As you know, I make it a point every year during the Halloween season to write you a letter imploring you to stop overusing boring ass zombies and vampires and instead us other, more interesting monsters. The reason for this is simple: zombies are stupid and suck and vampires are too sexy to stake these days.
This will be my fifth year doing this, so please find enclosed a list of my previous letters:
As you can see, I’m running out of Die Hard movies to name these after… so get on that or I shall be forced to use other Bruce Willis vehicles.
Anyway, seeing as this month is Scarred Forever Month, I’ll be suggesting monsters based on my top list of Scarred Forever Moments (apologies to my readers: I posted the second half last Friday, but accidentally set the post time to November. I am stupid.)
So let’s start with what everyone came to see, the pony monster:
Number 1: Badass Unicorns
I was originally going to honestly just suggest an evil horse here. Sort of doing for horses what Cujo did for dogs. And who can blame me? Horses are a very common fear thanks to their great size, alien appearance and behavior, not to mention their easy proximity to humans.
After all, it’s not as if I haven’t done a scary unicorn post before.
Remember way back in Legend of Chaos and Darkness when I gave Lucian the Ape-Knight his rhino mount Embarr, effectively making a rhinoceros into a unicorn by somehow making it more badass? That’s the Karakadan. They are literally what happened when ancient Persian zoologists saw a rhino an exaggerated: black, scaled skin, a goddamn poisoned horn (or a horn that could cure poison… one or the other) and the ferocity to kick the asses of all animals.
Imagine the ‘nature turns against us’ move about a group of big game hunters pissing one of these off and getting hunted by it.
But that doesn’t hold a horror-candle to the sin-you.
Smaller than the karakadan, these are often depicted as a horned hybrid of a big cat and an ovine/equine—whose eyes burn with JUSTICE. They’re typically depicted sitting at the side of a judge—and spearing murderers in the chest with their horn.
Now take a step back and think about such movies as I Know What You Did Last Summer where a bunch of unlikable characters kill someone and manage to get away with it… until a horned murder-jaguar shows up to bring JUSTICE to them through the magic of impalements.
I’m sure that was the plot of a FiM fanfic somewhere, but make this movie happen!
Number 2: Toons
If my trip down memory lane and also YouTube, looking for the horrors of my childhood has taught me anything, it’s this: the traditional Western ‘cartoon characters’ are generally only ‘cute’ and ‘kid-friendly’ by fiat of the writers and the fact that I was raised to think they were kid-friendly. And nothing drive this home harder than Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Looking at the toons from Eddie Valient’s eyes… they’re terrifying in the context of them existing in the same reality as you.
Imagine if you lived in the world with sentient creatures who were almost by genetic imperative manic (read: wacky) and aggressive, whose physical make-up is highly resistant to damage if not incredibly malleable, who are stronger, faster and more creative than any human, are not beholden to this universe’s physics, and—this is the most important part—seem to have no concept that humans don’t have all those advantages, resulting in them unknowingly putting humans in dire danger cosntantly.
Now imagine one who is actively malevolent.
The Judge shows us some of this, but he was strongly tied to bad guy cliches and seemed to like the slow kill. He didn’t have to though. If a toon wanted someone dead, there’s very little that could stop them. And they’re guaranteed to think it’s all a big joke too.
A movie where a serial killer gained these powers, or set in a WFRR?/Cool World setting could be horrifying indeed.
Number 3: Emotion Eaters
I think the Care Bears stable of villains got worse in my memory after reading about White Court vampires in The Dresden Files. The White Court are emotion eaters; they inspire and then feed off of certain emotions. The ones we deal with most in Dresden are literally Incubi and Succubi that feed on Lust, but there are others.
Which bring me to Care Bears and their focus on villains who drain happiness, caring, friendship, and other such emotions out of people, usually leaving them alive but completely incapable of feeling said emotion. Now, in the Scarred Forever article, I talked mostly about the body horror one of these inflicted, but the more real, adult fear is the idea of being rendered literally incapable of ever being happy again, or able to recognize my friends and why they should matter to me, but being unable to feel it.
In the article, I referred to this as depression, but in all but the most severe cases of depression, the depressed person is still capable of having moments of joy and they still care about their friends—they just have a lot of negative feelings aobut themselves most often (not always, of course). This… this goes way beyond to the point of denying even those hope spots—and in every case on Care Bears, you know what’s wrong with you, you just don’t care enough to do something about it, or are unable to do anything.
That’s pretty strong psychological horror, especially if you can start to recover only to be harvested again by the emotion eater. So then you start to feel things—but know that’s going to go away soon.
Hell, forget the positive emotions: think what it would be alike to never be able to get angry or sad at anything ever again. It might sound good… right up until you get into a situation where you know you should be reacting but can’t. Think about a Halloween without fear—and think about all the accidents and mistakes that would happen in a land without fear.
And I bet you thought this was going to be all monster and no brain up in here?
Number 4: Fluid Shifters
I make no secret that I love shapeshifting as a power. Whether it’s the masterful shapeshifting of Ru or Cyn, the transformations of shows like Digimon, or the set-shifting like that of lycanthropes, I’m a big fan of shapeshifting… you know assuming it’s voluntary. Further down the other road lies body horror and I think we all know I’m not a fan of that by now.
But there is one class of shapeshifting I’ve only sort of touched on: fluid shifting.
Fluid shifting is just what it sounds like: the ability to transform into a fluid: either some sort of liquid, gas or in some cases, sand or dust. We’ve seen Cyn do this a few times in the Descendants, but she usually keeps a solid shape.
Not so with Batman’s Clayface or Batman Beyond‘s Inque, or to a less extent, Spider-man’s Sandman and Hydroman who all take copious advantage of their fluid forms to do horrible things to Our Heroes.
Of the four, Clayface and Inque seem to play up the scary and dangerous possibilities the most. Both of these characters like to engulf, which is when they surround their enemy with… themselves and try to suffocate them. The animators always lovingly draw images of Batman’s cowled face straining to get out as he runs out of air and then the horrible body-splosion when he uses a trick to escape.
Inque ups the ante when we at once point see her forcing herself into Batman’s mouth and nose, presumably slithering her way down into his lungs. Add to it just the simple fact that characters like this can and are shown to be able to get wherever liquid can get through and you have a formidable monster.
Presumably, we don’t see this kind of monster in movies that often because everyone just thinks ‘The Blob‘, but add in some human level intellect and malevolence and you can do far more than just a blob remake. There’s a reason there’s so many variants on this theme in comics, and that’s because they’re versatile in more ways than one.
Number 5: The Giant Mouse of Minsk
Happy Halloween everyone!
Next week, on Novermber 3rd, Spec-Fic author Patty Jansen is hosting a free ebook even over on her site. If you’d like free books from other great genre authors, go check out this link – some books are already free or will continue to be free after the event!