The main reason why I’m often sceptical of new creature feature films is because, in spite of their attempts to be original, there’s not much room for creativity when it comes to the genre. It feels as though every film is doomed to follow a pre-destined path: the threat of a creature is introduced, typically when it kills off an expendable character; a group of people are charged with the task of killing the creature or risk being devoured by it; the creature picks off characters one-by-one while offering the audience tantalising glimpses of what it might look like; and the film ends with a final confrontation where the audience gets the coveted “full look” at the creature in all of its glory before the main characters find its “weakness” and promptly dispatch it.
That being said, not all creature feature films are this formulaic. Masterpieces of the genre, such as The Thing,It Follows, or The Babadook, subvert these tropes by refusing to placate the audience with a cathartic element. There is no “full look” at the monster, because the monster is not what terrifies us. Instead these films focus on the psychological impact that the creature’s presence has on the main characters in order to generate tension. The creature is largely irrelevant as a physical entity, and serves more as a conduit through which the audience gets to explore the psyche of the characters. The terror we feel when watching these types of films is not created by fear of the beast itself, but by the gut-wrenching realisation that we as a race are completely ill-equipped to deal with anything outside of the realms of our understanding. What scares us more than anything else is that which is unknown and that which cannot, in spite of our efforts, be understood.
In many ways, A Quiet Place straddles this line between formulaic and ingenious.
Please Note: This review will contain some mild spoilers, but no major plot points will be revealed.
The creatures are certainly physical and visible, but the emphasis of the film is squarely placed on the interactions between the main characters and how they’ve adapted their lifestyle to the presence of these strange beasts. Without giving too much of the plot away, the story follows the Abbott family, who the audience are introduced to as they scavenge through an abandoned town for supplies. The family communicate solely in American Sign Language, take special care with their movements, and use sand to mask the sound of their footsteps when walking outside. We swiftly find out, in a scene that I won’t spoil but which is masterfully done, that this is because the world is now overrun with horrifying creatures, which are completely blind but hunt based on their hypersensitive sense of hearing.
There are a few moments of somewhat clunky exposition, such as a scene in the basement where the camera pans in on a whiteboard containing words like “Confirmed: Blind” and “What is the weakness?”, but overall the storytelling in the film is exceptionally well done. We discover the family are fluent in American Sign Language because their daughter, Reagan (Millicent Simmonds), is congenitally deaf; we learn that the creatures can’t hear quieter sounds if there are louder sounds to mask them when the father, Lee (John Krasinski), takes his son Marcus (Noah Jupe) to a waterfall; we know that a climax is imminent because the mother, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), is pregnant and births are, generally speaking, not silent affairs. It is obvious that a great deal of care was taken when it came to making the film’s core elements believable and ensuring that the audience didn’t feel as though they were being spoon-fed the plot. The film’s storyline has a natural progression that flows rather seamlessly and allows you to fully immerse yourself in the world of the characters.
John Krasinski, popularly known as fan favourite Jim Halpert from the US version of The Office, shirks his comedic tendencies and embraces a far more serious role as the father, Lee Abbott. Alongside his real-life wife Emily Blunt, the two offer up a realistic portrayal of a father and mother struggling to keep their family alive in their darkest hour. Millicent Simmonds was a perfect casting choice for the character of Reagan, as she is actually deaf and therefore was capable of lending a far more honest dimension to the portrayal of her character, rather than simply succumbing to stereotypes of how we expect deaf people to behave. She is strong, she is capable, and she does not let her disability hold her back. By the end of the film, she emerges as arguably the main hero of the piece.
The only actor whose performance falls a little flat is Noah Jupe, who was perhaps given the least to work with when it came to character development. After all, while the rest of the family appear to have obvious roles and are each tackling individual demons, the character of Marcus Abbott seems almost solely relegated to that of “the other child” and doesn’t go far beyond that. It’s hard to make your character feel three-dimensional when your stand-out moments largely consist of being sick, crying, and running away. His relationship with his sister Reagan, however, feels genuine and there are some truly tender moments when both the characters interact.
While the storyline is certainly inventive and the standard of acting is praiseworthy, the all-important question remains: Is it scary? As I was watching the film, I became consciously aware of the fact that, during particularly tense moments, I had started to cover my mouth. Some of you may think this was out of consideration for my fellow cinema-goers, since the film is very quiet, but the fact that I spend most of my life watching horror films should give you an idea as to my general disregard for the feelings and needs of others. In those moments of heightened tension, A Quiet Place had engrossed me so fully that I had completely forgotten that none of it was real. I was purposefully silencing myself, as if I really believed that I might be at risk of attack if I made a sound. In my opinion, if a film can get under your skin like that, it is truly a fright fest worthy of watching.
Acting: 7/10, outstanding performances by John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and Millicent Simmonds help garner the audience’s sympathy for the family and immediately engage you in their struggle.
Storyline: 8/10, considering how tired the creature feature sub-genre has become, the plot is fresh, innovative, and beautifully executed.
Fear Factor: 7/10, the atmosphere of the entire piece is suitably oppressive and it builds up tension gradually, leaving you on the edge of your seat.
Overall: 7/10, this film deserves to rank as an exemplary work of its sub-genre and is a must-watch for all lovers of horror.
We’re heading Down Under for our latest instalment of Malicious Myths and delving into the murky history behind a mythical creature from Indigenous Australian folklore known as the Bunyip. Don’t let its adorable name fool you. After all, Australia has a long and noble history of giving ridiculously cute names to incredibly dangerous things, such as the dugite, a type of venomous snake whose bite can be lethal; the bluey, a slang term for the floating sacks of death that are the Portuguese Man o’ War; and the gympie gympie plant, whose sting is so painful that it drives people to suicide. In a country where even the plants are capable of waging psychological warfare and everything appears ergonomically designed to reduce the human population, you have to do something pretty special to stand out. So, if the Bunyip is capable of striking fear into the heart of a hardened Australian, you know it’s serious.
