5 Classic Monster Myths Modern Horror Needs to Revive
Well, we've done it. We've finally killed off the idea of movie monsters. Zombies are now wallpaper in TV shows in which folks with stubble and the people skills of potatoes bicker over the mystery of the week. Werewolves are such beta creatures that even Jack Nicholson and Benicio del Toro have been unable to raise them above vampires -- who in turn have been Stephanie Meyered into such jokes that fucking Tom Green could probably become a believable vampire slayer these days. Serial killers? They're the heroes of our shows.
Here's the problem: The fake monsters we like to fear tend to reflect the world we live in, and when those old-world problems get solved (or we just stop giving a shit about them), our classic horror beasts are replaced with ... nothing. The two most esteemed horror movies of the last year or so were (spoilers, I suppose) about a woman haunted by a monster that was the personification of her own grief and an abstract non-entity that could become anyone. The biggest monster right now lives in the mirror -- or worse, next door.
What we need is a set of new monsters; some brand-new things that root themselves in the corners of our minds the same way the old ones did, by reflecting a certain aspect of our life. Let's go find them.
Oh come on. You know what a leprechaun is. Don't pretend that you don't. Little green-clad guy, loves gold, mascot for rowdy wannabe Irishmen everywhere. You probably also know that the creature has been so thoroughly dong-slapped by its namesake movie franchise and association with St. Patrick's Day horseshit that when you hear the term, you're unlikely to picture anything more terrifying than Lucky Charms or, well, this:
So what does such a chewed-to-the-bone character bring to the horror movie table?
The Horror It Represents:
As they're one of the premier forces actively fucking up the world, the primal fear of powerful, money-grabbing rich dicks is ever-present. Not a day goes by in which a person whom we'd deem a nigh-unbelievable character if we saw them in a movie because he's just too monstrous attempts to run for president or literally sentences people to death by overpricing their medication overnight. It's an attitude that can easily be seen as evil, yet the Greedy Rich Person archetype tends to get used in literally every single other genre except horror. Sure, horror movies have rich guys, too, but they're usually there to finance or otherwise try to profit from whatever creepy masked alien imbecile is hacking their way through the nation.
But what if we took the leprechaun and made it the corrupt corporate executive monster? The greediness is already there, as is the access to powers that ordinary people cannot touch. After that, it's just a matter of portrayal. Luckily, acting powerhouse and professional intense person Robert Carlyle has been playing almost this exact character in the otherwise-goofy Once Upon A Time for approximately 1,000 years now, and manages to be a consistently creepy fucker despite the general PG-ness of the show. Just stick him in a leprechaun movie with a solid script and let him go full Begbie, and watch as this formerly goofy monster becomes the world's New Favorite Thing.
A catoblepas is ... well, it's a huge-ass cow. With the head of a boar or some shit. There may also be armor. A bunch of ancient historians have written reports of the creature, which may or may not be based on their encounters with wildebeest.
Does that sound like a lamer idea for a creature movie than freaking Birdemic? Sure does! The OG catoblepas is a pretty lame-ass thing, but we're not interested in what it historically is. We're interested in what it can become.
The Horror It Represents:
When was the last time you saw a cow up close? Or a boar? If you're currently heading to the comment section to act all "Actually, I see them every day," then congratulations! You're one of our four readers who haven't lost all touch with ... what's the word again? That thing with trees and fields and the occasional animal? That's right, nature. By and large, the Western world is full of urban motherfuckers with only the vaguest of skills to interact with the Great Outdoors and the many interesting, smelly, occasionally mauling things that it contains.
I'm a city kid, and the most terrifying movie I saw in my childhood was a two-bit horror flick called Razorback, which is about a goofy-ass giant boar stalking the Australian Outback. Does that seem scary? It fucking well does when you're about to spend a whole summer with a relative who lives in the country, and your experience with nature has consisted mainly of the park that you sometimes noticed you were sitting in when the batteries of your Game Boy ran out and rudely yanked you from Super Mario Land to reality. The nights got dark that summer, and during every damn step from the main building to whatever shed my chores needed me to visit, I could feel the breath of that damn giant boar on my neck, and hear the crunch of its hooves as it slowly ... slooooowly ... PREPARED TO ATTACK.
