When I say the word “monster,” who’s the first one that pops up in your mind? Is it Michael Myers? Cujo? Pinhead? Hannibal Lecter? As a horror fan, I’ve been fascinated with monsters since I was a little kid. I grew up with parents who took me to the drive-in to see Hell Night when I was probably around five or six, who let me and siblings stay up late during summer vacation to watch cult classics like The People Under the Stairs and My Bloody Valentine. I consumed books by Stephen King, R.L. Stine, and Christopher Pike. Growing up in the 80s, I had my pick of slasher movies featuring monsters like Freddy, Jason, and Chucky.
The first monster I remember being afraid of were the werewolves in the 1981 movie The Howling. The transformation scenes truly scared me, and to help me fall asleep when I was a kid, I used to imagine the werewolf coming up the stairs to my bedroom and if I wasn’t sleeping, it would “get me.” As I got older, my love for horror didn’t change, and I only ended up adding more monsters to my collection. This month, I want to spend some time talking about my favorite monsters (in no particular order) and why they they’ve resonated with me. I invite you to do the same in the comments below!
Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street)
Freddy is a monster that doesn’t exactly terrify me in the traditional sense. Sure, his glove made of knives and his burned skin is scary, but it’s more about HOW he is able to kill his victims: by entering their dreams. I think it’s pretty fascinating that he’s a monster that attacks when you are at your most vulnerable. When you’re dreaming, anything can happen — and Freddy takes advantage of that. As the film series continued, the way he killed his victims only became more imaginative (everyone remembers the roach motel from the fourth movie, right?)
This is another movie I remember watching as a kid. After his young son is killed by accident by a group of teenagers riding their dirt bikes, a father — with the help of a witch — summons a demon called Pumpkinhead to get revenge. Pumpkinhead was directed by special effects artist Stan Winston, and look at it, it’s truly a scary sight! Pumpkinhead also brings back memories of the first time I saw this movie. I was probably around nine or ten, and my parents had left me and my siblings at a family friend’s house while they went out. The kids there were watching this movie and I had no choice but to be subjected to this monster. I watched this movie recently after many years of avoiding it, and it wasn’t as scary as I thought, but when I think about it, my fear was more about how my parents had left us behind in someone else’s house, and not about the movie. It’s interesting how that memory affects how I view this movie and monster.
Randall Flagg (The Stand)
Created by Stephen King, Randall Flagg is seen in many of his works, but I first encountered him in the book The Stand. I’m also one of my those people who was a fan of the 1994 television series (okay, I was only in eighth grade when it first came out, but I still stand by this!), and I look forward to The Dark Tower movie, which will feature Flagg’s alter-ago, Walter o’Dim. Flagg is one of those monsters uses his charisma and swagger to get people to follow him and to do use bidding, and that’s terrifying.
Samara (The Ring)
This movie messed me up the first time I saw it. I was in college, and hearing the words “seven days” made me want to pee my pants. The image of Samara crawling out of the television and scaring her victims to death (and their disfigured corpses) still haunts me. I couldn’t sleep with the television set in my room (and I love TV), fearing that Samara was going to appear. Everything from her long, black hair and ghostly, pale skin still gives me goosebumps. There’s a sequel coming out next month, and trust me, I will be staying away.
Already a big fan of Wes Craven, I loved that Scream brought horror back into the mainstream in the 90s. I was in high school when the first movie came out, and I loved everything about the movie: the characters, the script, and especially the villain. The opening scene is unforgettable (“What’s your favorite scary movie?”). When Sidney, the movie’s protagonist, finds out the person behind the mask is her boyfriend and his friend, I was shocked. To me, the concept that people you trust can be the cause of all your pain and fear showed me that despite all the monsters out there, the ones closest to you are worse.
Killer Bob (Twin Peaks)
I actually watched the movie Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me before watching the series, but that didn’t help me prepare for the demon Killer Bob. A huge credit goes to the actor who portrayed him; there was something sinister and evil behind those eyes. Throughout the entire series we’re trying to find out who killed Laura Palmer. When we find out it was her own father possessed by Bob, it was awful, and it showed how despicable Bob was. The series ending with Bob as Agent Cooper (the hero of the series) is still one of the best scenes of horror out there. Possession stories are already scary enough to me, but Killer Bob was a demon that took pleasure in afflicting pain, and I hated seeing him win in the end. A revival is set to come out in May, and even though the original actor of Bob has passed away, I hope they bring the character back.
The Tall Man (Phantasm)
This is another monster from my childhood (hey, I told you my parents let us watch a lot of scary movies). Phantasm focuses on two brothers, who recently lost their parents, and are investigating the mysterious deaths in their town. It turns out The Tall Man, a supernatural undertaker who turns the dead into dwarf zombies, is responsible. I admit I have not watched the movie since I was a kid (mostly because I’m still terrified of The Tall Man and especially his flying spheres equipped with blades, drills, and lasers), but reading the synopsis brings up familiar themes like death and abandonment (see Pumpkinhead) that scare me.
Viola Swamp (Miss Nelson is Missing!)
All right. Viola Swamp probably is an angel compared to the previous monsters, but as a kid reading the Miss Nelson books, the idea that your favorite teacher was suddenly replaced by a mean woman with black hair and long fingernails scared me. To me, she’s up there with The Tall Man when it comes to memorable monsters. What scares me is that one day, the person you trusted the most (like your favorite teacher) could suddenly disappear and be replaced.
Even though I first encountered some of these monsters as a kid, they still scare me as an adult. The biggest lesson I’ve learned as a horror fan is that what scares you the most is also your biggest fear. To me, these monsters represent themes and fears that live deep inside me, like death, abandonment, and loss of trust. That’s what I love about horror. It goes beyond killers and supernatural creatures; it’s truly about human nature. So, did any of these monsters make it on your list too? Sound off below, and be sure to let us know why you still check for them under your bed!