The Bunyip is an amphibious lake monster that is said to inhabit swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds, waterholes, and even household wells. It lays in wait at night for unsuspecting prey to pass by its territory and will happily devour any animal or person, although it has a particular fondness for the flesh of women and children. In other words, you may be the first one on the list to get a lifeboat, but you’re also top of the menu for the Bunyip. When the Bunyip approaches a hapless victim, it lets off a series of haunting howls to warn them of their imminent doom before swooping in for the kill. This is perhaps why the Bunyip is often less than successful in its ambush attempts, since announcing your presence to your prey is generally considered bad practice among apex predators. According to certain legends, the Bunyip is said to be very aggressive, very hairy, and has supernatural powers. Kind of like your mother-in-law, only not quite as terrifying.
When Europeans arrived in Australia, they took accusations of the Bunyip very seriously and early European settlers regarded them as just another strange animal to add to the roster. When you’re confronted with tiny creatures that poop out cubes (just Google “wombat poop”) or spiders the size of a household clock, you start to radically adjust your perception of “normal”. Some historians believe that, during the 19th century, these European settlers actually infused the indigenous Bunyip lore with that of the Irish Púca, a shape-shifting spirit found in Celtic folklore. In true colonial fashion, these settlers took it upon themselves to culturally appropriate even the unsavoury elements of Indigenous Australian mythology.
Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, Bunyip sightings became widespread throughout Australia and, in July 1845, the first written use of the word “bunyip” was made in a newspaper known as The Geelong Advertiser, which proudly announced that a collection of fossils found near Geelong belonged to a deceased Bunyip. From then on, the people of Australia were gripped by Bunyip fever. In January 1846, a peculiar skull found by the banks of the Murrumbidgee River in New South Wales was declared to be that of a Bunyip and was put on display in the Australian Museum for two entire days before mysteriously disappearing. The fact that this skull had already been identified as that of a deformed foal or calf by several experts apparently mattered to no one.
People flocked to the museum in droves to see the skull and finally speak out about their own personal experiences of the Bunyip, resulting in the formation of support groups like Bunyip’s Anonymous. Okay, so that last part might be a lie, but for a long time people truly believed that the Bunyip was real. In March of the same year, three men set out on a boat to capture a Bunyip that had been sighted sunning itself opposite the Custom House in Melbourne, only to discover with profound disappointment that it was actually just a large Platypus. Fast forward to the 1950s and the term “Bunyip” had largely lost its sting, being instead used as an Australian slang term to mean “imposter” or “humbug”. While the obsession with the Bunyip may have died down over the years, one thing has remained unchanged: if you go to Australia, something is gonna try to kill you at some point.
In spite of its tendency to warn its victims of its impending approach, the Bunyip leaves relatively few survivors, so descriptions of this mysterious creature vary widely and are largely quite piecemeal in nature. Writings by George French Angus indicate that, according to the Moorundi people of the Murray River, the Bunyip looked just like an enormous starfish, although this is by far the most unusual description. Most accounts list a number of common features of the Bunyip, including a canine face, a crocodile-like head, large glowing eyes, jet-black fur, an equine tail, and flippers or thick legs.
In some instances, it also boasted tusks like a walrus and a bill similar to that of a duck, with scales or feathers covering its body instead of fur. In many ways, the Bunyip can be perceived as uniting the characteristics of the emu and the crocodile, two of the most formidable animals that are native to the Australian outback. But emus are harmless, we hear you cry! They eviscerate people. Seriously. Look it up. We weren’t kidding. Everything in Australia will try to kill you, even the koalas.
When in the water, the Bunyip is said to swim like a frog, but chooses to stand on its hind legs and walk erect when on land, towering in at about 12 to 13 feet in height. In fact, some accounts state that the Bunyip was so colossal in size that it could easily pull trees out by their roots and carry one in each arm. While its paws are furnished with long claws, its preferred method of killing its prey is by hugging it to death. Because nothing quite compares to the soft caress of a Bunyip as you slowly suffocate.
The word “bunyip” is thought to have originated from the Wemba-Wemba or Wergaia language of Indigenous Australians living in southeastern Australia, although the legend of the Bunyip appears to be widespread among Indigenous Australian communities throughout the country. It roughly translates to mean “devil” or “evil spirit”, because apparently the name “hugging beast” was already taken.
In 1933, the geographer and author Charles Fenner posited that Bunyips were actually just sightings of Australian fur seals, which were known to make their way up rivers and could often be found very far inland. After all, these seals have smooth fur, prominent eyes, and they are known to bellow loudly when trapped inland. Plus everyone knows seals subsist off a diet of fish and human children. The howl of the Bunyip has also been attributed to a bird known as the shy Australasian bittern or “Bunyip bird”, which emits a low-pitched booming sound during mating season. It might be shy, but it wants you to know when it’s horny.
Another theory suggests that the legend of the Bunyip evolved from the cultural memory of extinct Australian marsupials like the Diprotodon, Zygomaturus, Nototherium, or Palorchestes. Since Zygomaturus was quite difficult for people to pronounce, they opted for the far more accessible “Bunyip” instead. In-keeping with this theory, it is possible that the Indigenous Australians could have come across fossils of prehistoric creatures such as the Procoptodon, a gigantic kangaroo, and that may be how the legend of the Bunyip was born. Honestly, we’re not sure what’s more terrifying: a crocodile-emu hybrid with magical powers; or a 7-foot-tall kangaroo. Remind us never to go to Australia.
While the Bunyip might seem like a relatively obscure mythical creature, it has remained a staple part of popular culture in Australia for many years and can be found in media throughout the world. Here are just a few references to this cuddly child-eating critter:
The National Library of Australia continues to sponsor a traveling exhibition on the Bunyip and several Bunyip-related folk-tales can be found on the Australian government’s website. There was even an official set of four postage stamps that was issued with different artist renderings of the Bunyip.
The “Bunyip Aristocracy” was a derogatory term coined in 1853, which was used to lambast the attempts of certain individuals to establish an aristocracy in the Australian colonies.
A variety of names throughout Australia contain the word “Bunyip”, such as the Bunyip River, the town of Bunyip in Victoria, and a now disbanded Christian community in Clifton Hill that was delightfully named the House of the Gentle Bunyip.
Several children’s books contain references to the Bunyip, including The Bunyip of Berkeley’s Creek and The Ballad of the Blue Lake Bunyip. Hopefully they left out the part about it loving the taste of child flesh.