Fuck Razorback, is what I'm saying.
Still, that primal fear was the perfect representation of a jaded city person suddenly realizing that they're not quite as one with nature as they might otherwise assume. And I feel that the homely-yet-creepy catoblepas would be a perfect monster to hammer home that fact, being a combination of two animals that look notoriously unfriendly when they're angry and up-close. In fact, people have already started realizing this. Modernized variations on the humble armored cow-boar are already emerging online ...
... and batshit insane versions of big C have been gracing the Final Fantasy series since the first installment. Now all we need to do is find a way to bring its "scare the shit out of Kid Pauli" magic on screen, and we're on. Fucking. Point.
Hee. Heeheehee. Heeheeheeheehee.
The bonnacon has two things to its name: It's a full-fledged Cracked article alum and also an ancient Macedonian mythological monster with the greatest superpower of all. It attacks by butt-spraying you with burning, acidic shit. These facts may be connected.
The Horror It Represents:
Also, did you not hear the part about burning acid poop? Because I'm not sure I'm prepared to deal with a world in which I have to explain why a movie about the Acid Poopicorn needs to be a thing.
Secondary superpower: looking smug while shitting.
Luckily, it turns out that there is a perfectly good real-world analogy for the bonnacon to represent and flame-crap all over: the freaking Internet. Or rather, the parts of it that latch themselves onto whatever perceived scandal they feel insults their right to sit on their ass and complain, which target individual people who dare to have opinions about video games or gay weddings or whether a dress is blue or white and actively attack the shit of everyone involved. Can you imagine a more suitable metaphor for these people than a stalk-monster that covers people with acidic shit?
There are two ways we can make this happen. We can make the bonnacon an evil personification of online dickheads who stalk women and minorities, or make it an avenging spirit with a highly developed concept of irony. Frankly, I don't care which way you choose, as long as it keeps making this face throughout the film:
Smug smug smug smug ssmuuggggg.
All Sorts Of Sea Monsters
Ah, the sea. The last truly unexplored frontier on our Homo sapiens-tainted planet. All it needs to become as scary as a barrel of rabid baboons opening behind you right now is two notes and a malfunctioning mechanical shark with limited screen time. Plenty of glorious and gloriously bad movies have used it as a terrifying setting in which they can throw just about anything at us.
So why don't movies do this anymore? Why is the single potentially most terrifying element on earth restricted to "also starring" roles in disaster movies and the occasional Pirates Of The Caribbean monster or Lovecraft throwback?
"Man, the seas are full of posers these days."
The Horror They Represent:
The great unknown.
The sea is an easy symbol of what is arguably mankind's greatest fear: what lies beyond our sight and reach. That's why every culture that is even vaguely aware of the concept of water (that is, every single one that lasts over a week) has one or 16 sea/lake/river boogeymen lurking at the outskirts of their mythology. Yet we have grown to dismiss this vast cache of unknown with the same "Eh, it's just water and fish poop" attitude that makes us dismiss Aquaman as a pussy until we actually stop and think of all the ways he could fuck up the entire world with a snap of his fingers.
There is an uncountable mass of sea monsters out there right now, hiding and waiting to mess you up in ways you can't even comprehend. And that's just the ones that really exist. When you start digging into myths and legends, you'll find the equivalent to any damn land monster you can conjure, and also most of the creepy Rule 34 versions anyone can conjure. Things get creative when they get wet, is what I'm saying.
