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If, like me, you enjoy horror movies, congratulations on being a convincing liar, because I fucking LOVE horror films and you'll never understand me, Dad.

Yet horror is, perhaps more than any other genre, often dissatisfying. Every year the same old monsters slouch into theaters. They are:


  • Creepy kid's "imaginary" friend

  • Zombies that are the true face of humanity

  • Posturing vampire in need of ... ugh, such a slap

  • Lunatic with an overcomplicated torture scheme

  • Found footage of people who should have dropped the camera and run

  • An exorcism based on a "true story"

  • A remake of some '80s classic (this year it's The Evil Dead)

If we're lucky, we get one fresh film every year, like The Cabin in the Woods. If we're unlucky, it's The Wolfman. And if God feels that another flood isn't a sufficient enough punishment for our sins, it's another Scary Movie.

Never fear, Hollywood! I've run your tired-ass tropes through the forest of public domain beasties and found monsters even scarier than your go-to characters. My only rule is that no monster is allowed to be a lazy combination of other animals, like sphinxes or Kathy Griffin.

5
Succubus

A succubus is a female demon that kills you by having sex with you. Often she paralyzes or hypnotizes her victims. In some versions, she drains off their vitality over several sexual encounters, but in others she'll straight up eat a bro. Succubi are a common hallucination of the "night hag" phenomenon during sleep paralysis -- which is exactly what it sounds like, except not as fun as getting free sex from a stranger who wants to do all the work.

Succubi are first mentioned in the 14th century, but have antecedents back far enough to put the "Oh! Oh! IIAAAA!" in Mesopotamia. Since writing about sex could ruin your reputation up until a few decades ago, they've never really enjoyed their moment in horror's forefront.

That moment is now. Today, technology and culture are in a war of self-determination and repression, meaning sex and fear go together like chocolate and OH MY GOD MY SEX TAPE JUST HIT 1 MILLION VIEWS.

There have been succubi in film, but they're usually more erotic than terrifying, or discounted for other reasons. For example, Succubus: Hell-Bent is disqualified because it has been legally prohibited since 1979 to call any movie with Lorenzo Lamas in it a major motion picture.

In fact, the only succubus to ever light up the celluloid was Hannah Fierman in last year's V/H/S, who was agonizingly eerie before she became a pissplosion of terror. Her other credits include "Demon Vixen" and "Bug-Eyed Girl."

Magnet Releasing
So you might say she's a type.

How to Make It a Great Movie

Succubi are to nightmares what RealDolls are to fantasies that are illegal in Texas. Whatever your male sexual anxiety, there's a succubus for that. V/H/S used one in a short tale of reprehensible dudebros who bring home the crazy. Taking drunk women back to their hotel to secretly film them having sex, they learn that one of the girls is a demonic sex-cannibal.

You couldn't exploit that one-off shock for a feature-length film, because there's no suspense after the first kill. But if you opted for a succubus who will slowly drain a dude dry against his own common sense, you'd get a great metaphor for people who can't leave unhealthy relationships. Then you'd have a film in which the world gets exceedingly weirder with each encounter. And if you do kill the monster, there are plenty more for sequels, since they're all daughters of the same mother, Lilith.

In the Bible's B-side tracks, Lilith was Adam's first wife, who was created from dust (not rib!), then cast out for thinking that women were equal to men, and also for engaging in forward-thinking sexual positions -- two offenses to the Lord that you might recognize as the mark of an awesome girlfriend. Bonus: She could fly!

Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty
And organize music festivals for soulful acoustic ballads.

Like a lot of divorcees, Lilith soon found a hot boy toy: in this case, the archangel Samael. For an angel of death, he sure was fertile, because Lilith began gushing demon-babies ... so many that God threatened to kill 100 of her babies every day until she quit being so damn independent and came home to play nice. And I'm not one to tell God his business, but I've slept with more women than he has, and the way to make a woman stop resenting you is not to threaten her children.

Lilith has appeared a little bit in comics and on the show Supernatural, but usually as more of a regular ol' demon.

Manuel Parada López de Corselas/Wikipedia & The CW
The one on the left is actually an analogous goddess named Ishtar, but look, they're posing the same!

The horror is in inverting people's notions of traditional sexuality with grotesque imagery, like how Alien deliberately inverted sex and birth to unnerve its audience.

So boom: Right there, you've got all the elements for a misunderstood monster story about women's rights vs. male insecurities. Have the POV character be some suave player getting steadily dismantled by a monster who just wants to show him how great woman-on-top is. Becoming vulnerable to a woman against his own nature, either he grows as a person or he's lunch meat.

4
Spring-Heeled Jack

The thing with Spring-Heeled Jack is that he was real -- or at least really documented. Extraordinarily tall and gaunt, he wore a helmet that couldn't conceal his burning red eyes, which smoldered for you, girl. He had a propensity for cornering women and getting grabby. So if he was some kind of alien, he must have pledged Alpha Centauri Lambda.