A number of novels also include Bunyips, such as Naomi Novik’s Tongue of Serpents and C. Robert Cargill’s Queen of the Dark Things.
During the 1950s, a horrifying puppet known as Bertie the Bunyip appeared as a
popular character on the children’s TV show Philadelphia.
In the video game Chrono Cross, the Bunyip is a boss monster that guards the Black Crystal in Another World’s Fort Dragonia.
The video game Final Fantasy X features enemy creatures known as Bunyips, which appear on the Djose Highroad.
The Bunyip is a character in the video game RuneScape and, as an homage to its origins, it speaks with a thick Australian accent.
Bunyips are portrayed as mystical and peaceful elders who inhabit a world known as “The Dreaming” in the video game series Ty the Tasmanian Tiger.
Pokémon; those cute, cuddly super-pets that we all grew up with. I can’t even begin to count the number of nights I spent gazing into the flickering light of my Gameboy Colour, desperately trying to paralyse a wild Abra or frantically chucking Ultra Ball after Ultra Ball at a Graveler. It was a video game and television series that took up a large chunk of my childhood, and I hazard a guess that many readers will be able to relate.
So, in honour of Pokémon’s 20th anniversary this year, I thought it only fitting to dedicate an entire post to the Top 10 Creepiest Pokémon in the canon. And trust me, there are a lot of them. After four solid hours of sorting through the online Pokédex, I can proudly say that the list is finished and I’ve successfully staved off adult responsibility for yet another day. Thank you Pokémon, you saviour of 90s kids who simply can’t face the crippling thought of mortgages, career options, and a life outside of their parents’ house.
The Original Child Catcher: #425 Drifloon, The Balloon Pokémon
At first glance, Drifloon looks harmless enough. It’s basically just a purple balloon with a mop of whipped cream on its head and some tape on its face. Its vacant stare and cute, little heart-shaped hands don’t exactly inspire one with a sense of impending dread. But they totally should.
First of all, Drifloon is a Ghost-type Pokémon, which immediately raises it in status from “incredibly dangerous children’s pet” to “soul-sucking emissary of the damned”. Ghost-type Pokémon are invariably evil and filled with a deep-seated hatred for mankind, mainly because they’re the souls of dead Pokémon who kicked the bucket solely because a bunch of kids decided it would be a fun idea to engage them in a fight to the death.
Yet in the Pokédex it specifies that Drifloon is not just made from the spirits of dead Pokémon, but also from the souls of people who have passed away. In other words, that balloon that just floated past you could contain the soul of your recently deceased grandma. And that’s not the end of it. Supposedly it “tugs on the hands of children to steal them away” and “children holding them sometimes vanish”. So yeah, not only is this balloon possessed by the angry souls of those who failed to pass on, but its sole purpose on this earth is to kidnap children. Nice Pokémon, nice.
Welcome to the Twilight Zone: #487 Giratina, The Renegade Pokémon
Giratina is a legendary Ghost/Dragon-type Pokémon that wields almost inimitable power. With its ragged black wings, piercing red eyes, and copious array of decorative spikes, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that it resembled the harbinger of death himself. It’s known as the “Renegade Pokémon” because supposedly it was so violent that it was banished to a place known as The Distortion World, where common sense and knowledge have been warped beyond all recognition.
If that wasn’t weird enough, it silently gazes at our world through a portal and can only manifest itself in an ancient cemetery. There’s something oddly tragic and disturbing about the image of some huge, heaving creature, with power beyond the realm of comprehension, staring at us through the void and waiting soundlessly for the chance to be released.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Insects: #292 Shedinja, The Shed Pokémon
Shedinja was one of those bizarre Pokémon that you sort of acquired, rather than actually caught. The only way to get one was to evolve a Nincada into a Ninjask while having a spare space in your party, and suddenly a Shedinja would just…appear.
It looks kind of like a sad, little ladybug with an adorable halo floating over its head, but don’t let its appearance fool you. It’s another Ghost-type Pokémon and, as such, its primary purpose is to straight up ruin your day.
Shedinja is essentially the hollowed out shell of an insect that has, for whatever reason, come to life. According to the Pokédex, it apparently “flies without moving its wings” and “does not breathe”, which I can imagine is pretty unnerving for those of us who are used to seeing things fly with wings and breathe. You know, like everything else on earth.
And it seems Shedinja is pretty sensitive about the fact that it’s…well…kind of dead. If anyone peers into the crack of its back, it is said to “steal one’s spirit”. So, in this case, curiosity isn’t going to just kill the cat; it’s going to have its soul sucked out through its eyes. Lovely.
The Candle that Burns the Brightest: #607 Litwick, The Candle Pokémon; #608 Lampent, The Lamp Pokémon; and #609 Chandelure, The Luring Pokémon
This trio of terror may simply look like a bunch of household furnishings to you, but they’re more than just a stylish way for wealthy people to keep their homes lit. They form an evolutionary trio and all have two things in common: they are Fire/Ghost-type Pokémon and they all subsist off of the life force of mankind. I’m not even kidding.
Litwick supposedly shines its light and pretends to be a guide to those who are lost, but this is a clever ruse. It leads its victim into a dark corner before absorbing their life energy and using it as fuel. Evidently the roasted souls of the damned are a more economic option than oil. Lampent takes this whole deathly charade a step further and hangs out around hospitals, waiting for the moment of death and then siphoning off the person’s spirit like a hillbilly sucking on a gas hose.
Yet, unsurprisingly, it is the big bad Chandelure that takes the cake for “most horrifying ceiling ornament”. It hypnotises anyone it comes across and sucks out their souls, leaving the discarded husk of a body behind like a crumpled soda can.
When they burn up a person’s essence for fuel, it is believed that their spirit will “lose their way and wander this world forever”. So, while the rest of us are basking in the comforting and totally not ominous flickering of those skull-shaped flames, some poor sap is wandering through purgatory wondering why it seemed like a good idea to have sentient chandeliers.
