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There’s a bit of a chill in the air right now, and it’s not just because of the arrival of fall weather. That’s right: Halloween is near, and that means things are starting to feel a bit spooky all around us. In addition to stocking up on candy, costumes, and outdoor décor to usher in the trick-or-treating action, there is really no better way to lean into the spirit of the scary season than to watch a few spine-tingling films.
If you’re like us, the smell of pumpkin-spiced everything will give you a real craving for some theatrical thrills. And there’s nothing quite like an eerie screen creature to add some extra fright to the film mix. So to celebrate the joyous tradition of settling in for some scary movie viewing, here’s a look at some of the most blood-curdling film creatures that are bound to give you nightmares.
The vampires from 30 Days of Night
The idea of spending an entire month in complete darkness is terrifying enough, but when you add in some bloodthirsty creatures of the night to the mix, well, you’ll appreciate the sight of sunrise a whole lot more. In David Slade’s crisp 2007 thriller "30 Days of Night," which is based upon a comic miniseries of the same name, the people in the quaint Alaskan town of Barrow brace for their unique tradition of spending a month without a sunlit sky in a polar night.
This time, though, they’re in for more than just a long night; they also have to grapple with the arrival of some unwanted guests. At first, it’s a weird stranger who boats into town and disrupts their communications and transportation systems with a giddy warning about how "they’re coming." Then, the townsfolk find out the hard way exactly who "they" are: a coven of vampires who seize upon the opportunity to feed freely instead of constantly lurking in the shadows.
These vampires are truly terrifying. With their blackened eyes and mouths full of razor-sharp teeth, the very sight of them is enough to get your heart racing. On top of that, they also like to taunt their victims a bit before the big bite. One of the most terrifying moments of the movie happens when the townsfolk find a small girl making a meal out of someone in the grocery aisle, and she sneers at them, "You wanna play with me now?" The combination of her pigtails and blood-soaked teeth is shudder-inducing enough, but her shrill voice is even more unnerving. The vampires in this story are also completely relentless and aren’t just there to sate their thirst and move on — without the usual constraint of impending daylight, there’s really nearly nothing to stop them ravaging the entire town for as long as they like.
The helping hands from Labyrinth
At times, "Labyrinth" is jolly good fun and beckons audiences to sing along with some instantly iconic David Bowie music numbers. But in other moments, the movie is as creepy as it can be. Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy classic centers on a fairy tale-obsessed teen girl named Sarah (Jennifer Connelly), who is put on babysitting duty for her baby brother Toby and can’t hate the job more. After the tyke takes her beloved teddy bear, Sarah wishes for her brother to be whisked away by the Goblin King.
Unfortunately for Sarah (and for little Toby), the Goblin King (Bowie) is not just a figment of her wild imagination, and he’s all too happy to take Toby into his kingdom to live alongside him and his menagerie of otherworldly beasts. So Sarah has to venture into the labyrinth and must solve its myriad puzzles if she wants to rescue Toby. The creatures she encounters in this maze are all disturbing in their own unique ways, but the most bone chilling of them all is the vertical hall of "Helping Hands."
When Sarah is suddenly dropped into a tunnel, she finds it’s full of moving hands that grab and glide her along, and when she cries out for help, the hands contort themselves into disturbing little faces to answer her. The hands claim to be there to help take her in the direction of her choosing, but when she picks "down," their voices become sinisterly playful and ominous. As if their "faces" weren’t already scary enough, their unbridled glee over her apparently misdirected decision transforms them into bad dream material forever.
The clown zombie from Zombieland
Chances are you wouldn’t want to come within spitting distance of any of the zombies gracing the screen in the thrilling 2009 horror-comedy "Zombieland." Because they are all pretty horrifying, from the shrieking next door neighbor lady with her twisted ankle and rotted tongue, to the savage little girl zombies from the bouncy house birthday party who swarm a minivan.
The one that takes the biggest spotlight in the film’s climactic amusement park showdown scene is, rightly, the clown zombie. Now, it’s worth noting that the hero of the story, Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) has a long standing fear of clowns because, well, clowns can be pretty creepy even without any undead action factoring in. So when he has to step up and face the zombies he’s been running from to save his love interest Wichita (Emma Stone), it makes sense that he has to face the sum of all his worst fears in one package: the clown zombie.
Even if you weren’t naturally afraid of clowns, though, this guy is still completely nightmarish. With his bloody drool and gnashing smile, there would certainly be nothing amusing about seeing this guy out and about. And if your subconscious is ever looking for some fresh nightmare material, well, one look at the clown zombie’s face should do the trick.
