before setting foot in a big body of water. What lies just below the surface? Is there some beast full of razor-sharp teeth looking for an easy meal? It's a combination of the very real, as sharks have been around for millions of years, and the unknown that lies just out of sight that makes Bruce so viscerally terrifying. It certainly doesn't hurt that the shark itself is monstrous, not to mention the impact of John Williams' iconic theme, but the fact that so much of the horror and death is about what we aren't seeing is what makes it so horrifying.
Sometimes our imaginations can fill in those gaps better than anything tangible ever could. (Ryan Scott)
Though South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho is no stranger to the socially conscious thriller, his 2006 film "The Host" plays with a distinct twist in the sub-genre. After American-sanctioned negligence results in 400 bottles of formaldehyde being poured into Seoul's Han River, all the fish die while something terrifying begins to mutate and take shape. When a string of sightings crop up, all detailing a strange, amphibian creature roaming the riverbanks, a monster finally emerges from the murky depths, wreaking havoc on the city and its populace. In a frenzied panic, snack stall owner Park Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) even loses his young daughter Hyun-seo (Go Ah-sung) to the monster's slimy clutches.
Dubbed the Gwoemul (Korean for "monster"), the creature resembles a cross of a fish and a salamander, with some horrifying new additions. It boasts a multi-pronged, gaping mouth and a prehensile tail. What makes the creature so eerie, though, is the fact that its backstory has real-world origins. In 2000, the U.S. really did dump all that formaldehyde into the Han River, causing actual mutations in the indigenous fish population. Theoretically, the Gwoemul could emerge from the river's waters at any moment, and America would be totally to blame. (Natalia Keogan)
To many Spencer's Gifts patrons, Chucky is a friend 'till the end. To others, he's a devil doll whose cackle echoes through countless nightmares. Serial killer Charles Lee Ray becomes the horror icon we know and fear when transfers his soul into the rubbery vessel of a Good Guy doll. Brad Dourif plays the "Lakeshore Strangler" and lends his voice to Chucky in plaything form, defining his career as the most seasoned slasher villain since Chucky's debut in 1988's "Child's Play." Dourif's the only one who's played the demented doll in Mancini's ongoing canon and there's no end in sight with "Chucky" season 2 on the way.
"But Chucky's a jokester slasher and two-feet-tall!" Valid points, but Chucky's stitched Frankenstein style unveiled in "Bride Of Chucky" is unsettling and grotesque. He goes from a walking, talking evil doll to a terrifying monster. Laugh all you want, but the Chucky fear is real — innocence bastardized into maniacal malevolence in a red-headed package.
Dolls are supposed to be cute and cuddly, not possessed by wanted criminals. Chucky makes us fear what we should love, and for that reason alone, he's a scary story legend. (Matt Donato)
In "Sinister," another child-eating horror monster is introduced to the silver screen. The film tells the story of a true-crime novelist who accidentally unleashes Bughuul, an angry pagan deity that devours the souls of children. Don't be fooled because Bughuul is not your average child-eating monster; he possesses children and influences them to murder their families in some seriously gruesome ways. Once they've committed the crime, the creature transports the children to the netherworld, where he slowly consumes their souls.
With blotchy gray skin and shoulder-length black hair, Bughuul takes a human-like form. You might mistake him for a human before getting a glimpse of his dreadful face — he even wears a suit. It was thought that he possessed children through images, from frescoes to film reels. What makes Bughuul so dangerous beyond his ability to control the minds and souls of children is his longevity and adaptability. The Eater of Children's origins can be traced back to Babylonian times, when he was once accused of religious plagiarism after replicating his brother Moloch's child sacrifice rituals ... which caused the latter to shut his mouth with ash for eternity. (Fatemeh Mirjalili)
The Pale Man
Guillermo Del Toro knows a few things about movie monsters. The writer and director won an Oscar for "The Shape of Water," about a woman who falls in love with a fish-man, after all, and he has a clear love for the monstrous. Arguably his most horrifying creation, however, came earlier in his career, with the 2006 historical fantasy horror, "Pan's Labyrinth." Doug Jones plays both the enigmatic Faun and the nightmarish Pale Man, and the latter is truly the stuff of Del Toro's darkest dreams.