I Wanna Be a Real Boy: #064 Kadabra, The Psi Pokémon
Now Kadabra is a Psychic-type Pokémon, meaning it wields telepathic powers that allow it to bend spoons, solve difficult puzzles, and induce unexpected, splitting headaches in passers-by. Why a creature that possesses the ability to move a car with its mind would want to serve a bunch of preteens as their pet-slave is beyond me, but Kadabra’s undeniably spooky qualities are not.
Supposedly, when a Kadabra is close by, clocks will start running backwards and shadows will begin appearing on television screens. Looking at either of these phenomena will cause the viewer to experience extreme bad luck. Yet perhaps the weirdest feature of this spoon-wielding sage is its origin story.
According to the Pokédex in FireRed, it says: “It happened one morning – a boy with extrasensory powers awoke in bed transformed into Kadabra”. Basically Kadabra is like some freaky reverse-Pinocchio. So if you find that your kid has taken a sudden liking to your cutlery drawer, I’d say keep an eye out.
Let’s Lickety-Split: #93 Haunter, The Gas Pokémon; and #94 Gengar, The Shadow Pokémon
Gastly, Haunter, and Gengar are essentially legends in the Pokémon canon. They were the first and only Ghost-type Pokémon to be made available to us Gen 1 hipsters, so they hold a special place in many of our hearts. Yet, while Gastly is merely a ball of all-consuming noxious gas, his evolutionary forms are far more sinister.
Haunter is said to be from another dimension and has the capacity to pass through objects, but has a penchant for hiding in walls and jumping out at unsuspecting victims. It lurks in the darkest corners of rooms, waiting for children to pounce on and lick with its mighty tongue.
In fact, it’s considered such a threat that its Pokédex entry even comes with this warning: “Haunter is a dangerous Pokémon. If one beckons you while floating in darkness, you must never approach it. This Pokémon will try to lick you with its tongue and steal your life away”. Hey kids, have fun playing this children’s game, but just don’t approach this one Pokémon or it’ll straight up murder you.
Yet, not content with simply being another brick in the wall, Gengar opts for a different tact. It pretends to be your shadow and hides behind you, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. And, even if it doesn’t decide to kill you or if you manage to ward it off, it’s still capable of casting a curse on you. Because life just wouldn’t be worth living without the constant, impending threat of being hexed by a chubby demon.
The Roofie Twins: #096 Drowzee; and #097 Hypno, The Hypnosis Pokémon
Looking like a cuddly baby tapir and a piece of anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda, Drowzee and Hypno seem like an odd couple to have made it onto this list. Heck, they don’t even feast off the souls of the living. The only thing these cheeky chappies really like to eat are…our dreams.
Yep, these Pokémon use their hypnotic powers to lull people to sleep before gorging on their innermost fantasies. As if that wasn’t creepy enough, apparently Drowzee prefers to eat children’s dreams because they are “tastier” and, if you sleep next to a Drowzee for long enough, it will eventually show you some of the dreams that it has sampled. Kind of like wine-tasting, only with LSD.
According to the Pokédex, “if your nose becomes itchy while you are sleeping, it’s a sure sign that one of these Pokémon is standing above your pillow and trying to eat your dream through your nostrils”. I don’t know about you, but I’m really not okay with that.
And, while Drowzee’s just a fan of children’s dreams, there was supposedly an “incident” in which a Hypno actually hypnotised and kidnapped a child. Breaking-and-entering, stealing, and child abduction; all healthy ingredients for a successful children’s game.
Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls: #355 Duskull, The Requiem Pokémon; #356 Dusclops, The Beckon Pokémon; and #477 Dusknoir, The Gripper Pokémon
This is the second evolutionary trio to make it onto our list, and what a trinity of torment these guys are. With very little euphemism or sense of delicacy, it’s basically implied that these three Ghost-type Pokémon are essentially the Grim Reapers of the Poké-World. Duskull spends most of its time wandering around in darkness, using its one, beady red eye to strike fear into anyone who dares look at it. When it fixates on a target, it “will doggedly pursue the intended victim until the break of dawn” and it is rumoured that children who don’t listen to their parents will be spirited away by this skull-faced scamp. Oh, and let’s not forget that it “loves the crying of children”.
Dusclops, on the other hand, has a little less substance. Quite literally, since it’s effectively just a black hole with some bandages floating around it. As such, Dusclops is able to absorb anything into its body, but “nothing will ever come back out”. Its favourite pastime is to steal the soul of anyone who dares peer into its hollow body. Kind of a recurring pattern with these Ghost-types, don’t you think?
As the most powerful and most thinly-veiled euphemism of the three, Dusknoir has an “antenna on its head [that] captures radio waves from the world of spirits”, which it apparently uses to determine whose living soul it should harvest and drag back to the underworld. See what I meant about the whole “Grim Reaper” thing?
All My Friends are Dead: #562 Yamask, The Spirit Pokémon; and #563 Cofagrigus, The Coffin Pokémon
It would be almost pointless for me to try and explain why Yamask is so unbearably upsetting, since the Pokédex appears to have done the job perfectly already. This is the genuine, no word of a lie description of this “fun” friend and companion from a children’s game: “Each of them carries a mask that used to be its face when it was human. Sometimes they look at it and cry”.
These are the souls of dead people, who are doomed to wander the earth carrying a mask of their human face and serve any hapless child who happens to trap them inside of a Pokéball. Imagine spending the rest of eternity as a slave to some snot-nosed child, and you’ll understand why I find this particular Pokémon so horrifying.
And, when it comes to its evolutionary form, things only go from dark to darker. To be honest, I’m not sure whether it’s appropriate to have a coffin-themed anything in a children’s game, but I guess that’s why I’m not the one with the billion dollar game franchise.
Cofagrigus is an animated coffin that loves nothing more than to “swallow those who get too close and turn them into mummies”. That’s right kids. If you’re lucky enough to capture the wandering soul of someone doomed to weep at their lost humanity, be sure to train it up and you’ll be treated to a man-eating casket!
