The 7 Most Half-Assed Monsters in Movie History
A great movie monster taps into our most primal fears, be it existential dread (ghosts) or the current paranoia of the day (radioactive Taliban zombies). But as we have previous discussed, creating an effective new monster is sometimes more of a challenge than the writers and producers are capable of overcoming, and we are left with things like a man with a turkey head and a refrigerator that eats people.
As the title suggests, Death Spa is the bone-chilling tale of a haunted spa that kills anyone fool enough to tone their Herculean lats within its four walls. It unleashes its fury on its hapless victims via bone-cracking exercise machines, volcanic saunas, and exploding vanity mirrors.
It also inexplicably wields frozen fish, because the producers quickly realized that there are only so many ways a person can die at the gym.
Presenting No. 17.
Getting murdered by inanimate objects has proven to be a successful formula -- just look at all the sequels for The Omen and Final Destination -- but Death Spa is unique in that it requires people to be inside a 1980s health club to be in any sort of danger. This is a somewhat limited pool to draw from, and once word got around that people were getting killed by the exercise equipment, we imagine the membership fees would dry up.
You can understand the brilliance of great films by watching terrible ones; for instance, here you suddenly understand that whole plot point in Jaws about how the town depended on tourism and intentionally gave beachgoers a false sense of security about the shark. Otherwise the audience is going, "Damn, can't these people just not go swimming for a while?" We dare say that Death Spa did not put as much thought into it. Beyond pointing out the obvious fact that a butterfly press cannot possibly kill someone the way it does in the film, no matter how much weight you put on it ...
Seriously, it can't pivot back beyond its own fulcrum. Read a book.
... what's to stop people from just not going in? Couldn't the people of the 1980s exercise at home, or at the YMCA, or at any number of other non-possessed spas and rec centers, with absolutely zero chance of getting drowned in the lap pool by a ghost? The Death Spa would claim one, maybe two victims before everyone in the city decided to never go near the place ever again and just sit on the couch eating diet pills in front of a Knots Landing marathon.
... wait, one of the cats?
The producers of Strays were looking to make a horror movie about the terrorizing rampage of killer animals and settled on house cats, presumably because the only thing they could agree on was that it hadn't been done before.
"Spielberg did it with sharks and dinosaurs, right? Why not cats? Why not cats?"
The trailer attempts to sell us on the palpable threat the cats pose of frightening children and the elderly, because those are literally the only groups of people that are in any kind of danger from a house cat.
After all, there are precisely two types of incidents you have ever read about wherein a cat has killed a person (or cats, to be fair to the film's premise): suffocating a baby in a crib, or converging on an old hermit. And in pretty much every case, the old hermit was already dead, as in "Prune-Faced Millie the Cat Lady had a heart attack in her living room, and by the time the cops found her body, her 97 cats had eaten her head." That's hardly enough of a premise to sustain 90 minutes.
Searching for the one cat turd that didn't make it into the litter box is more suspenseful than this movie.
There is a reason why a house cat is always the fake scare in a horror movie when the characters are stumbling around in a murder cabin investigating strange noises, only to have the harmless old tabby jump out of the closet. No virile adult is getting brought down by a cat unless he trips over the freaking thing and falls down the stairs, and if we wanted to see ridiculous haunted accidents, we'd go back to Death Spa.
What's worse is that it seems like the makers of Strays understood this, and yet went ahead with production anyway -- one of the only deaths in the movie is a nameless power company technician who looks like he could break Admiral Whiskers' spine with a glare. How do the cats manage to kill him? One of them jumps on his back and he trips and bashes his head into a pipe.
They should've added grammatically poor Impact font subtitles and tried to sell it off as a comedy.
The Refrigerator is about a murderous icebox clenched in the talons of Satan himself, who is using the fridge to claim souls for the underworld. It is unclear whether the dark prince is simultaneously allowing it to continue with its intended function of preserving food, but it's safe to say that blood won't be the only thing this twisted refrigerator curdles.
A young couple finds an apartment for super cheap, because the landlords are willing to make a few compromises in order to rent a space with a haunted modern convenience. The A/C doesn't work, so the sprightly pair decide to prop the demon box open to blow cool air over their backs while they have sex in front of it, which you may notice is something that no one has ever, ever done in the history of time:
The fridge starts drooling blood, because that is how evil gets boners, and it begins snapping people up in its soft-glow-bulb-lit jaws soon after. The two main characters are made aware of the fridge's demonic possession by a knowledgeable plumber, because apparently that was a class at Plumbing College. The fact that they called a plumber to diagnose their satanic refrigerator suggests that they don't have the strongest grasp on how appliances work to begin with, so he arguably could've told them that refrigerators are natural predators that eat people all the time and they probably would've believed him.
As works of the devil are concerned, this one kind of seems like small potatoes. Why would he bother possessing a dusty old Kenmore in a dumpy Manhattan walk-up? He can only eat people who walk inside that specific apartment and stick their heads into the refrigerator. What's to keep people from tying the thing shut, which incidentally someone in the movie totally does?
Furthermore, the movie goes out of its way to emphasize the fact that the apartment's rent is so low because of the demonic refrigerator (it's even the movie's tagline) ... so why wouldn't the landlords just go out and buy another one? Leave the hell-demon box on the curb and pick up a new fridge on the cheap from the scratch-and-dent aisle at Lowe's. Let the devil eat a bunch of hobos. Problem solved, roll credits.
Slugs is about a town besieged by man-eating slugs that were exposed to toxic waste and somehow gained flesh-eating superpowers instead of slug cancer.
Peter Parker's earlier, shittier origin.
The slugs horrifically (and we do mean horrifically) dispatch their victims, leaving a trail of corpses that look like the aftermath of a boiled meat explosion.