The cat people from Sleepwalkers
"Sleepwalkers" has the rare distinction of being the first movie that was written directly for the screen by the master of horror himself, Stephen King. It also marks the first installment in a long series of King’s cinematic collaborations with director Mick Garris. The 1992 film takes place in the small town of Travis, Indiana, where the new kid at the local high school is decidedly not what he seems.
Beneath his handsome human exterior, Charles Brady (Brian Krause) and his mother Mary (Alice Krige) are actually from a rare breed of shapeshifting monsters who feed off of the lifeforce of others, especially virgin girls. After getting their fill from an unfortunate victim in California, they’ve moved to this small town to feed again — this time, targeting a teen named Tanya Robertson (Mädchen Amick). Once Tanya discovers Charles’ true intention for her, though, she fights back.
Tanya and the people who rally to protect her quickly learn that Charles and his mom are extraordinarily strong and barely bothered by things like being bludgeoned or stabbed or even shot. Instead, the only weaknesses of these cat people are, well, real cat scratches and starvation. Of all the frightening film scenes in the film, the one that puts their full power on full display comes along when Mary decides to abduct Tanya herself after her son is injured. To stave off the police, she bites an officer’s fingers clean off before twisting his arm into an instant compound fracture and beating him with his own mangled limb. After that, the true forms of the creatures are revealed. And without the human-like camouflage, let’s just say they wouldn’t be very good at flirting with anyone.
The anaconda from Anaconda
Snakes are pretty much scary at any size, so when they’re big enough to swallow a human being whole, well, it’s hard to imagine anything more skin-crawling than that. In the 1997 action-horror film "Anaconda," there’s an extremely giant serpent that terrorizes the (mostly) unwitting humans at the center of the action.
The film features an amazing cast of all-stars, including Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson, Jonathan Hyde, and more, and their characters are all part of a documentary crew who venture into the swampy Amazon River in hopes of filming a special about an uncontacted tribe of natives. What they don’t know is that their travel guide has an ulterior motive of catching a fabled giant anaconda in the area, and he steers them right into its perilous habitat.
What awaits the crew is bound to give anyone watching a good case of ophidiophobia, especially during the scene when we find out just how intelligent and persistent the giant anaconda is while hunting prey. Look no further than the shot of the fanged creature stalking someone through a waterfall and snatching him up in mid-air before getting those deadly coils into gear for a punch of fear. And what’s worse is that the titular terrorizer doesn’t exist in a bubble in this patch of wilderness; there’s actually a whole nest of these things just waiting to try some people-squeezing on for size. Shudder.
The blob from The Blob
There’s a reason "The Blob" remains a seminal part of the spooky cinema scene. The 1958 classic introduces audiences to a creature that is basically unkillable and only continues to swell in size and strength whenever it consumes its unwitting victims. "The Blob" features the one and only Steve McQueen playing a man named Steve, who gets an up close and personal look at the monster after a meteor crash-lands on Earth and the blob emerges. From there, the blob eats a man and gets hungry for more, going on to then take down an entire medical clinic.
Of course, the townsfolk are reluctant to heed Steve’s warnings about it at first because, well, it’s kind of hard to explain that there’s a vat of murderous goo on the loose. But in one particularly harrowing scene at the theater, folks are eventually introduced to the creature themselves, as it slinks through any available crevice to consume some more. Modern audiences will also quite enjoy the film’s prescient ending, which has some pretty gnarly implications for a world addled by climate change.
The lickers from Resident Evil
There’s nothing like a monster of mankind’s own creation to strike true terror in the hearts of everyone. In "Resident Evil," the 2002 film based on the hit video games that started a full-on Hollywood franchise, audiences are taken to an underground genetic research facility called The Hive, which has to be shut down by its artificial intelligence operator amid a viral outbreak to avoid it spreading to Raccoon City above.
Not only does the T-virus that’s oozing throughout the facility cause people to reanimate into blood-thirsty zombies, but the lab also has a few hidden treasures lurking about, particularly the "licker" monsters that have super sharp claws and extendable tongues that can be used as weapons against targets. These mutated creatures are fierce and fast, and they’re also frighteningly ugly, with exposed brains and humanoid bodies that only grow stronger when they consume flesh.
The demon from Insidious
Another movie monster whose face is bound to be burned into your brain once you see it is the demon from the 2010 horror film "Insidious." Directed by James Wan from a script by his "Saw" series partner Leigh Whannell, the film centers on a family of five who are terrorized by something they can’t quite see or understand, but they’re still deathly afraid of it.