It’s More Than Just Child’s Play: #353 Shuppet, The Puppet Pokémon; and #354 Banette, The Marionette Pokémon
When it comes to the stuff of Poké-Nightmares, this dastardly duo has pulled the strings and scraped their way to the top of our list. They’re an unholy combination of perhaps the two most terrifying types in the Pokémon Universe, Ghost and Dark, so it comes as no surprise that they’d have a befittingly unsettling backstory. Shuppet is basically just an animated puppet who feeds off dark emotions, such as jealousy or vindictiveness. Like a murder of crows, gatherings of Shuppets can supposedly be seen under the eaves of houses where people harbour these ill-feelings. So if you thought that was just mould under your gutters, think again.
Banette, on the other hand, is a whole other kettle of rotten fish. According to its origin story, it was supposedly a child’s doll that was abandoned and thrown in the trash. Its desire for vengeance was so strong that it eventually came to life and it is fuelled by an unquenchable hatred. It can be found roaming dark alleys and garbage dumps, searching for the child that threw it away so that it can finally exact its revenge. It generates powerful dark energy by sticking pins into its own body and it can never open its mouth, otherwise its soul would escape. In short, maybe next time you should consider putting your children’s old toys into the garage, and hope they don’t achieve sentience.
When compiling this list, there were so many worthy Pokémon who just didn’t make the cut, so here are a few of our honourable mentions: Cubone, the Pokémon who wears the skull of its dead mother and perpetually cries over her loss; Cacturne, known as the Scarecrow Pokémon because it stays perfectly still during the day and only moves at night, chasing its victims down until they can no longer move; Phantump, a rotten tree stump that was possessed by the spirit of a child who got lost in the forest and died; Gourgeist, a gigantic pumpkin-like Pokémon that sings joyfully when it observes the suffering of its prey; and last but not least Yveltal, a legendary Pokémon that has the power to absorb the life force of all living creatures and essentially summon the apocalypse.
What did you think of our list? And which Pokémon do you think deserved a place on it? Please let us know in the comments!
Even without the stellar horror releases that littered the media landscape, 2015 was a pretty terrifying year in of itself. France suffered the Paris Attacks; the US was subject to nearly 300 mass shootings; and large parts of England appear to currently be underwater. The outlook for the planet isn’t great and, since North Korea apparently decided to ring in the New Year by setting off a nuclear bomb, the fate of the world is hanging by an ever thinner thread. So why, in light of all these real dangers, should you be excited about media that was designed to scare us? Because it gives us an outlet, a way to release all of that pent up fear in one hour-long frenzy of pillow-hugging, squealing, and violent popcorn throwing. So, as 2016 gets underway, take the time to indulge in a few of last year’s horror titles and feel the terror slip away. Let’s just call it Shock Therapy.
Although a lot of critics would disagree with me, I personally thought that 2015 was a strong year for horror in film. On the one hand, you had the numerous tacky sequels, reboots, and remakes like Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (yes, I really hate Paranormal Activity, thanks for noticing), Poltergeist, and Sinister 2. But, on the other hand, we were treated to some top quality horror titles reminiscent of 2014’s The Babadook and Oculus. Without further ado, here are my top film picks for 2015:
It’s Behind You – It Follows
It Follows was one of the most intelligent and impressive horror films that I’ve seen in decades. It combined an original story-line with a winning cast, stunning cinematography, and a soundtrack so provocative that I still get shivers down my spine when I listen to it. That being said, it tends to be one of those films that divides opinion. Some people, myself included, were willing to accept the film’s slow-pace and ambiguous ending because the journey was ultimately more important than the destination, while others were disappointed at the lack of closure and what they perceived as lazy “filler” scenes. For that reason alone, it’s definitely worth watching since, whether you like it or not, it’s sure to create a debate. For a broad perspective (and some spoilers!), we recommend reading Slash Film’s review, which you can find here, and Variety’s review, which you can find here. Alternatively you can read our review (with no spoilers) here.
Who Needs the Summer of Love – Spring
Spring is a romantic sci-fi horror which, if anything, makes it reasonably unique in the horror community. Like It Follows, Spring tackles an unusual story-line and its success in doing so, or lack thereof, has similarly divided public opinion. The score is beautifully simplistic, the cinematography is undeniably opulent and visually nourishing, the acting is superb, but the strangeness of the story and the use of that age-old, hackneyed “scientific” explanation has disappointed many viewers. As such, it makes for another fantastic watch since it’s sure to stimulate your brain cells and leave you wanting more. We recommend reading The Missing Reel’s review here, or alternatively check out our review here.
You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry – Krampus
Krampus is one of those films that puts a smile on my face every time I think of it. And that’s a relative miracle, considering I despise comedy horrors. My major bone of contention with this subgenre is that they’re often just comedies. If you can just bung a few scary moments or horror tropes into an otherwise non-scary film and call it a “comedy horror” or a “fantasy horror” or (dare I say it) a “Disney horror”, then Scary Movie, A Nightmare Before Christmas, and Pan’s Labyrinth would all be considered horror movies. Where Krampus ultimately succeeds as an actual comedy horror is that the horror and comedy elements are perfectly balanced. The film is funny and scary in equal measure, leading to several moments where my brain became desperately confused as to whether I should laugh or cry (or wet my pants). Like Gremlins and Poltergeist, it’s the perfect gateway horror film for the younger generation and one that people of all ages are sure to enjoy. We recommend watching Red Letter Media’s video review here, or you can check out our written review here.
Honourable Mentions –Goodnight Mommy and Bone Tomahawk, both of which I have yet to watch but have been phenomenally well-reviewed.
Unlike the horror film scene, which has gone from strength to strength, it seems that horror television has really let the side down. There were very few fresh or new series’, leaving us only with stale continuations of franchises that are doomed to (hopefully) burn out in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, I love American Horror Story and The Walking Dead as much as the next person, but sometimes it really does feel like they’re flogging an undead horse. I’ve caught myself yawning my way through whole episodes or, in one instance, falling asleep in an almost upright position. At this stage, if I fall and crack my head open while watching, I’m going to consider suing these guys for “risk of criminal boredom”.
