There are many monsters found in the mythologies of different cultures and in the imaginations of writers and artists throughout the centuries. Since the Spawn Of Lilith series deals with horrific critters of every imaginable type—including some from demonic mixed marriages—I’ve been happily researching as many as possible, as well as making up ones of my own. It’s fun not being limited to, say, just zombies. Mind you, I do love a good zombocalypse, but there are more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of by George A Romero and those who came after him.
Creepy-Ass Japanese Vengeance Ghosts:
Regardless of their tragic origin stories, it’s hard for me to have sympathy for vengeance ghosts because these critters are just plain mean – not to mention uncompromising and arbitrary. A lot of people are huge fans of The Ring, which I agree is an atmospheric movie with some creepy moments. But for me the actual monster in the movie (Samara, who fits the parameters of a mean-ass scary ghost in need of some serious anger management therapy) is not as scary as the reveal of the first victim’s face. That was horrific and set the tone for the rest of the movie.
Personally, however, I found The Grudge (Ju-on) a lot scarier. The glimpses of the victim-turned-vengeful ghost are very subtle at first. And when we finally do see her crawling down the stairs, the use of practical FX makes that one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen.
When I was a kid I was a huge fan of Dark Shadows, the original series. Cheesy as hell, but scary to a little kid. Barnabas Collins was my first vampire, followed by Christopher Lee’s iconic Dracula. Dang me, that man was sexy! Toss in Dan Curtis’s The Night Stalker and from that point on, I was hooked.
I’ve always liked the sexy vamps, but I got tired of the “you must be this beautiful to be a vampire” and “trapped between two worlds” tropes that started with Interview With The Vampire. There’s something to be said for the ones that are more like sharks (30 Days Of Night). They hunt and they eat. What does it say about me that I’ve always found Spike on Buffy more interesting than Angel, except when Angel loses his soul and becomes Angelus. Maybe I need therapy….
Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. Read that when it first came out and it made vampires scary for me again. I’m also a fan of Jonathan Maberry’s V-Wars series, which treats vampirism as a virus and exposes the readers to all sorts of different vampires depending on the carrier’s DNA.
I have never been particularly interested in or attracted to werewolves—although Quentin Collins, the werewolf in Dark Shadows rocked some pretty amazing sideburns. They have never really scared me, although American Werewolf In London is one of my favorite horror movies. The combination of horror and humor just works.
Yeah, I know there are people who don’t find flesh-eating ghouls the least bit scary, but I do love me my zombies. When I was a kid I was fascinated by man-eating animals and reptiles, and absolutely horrified—but still fascinated—by the concept of cannibalism. I also had nightmares where my parents looked like Mom and Dad, but weren’t and wanted to kill me. So the idea of monsters that want to eat us, that used to be friends and loved ones, that won’t stop coming after their prey… Well, zombies just hit all the right notes for me. Night Of The Living Dead remains one of my top favorite horror movies, and the recent Train To Busan shows that the genre ain’t dead yet.
Blobs (and other monsters that dissolve their victims slowly and horribly)
Another movie from my childhood is the original The Blob, starring a baby-faced Steve McQueen. (Do you know who Steve McQueen is? Sigh. Young whippersnappers…) When the old man at the beginning of the film pokes the fallen meteorite with a stick and the Blob immediately lurches up the stick and envelops his hand…you know he’s screwed. The scene where people are trapped in the movie theater and the Blob flows through cracks and under doors to hunt its prey also made a lasting impression because of the sense that there’s is no place to hide where you will be safe—unless you find a walk-in freezer. Stephen King’s story “The Raft” is also one of my favorite short pieces of literature dealing with oozing amoebas that eat and/or dissolve their victims.
Mother Nature Can Be a Bitch
The 50s started this trend when fear of nuclear war and radiation was at its height. Giant ants, giant spiders, giant rabbits (if you haven’t seen Night Of The Lepus, you might want to hold a bad movie night), you name it. SyFy Channel has gone crazy with mutated snake/anaconda/piranha/spider mashups, but there’s nothing scary about these CGI generated monsters unless you’re a timid three-year-old.
On the other hand, there have been a few good SyFy originals, including In The Spider’s Web, set in India with Lance Henriksen as the bad guy. The scenes in the spider-infested, web-filled caves are creepy. And we have a character who is left behind, trapped in webs high above his friends as they escape, knowing sooner or later the spiders will be back for dinner. A nice creepy moment, especially if you suffer from arachnophobia.
Jaws remains one of my favorite horror movies. It stands the test of time and I have never seen another man versus nature movie as good or suspenseful. Shortly after Jaws came out, there was the low-budget Grizzly (nicknamed “Claws”), starring Christopher George. I was spending the night at a friend’s and her little brother woke up with a nightmare after seeing Grizzly. He was afraid that the bear was going to get him. I saw the movie after that and while it really was a shameless rip-off of Jaws, I remember being impressed that the title bear kills and eats a toddler.
One final mention: I watched Cabin In The Woods for the umpteenth time last night and one of the many things I love about that movie—aside from the Zombie Redneck Torture Family—is the concept that, rather than being something out of our nightmares, all of the monsters shown are where our nightmares come from. Now that thought is creepy as hell.
The Spawn Of Lilith by Dana Fredsti is available now from Titan Books.