Everyone loves monsters. The likes of King Kong, Godzilla, and the Xenomorph are all as iconic as any human film star.
Sadly however just as with regular actors, there are also monsters who are somewhat overlooked. Are these creatures genuinely less scary and memorable or do they just not have as good a publicist?
In this article I am going to be taking a look at 10 relatively obscure monsters that I feel are criminally underrated. In my opinion these monsters deserve to be seen as classic characters. Whilst not all of the movies they were in were classics, the monsters themselves were at least above average.
Let me know what you think of my choices below and also tell me what your top 10 underrated monsters are.
10/ Storage 24 Monster
This underrated Brit horror flick directed, written by and also starring Noel Clarke (Mickey from Doctor Who.) Featured a very memorable and terrifying alien monstrosity.
In terms of character the monster was somewhat basic. Its ship just lands on the earth and it runs around killing things, though there is a fabulous twist at the end. (If you don’t want the movie spoiled look away now.) Throughout the film we are led to believe that this is the only member of its kind, as our characters are cut off from the rest of the world in an old warehouse being pursued by the beast.
At the end however when the survivors escape, we discover that actually it was part of a full scale invasion force who have decimated all of London (if not the world) whilst our heroes were battling just one.
Still what really elevates this monster for me is its design. Like all great monster designs, it’s both ghastly, but oddly somewhat pleasing too. It also looks slight and fast, yet very powerful at the same time.
According to Noel Clarke he based this monsters design on Venom and Carnage, the Spider-Man villains. You can see certain elements of the villains look in the beast, namely its big long claws and massive big eyes.
Overall Storage 24 may not be an all time classic, but I’d say its at least an above average Brit horror flick, and it certainly benefits from having a very unusual and frightening monster.
9/ Prince of Darkness
The main villain from the John Carpenter flick of the same name. The Prince of Darkness, also known as Satan, is the son of an ancient evil called the Anti God. Before the Anti God was banished into another universe, it left behind its son, a disemboided form of liquid. The creature would later be sealed in a can.
There the creature would remain for over 1000 years until it is accidentally freed by a group of archeologists. The Demon then begins possessing several people in an effort to free its father from the other universe.
The Prince was a horrifying villain. It could take over its victims so easily and was able to turn ordinary house hold objects into something horrifying. (In this case a mirror into a portal to another world. I couldn’t go near a mirror after this for a long while.)
The thing that scared me the most about this film however was what happened to the main heroine, Catherine Danforth. Catherine sacrifices herself by pushing the Prince through the portal it hand intended to summon the Anti God through. Unfortunately Catherine is trapped on the other side after the portal is destroyed with both the Prince and its “father” who will undoubtedly take out their frustrations on poor Catherine forever!
Another cool thing about the monster in this film, is that one of the people it possess is Alice Cooper who kills a man with a bike!
8/ Titanosaurus (Terror of Mechagodzilla)
Terror of Mechagodzilla is definitely one of my favourite Godzilla movies and Titanosaurus I always felt was a rather interesting monster. On the surface he looks like just another big Dinosaur, but he always seemed more frightening because he was somewhat more vicious than some of the Big G’s other enemies. We saw him do things like kick Godzilla when he was down on the ground, go out of his way to trample small children to death and his roar almost sounded like an evil laugh!
I also think Titanosaurus benefited from the fact that the film he was in had a much better story, as well as a darker, more serious tone.
Whilst other Godzilla enemies like Spiga and Ebirah were generally portrayed in a silly, if still fun way. Titanosaurus was treated more seriously. You only have to watch his first confrontation with Godzilla to see how. It is a superbly directed scene that really makes you feel like you are watching two powerful, immense beasts clashing rather than just two blokes in rubber suits.
Overall I’d rank Titanosaurus as being the best villain from the original Godzilla series after King Ghidorah and Mecha Godzilla. I like Rodan, Anguirus and Mothra better as allies of Godzilla than as his enemies.
Sadly Titanosaurus has never appeared in any subsequent films. I personally think he is due a come back and would love to see him in the up coming sequel to 2014’s Godzilla flick. If its based on Destroy All Monsters, he could easily be one of the monsters on Monster Island.
Another John Carpenter creation, Valek is the first Vampire, who plans to find a way for his kind to walk in the sun light so that they can overrun the world.
I always felt that John Carpenters Vampires was one of the best Vampire films. The Vampires were genuinely savage monsters that literally rip their victims apart, and hiss like animals.
They are also incredibly difficult to kill which is refreshing as often I find that Vampires are undermined somewhat in films and television series. I think it stems from a combination of Vampires having more weaknesses than other monsters, and also the fact that as they more often than not are the main villains in television series like Buffy. They have to be made easier to kill for practicality’s sake.
Still it does sadly undermine their menace somewhat in the Hammer movies when we see Vampires getting killed by a shower!
Vampires can’t take baths in the Hammer movies. Lets hope they don’t sweat or else they must stink!