Let’s Get Groovy – Ash vs Evil Dead: Season 1
In amongst horror television behemoths like TWD and AHS, Ash vs Evil Dead stood its ground as one of the most anticipated horror series to grace our television screens. The show sees the return of notorious horror hero Ash, played by the ever enigmatic Bruce Campbell, as he forgoes a much deserved retirement and returns to his one true passion: fighting off evil Deadites. As a comedy horror, the show mixes fun and fear in equal measure, with enough hilariously over-the-top gore to give any of the Evil Dead films a run for their money. What started off as an unexpectedly popular and incredibly low budget festival film has spawned into one of horror’s greatest legacies; and this latest edition proves to be one of the best yet. We strongly recommend you read The Missing Reel’s reviews, as they’ve been following the series episode by episode. You can find their summary review here.
You Can Count on the Countess – American Horror Story: Hotel
After the crushing disappointment of Freak Show and the looming threat of Wes Bentley’s soul-suckingly dull return, my hopes for Hotel and for American Horror Story in general were all but dashed. In many ways, my misgivings were well-founded. Wes Bentley did in fact prove to be one of the worst leading men that the series has ever championed and, like Freak Show, it seemed that the season would largely depend on a sequence of unconnected, exploitative scenes that were designed to shock rather than create a coherent and interesting story-line. That being said, thanks to the superlative acting of Denis O’Hare, Evan Peters, and Kathy Bates, coupled with the intriguing character of the Countess (Lady Gaga) and the eventual development of a solid and stimulating storyline, the season seems to have turned its luck around. It’s certainly not one of their best, but it’s probably not their worst. Probably. We recommend you read Nouse’s episode by episode reviews here, but be forewarned that they are full of spoilers.
A Netflix Unoriginal – Scream: Season 1
Let me be candid here, just because Scream has made it onto my top 3 list does by no means indicate that the series is good or that I liked it. It was simply the lesser of several evils. Scream is one of my all-time favourite movie franchises, and the thought of watching an abortive televised attempt to bleed it dry troubled me deeply. Particularly since beloved horror director Wes Craven tragically died last year, leaving behind an illustrious legacy that could be deeply marred by such an unnecessary reboot. Yet marred it was not. To me, this Netflix original series (which was actually and unsurprisingly produced by MTV) was kind of like a well-choreographed train wreck; it was awful, but I somehow felt compelled to keep watching. In fact, I watched the entire first season in less than two days. It essentially copies several major story elements from the original films, but the key to its success is that it never takes itself too seriously. It makes no claim to be as good as its predecessors; it’s just grade-A TV schlock for teenagers. And, as such, it’s ultimately entertaining, so long as you take it with a pinch of salt. We recommend you read Bloody Disgusting’s incredibly well-balanced episode reviews here, which are chock full of delicious spoilers.
Honourable Mentions – The Walking Dead: Season 6 and Penny Dreadful: Season 2
2015 may not have been the most prolific year for horror gaming, but lack of quantity was definitely made up for by superb quality. Although the Top 3 games I’ve chosen for 2015 may have been some of the only ones to come out, they certainly made an impression on me and are worthy of any top list, regardless of their release dates.
The Butterfly Effect – Until Dawn
Although it only represented about 8 hours of solid gameplay, Until Dawn was one of the best horror games I’ve ever played. Within the first few weeks of owning it, I had already played it through three times, which goes to show just how little I value my free time. The key to the game’s brilliance is in its Butterfly Effect dynamic. The choices you make in-game will drastically affect the outcome of the story, so much so that certain characters will either live or die. What I loved about Until Dawn was that it inverts your expectations, toying with the behaviours that you will have learnt from other games. When a character dies, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve “failed”; just because the game is telling you to do something, doesn’t mean you should automatically do it; and sometimes exploring the whole area for clues and opening that cellar door simply because “it’s there” isn’t always a good idea. For an ultimately negative but still well-rounded view, we recommend reading Polygon’s review here. If you want something a little more positive, check out our review here.
Let’s Get Digital – Soma
From the makers of the outstanding horror titles Penumbra and Amnesia comes Soma, a sci-fi survival horror about the ramifications of developing AI (Artificial Intelligence). It’s been far too long since we’ve seen a good sci-fi horror game and, in 2015, it seems horror fans were in for a real treat. And what a treat Soma was. As character Stephen Garrett, you find yourself trapped in a submerged research station known as PATHOS-II. The game’s underwater vibe is reminiscent of Bioshock, a game that didn’t exploit its horrific elements nearly as much as it could have done, and its futuristic facility setting evokes scenes from Dead Space. However, like the Amnesia series, the point of Soma is not to fight, but to hide. What follows is a subtle yet disturbing exploration into humanity, providing deep and probing layers of fear that go far beyond what you experience at face-value. We recommend you read Game Rant’s review here.
It’s Like I Have ESPN or Something – The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
For all of you citizens of the PC master race, I realise that The Vanishing of Ethan Carter technically came out in 2014, but for console plebs like myself it wasn’t playable until 2015. The game follows paranormal investigator Paul Prospero, who receives a worrisome fan-letter from 12-year-old Ethan Carter and is prompted to visit Ethan’s home in Red Creek Valley. The game’s graphics are stunning and the world that surrounds you evokes imagery of the New England countryside, making you feel as though you’ve just been dropped into a Stephen King novel. And the similarities to King’s work don’t end there. Like the fictional town of Derry, Red Creek Valley is a beautiful place with a dark secret. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter might not be the scariest horror game in the canon, but the intrigue it produces in the player is undeniable. As you become more wrapped up in the fate of Ethan, you feel yourself slowly disappearing down a rabbit-hole that may have no end. Playstation Lifestyle’s review, which you can find here, describes these elements in far more detail.
Horror is not a genre synonymous with beauty, nor is it terribly well-known for its powers of arousal, yet every so often the horror community is blessed with the odd horror hunk; a piece of man-candy so tasty that it makes the bitter pill of terror just that bit easier to swallow. From the knife-wielding psychopaths to the goofy heroes, horror is full of characters that interest us, excite us, and ultimately endear themselves to us. And a tight six-pack here or there doesn’t hurt either. In light of all this, we’ve decided to count down our top 5 hunks in horror. For the record, sexy though Alexander Skarsgård may be, we won’t be acknowledging Vampire Diaries or True Blood as horror titles because they’re just terrible. Just terrible.