Or James Brown during his drug days.
One guy accidentally eats one of the abominable slugs in his garden salad, which apparently multiplies inside his body, because a freaking army of them bursts through his eyeballs in a spray of squiggly projectiles the next day. And if you think that's the only time in this film that somebody's eyes explode, you're wrong. Dead wrong.
"Can you please do the other eye, too? I'd rather not see the rest of this movie."
The extreme gore seems to be an effort to make up for the fact that they know it's hard to picture a slug as a threat. The things are only a few inches long, and are one of the slowest members of the animal kingdom. They have no appendages and no vertical leap to speak of. If you are standing upright and wearing shoes, a slug cannot possibly hurt you. Even mutant slugs with a mouth full of baboon teeth wouldn't be able to chew through a pair of sneakers, and even if they could, what's to keep you from simply stomping them into boogery oblivion? So the over-the-top blood and guts seem their way of saying, "Yeah, but just imagine the damage these suckers can do once they get hold of you!" Never mind that you'd need to lie motionless in your yard for several hours for that to happen.
Blood Freak is about a biker named Herschell who's driven into a homicidal rage by a combination of experimental turkey meat and marijuana. The concoction turns him into a wereturkey, because for some reason the producers felt the actor's natural face wasn't scary enough.
The wereturkey can only survive by drinking the blood of drug users, which we imagine is why they called the movie Blood Freak instead of Wereturkey or some variation thereof. He plods hazily after his victims, finally cornering them for some of the most drawn-out and torturously violent killings ever featured in a horror movie. He hangs one lady upside down, slits her throat, and cups his hands beneath her to catch the blood and drink it.
"It's a subtle metaphor for the commercialization of Thanksgiving."
In another sequence, he slices some dude's leg off with a table saw, once again arranging himself in the optimal position to guzzle the gushing life fluid in his beak.
"YOU BLOODY SAVAGE ... use a glass."
However, in the film's final few minutes, we suddenly learn that the whole thing was just a dream to show Herschell the error of his drug-using ways. A reformed Herschell has an extended make-out session with his girlfriend and then strolls merrily down a pier as the credits roll, because that's how movies called Blood Freak are supposed to end.
... of their careers.
For you aspiring horror directors out there, this film gives you a profound lesson in why creature design is so, so important. Do you find yourself struggling to make your wereturkey look scary, to the point that it's undermining the gruesome murder scenes? Consider a redesign of the costume. Still doesn't work? Maybe it's time to go back to the drawing board and ask yourself the hard question: Was a wereturkey the right choice for my graphic cautionary tale about the dangers of substance abuse?
Because it turns out that it really is hard to take anything seriously when the hideous monster at the core of your film looks like a guy wearing a mascot head, even if it was killing us in real life. It would've been immensely more frightening if that's what he actually was, instead of a wereturkey -- a hulking psychopath in a papier-mache turkey helmet, drinking people's blood.
"Langoliers" is a word that Stephen King invented to describe giant razor-toothed meatballs that devour the past once we're all done living through it. The setup for the plot is that 10 people on an airplane get sent back in time, and they have to find a way to get back to the present before the titular monsters appear to consume them. Or before they succumb to a deranged Bronson Pinchot.
If you were born after 1989, you have no idea who this man is.
It's pretty convoluted, but really the monsters are the star of the show, right? The plot in a movie like this is all about putting the characters in position to be eaten -- that's why the monsters are always the title character. Well, the movie is four hours long, and the first three and half of those are totally monsterless. Then, when the Langoliers finally get their big reveal, we are treated to this:
What you'd get if the "P" in H.P. Lovecraft stood for "poop."
The Langoliers looks like the toe fungus in a Tinactin commercial. Lenticular posters have more impressive special effects, and, to date, those have never frightened anybody. It doesn't get any better when the Langoliers start chewing the scenery like a literal interpretation of a review of William Shatner's performance in Star Trek V:
It looks like King Kong is chucking handfuls of his own deuce at the plane.
It's difficult to scare your audience once you've spent three hours boring them to tears with a bunch of people yelling at each other in an abandoned airport about an impending threat that takes way too long to explain, but when your monster looks like it came from an episode of ReBoot, you need not even have bothered.
The Hand inexplicably stars Michael Caine as a cartoonist whose amputated hand comes to life and starts murdering people. Somewhat less baffling is the fact that this movie was written and directed by Oliver Stone, because it was conceived during the coke-vacuuming period of his life that eventually inspired Scarface.
A lifetime of watching what his previous owner's left hand did taught Righty the perfect technique.
The hand scuttles around and strangles people to death, even ambushing Caine himself in a sequence that would medal in every single event of the Unintentional Comedy Olympics:
"No one touches my perm!"
Look, we know it's unfair to pick apart the science in a movie like this, but even granting them the concept that possessed hands are a thing, how does it get any leverage? It can't punch you -- it would need to be attached to a body for that. If all it can do is squeeze you with its fingers, anyone over the age of 10 would still be able to pick it up off the floor by the wrist and toss it into a garbage disposal. If it's being powered by some kind of super-strong poltergeist, then, well, it'd be better off possessing a gun or a chainsaw than some artist's dainty manicured hand. Actually, we can think of at least three other possessed body parts that would be scarier.
Cole Gamble still thinks Karate Dog is the scariest movie of all time. He's on Twitter @ColeGamble. Dustin Koski put plenty of completely assed monsters in his book, Six Dances to End the World.
For more hilarious creepiness, check out 5 Reasons Humanity Desperately Wants Monsters to Be Real and 6 Bizarre Real World Versions of Fictional Monsters.
And for more on things that go bump in the night, click here.