In things like Buffy and Angel meanwhile I think we see too many examples of ordinary untrained people being able to kill vampires. For instance in Angel season 3 we have the character of Justine who becomes a scourge of the Vampire world, yet who hasn’t had any training. She is just an ordinary woman whose sister is killed by Vampires. To me that kind of undermined the slayer if anyone can kill Vampires easily.
In this film however Vampire slaying is a very difficult task. To start with Vampires only have two weaknesses. Being staked and sunlight. Also it takes team of people armed with machine guns, shotguns and stakes to take down just one Vampire.
Valek meanwhile being the king of the Vampires is virtually unkillable. He single handedly slaughters an entire team of Vampire hunters without breaking a sweat. He is slices them in half with his finger nails, tears their heads off and even gets quite creative, such as when he forces a priest to shoot himself in the head with his own shot gun!
Valek to me is what a Vampire king should be. A savage, unrelenting monster that doesn’t have time to mop and ponder what his immortal existence means. He is too busy ripping people apart! He’s a monster so terrifying that even the main hero, Jack Crow, a professional Vampire killer is terrified at the sight of him.
Thomas Ian Griffith who played him I think did an excellent job as the villain. He had a real dark charisma and a sneering arrogance that fitted the character. You do get the impression that Valek for the past 600 years has never met anyone who has even come close to threatening him, hence why he simply laughs at Jack Crow’s attempts to harm him.
6/ Centaur (Golden Voyage of Sinbad)
The Centaur I always felt was one of Ray Harryhausen’s greatest monsters.
I liked the way it was a mish mash of different mythological creatures. It was also a cyclops as well as a Centaur and there were also elements of King Kong in the Centaur’s portrayal too. It is shown to be worshipped by a tribe of natives on a remote island who sacrifice young women to it. The beast ends up falling in love with its latest sacrifice however played by Caroline Monro who is a member of a group of travelers on the island. The natives even summon the Centaur in a similar fashion to Kong as well.
Finally similar to how Kong battles with the Dinosaurs that inhabit his island, the Centaur also fights with other monsters on his island too such as the Griffin.
Poor Griffin. He should have one this fight, but the Centaur had help from the 4th Doctor himself Tom Baker!
I think its a shame that this creature is so overlooked. Harryhausen did great work here not only terms of its great design, but as always I feel he was able to inject a lot of character into the beast. Even just little moments like when it first see’s Caroline Munro and there is a certain confused look on its face, where its not sure how to react to her, or when it screams in fear at seeing the Griffin. Harryhausen never just made his monsters snarling beasts.
These monsters from Blade 2 are a race of super Vampires that feed on both humans and regular Vampires alike. They are as single minded as animals and have three way leech like jaws that paralyse their victims.
The Reapers are such a basic, but fantastic idea. What do Vampires fear? What keeps monsters awake at night? They are almost like an inversion of many traditional Vampire stories. Normally in Vampire films being bitten by a Vampire is portrayed as a pleasurable experience in a twisted way. With the Reapers however its an excruciating, agonizing experience, and also when you become a Reaper you don’t become a sexy immortal like in most Vampire stories. You become a hideous, deformed monster that lives in a state of perpetual agony.
The Reapers were most likely an influence on the Turok Han in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Turok Han appeared one year after the Reapers. They were similarly portrayed as a race of super Vampires who were as single minded as animals. They were stronger, fiercer and more ferocious than regular Vamps. They even looked like the Reapers too. They were bald, had white skin big claws and also similarly had strong chests which made it very difficult, though not impossible to stake them.
The only difference between the Turok Han and the Reapers was that the Turok Han did not feed on regular Vampires, though Giles still does refer to them as the Vampires that Vampires fear.
Of the two of them I much prefer the Reapers. They seemed far more dangerous. I loved the Turok Han in its first appearance as it was a savage, unbeatable monster that tortured Spike and nearly killed Buffy.
Sadly however as we all know in the finale we not only had Spike, Buffy, Faith and the Slayers destroying them left right and centre, but even ordinary humans like Dawn, Anya and Xander!
The Reapers are consistently dangerous and thus they were simply a more effective take on the idea.
4/ Q The Winged Serpent
Not the best monster movie ever made, but I still felt that quite an interesting idea of a Dragon in modern day, also it was very well animated too and I absolutely loved its design. There are a lot of great little homages to old classic monster movies in Q’s attacks on the city as well.
Q’s real name is actually Quezocatl, the name of an ancient god of the skies.
3/ The Reptile
The main monster from an underrated Hammer flick. This monster was played by Jacqueline Pearce who later found fame playing the evil Servalan in Blake’s 7. This character was somewhat more sympathetic (though that wouldn’t be hard) who ends up becoming the Reptile through magic in order to escape her abusive father.
I think this monster was very effective due to both the excellent make up and also Jacqueline Pearce’s performance as both the beast and its human counterpart. It was quite an unusual take on the old idea of a human turning into an animal.