Mads Mikkelson, Hannibal the TV series
Mads Mikkelson has recently managed to melt butter onto our freshly roasted hearts with his portrayal of the titular character in the Hannibal TV series. With his stately slim physique, crisp Danish accent, and cold, calculating charm, he’s undeniably one of the sexiest cannibals we’ve ever come across. After all, who wouldn’t want a man who could whip up a delicious soufflé or a mouth-watering steak and human kidney pie at the drop of a hat?
In a bizarre twist, Mikkelson originally trained as a gymnast and even went to a ballet academy in Gothenburg to pursue a career in athletics before finally settling for the far more mundane and accessible world of acting in 1996. Since then he’s wowed audiences with his icy stare, cool demeanour, and sleek performances as that villain we all love to fantasise about. When it comes to Mads Mikkelsen, no matter what’s on the menu, we’re sure it’ll be tasty.
Patrick Wilson, Insidious, Insidious 2, and The Conjuring
Patrick Wilson is probably one of the only men on earth who can look hot in a knitted sweater, and that’s pretty impressive in of itself. After all, when you’re wading through a nightmarish world called The Other or exorcising demons from the body of a country housewife, you probably don’t have enough time to keep up with the latest fashion trends. So what if he gets a little sweaty when faced with a few spooks or the thought of Ellen Page with a pair of scissors (obscure Hard Candy reference), he still looks damn fine while doing it.
This All American heartthrob began his career in Broadway, earning two Tony Award nominations for his roles in The Full Monty (2000–2001) and Oklahoma! (2002). Alright, so singing and dancing is perhaps not the most obvious segue into the horror genre, but we’ll forgive him for the unconventional approach because he has the face of a puppy and the eyes of an even cuter puppy. We’ll happily let him snuggle up to us in his cosy knits and sing us to sleep, especially if a repeat performance of The Full Monty is on the cards.
Evan Peters, all four series of American Horror Story
Evan Peters endeared us as the psychopathic teenager Tate Langdon, proved he was perfect husband material as Kit Walker, and showed us just what his chunky crab hands can do as Jimmy Darling. Wait a second, crab hands? Okay, so the costume designers at American Horror Story may not always favour our dimpled cutie, but he’s managed to claw his way up to our third spot nonetheless.
Peters’ big break came when he took on the role of Dave Lizewski’s nerdy best friend Todd Haynes in the painfully awesome superhero film Kickass. He was gawky; he was awkward; in short, he was hardly the kind of guy who inspires visions of white horses, tall towers, and knights in shining armour. But his debut in American Horror Story: Murder House as the deeply troubled, brooding teenager Tate was another horror story entirely. At the time, he caused a veritable lust-filled storm but, not content to leave us all both traumatised and aroused just once, he’s starred in every season since. Here’s hoping we get his room key in the upcoming AHS: Hotel.
Norman Reedus, all 5 series of The Walking Dead
Who needs a breadwinner when you’ve got a man who could catch a fresh squirrel for dinner every night? As the rugged and mysterious bow-wielding Daryl Dixon of AMC’s (once) stellar TV series The Walking Dead, Norman Reedus has managed to trap not only several rabbits, but also our hearts. He’s the bad boy with a soft gooey centre; the zombie apocalypse’s answer to Bear Grylls; with his steamy gaze and seemingly perpetual thin-layer of dirt, he’s about as clean and sexy as the average outdoorsmen gets.
Yet The Walking Dead wasn’t Reedus’ first flirtation with horror; this love affair began much earlier with roles in Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic (1997) and Blade II (2002). His most recent horror foray, the survival horror game Silent Hills, was tragically cancelled but we strongly believe that there will always be a place for him within the horror community. After all, when your television screen is plagued with scenes of hideous zombies, you need a little piece of man-candy to sweeten the deal.
Bruce Campbell, The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, and Ash vs. Evil Dead
Bruce Campbell is living proof that, like a fine wine, some things really do get better with age. While his debut as the torturously unibrowed Ash Williams in The Evil Dead was undoubtedly endearing in an awkward sort of way, he didn’t immediately register on the horror hottie scale. Since then he’s appeared in everything from Fargo to Spider-man, and has picked up a few tricks along the way. A winning smile; a cheeky wink; a silver fox swagger that only comes with years of experience. In short, in his 57 years, Bruce Campbell has gone from beautician’s worst nightmare to that friend’s dad who everyone secretly fancies.
And his sheer, unadulterated grooviness appears to have reached fever pitch in his reprisal as Ash Williams in TV series Ash vs. Evil Dead. With chainsaw in hand (in hand? on hand?) and his beloved catchphrase at the ready, Brucey is back and better than ever. He’s charismatic, he’s funny and, best of all, he can kick evil’s ass. Let’s just hope that, after all that demon slaying, they’ll still be enough of ol’ Bruce to go around.
So, what did you think of our list? Which horror hunks do you think we’ve missed out? And who do you think will feature in our Top 5 female horror hotties?
From a young age, something about the chupacabra both deeply unsettled and fascinated me. It was small, it was feeble looking, and it was kind of cute in a creepy, reptilian sort of way. Yet the disturbingly vicious method in which it killed its victims skyrocketed it in my childish mind from mischief-making sprite to bloodthirsty emissary of Satan. The name chupacabra literally means “goat sucker” in Spanish and before you ask, no, this isn’t some kind of freaky Hispanic porno. The chupacabra is classed as a “contemporary legend” and supposedly began terrorising the Americas in the 1990s, starting with a spate of killings in Puerto Rico.
In March of 1995, eight sheep were discovered dead on a Puerto Rican farm. The victims had only three puncture wounds on their chests and had been completely drained of blood. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of a fan of my blood and would prefer that it stayed in my own body. By August of the same year nearly 150 farm animals and pets had reportedly been killed in the same way. Violent, ‘Nam-style flashbacks began plaguing the locals as they were reminded of a similar epidemic in 1975, when the Puerto Rican town of Moca had been terrorised by “El Vampiro de Moca” or “the Kitten of Moca”. Just kidding! “THE VAMPIRE OF MOCA”. As if life wasn’t hard enough, it appeared as though the towns of Puerto Rico were once again being targeted by the only vampire with a goat fetish.