Picture the most terrifying monster your big ol' head can dream up, insert a body of water, and that thing's already out there, all fleshed out in stories and creepy tales and ready to fucking go. Irish hell-horses hiding in lakes? Check. Huge-ass sea monsters more terrifying than anything that could ever walk the earth? Double check. Tiny floaty critters that can fill you with the kind of pain even Hell would have difficulty delivering? Son, you just reached Level Australia. I'm pretty certain that some culture somewhere even entertains ideas of octopi that can use their tentacles as dicks, although I have no idea which culture that could be.
Yet we eschew all these glorious beasts in favor of some fuckers with fangs and maybe some extra hair. Maybe, just maybe, we should finally face our fear of the unknown without setting the whole movie in space, and start getting moist once again. I will not apologize for that awkward sentence.
"Hold the hell on" I can hear you thinking (because I live under your bed and feed on your thoughts at night). "Witches? After poop-monsters, Carlyleprechauns, and the entire aquatic horror scene, you're putting freaking broomsticks-and-funny-hats witches at #1?"
Yep! Plain ol' witches it is. You know the ones: The ugly old crones curse your ass and try to kill you, while the young pretty ones seduce you and then curse your ass and try to kill you. It's not a difficult concept.
Which just so happens to be the problem.
The Horror They Represent:
Now calm down, guys. I never said that these would all be about your fears, did I?
Remember Mad Max: Fury Road? Of course you do. Site statistics tell me that roughly 83.2 percent of you are watching it in your head right now. And the ones who aren't will at some point in the day attempt to kill their office boredom by drunkenly steering their makeshift office supply apocalypse vehicle along the corridors, dueling their co-workers/fellow students with cardboard spears that they've somehow rigged to explode. Now, remember the tiny but extremely media-covered shitstorm some acne-monger attempted to raise because the factual lead character of the movie was -- gasp -- a woman?
By now, you've probably noticed that the same thing happens every single fucking time a woman attempts to do something that's generally perceived as a "man's job" by the kind of people who use the term "man's job." Why not give them a horror monster of their very own, just to play with their biggest fear: independent, powerful women? Besides, the market for female horror villains is not exactly over-saturated. How many great horror monsters can you name? Main monsters, not bit part players like, say, the Bride of Frankenstein or whatever the hell the female cenobites are called. Chances are the only girl on your list is the one from The Ring, and if you're really reaching, maybe the Blair Witch (unseen entities don't count, and the sequel definitely doesn't count) or the queen from Aliens, which is not a horror movie and you damn well know it.
This, friend, is where witches come in. There are all sorts of female creatures out there that could make awesome horror movie villains, but most of them would wind up being mostly comprised of sexy latex makeup and giant boobs, which would somewhat undermine their terror potential. Witches, when you do them right, have no need to be sexy, or ride a broom, or even wear those stupid black dresses. A proper, mythological witch is all business and more inhuman than Freddy Krueger could ever aspire to be. Take Baba Yaga, a ferocious old crone flying around in a giant mortar, living in a house that walks around on giant chicken legs, and generally operating with the kind of logic no mortal could comprehend. Perhaps the most fearsome and famous witch in Russian mythology, she is as unpredictable as she is powerful and horrifying. She can eat you as soon as she can help you, and often changes her stance depending on a single line that you speak or thing that you do. When she's used in pop culture, she tends to be the sort of entity even Hellboy finds it nigh-impossible to defeat.
"My other car is your skull".
That is the kind of horror villain our time needs: pants-shitting terror personified and quite possibly the most independent woman in the world, who also happens to be a monstrous old crone who sometimes wanders around naked because fuck you.
See, kids? Imperator Furiosa wasn't so bad after all.
Pauli Poisuo is a Cracked weekly columnist and freelance editor. Here he is on Facebook and Twitter.
If leprechauns and witches aren't what you're looking for to fill the hole that zombies have bitten into your heart, don't worry -- there are still plenty of monsters left to choose from in 24 Terrifying Real World Monsters You Won't Believe Exist and for the more mysterious variety check out 7 Monsters That Deserve More Publicity Than Bigfoot.
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