From baleful devils of folklore origin, to creations made purely for the movie thrills, this list celebrates best monsters in horror movies of the 2010s. And yes, Pennywise is included.
You’re here, because you love monster movies. Right?
You realize, just like many filmmakers, that a really cool monster can elevate even a mediocre horror movie. The success of any given monster movie is often almost solely dependent on the monster itself.
In the earlier days of horror, say 40s, 50s and 60s, monsters were usually animals or humanoid creatures. Varying techniques helped to grow even regular animals to the size of menacing, havoc-spraying predators. In Tarantula (1955), director Jack Arnold used a living animal, and by merging two layers of image, he built a collage where the spider walked above buildings.
One heck of a trick, which made history.
With the technical development of cinema, more bizarre things arrived. The gorgeous 70s and 80s brought in a wave of Lovecraftian abominations, as well as a handful of iconic wraths, ghosts, and other monsters that audiences loved.
Skip a few decades and that’s how we arrive at the horror movies of the 2010s and the coolest monsters appearing in them.
Notes: This isn’t an orderly list. And there are spoilers below.
The Monstrous Aliens in A Quiet Place (2018)
A Quiet Place (2018) was praised as one of the most entertaining horror movies of 2018. Righteously so, because the directorial debut of actor John Krasinski smartly plays with tropes and schematic choices that scary movies usually suffer from.
The film finds a family of three which lives in the world dominated by aliens. These blood-craving creatures armed themselves with extra-sensitive auditory sense. As a consequence, the leftovers of our humanity are forced to live in constant, ubiquitous silence. Every sound can therefore be their last.
The aliens designed in A Quiet Place (2018) were largely influenced by xenomorphs. Fast-paced, ridiculously strong and agile, they are natural predators. The nuance in design comes from the head of each of the monster. It is formed by a dozen of sensory tentacles, which all construct the alien’s skull. This design makes one hell of an impact when Krasinski allows us to see it in plain sight.
The Forest God Moder In The Ritual (2017)
The Ritual (2017) remains one of my favorite horror movies of the last decade. And I wasn’t the only one to love it. The story has a relatable protagonist to follow, and the plot development gains more as it further explores the dark, ominous forests of Sweden. But the true peak of The Ritual (2017) is its menacing, malformed twig monster, which appears later on in the film.
The monster from The Ritual (2017) is called Moder, and is based on Swedish mythology and folk tales. Moder is the guardian of the forest, known to be a bastard son of God Loki. Banished by his father, Moder protects its worshippers, providing them with eternal life in exchange for various sacrifices – including humans.
In The Ritual (2017), the creature’s appearance combines a body of an elk, but with an enormously overgrown skeletal twigs and its head hidden inside the torso. A pair of arms grow from the inside of the torso too, giving the whole creature an absolutely eerie look.
According to the book that was used as the base for David Bruckner’s script in The Ritual (2017), Moder marks those wandering in the forest who are tormented by pain, and gives them a choice to become his followers or die at his hands. That is what makes any monster in a horror movie worthwhile. Instead of carnage for the sake of carnage, Moder introduces a metaphor for the main character, as it represents the grief and guilt that imprison him.
Moder’s appearance in the film is hard to miss, and the creature is a mind-blowing mix of puppetry and VFX. While the director never fully reveals Moder’s horrifying look, as the creature remains in a cloud of darkness, the particular details – like twigs-like hands and burning yellow eyes – are sights that stay with you.
All in all, the monster from The Ritual (2017) is a goddamn masterpiece of horror monster design.
Read more about The Ritual (2017) here.
The Terrifying Mutated Bear From Annihilation (2018)
After his brilliant directorial debut Ex Machina (2014), Alex Garland’s Annihilation (2018) was one of the major disappointments of 2018. It was a sloppily written sci-fi horror, but with an array of undeniably startling images to remember.
The strange appearance of a shimmering mist that pierced through the DNA of every living thing, is where Annihilation (2018) kicks off. Consequences for the team of scientists led by Natalie Portman were horrid. The squad faced various monsters – such as an albino gator and, plants taking over human DNA, nevertheless the most terrifying haunt of them all is a mutated bear.
This particularly grim and bone-chilling creature was a result of mixing animal and human DNA. The bear’s skull has been horrifyingly misshaped, with partly-human dental line forged into its animal muzzle. One of the eyes of the creature is also human too.