Wikipedia
"Greetings, Earthlings -- take me to your kegger."

On the other hand, witnesses swore that he breathed blue flame and leaped over 9-foot walls, and how could an entire crowd of people agree on supernatural crap like that? Bullets had no effect on him, and since Teddy Roosevelt never ran from an angry mob in his life, we know it couldn't have been him.

What's crazy about Spring-Heeled Jack is how damn long people have been reporting on him -- from the mid-19th century to as recently as last year. It's not all sensational crowd mentality that's perpetuating his myth. Sometimes you just have to say yes to your heart and believe in an immortal, superpowered sexual criminal with a Cockney accent -- even if your mind knows that some prankster passed on his mantle to another.

Wikipedia
He's sort of the V for Vendetta of sexual assault.

How to Make It a Great Movie

Jack already makes a habit of assaulting pretty young women, so he's off to a great start as a movie monster. And sure, he's steeped in Victorian lore, but with his renewed appearance, he'd be a great ultra-creeper who can get into any high-rise apartment, locked or whatever, and subsist as an unknowable urban predator -- his motives are too otherworldly to make sense.

City dwellers are locked up in taller buildings with better security systems than ever, so what's scarier than a fire-belching Other who slices through all our barriers? Squawking an electric language, this insane figure grips his victims close and gazes with burning eyes into their face for some alien purpose.

It'd prey on the same phobias as Pulse, but from the opposite end, by threatening to destroy our seclusion and not being the movie equivalent of a NyQuil overdose.

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3
The Melon Heads

Holy shucking fit, you guys, the Melon Heads are every suburban legend you ever heard crammed into one horde of creepy children (although technically, if the children are insane, that would not be a horde but a gaggle).

Now, lots of communities have stories about the mysterious people who live outside of town and just want to be left alone. And usually that's all it is: people.

But the Melon Heads are the sum of every one of those stories. They're hydrocephalic children who were committed to a mental institution, where they were abused and experimented on to become even more freakish. Eventually they murdered and mutilated their doctor, escaped their asylum for the criminally insane amid a fire, and retreated to a subterranean lair, emerging only at night to satisfy their cannibal urges.

They may also be inbred Satan worshipers.

When eating people, the Melon Heads prefer babies, because even mankind's awful history didn't invent something more ghastly than a mutant eating a baby until the recent invention of the Octomom porno.

Wicked Pictures
See, now you can't stop thinking of a vagina filled with flailing tentacles and a beak.

I don't want to blame the victim, but any baby wandering around outside the city limits at night is asking for this to happen. It's like I told that officer when I was pulled over last year for driving a truck full of babies that weren't mine. I told him, "I said, 'Hey, you! Babies! What are you doing out here at night? I'd better take you home before the hell-mutants get you.'" Anyway, that's why I wear this ankle bracelet now, but the message stands: Don't take your children out to the killing fields after sunset.

How to Make It a Great Movie

Granted, it sorta was a movie already, if you count some kids having fun in their backyard.

I'm not saying it isn't fun, just that its frothing mutant cannibal quotient is despairingly low. But is it a great movie? No. It runs a mere 50 minutes and contains enough badly acted dialogue to make Clerks look like Battleship Potemkin II: Tsar Wars.

Listen, this is not a finely honed shrieking horror like The Exorcist or The Ring, or really any scary movie about an adolescent girl. There are no subtleties to grace this narrative. What this is is an army of little bastards that chew a ragtag group of survivors to shreds.

You get James Gunn to write and direct, and you get Eric Powell to design all the little homunculi, and you start filming five days from now. Here, I'll write the opening:

Rob Loud/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Don't worry, it's just Jeremy Renner. He's in everything.

Close it out with the revelation that all those babies were born mutated by some pollution at the factory where the whole town works and you've got yourself a ham-fisted good time.

2
The Al

I know what you're thinking -- the Al? The only intimidating Al in history was Alexander the Great, and not even his bodyguard Betty could call him Al. But you'd be wrong, because this Middle Eastern/Eurasian demon preys on pregnant women and new moms. She looks like an orc grandmother, and carries a basket to collect women's vital organs.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Played here by Maury Povich.

In a slightly less fatal scenario, she'll swipe your baby from the womb for God knows what foul purpose. Or, hey! She might wait until you've gone through the pain of labor, and then replace it with a changeling: some inhuman thing you have to pretend to love until it's old enough to stab you with scissors.

Wikipedia
And that's how Mel Gibsons are made.

Oddly, she too is sometimes claimed to be Adam's first wife, so maybe this is the final film in the Succubus series?

