There is nothing quite like a genuinely terrifying movie monster. A movie monster that causes you to put your fingers over your eyes for protection, maybe even driving you to hide behind the sofa and sleep with the lights on as the horrifying creature crawls under your skin, lingers in your mind, and sends shivers down your spine.
The newest addition to the roster comes in the form of horror film Antlers. It’s based on short story ‘The Quiet Boy’ by Nick Antosca, who contributes to the screenplay, and follows Julia Meadows (Keri Russell), a teacher in a small town in Oregon, and her brother, Paul (Jesse Plemons), the local sheriff.
The sibling pair become concerned over one of Julia’s students, a young boy who is keeping a supernatural being known as a ‘wendigo’ in his house. When the creature escapes from its confines and begins to wreak havoc, the whole town is threatened.
Directed by Black Mass’ Scott Cooper and produced by The Shape of Water’s Guillermo del Toro, Antlers promises to fuse social commentary with folkloric horror drawn from the rich history of Native American mythology.
Before we meet the wendigo, here are five classic big-screen beasts that had us cowering in our seats…
1. The Xenomorph (the Alien franchise, 1979-present day)
Few movie monsters are as iconic, or immediately recognisable, as the Xenomorph, which first tore onto the big screen in Ridley Scott’s seminal sci-fi horror Alien. Designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, a master of twisted biomechanical creations, the creature’s inner jaw, acid for blood and lack of eyes make it an especially terrifying foe.
The alien’s lifecycle has been explored throughout three subsequent Alien movies, with the dreaded queen appearing in 1986’s Aliens, before the recent Prometheus (2012) and Covenant (2017) gave us the monster’s origin. Little wonder that the Xenomorph remains one of the scariest movie monsters, more than four decades on.
2. The Thing (The Thing, 1982)
John Carpenter’s claustrophobic horror remake The Thing pits one of cinema’s most spine-chilling creations against one of Hollywood’s greatest action heroes, Kurt Russell. Dropping us in a remote research facility in Antarctica, the movie centres on an unsuspecting group of scientists, who are swiftly infiltrated by a mysterious shape-shifting entity with extra-terrestrial origins.
The sense of paranoia pervades Carpenter’s movie and has helped ensure its cult status after the film’s disastrous opening against E.T. The Extra Terrestrial back in 1982. The practical effects achieved by Rob Bottin are simply astounding, giving the Thing a visceral, veiny, slimy appearance as it mutates into numerous horrifying iterations.
The monster is able to turn any part of itself into a set of chomping jaws, and even tear off its own head and sprout spider-legs in order to escape any threats. Make no mistake, those spidery legs will quickly find their way into your nightmares.
3. The Pale Man (Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006)
Given that Antlers is produced by Guillermo del Toro, it’s only fitting that we include what is possibly his most monstrous creation. The celebrated Pan’s Labyrinth is a Spanish Civil War drama crossed with a fairy tale, in which cruelty and compassion are mirrored on either side of the reality/fantasy spectrum.
When young girl Ophelia (Ivana Baquero) is tasked by a mysterious faun with completing several tasks, she has no idea of the danger that lies ahead. The film’s most terrifying moment comes when Ophelia must confront the child-eating Pale Man, an allegory for the consumption enjoyed by Franco’s fascist forces in the midst of the war.
The creature can only see with eyes placed into the palms of its hands, and Del Toro favourite Doug Jones does a superb job investing the monster with a hideous, fascinating life.
4. The Entity (It Follows, 2015)
Carefree teenager Jay (Maika Monroe) gets the shock of her life after sleeping with her new boyfriend, finding out that she is the latest recipient of a fatal curse that is passed from victim to victim via sexual intercourse. Such is the brilliantly creepy premise of director David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, an acclaimed chiller that owes more than a small debt to the style and prowling camerawork of John Carpenter.
The Entity is a living curse that relentlessly pursues its victim at a creepy, walking pace. It never falters and will follow you until it catches and kills you, before then moving on to stalking the prior carrier of the curse.
The Entity can only be seen by those affected, and it changes form constantly, often to look like someone you will allow to get close, like a child or an old lady. Occasionally it will just startle you into a panic by looking like a monstrously tall man with blacked-out eyes. Whatever The Entity chooses to look like, it’s best to play it safe and keep walking.
5. The Babadook (The Babadook, 2014)
Often, just the idea of a movie monster lurking in the corner of a darkened room or under your bed is far scarier than seeing them out in the open. So it is with The Babadook, the nonsense-named subject of a children’s book that haunts a single mother and her son in director Jennifer Kent’s fantastic psychological horror.
There is something ethereal about The Babadook as it dwells in the shadows and makes you suspicious of coat racks. When it does finally appear, crawling on the walls like a black cockroach and letting out gargled screams, you’ve already dropped to the fetal position in terror. Of course, the scariest thing about The Babadook is the all-encompassing, poisoning grief that it represents.
6. Pennywise (It, 2017 and It: Chapter Two, 2019)
When people think of It, the movie monster created by horror maestro Stephen King, they often think of Pennywise the Dancing Clown. There is no doubt that Pennywise is utterly terrifying, but he is just one persona adopted by King’s malevolent creation.
It is an alien shapeshifter, and It loves to become whatever it is you fear most. Whether that be a leper, a giant spider, an abusive parent, a mummy, or a disturbing, dancing clown, It knows exactly how to terrify you and thoroughly enjoys doing so.
The dreaded monster was first given life by a hideous Tim Curry in the 1990 TV movie. The two recent It films, directed by Andy Muschietti, allowed actor Bill Skarsgard to invest the role with a deceptively childlike voice and body language – which makes it all the more horrifying when he rips kids' arms off. This is the sort of monster that teaches us to stay away from storm drains.
Antlers is set for release in 2020, so tweet us your favourite movie monsters @Cineworld.
Jon Fuge is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team. Follow him on Twitter.