After their child Dalton becomes inexplicably comatose, the family turns to a team of paranormal investigators who discover that the boy has been trapped in a terrifying astral plane called "The Further," and there’s a demon lurking about who wants to use the kid’s body as a vessel to enter Earth. It’s up to his father Josh (Patrick Wilson) to enter this realm of the tortured dead to save the boy. In addition to being a thrillingly original tale of horror, "Insidious" also includes one of the scariest screen reveals of all time when the demon peeks out behind Josh’s head to reveal its red skin, green eyes, and gaping grin for the first time. If you ever had the creeping sensation that someone was standing over your shoulder, well, this movie moment is bound to make that feeling even eerier.
The "others" from The 5th Wave
What you can’t see most certainly can hurt you — especially when we’re talking about alien life forms that secretly latch themselves onto human brains and otherwise walk, talk, and stalk like regular folks. In the 2016 film adaptation of Rick Yancey’s bestselling YA novel of the same name, "The 5th Wave" introduces audiences to a very unique type of alien invasion story.
Rather than swarms of little spaceships and green men zapping people on the ground, these extraterrestrials strike with stealth and in waves. First, it’s an electromagnetic attack on all technology systems. Then, there’s a manipulation of fault lines to cause earthquakes and flooding. After that, we see that a strain of avian flu wipes out most of the rest of humanity. From there it’s revealed that some of those who are left are actually aliens in disguise. "The Others," as these creatures are called, are particularly cruel when it comes to their techniques for baiting and exterminating what’s left of the world’s people, especially with children.
We don’t get to see the true visage of "the Others" — only their floating ship and the likeness they choose to use as a manipulation — but their inner ugliness is on full, terrifying display once you learn to see through their ordinary human disguises.
The pyramid head from Silent Hill
"Silent Hill" is one of the all-time best video game-to-film adaptations, thanks in no small part to its commitment to being completely creepy and brutal from start to finish. The film follows a desperate mother named Rose (Radha Mitchell) who seeks out a ruined town called Silent Hill after her adoptive daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland) has disturbing visions of the place. Unfortunately, they accidentally wind up separated in an alternate dimension filled with fearsome creatures. Rose has to fight and survive them to reunite with her kid — and so she can find out the truth about Sharon’s terrible nightmares, too.
In Silent Hill, Rose and an unlikely ally named Cybil (Laurie Holden) face a lot of inhuman monsters. But perhaps the most terrifying of all is the local executioner, Pyramid Head (Roberto Campanella). As his name indicates, in place of a face he has a geometric helmet that makes him impervious to head wounds, and he also wields a blade that’s bigger than most people — and he isn’t afraid to use it. The scene that shows us just how truly awful Pyramid Head can be happens when he chases Rose and Cybil to a church and snatches up the girl who’s been helping them navigate the fog-filled place, shedding her of her very skin in record time. It’s the kind of movie moment that etches itself into the darkest reaches of your brain. Soon, just like Sharon, you’ll undoubtedly be left having nightmarish visions of "Silent Hill," too.
The bugs from Starship Troopers
There are a lot of reasons to fear the bugs in the 1997 science-fiction favorite "Starship Troopers." For starters, there are thousands upon thousands of these little alien insectoid creatures flitting about, and it takes dozens of bullets to take down each and every one of them. They are also fast and outfitted with razor sharp legs, and just when our heroes think they’ve found a way to exterminate them, another species of the bugs pops up to prove them wrong.
Consider the moment when the troops rally within their steel fortress, surrounded by walls and armed to the teeth with weapons. Even with all of their equipment and numbers, they have a serious challenge on their hands to combat the ground bugs that charge in inestimable numbers. Then, to make matters worse, the soldiers then face an onslaught of winged bugs that are even uglier, harder to kill, and more efficient at separating soldiers’ heads from their bodies.
And as if all of that wasn’t enough to force the inevitable retreat, the troops then find out the hard way that there’s yet another type of bug on the rise — this time, a gigantic beetle-like creature that can travel underground and yank them under the sand and then spit fire to fry them up as they run away. The sheer viciousness of these extraterrestrial slaughterers is incredibly entertaining to watch, of course — but only because they’re not real. And let’s hope it stays that way.
Of course, what makes the antagonists in "Starship Troopers" even more terrifying is when you realize at the end that the bugs aren’t the bad guys at all — they’re revealed to be the victims of humanity’s relentless need for war and conflict. The true villains of the film are us. How’s that for nightmare fuel?