How to Make It a Great Movie

There hasn't been a good old-fashioned pregnancy chiller since Rosemary's Baby. Sure, there was the epileptic fit that called itself American Horror Story, but that was only nominally about pregnancy. The real horror on that show was the claustrophobia of being trapped in a role unworthy of Connie Britton.

Pregnancy, for those of you whose parents haven't had The Talk with you yet, is a magical process by which two people who claim to care about each other create a selfish parasite that decimates the woman's body and spends all the man's money. Nevertheless, the world population keeps growing, so somebody must be DTF. (Dying. Thanks, fetus!)

So this is, pardon the pun, fertile soil for horror. There are seriously a lot of women ripping babies out of each other's stomachs because nobody ever explained to them how much that doesn't work or how easy it is to adopt a cartload of orphans. They give you one free as a welcome gift when you vacation in China.

There's nothing more disturbing than the perversion of something good. We could keep Rosemary's Baby's panic about marginalized pregnancy anxiety, while an Al that no one else can see stalks and terrorizes some actress.

Even if you're not squeamish about the gory organ snatching, there's the fake baby aspect. Changelings are a prevalent tale in many cultures -- usually ascribed to mischievous fairy folk who treat the baby well. We can't assume the same of a woman who harvests living organs. Unless she's some kind of black market vendor, that baby is surely in a pie by now. Perhaps the most delicious pie ever? It is not for human beings to know.

In real life, some "changeling" cases are attributable to a neurological problem known as Capgras syndrome. But we all know the main cause is not being able to admit you made a lousy baby.


Ugh. Just the worst.

Remember when the movie Changeling came out, but contained no actual changelings, and society was very sad about that? This could be our chance to make things right. And after making it through her ordeal to delivery, we set up the sequel, in which it turns out her kid is a soulless doll left by the Al. This is perfect, because horror movies are like parenting -- there is no happy ending.

Oh, and there's still room for more awfulness in the third sequel (subtitle: Al in Space) if you can tie it up cross-culturally. See, there's a Filipino monster called an Alan (no relation) that sculpts babies out of menses, placentas, and spent semen. Nice job, Philippines -- you came up with an idea so ghastly that even a Bay Area performance artist would recoil at it.

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1
Slender Man

Slender Man is only 4 years old, but holy shrieking cat corpses, is he good at creeping out the Internet. Created on the Something Awful forums, he's basically Jack Skellington without a face, but even more likely to ruin your bar mitzvah.

Parsec Productions
At least Skellington brings presents.

Slender Man's schtick is pied piping children to their doom. But that doesn't concern you -- you're 13 now, and that makes you a man, boychik! You can relax, knowing that Slender Man merely stalks adults, causing them blackouts and mental problems until they murder in his name. But since you're reading this on the Internet, I assume you already know that, and are slightly concerned that he might be right behind you, because it's ridiculous to think so but oh my God he could be.

On the surface, there's nothing exceptional about this gangly guy and his many prehensile limbs. And that's why he is the most awful monster of our time -- despite dressing like an insurance agent, Slender Man is magically unnerving. It's like some nodule of terror sat patiently in the realm of ideas, waiting for humanity to poke a hole in the Internet. Once we did, it burst into our consciousness like a rotten pipe, flooding fear into our hearts.

It turns out crowdsourced monsters are way spookier than commissioned ones.

How to Make It a Great Movie

You're going to want to do this one up somewhere along the lines of Silent Hill or The Ring, building up eerily before exploding into terror.

There's a burgeoning evil in a small town, and only one woman believes something's awry. She researches what's going on and follows a lead to another town, where something similar happened 30 years ago.

By now she's seen glimpses and had brief encounters with Slender Man as she explores this other town: a village wasting away with no residents under 40. We catch on pretty fast that the children got slendered the hell out of there, but none of the seniors want to talk about it. OK, that's understandable ... until it becomes clear that it's more than painful loss keeping them silent.

With Slender Man's harassment increasing, we get a jab-jab-haymaker combo of fear: We realize Slender Man was present in almost every scene. And now he's chasing us through some burned-out ruins, herding us to the final revelation:

The parents

Were made

To eat

Their children.

Escaping by the skin of her teeth, the protagonist leaves the mad town behind and returns home, safe for now ... only to be greeted by the sight of her friends and family cannibalizing their loved ones, fully conscious of what they're doing and unable to stop.

MuseoDelPrado
Tender like veal, tasty like bacon.



Brendan interviewed an Al (Lambert) when he talked to the not-at-all orclike writer/actress Christine Lakin about her dark comedy. You can try to scare him on Twitter @brendanmcginley.

Still not enough monsters? Check out Cracked's Field Guide to Monsters with Brendan's 5 Movie Monsters Ripped from the Pages of History Books and 5 Reasons the Scariest Thing Ever Written Is a Kids' Book.

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