The Ymir is another Ray Harryhausen creation. It is the main antagonist from 20 Million Miles to Earth, a Venusian creature that grows rapidly when exposed to earth’s atmosphere. Like many of Harryhausen’s creations it is a sympathetic creature that goes mad the more it is attacked by the people around it. One famous scene sees a farmer who upon spotting the beast, stabs a pitchfork right into its back.
Once again there are shades of King Kong throughout the Ymir’s story. It even meets its end when it scales a famous building, in this case the colosseum, and is shot down from the top of it.
I’ve always liked the Ymir not only because again much like the Centaur I feel it had a lot of personality, but I also always liked its design too. It was almost like a reptillian version of King Kong with its scaly skin and long tail, but general ape like features and stance.
1/ Hopping Vampires
Hopping Vampires or the Jiang Shi originated in Chinese mythology, entirely independently from Western myths about Vampires.
They were re animated corpses who generally tended to feed on the souls of their victims, though some myths had them drink the blood of their victims too. These creatures only ever moved by hopping up and down on both feet.
They later would naturally go on to be associated with Western stories about Vampires and occasionally Zombies too, but they actually started out as their own monster.
The creatures had been the subject of a few works over the years such as the Hammer film The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires which featured Dracula working alongside 7 Jiang Shi.
Still it was only in 1985 that they really reached a mainstream audience in the Mr Vampire film series. These films starred Lam Ching Ying as Mr Vampire, a Taoist Priest who hunted Vampires, Demons, Ghosts and a whole variety of strange monsters. The Jiang Shi however or the Hopping Vampires as Western audiences came to know them as were usually the main villains.
These guys were always my favourite Vampires growing up as they were total monsters. They had rotting, green faces, they never spoke, only roared and they ripped people apart. They were virtually indestructable too. They were more like the Terminator, the way they’d just smash their way through anything and couldn’t be slowed down by bullets, swords, even rocket launchers!
Only the most powerful magic’s could harm or destroy them. They could be stopped by putting a piece of yellow paper with a spell written on it on their foreheads. This would not kill a Jiang Shi however but simply freeze it in its tracks. If you took the paper off they it would wake up again instantly. This leads to a rather funny moment in the first film where a character places the paper on a Vampires head as it is about to strike him, only to give out a deep sigh of relief which blows the paper off the Vampire’s head!
The fights in the Mr Vampire movies were always spectacular. Lam Ching Ying was after all a student of Bruce Lee himself.
All of the Mr Vampire films are highly recommended. The character of Mr Vampire also appeared in other films such as The Dead and the Deadly and Spooky Encounters though these do not feature Vampires other than a brief cameo in Spooky Encounters, and instead saw him battle coakroach filled Zombies, Wizards, evil snake men, ghosts, Demons from hell and Mummies!
Lam Ching Ying as Mr Vampire. Mr Vampire was the characters nickname because he hunted Vampires. His real name was Kau. This character not only appeared in his own film series, but also in other Chinese horror flicks like the Dead and the Deadly. Later entries in the Mr Vampire film series such as Mr Vampire 2 and Magic Cop featured his descendants.
I’d say that the first two Mr Vampire films are my favourite entries in the series. I’m not sure which is the best out of those two. The first film has a better story, whilst the second film is in places somewhat derivative of ET, with its friendly little Vampire boy who gets adopted by a family. Still in terms of action Mr Vampire 2 really can’t be topped. There are just so many, creative, surreal and over the top fights and moments like the Vampires hopping on top of cars.
Also recommended is Vampire vs Vampire a film which features Lam Ching Ying fighting a western style Vampire with the help of a tame Jiang Shi. Think of it as being the reverse of The 7 Golden Vampires, which featured our greatest Vampire killer Peter Cushing battling Chinese Vampires, whilst this film features the Chinese’s greatest Vampire killer slaying a European Vampire.
The Mr Vampire films were massive in China, but sadly over here in the UK and in America they were never popular. Though they were shown on television and given a release on video, and they certainly have a following. Ultimately they’ve never really broken into the mainstream like other martial arts film stars such as Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan.
Bruce Lee obviously launched the whole Martial Arts film genre and after his untimely death there were many attempts to find the new Bruce Lee, but none of them were successful as there could never be a new Bruce Lee. Jackie Chan however was successful because he offered us something different to Bruce Lee. He wasn’t an ultimate fighter, instead his style was more slapstick and incredible stunts. Lam Ching Ying meanwhile I think similarly managed to offer up something different to Bruce Lee by merging the Martial Arts and the horror genres like never before.
Sadly however in the west he remains to this day 20 or so years after his untimely death from cancer completely obscure.
I suppose these monsters are not underrated in China, but since I live in the UK then over here they are, so they had make number 1 on my list. I’d rate the Jiang Shi as among the greatest horror monsters ever made.
Thanks for reading.