As part of this year's Halloweird Creepfest, I thought I'd take Fridays to do a series of themed countdowns. To kick things off, let's go with the Top 13 Monsters!
13. Pets. Blame Stephen King for this one, but what I remember first and most about my childhood love affair with horror is the pets that turn on us. Cujo is probably the one that first comes to mind for most of us, but it's that cat they sent to the Pet Semetary that kickstarted my love affair with horror. Outside them, King has a definite fetish for evil pets in his short stories too.
12. Chucky. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, but forget about the cheesy sequels. The Chucky of the original Child's Play was one creepy, evil, disturbing little bastard. Here you've got the soul of a murderer, trapped in a child's toy, with that catchphrase that still sends chills down my spine. "Hi, my name's Chucky. Wanna play?" No. No, I most certainly do not.
11. Daleks. More sci-fi than horror? Sure, but you can be damned sure I remember them scarring my childhood, and they're even more terrifying the more you know of their history. "Exterminate" indeed!
10. Deadites. Sure, you could dismiss them as just another form of zombie, but the monsters who made poor Ash's life such a living hell in the Evil Dead movies were far more than that. Fast, evil, and hungry for flesh was one thing, but the sexual overtones and their ability to speak for an even greater evil set them apart in my mind.
9. Werewolves. Although rarely done justice on the screen (An American Werewolf in London is the major exception), these shape-shifting lunatics are perfect for the page, and have been the heroes and villains of some classic tales. Largely defanged by urban fantasy and paranormal romance, they still have real bite when allowed succumb to the wildness within.
8. The Nightbreed. Massively under-appreciated at the time, but finding new life with the Director's cut of Clive Barker's cinematic classic, the Nightbreed are the monster inside all of us, a race that are certainly strange and wondrous, but decidedly less monstrous than the man who hunts them.
7. Vampires. While I'm not a fan of the sparkly, romantic, angst-ridden vampire, I'm pretty broad in my appreciation of the season's greatest monster. From the classic sophistication of Count Dracula, to the parasite-fueled evil of the Wamphyri, to the (admittedly, now clichéd) lost soul seeking redemption of Forever Knight, I do like my vampires dark and evil, but I'm interesting in anybody who can do something original with them.
6 & 5. Michael Myers & Jason Voorhees. I'm going to combine the two together because, for me, they were an inseparable part of my childhood. These were the slasher flick monsters I grew up with, unstoppable men in masks, each with a fondness for half-naked coeds and extremely large knives.
4. Freddy Krueger. While he could be lumped in with Michael and Jason, I'd argue that Freddy is something darker, more complex, and more irredeemably evil. From his origins as a child molester, to his fiery demise at the hands of vigilante parents, to his ability to live inside our nightmares, he really kicked the slasher villain up a whole other level.
3. Clowns. When I talk clowns, of course, I am talking about two specific clowns. The first is the stuffed clown from Poltergeist. That damned thing still freaks me out and makes me want to hide under the blankets when Robbie so foolishly looks for him under the bed. The other is Pennywise, the sewer-dwelling monster of Stephen King's nightmares, who reminds us "We all float down here."
2. Cenobites. While vampires are a classic of the genre, Clive Barker's cenobites are perhaps the most exciting thing to happen to horror in the last few decades. Sadistic and perverse, they really do straddle the line between pleasure and pain, twisting fetish into fear.
1. Ghosts. Is there anything more classic or more fundamentally frightening than a ghost? They're a blatant reminder of our own mortality, with many of them seeking revenge for their own deaths, and others inflicting their horror on us for no other reason than we've stepped foot in their final resting place. The best, the oldest, the most memorable stories that frightened us growing up were about ghosts.