making monsters meaningful, part 3

Previously, I had talked about what makes monsters scary; as well as how despite appearances to the contrary, monsters really only come in two types.  Now I’d like to share with you some monsters that scared me when I was younger, and why they still do, even though I’m a grown-up.

Some of these you’ll recognize even if you don’t watch horror movies.  Others will probably only be known to those with long memories for cheesy b-movies.  So let’s start with the well-known ones, and seeing as how it’s close to a certain holiday…




Thanks to HBO in the early ’80s, I watched the original Halloween more times than is probably healthy for a teenager or anyone else.  I mentioned in my first post in this series that overexposure saps a movie monster’s ability to frighten, and that’s certainly the case with Halloween.

But try, if you can, to put out of your mind the inferior sequels and remakes, not to mention the copycat slasher films that followed.  Try to ignore that the name “Michael Myers” has become a pop-culture reference, or that you can buy the iconic white mask in any costume store.

Think instead of the very first time you ever saw this movie, and how it affected you. Think instead of its many suspenseful elements, and how it was relatively bloodless (for a horror movie).  Think instead of how well-done, even artistic it is.  Don’t believe me on that last one?  Take it from the pros:

Moving on to another familiar, albeit monstrous face.


Again, like Halloween, Alien and its titular creature have lost much of what made them so groundbreaking and terrifying, but at least there’s one decent excellent sequel.  I could dedicate an entire blog post to the genius of Alien (and Aliens), but for my money, this is one of the best scenes, for its suspense, its scariness, its characterization, and for its restraint (no gore, and only implied violence):



Let’s move on from the well-known (to even folks who don’t watch horror movies), well-done (in terms of quality), and overdone (in terms of exposure).  Let’s look at two films–well, one a film and the other a TV movie–that your average person hasn’t heard of, but are still excellent and still scary.

The movie?  Don’t Look Now.




(Isn’t that a little girl in that hooded red coat?  Right?  Do you really want to know?)

Now for the TV show.  Remember THIS guy?  Because I sure do.




The Zuni warrior doll appeared in one segment of a three-part TV show that no one remembers or cares about the other two.   Not when you have this sucking all the air out of the room–and the viewers:



I don’t know what it was, but small evil things just gave me the willies.  Such as these… “kids” known as The Brood:



…or the monstrous killer baby of It’s Alive.




Like It’s Alive, the 1979 flick Prophecy (about a mutated killer bear and its cubs) wasn’t very good, but it still managed to scare me to no end…especially when I was walking around the woods of Canada a few weeks after seeing it….



Prophecy looked like an Oscar-winner next to the sleazy, skeevy, skin-crawling Humanoids from the Deep, about mutated fish-men who attack women and…  You know what?  Let’s move on.




…from the vile to the nigh-ridiculous.  But as a little kid, I thought this guy was totally creeptastic:



How about you?  What monsters have been memorable and meaningful to you?  Which ones scared you?  Why?  And do they still?


Kenton Kilgore is forging a new direction in young adult science-fiction and fantasy.  He is the author of Dragontamer’s Daughters, based on Navajo culture and belief. 

Kenton also wrote Lost Dogs, the story of a German Shepherd and a Beagle-mix who survive the end of the human world, only to find that their struggles have just begun. With Patrick Eibel, he created Our Wild Place, a children’s book about the joy to be found in exploring Nature.  

Follow Kenton on Facebook for daily posts on sci-fi, fantasy, and other speculative fiction. 








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