The Pale Man is a pale, naked man who is very thin, but has way too much skin. It hangs off of him like a robe, and his facial features are mostly missing, making him pretty unpleasant to look at. Once he opens up his hands and reveals that his eyes are on his palms, however, he goes from unpleasant to downright appalling, and that's before he chomps on a cute little faerie like it was a Flamin' Hot Cheeto. Del Toro once described him as a representation of "all institutional evil feeding on the helpless," and if that's not terrifying, what is? (Danielle Ryan)
The Lasser Glass
Most of the monsters on this list are alive in some quantifiable way, but the villain at the heart of "Oculus" wears the mask of an inanimate object. The Lasser Glass, a mirror that's killed 45 people and counting is one sick puppy, capable of manipulating reality for anyone who comes near it. In Mike Flanagan's pulse-pounding film, it faces off against Kaylie (Karen Gillan) and Tim (Brenton Thwaites), two traumatized siblings whose family was ripped apart by the mirror years ago.
While most cursed objects are revealed to be associated with some outside participant or demonic presence, in "Oculus," the Lasser Glass is the presence. The antique has been taking lives since at least 1754, including killing the pair's parents. It can bend perceptions in a deeply creepy and tragic way, relentlessly messing with time, space, and its victims' heads.
It can also, memorably, make a person take a bite out of a light bulb.
The heroes of "Oculus" are extra-clever horror movie protagonists, making their continued inability to overcome the mirror's dark enchantments all the more terrifying. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
Homerton (AKA Annihilation's Screamy Bear)
Cosmic horror is a tough thing to depict. It is, by its very nature, beyond the comprehension of the human mind. Man's grasp on reality and humanity is tethered to markers, things that make a person what and who they are. Movies like Alex Garland's 2018 adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer's novel "Annihilation" successfully slice at those tethers, not with tentacles that supernatural horror authors like H.P. Lovecraft were known for, but by presenting surpassed boundaries of the imagination.
One of the most jarring examples the story uses is of a creature that stalks the explorers tasked to probe into a bizarre quarantined zone. The four-legged beast looks enough like some kind of prehistoric bear, but with a few notable differences: a human skull is embedded on the left side of the creature's head, and it can emit a call that not only sounds human, but like the specific voice of one of the explorers it killed earlier in the film. This bear is not mimicking its victims; its victims assimilate into its body, meaning that they might not be truly dead once their physical form shuffles off its mortal coil. And that is cosmically horrifying. (Anya Stanley)
The original "Hellraiser" is a genuinely scary, goopy, gory horror movie with a wonderfully demented premise. The original film doesn't officially introduce audiences to Pinhead, the most recognizable of the extra-dimensional sickos called Cenobites. He gets more time to shine later, but initially, viewers are subjected to a whole league of supernatural sadomasochists. The Cenobites appear when daring humans seek out pleasures beyond their capacity, as Frank (Sean Chapman) does in the 1987 film. His escapades don't quite work out, as he loses his human body in a deeply disgusting way after beckoning the Cenobites with a magic puzzle box.
Although the Cenobites' torturous impact can be deeply disturbing, the dudes themselves are as entertaining as they are scary. With lipless bared teeth, mutated heads, and, of course, pins stuck through their faces, the Cenobites are like eldritch body mod freaks with a knack for rending flesh from bones. Over the series' 10 movies and counting, they're a persistently dangerous — and admittedly cool-looking — presence. (Valerie Ettenhofer)
There are few instances where someone can just utter a single name and a myriad of images will pop into their mind. Simply say "Freddy," and anyone who even has a surface-level knowledge of pop culture will conjure images of Freddy Krueger from "A Nightmare on Elm Street." Robert Englund's depiction of the slasher who comes for you in your dreams is so singular and sticky that the name Freddy almost entirely belongs to him. It's that strong. Wes Craven first introduced us to the sweater-wearing, claw-handed killer in 1984, and for nearly four decades now, he's been one of the premiere names in the world of terror.
From a visual standpoint, Freddy is unparalleled. This is a foreboding figure to look at, with his scarred and melted skin and those sharp claws. Beyond that, what Freddy has that other slashers don't is the ability to get you when you are most vulnerable; in your sleep. Run from it, hide from it ... it's fruitless. Everyone sleeps. Everyone dreams. And that's when Freddy is gonna come for you. (Ryan Scott)
Sadako And Samara
Regardless of whether someone watches the Japanese "Ringu" or the American remake, "The Ring," chances are they're going to be terrified of a little girl with long black hair. Sadako, or Samara in her American iteration, is a ghostly figure whose voice tells people they will die in seven days after they watch a cursed videotape. She's on the VHS, crawling out of a well with her long hair over her eyes, and she eventually crawls right out of the television screen and into the reality of the movie in a sequence that is utterly surreal.
