As Guillermo Del Toro said at San Diego Comic Con 2011, sometimes smaller monsters are scarier. Say what you will about Godzilla or even Jason Voorhees, but you sure at least you know where they are most of the time. The demons in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark are little bastards who could be anywhere in your house at any time, waiting to pounce and kill you at a moment’s notice. They are the only movie monsters that go bump in the night (as opposed to bigger ones, who would probably go “CRASH! Sorry about the lamp… I can pay for that”), we’ve put together a list of our Top Ten Things That Go Bump in the Night, from actual “things” to Facehuggers and more. What’s our #1 pick? You’ll have to read on to find out…
10. THINGS, from THINGS
One of the most incredibly awful movies ever made, Things – a Canuxploitation horror movie from 1989 – is a story about… Um, we’re not really sure. A few guys go to a cabin in the woods, where one of their wives gives birth to “things.” At some point one of them gets sucked into another dimension for a while, but the movie doesn’t seem to care about that. The rest of the time these losers are stuck in a cabin full of “Things,” which are basically large bugs that sit on top of… other things, like the laundry machine. The Things don’t even move, really, but we have it on good authority that they do kill people. Things is such a transcendently bizarre cinematic experience that the little buggers are unforgettable anyway, and if any “thing” is likely to go bump in the night, it’s probably actual Things.
9. LEPRECHAUN, from the LEPRECHAUN Series
Warwick Davis finally found a claim to cinematic fame beyond Ewoks and Willow in the Leprechaun series, in which he played a demonic Irish sprite who just wants his gold. Sounds reasonable, after all. It was his, someone stole it, he wants it back. But in true horror fashion he just can’t call the authorities and get an injunction or something, he has to kill the poor bastards, many of whom don’t even know that they’re in the possession of stolen property. Over the course of six films the greedy green bastard has travelled to Las Vegas, Space (where he turned into a giant Leprechaun, which is not – as we initially suspected – just an offensively caricatured Irish guy), and finally “Tha Hood,” a sequel so successful that the next – and thus far thelast – Leprechaun movie wasn’t called Leprechaun 6 but rather Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood, as if a homicidal Leprechaun in “tha hood” was the original “high concept.”
8. CRITTERS, from the CRITTERS Series
When most horror movies end up “in space” it’s a sign that things are going downhill, but when the Critters finally wound up there in Critters 4 it made sense since these little monsters are aliens anyway. Essentially just lumps of fur and teeth, the “Krites” are look like evil Sonic the Hedgehogs who invade Earth, roll all over the place and eat everything in sight. Pretty standard stuff, but the Critters series remains one of the better and more memorable B-Level 1980s-1990s horror franchises thanks to the shape-shifting bounty hunters who make the whole series badass as opposed to actually scary. The Critters are still pretty freaky monsters though. Our favorite kill is in Critters 2, when they devour a guy in an Easter Bunny suit by crawling into the zipper hole on his crotch. Classy stuff. Eat your heart out, Last Year at Marienbad!
7. THE TROLL, from CAT’S EYE
Lewis Teague’s second Stephen King adaptation (after the 1983 classic Cujo), Cat’s Eye is an anthology film written by King himself based on three of his short stories: The Ledge, Quitters, Inc. and The General. It’s that last installment that warrants a spot on our list, in which a house cat defends a little girl (Drew Barrymore, back for more Stephen King action after Firestarter) from a truly monstrous troll trying to steal her breath while she sleeps. The kicker is that her parents think the cat’s the real culprit, and even takes the poor little guy – named “General” – to the pound, unwittingly placing their daughter in mortal peril. Will the cat be able to escape and save the day? Truly frightening monster design (even the little bells are creepy) and an impressively choreographed fight between the monster and our feline hero make The General the highlight of Cat’s Eye.
6. SAM, from TRICK ‘R TREAT
Another anthology favorite, albeit a new one, Superman Returns writer Michael Dougherty’s spooky frightfest Trick ‘r Treat offers a host of scary tales worth watching. Surprise Party, a “Little Red Riding Hood” tale starring Anna Paquin, is probably the low point but the pick of the litter is Meet Sam, about an old curmudgeon (Brian Cox) who scares away trick or treaters and gets his comeuppance from a malevolent little boy who may not even be human under that mask. The installment is based on Dougherty’s animated short film Season’s Greetings, which our particularly hip readers might remember from MTV’s old – and awesome – series Liquid Television (you can also watch it above). Trick ‘r Treat is a mostly-great horror movie, but Sam is truly a classic creation.
