Vampires, zombies, and werewolves have dominated horror movies for some time now. Looking for a new monster to chill you to your core? Here are some less-used beasties that deserve a shot on the big screen.
We noted earlier this month that the mummy, once one of Universal's favorite movie monsters, has been absent from the screen of late. And there are plenty of other creatures from fiction and folklore that have been popular in fiction, but haven't quite ascended to the level of favorite movie monsters. For example:
Where you've seen it: S. Ansky's play The Dybbuk (and its film adaptation) and this year's horror film The Unborn. It has also been mentioned in the Coen brothers' film A Serious Man and Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.
What it is: A spirit from Jewish folklore, a dybbuk is the spirit of a dead person who possesses a living person. There are numerous reasons a dybbuk may do this to escape punishment for some transgression it committed while alive, or to seek revenge for some evil committed against it, or because it is lost and needs to find its way to the afterlife.
Why it deserves a shot at the big time: The Unborn may not have done dybbuks justice, but any story about a dybbuk has the opportunity to tap into the rich tapestry of Jewish mysticism. Plus, possession stories tend to be dominated by Catholic traditions; it's always nice to get a different flavor.
Where you've see it: Numerous stories and books including the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter series, The Dresden Files, The Dark Tower, Balzac's 'The Succubus,' and Richard Matheson's 'The Likeness of Julie.' Also, an episode of South Park.
What it is: Incubi and succubi are sex demons that bed (often sleeping, often unwilling) humans, either to feed on their sexual energy or produce a child. Sometimes the humans die in the process.
Why they deserve a shot at the big time: After enduring four movies featuring the largely chaste Edward Cullen, it would be a relief to see a type of vampire who require sex to live (although I hate to think what would go into being a "vegetarian" succubus). Plus, sexing someone to death could make for some nice body horror (to say nothing of the possibility of demonic genitalia). Despite their popularity in fiction, these sex demons are curiously absent from film — although a few years before Star Trek, William Shatner starred in Incubus, a succubus-filled horror film written entirely in Esperanto.
Where you've see it: Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, The Elder Scrolls, Final Fantasy.
What it is: Sort of like zombies with brains (and not the eating kind), liches are undead creatures who retain their intellect but whose bodies keep on rotting. They've generally chosen this way of non-life as a sort of perverse immortality.
Why it deserves a shot at the big time: Liches have been a staple of high fantasy, and it's time to drag them into the modern era. Egomaniacal scholars, wizards, and business men could all seek to preserve their consciousness for future generations, with terrifying (and fairly gross) results. There's a definite supervillainous quality to liches; they may not jump out and shout 'boo,' but they're likely to have a horde of horrifying minions. And when you finally see their faces, liches can be pretty frightening themselves.
Where you've see them: Pretty much everywhere, from the works of HP Lovecraft to Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book.
What they are: Although in recent years, the word 'ghoul' has become synonymous with any undead thing, ghouls are actually monsters from Arabian folklore. Like zombies, they feed on human flesh (living or dead), but they are also intelligent and able to shapeshift.
Why they deserve a shot at the big time: Ghouls may not have the elegant simplicity of zombies, there is still room for ghouls in the realm of flesh-eating beasts. Lovecraft played with the ghoul mythology quite a bit, and even wrote ghoulish characters who would aid the protagonist (though one imagines that a clever ghoul would lead said protagonist to their tasty demise). Ghouls could be comical horror sidekicks (always trying to eat you), or they could be formidable foes. The Supernatural episode 'Jump the Shark' had the Winchesters fending off some vengeful ghouls who would take the form of the last person they ate.
Where you've see it: The Wendigo is the Bruce Campbell of B-list monsters; it pops up everywhere. Sam and Dean Winchester encounter a Wendigo in the second episode of Supernatural, and the creature has turned up in Charmed, Blood Ties, and Pet Sematary.
What it is: Coming from Algonquian mythology, the Wendigo is a cannibalistic monster associated with famine and long winters. Humans can become Wendigo by eating human flesh, and once they have the demon in them, they are perpetually hungry, growing larger and hungrier with each kill.
Why it deserves a shot at the big time: Wendigo are already playing in the horror minor leagues, and it's time for them to step up. And, in areas where the Wendigo legend thrives, it has certainly captured the imagination in much the way werewolves have. Canada has recorded incidents of Wendigo trials, where people thought to be Wendigo were put on trial for consuming human flesh. A guilty verdict could mean death and subsequent burning.
What other neglected monsters would you like to see on screen?