At first, people thought a satanic cult may be behind the killings, until a woman named Madelyne Tolentino came forward and claimed to have seen a creature. Not just any creature, but a small, scaly, kangaroo-like reptile that hopped after goats in a menacing and totally non-comedic way. Silverio Pérez, a Puerto Rican comedian, is credited with coining the term “el chupacabra” not long after the incidents were reported, which is a testament to just how seriously people were taking our little lizard friend. When you’re named after a joke by some two-bit comedian, you’re hardly striking fear into the hearts of men.
Yet our slithery bloodsucking imp wasn’t about to let this deter him. Not long after Tolentino’s testimony, similar killings were reported from the Dominican Republic and Bolivia right through to Mexico and the United States. Apparently, by March of 2005, el chupacabra had even reached Russia and took the liberty of killing and draining 32 turkeys just to, you know, let everyone know he was there. The last known sighting took place in April of 2014, when a couple from Ratcliffe, Texas claimed to have captured one of the beasts. Scientific researchers discovered the animal was in fact just a racoon with sarcoptic mange but I have to believe that, if I was confronted by a foot-high hairless creature rummaging through my garbage, I’d probably think it was Hellspawn too.
Lately, some people have started to argue that the chupacabra may in fact be an ABE or “Anomalous Biological Entity”. In sci-fi speak that means a pet or experiment that once belonged to an extra-terrestrial race but has since escaped and decided to wreak havoc on our planet. These UFO aficionados claim that the government has been trying to hide the presence of the chupacabra for years and that perhaps, just perhaps, the Republican Party is actually being sustained by goat’s blood. Okay so that part about goat’s blood is a complete lie but, if hyper-intelligent alien life forms did exist, do you really think they’d spend the better part of their time engineering a creature whose primary goal was to terrorise a few Russian turkeys? This reporter says, yes…yes they probably would.
Physical descriptions of the creature vary between countries and it appears to range in size from “large rabbit” right through to “small bear”. It’s characteristically reptilian, with either leathery skin or greyish green scales covering most of its body and spines or quills jutting out of its back. Most descriptions claim that it hops like a small kangaroo, but in some areas it appears to run on all fours like a wild dog. It is often portrayed as looking slightly emaciated, with unnaturally pronounced eye sockets and skeletal features. Being a predator, it has large fangs and claws for taking down goats and turkeys, the most cunning of prey, but it is sometimes depicted with features like that of a vampire bat due to its predilection for drinking its victim’s blood. So just imagine a bug-eyed, scaly frog with oversized choppers and you’re practically there.
Believe it or not, chupacabras may not actually be real. I know this may come as quite a shock to you, so just take a moment to let it all settle in. After a five-year investigation, Benjamin Radford, author of Tracking the Chupacabra, discovered that the original eyewitness, Madelyne Tolentino, had actually been describing the alien Sil from the sci-fi horror flick Species. Why it took Radford five years to figure this out is beyond me, particularly when you take into account the fact that Tolentino had seen the movie only a few days prior to the event. Evidently it was a slow day at the Bureau for Chupacabra Investigation, or Radford just really needed the money. Either way, Radford concluded his investigation by stating that Tolentino had not seen a chupacabra but was in fact just batshit crazy, as she had begun to believe that the events from the movie Species were really happening.
Over 300 reported victims of the chupacabra were examined by veterinarians and a necropsy of the corpses found that the animals had not actually been drained of blood but were just a little deflated, as I’d imagine anyone would be after, you know, becoming a corpse. Many of the reports in the United States and several other countries were confirmed to be coyotes suffering from sarcoptic mange that had started hunting livestock because, in their weakened state, they couldn’t take on their usual prey. The two holes on the necks’ of the victims were consistent with canine teeth and the fact that the animals had not been eaten indicated that they probably escaped their predator but died later due to internal bleeding.
So a rather disappointing end for our creepy little critter. No one knows exactly why the legend has perpetuated for so long or why it spread to so many different countries, but at least now goats of the world can sleep a little easier.
Considering how young this urban legend is, the chupacabra has managed to weasel its way into a number of media outlets. In fact, its fame is so far-reaching that I can’t even begin to mention all of the references to it here, so I’ve chosen a smattering of the more famous ones to give you an idea:
The films Chupacabra: Dark Seas, starring John Rhys-Davies, and Guns of El Chupacabra, starring Scott Shaw, both revolve around the urban legend.
In Marvel’s Fantastic Four miniseries “Isla de la Muerte”, our heroes head to Puerto Rico to confront the chupacabra.
Marvel’s notoriously controversial antihero Deadpool is at one point enlisted by a Mexican goat-herder to save his prize goat Bella, which has been kidnapped by a group of chupacabras.
During the second season of the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory, Dexter accidentally creates a creature known as “La Chupacabra” that subsequently escapes and makes its way to South America.
In the South Park episode entitled “Jewpacabra”, Eric Cartman tries to hunt down a Jewish chupacabra that he claims kills children on Easter Sunday.
In an episode of Futurama, the Planet Express crew travel down to the sewers and are confronted by a vicious monster that the local mutants call El Chupanibre.
In the anime Occult Academy, Maya and the gang investigate a series of mysterious cattle deaths near their school. The character Ami is eventually kidnapped by the chupacabra, and it’s up to her friends to save her.
In the wildly famous T.V. series X-Files, the episode entitled “El Mundo Gira” reveals that the chupacabra are actually illegal immigrants who have been infected with an alien fungus.
In an episode of the T.V. series Bones entitled “The Truth in the Myth”, one of the possible murder suspects is a chupacabra.
In the video game franchise Castlevania, later games feature an enemy known as the “Cave Troll” but this is a mistranslation; the enemy is in fact a chupacabra.
The chupacabra features as an enemy in the video game series Shin Megami Tensei.
In the video game Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, a chupacabra can be killed as part of a side-quest. Killing it even rewards you with an achievement entitled “Chupathingy”.
In the video game Fallout: New Vegas, the character No-Bark Noonan confuses an enemy known as a Nightkin for a chupacabra. When someone explains to Noonan that the holes in the murdered cattle were in fact made by bullets, he responds by saying “well…we got a chupacabra with an automatic weapon”.