5. GHOULIES, from the GHOULIES Series
The Ghoulies movies are probably most famous for their advertising campaign, which featured one of these scary little beasties popping out of a toilet, effectively scarring children all over America for life. (Potty training is hard enough as it is.) The first film in the franchise was directed by Charles Band – who has another movie series on our list coming up in a moment, and in fact practically specialized in movies about little creatures like The Gingerdead Man, The Creeps and Blood Dolls – but the series spanned three sequels which found the Ghoulies, little demons summoned by (clichéd) demonic rituals, terrorizing carnivals and colleges and the like. The first two are memorable, if often goofy, entertainments; the second two are so forgettable most people don’t even know about them.
4. TOULON’S PUPPETS, from the PUPPET MASTER Series (Especially Blade)
Charles Band’s biggest claim to fame is probably the Puppet Master series, which to date has a whopping ten movies to its credit, including three prequels. The first feature film from Band’s Full Moon Features production company – which would later give the world such “classics” as Trancers, Evil Bong and The Dead Hate The Living (which is actually pretty darned good) – Puppet Master told the story of a group of psychics in a hotel stalked by homicidal puppets. Over the following sequels – which dropped dramatically in quality after the third, and best, installment, Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge – the puppets would become minor pop culture icons and go from scary bad guys to anti-heroes to actual heroes in the likes of Puppet Master vs. Demonic Toys. But the first couple of movies, which found Pinhead, Tunneler, Blade (everyone’s favorite), and all their homicidal friends killing the hell out of everybody in sight, cemented the puppets’ place in the pantheon on memorable horror villains.
3. GREMLINS, from GREMLINS and GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH
Okay, let’s just get this out of the way: we don’t know when it stops being “after midnight,” we just know not to feed a Mogwai until, like, 11pm just to be safe. Joe Dante’s two horror comedies – the first of which is actually pretty freaky once it gets going – introduced the world to the Gremlins, a species of monster that multiplies in water and wreaks total havoc when unleashed. These mischievous beasties are just human enough to do things like watch movies or play cards, and just monstrous enough to try to kill you with household appliances. The final battle between Zach Galligan and Stripe, a Gremlin with a fierce white Mohawk, is a frightening ordeal with the big… er, “little” bad chasing after our hero with a chainsaw. Dante’s sequel pretty much turned the Gremlins into jokes, but The New Batch is still an endlessly creative film filled with in-jokes and inventive new varieties of Gremlins, including one made entirely out of electricity. We don’t know how that works either, but we don’t let it bother us. The Gremlins movies are horror comedy classics.
2. THE FACEHUGGER, from the ALIEN SERIES
The H.R. Giger-designed Facehugger from Alien is such an iconic movie monster that it’s almost hard to appreciate how original it was when it premiered in 1979. It looks like a vagina trapped between two hands, and with a prehensile tail. That’s… an uncomfortable image. It wraps itself around your face and puts you into a coma as it lays an egg in your stomach. In James Cameron’s Aliens we finally saw the little buggers scurry, and the effect was creepier than ever before. Like a rat that wants to do unspeakable things to your body, the Facehugger flits about the corners of the room, waiting to pounce the second you turn your back. It’s actually more disturbing that the Facehuggers want to use your body for reproduction instead of just plain killing you kill you. They’re some of the scariest monsters ever, of any damned size.
1. CHUCKY, from the CHILD’S PLAY Series (and “Creepy Doll” Movies in General)
Chucky wasn’t the first “Scary Doll” in horror movie history, but he’s come to represent the terrifying trope for most audiences. Frankly, dolls creep most people out even when they don’t try to kill you: they’re like a prototype for the Uncanny Valley, just enough like us to make them seem uncomfortably alien. Chucky first showed up in 1988’s Child’s Play, the only truly horrific movie in the successful series (which spawned five movies to date), as a doll possessed by a serial killer played by Brad Dourif. Every single one of those things – doll, serial killer, Brad Dourif – has caused each of us to lose sleep at one time or another, and although the series eventually evolved into full-on satire the image of a little doll in overalls trying to kill you has stuck in many a head ever since the first film came out in 1988. But the horror genre is full of scary freaking dolls (the puppets fromPuppet Master don’t count because they’re puppets, and because we said so), including Trilogy of Terror, Poltergeist and Dolls, so check all of them out too if you don’t feel like sleeping ever again.
HONORABLE MENTION: THE ANKLE BITERS, from ANKLE BITERS
But first, we couldn’t resist giving an honorable mention to Ankle Biters, a Straight-to-Video horror movie from 2002 about vampires who are only three feet tall. Why just an honorable mention? Three reasons: 1) We haven’t actually seen the thing; 2) It looks awful; and, 3) If the above trailer is any indication, these vampires go bump in the day. But seriously, watch that video and ask yourself why you haven’t seen this movie. We can’t believe it either.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE THING THAT GOES BUMP IN THE NIGHT?