Some time ago I ran a poll on my Facebook page to find out what horror monsters people favour. Sadly only eight people responded. 3 said zombie; 2 said vampire; and Frankenstein’s Creature, mummy, and witch got one vote each.
So I ran a poll on Twitter to ask what people’s favourite horror monsters are. Apparently polls don’t show up for everyone, though I did get 71% of votes for vampire, 14% of votes for werewolf and 15% of votes for zombie. But I got a range of responses outside of the options I’d set. The first answers were;
- Dolores Umbridge (@DJMumin)
- Contemporary: Kevin Kilgrave. Classic: The original Dracula (@eyrea)
- Jason Voorhees (@authorsahunt)
- Godzilla (@TheCowInBlack and @velobetty)
- Pinhead (@SydFloyd78)
Pretty wide-ranging! We’ve got a semi-supernatural slasher killer, a radioactive lizard, a meglomaniacal witch, a classic literary vampire, a demon, and one of Marvel’s villains.
Given the choice, I’d rather face Jason Voorhees than Dolores Umbridge.
It was a bit of a loaded question and it isn’t clear whether these are the monsters that people find most scary, or the monsters that people enjoy watching the most.
But I think you can divide the monsters into two camps – those who have no control over their creation, and those who are very much in control.
These are the horror monsters you can almost pity. Godzilla is a good example. He doesn’t create himself. Whether he is a sea monster awoken by radiation, or a lizard transformed by such, it is still unnatural radiation that gets the plot going.
Jason Voorhees dies due to neglect and comes back to avenge his mother. These monsters are a product of their environment. Human intervention, or lack of, lies behind their creation.
This is where back story comes in. It has to explain how they were created, and the real monster is often responsible. (Think Frankenstein) There has to be an element of sympathy for the monster. The monster must also have a clear motivation as a result of this back story. Frankenstein’s Creature realises he is alone in the world and just wants another being like himself.
They can also be ambiguous. Godzilla can be both an ally and an enemy. Frankenstein’s Creature isn’t always a villain. It just depends on the narrative, but redemption is not an impossibility for these monsters.
These are the horror monsters who know exactly what they’re doing. Newer stories try to give Dracula a tragic back story, or turn him into a romantic anti-hero. But look at Bram Stoker’s original and you’ll find a straight up-and-down monster.
They’re also plausible. We all had a teacher like Dolores Umbridge. We hated her because we knew her. Snape acted like a bastard, so we knew we were supposed to dislike him. But Umbridge was monstrous precisely because she pretended she wasn’t.
These are the monsters with total control over themselves and their surroundings. They’re dangerous because they know more than you. They know themselves. They’re often also powerful – look at Pinhead. Sometimes they even start out as an accidental monster, but embrace their monstrosity so wholeheartedly they become completely evil. Redemption is completely out of the question for them.
Based on my poll, 41% of the votes went to accidental monsters, while 59% of the votes went to intentional monsters. My respondents like their monsters to be comfortable in their monstrosity!