If that eerie appearance wasn’t enough, the mutated bear from Annihilation (2018) emitted a sound straight from your worst nightmares. Under the layer of animal growling, there’s a fainting human scream – the soul of a woman killed earlier by the creature. This tragic transformation heeds the warning about the horrific power of the shimmer.
The mutated bear from Annihilation (2018) is true nightmare fuel, and it’s a pity that Alex Garland didn’t use it more extensively or in a better film simply.
Read more about Annihilation (2018) here.
The Grinder in Apostle (2018)
Apostle (2018) marked one of the more successful ventures into original productions for Netflix. This occult-themed horror took the viewers to a remote British isle, where a grisly cult captured the film protagonist’s sister.
Albeit director Gareth Evans relies mostly on conjuring up an ominous, uneasy atmosphere, the plot introduced a few supernatural elements and scares that expanded the range of experienced thrills. A central figure of Apostle (2018) is the cult’s deity, which controls the well-being of the island but expects an ample sacrifice in return too. But the most dreadful creature to appear on the screen in Apostle (2018) is the Grinder. This guy appears in only few scenes, but the he makes impact is long-lasting.
The Grinder from Apostle (2018) is a humanoid, bare-chest monster, which is covered in blood from the victims he provides to the Goddess. The head of the Grinder is covered with entwined vines forming a helmet of sorts, which causes its face to be closed-off from the world. His appearance reminds of monsters from Silent Hill (2006), or a grim fantasy movie, based on a Grimm brothers’ tale.
According to Gareth Evans, the role of this creature was to serve the island’s Goddess, as well as protect her from intruders. The name of the creature is pretty literal too, as he uses a meat grinder to serve a delicious pulp to the Goddess. In one long take, The Grinder is seen as he drags a bodybag, and that one scene sent chills down my spine like no other in Apostle (2018).
Read more about Apostle (2018) here.
The Horrifying Demon Art The Clown From Terrifier (2016)
Terrifier (2016) is a sweetly slapstick take on extreme gore, and its scare factor owes a lot to Art The Clown, the film’s main antagonist.
One could argue that clowns populate a fair share of horror flicks, therefore it is hard to come up with a design that stands out. In spite of that crowded space, director Damien Leone and actor David Howard Thornton joined forces to create a blood-chilling menace out of Art The Clown.
Art The Clown debuted in Leone’s short film The 9th Circle, and thanks to warm reception among viewers, the demon seized the chance to appear more. But it wasn’t until 2016, when Art The Clown starred in Terrifier, and debuted full-time.
The demon wears an over-sized costume, all black and white, and a tiny bowler hat that’s pinned to its head. Art’s smile is wickedly crooked, with visible drops of blood on his front teeth. A lot of the character’s conceptual design draws from pantomime – Art The Clown is mute, but very, very expressive non-verbally.
Leone and Thornton let the malefic creature roam around and do all kinds of weird things, and often, it is down to the actor’s terrific skills to scare us. Leone is patient too, allowing Art to draw its victims – and the observing audiences – into his little spectacles below dealing the deadly blow.
Read more about Terrifier (2016) here.
The Devil in The Wailing (2016)
Although The Devil appears very late in The Wailing (2016), the impact the demon makes lasts long after the end credits.
In The Wailing (2016), a police officer investigates an incident in a village in South Korea. The locals contract a mysterious disease, and the investigation connects the spreading of the illness with a man who recently moved there.
For most of the film, The Devil is played by Jun Kunimura, and looks like a regular, elderly man. But The Wailing (2016) marvelously fiddles with its villain, keeping him far from the audience until the very end. Evil does, however, escalate.
It’s the craftsmanship of director Hong-jin Na that allows Kunimura’s last scenes as The Devil to make the long-lasting impact. The Wailing (2016) oozes its forlorn atmosphere in many ways – from ghosts to climatic rituals and exorcisms – and it all leads to the baneful ending, which honestly creeped me out for hours.
See here which awesome scary movies are now available on Netflix.
That One Scene With The Pale Lady In Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019)
Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019) had a killer trailer, so every time I watched it in the cinema, the hype train accelerated. However the film itself consisted of a few basic, PG-13 Goosebumps-like stories, albeit one of them stood out and deserved a spot on this list.
The story of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019) follows a bunch of kids who accidentally come into possession of a cursed book with horror stories that come to life. In one appears a special kind of nightmare fuel called The Pale Lady.
The Pale Lady is a chubby monster that duplicates itself in hospital corridors, that way surrounding its victim in the only scene it appears in. The creepily slow movement, along with fear-inducing chuckle and fake, wide-mouthed smile, paint a caricatural image of The Pale Lady.