Sadako doesn't have to say much beyond the old "seven days" line, because she's perfectly horrifying all on her own. There's something innately creepy about children in long gowns, and Sadako's feral movements and Cousin Itt-style hair make her even creepier. Samara and Sadako both went on to star in several sequels in their respective franchises, and Sadako even got the chance to duke it out with Kayako from "Ju-On" for "Sadako vs. Kayako" — a true duel of terror. (Danielle Ryan)
Regardless of whether you find clowns threatening, you have to agree that Bill Skaskarg's iteration of Pennywise the dancing clown from "It" (2017) is one of the most menacing, terrifying creatures to grace the horror genre. The otherworldly, trans-dimensional evil entity that preys upon the innocent young children of Derry, Maine, is the overarching antagonist of Stephen King's 1986 horror novel of the same name. The clown lives in the sewers in the town of Derry, using them as access points to lure his victims into his hideout.
The shape-shifting monster embodies every child's worst nightmare — the creature feeds off of their fears and weaponizes them. Pennywise's many forms are frightening, as the film sees him shape-shift into a mummy, an abusive father, a creepy painting, and a decapitated boy, just to name a few examples. The ancient entity can transform into anything to elicit a sense of fear in its victims. It assumes these forms to inspire as much terror as possible ... because simply butchering them is not enough. (Fatemeh Mirjalili)
Contrary to popular assumption, recognizable horror icons did not disappear after "Scream." In fact, one of modern horror's contributions was directly influenced by a classic killer.
In Jennifer Kent's 2014 psych-horror banger "The Babadook," the Australian writer-director crafts a monster representing, among other things, the contradictory struggles of parenthood — that same parenthood that some people insist is always a blessing.
Single mother Amelia Vanek (Essie Davis) is raising her troubled son Sam (Noah Wiseman), her sanity hanging on by a thread. Sam brings a bedtime story to her titled "Mister Babadook," featuring a spindly white-faced human-ish creature in a top hat, with long, taloned fingers. Sporting an uncanny grin with what seems like way too many teeth, the Babadook torments his victims once they learn about him. Its ability to infiltrate, possess, and compel its victims to kill is its most terrifying power, but there lies plenty of nightmare material in the Babadook's expressionist aesthetic alone.
Fun fact: the creature took some visual cues from the long-lost 1935 mystery film "London After Midnight," starring Lon Chaney in dual roles including the Man in the Beaver Hat, a vampiric, wild-eyed figure with tiny sharp teeth, often bared in a terrible grin. (Anya Stanley)
Xenomorphs And Facehuggers
1979 saw the cinematic introduction of one of the most recognizable and frightening creatures to ever grace our screens: the Xenomorph. Making its big-screen debut in Ridley Scott's "Alien," it stalks the corridors of the Nostromo and kills off its crew one by one. It's a frightening beast by almost every metric you can apply. From its acid blood and its secondary retractable maw to its sharp tail and hive-mind connection to the Queen and other Xenos, it's a formidable and deadly foe. Even worse is its shocking and surprising life cycle.
Once a hapless victim arrives at a Xenomorph egg, it opens up to release a Facehugger: tough, bony crawlers that leap onto the victim's face and impregnate them with a Xenomorph fetus. The young alien feeds off its host's body until it bursts out of their chest, killing them almost instantly. It then rapidly grows into a full-fledged and horrifying adult. Every stage of the process is terrifying and violent, and the result is a mixture of Xenomorph and the species of its victim. In other words, every single aspect of its being is a deadly violation of the natural order as we know it, making for one terrifying beast that finds new ways to scare with each film. (Jeff Ewing)
As one of the most well-known and revered horror movies, John Carpenter's 1982 classic "The Thing" barely requires an introduction. But the Cliffs Notes version follows a team of American researchers in Antarctica led by R.J. MacReady (played by Kurt Russell), befouled by a parasitic alien organism that mimics the form of whatever life it consumes.
It's hard to say what the creature's true form is since it incorporates its victims and imitates them. That's part of the film's tension; Childs (Keith David) asks, "If I was an imitation, a perfect imitation, how would you know it was really me?" But the Thing of "The Thing" is the scariest mid-transformation, when uncanny faces and clearly human organic matter mix and mingle with tentacles and foreign goo. One of the movie's greatest scenes puts Rob Bottin and his fx team's skills on display as the organism, hiding within a now-dead researcher, swiftly eliminates a threat and divides itself to ensure its own survival. The sight of the researcher's head, now sporting arachnid legs and antennae, only gets one vocal response from Palmer: "You gotta be f***ing kidding." (Anya Stanley)
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