However, there’s a deadly mystery under that pitiful facade, and it has an absolutely chilling effect thanks to the way this scene unfolds. Even though a mediocre film, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2019) manages to elicit some kind of dread.
Pennywise and his new look in It (2017)
Although Tim Curry’s take on the demon clown favored the more grounded – and creepier – form, And Muschietti’s remake paid a respectable tribute to the original.
New Pennywise, played by Bill Skarsgård, has been enhanced with the use of arsenal of gimmicks and CGI-ed special effects. Skarsgård’s interpretation is way more zany when compared to Curry’s, but it fits the new It (2017) which favors the 80s nostalgia. At times, Muschietti’s film steers away from the scary scary, and opts for scary cheesy.
Having said all that, Bill Skarsgård nails the scenes when Pennywise has the chance to lose the comedic outfit and wear the face of a horrifying demon. It’s a compelling performance to watch, as there’s something sleazy and deceptive about this Pennywise, however it skews from the 90s version. This one feels closer to what Stephen King initially thought of, and there is no denying that some of its transformations are blood-chilling.
The Demon Named Bagul In Sinister (2012)
Bagul is a demon which haunts the protagonist of Sinister (2012), played by Ethan Hawke. The man buys a new house, and just when he moves in, a box with VHS cassettes attracts his attention during an attic sweep.
Sinister (2012) is often lost in discussions about most terrifying horrors of all time, and it’s a great shame. Thanks to the numerous – and traumatizing – appearances of Bagul, it’s an absolute nightmare.
Bagul is a demon which possess people and orders them to commit blood-curdling crimes. These acts are often very graphic, and ridiculously violent. From tree hanging to mowing the lawn where people lay down, Bagul’s inventiveness is terrifying.
It’s also the creature’s design, and how director Scott Derrickson uses it that gives Sinister (2012) an additional coating to its fear-inducing terror. Bagul is dressed in a black robe, and likes to appear for more than a jump scare – like in a scene where he stares from a laptop’s screen.
On top of these blood-chilling scenes, Bagul’s countenance is also horrific. A large chunk of the longish face is covered by dark oily hair. The creature’s mouth appears to be melted or sewn, but it’s the deep-set eyes surrounded by black collars that complete the sinister look of Bagul.
Sinister (2012) is now available on Netflix.
The Lipstick-Face Demon And His Lair In Insidious (2010)
One way to conjure up dreadful atmosphere is to create horrid, gory images, like plethora of horror movies do. However, an undertaking far riskier is to rely on bizarre, surreal elements that are less obviously scary. Yet if executed as brilliantly as the Lipstick-Face Demon’s appearances in James Wan’s Insidious (2010), they’re bound to scare the living hell out of the audience.
Funnily, The Lipstick-Face Demon appears to be a bastard child of Darth Maul, the Sith Lord which appeared in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (1999), and Freddy Kruger. With its face painted in red and black, the demon’s mouth is creepily gaping, and that effect is further boosted by the broad-daylight jump scares provided by this creature.
The demon lives in an otherworldly realm called The Further, and he traps the son of a family who attempts to bring their child back. The Further, as developed by screenwriter Leigh Whannell and director James Wan, holds many other creeping nightmares inside, yet The Lipstick-Face Demon easily beats the competition.
However, the demon’s most impactful moment arrives late in the film, when the character played by Patrick Wilson steps into the monster’s lair. A horror mastermind was responsible for this scene’s design. With an eerily childish song Tiptoe Through The Tulips soaking in the background, The Lipstick-Face Demon sharpens its nails in a terrifying, puppeteer’s workshop.
That One Scene Starring The Crooked Man In The Conjuring (2013)
The Conjuring (2013) opened a Pandora’s box filled with multiple ghosts and monsters, that were then spread to sequels and standalone movies of rather lesser impact.
There were many gruesome moments in the series, and cool creatures along the way. Most viewers would recall Valak, the creepy nun-like monster which was given its own 90 minutes to shine in 2019. But my personal favorite is The Crooked Man, hilariously called in one of Youtube comments the most British monster ever.
The Crooked Man appears sitting by the window, looking like a dog. Upon closer look though, the monster unravels its full form. Indeed, its hat and long legs, as well as the whole posture relying on a cane, could possibly remind of an English gentleman. But the similarities end here.
The Crooked Man unnatural height reminds of Slender Man, and so does his bowlegged movement. Although it’s not nearly as terrifying as most of the monsters appearing on this list, The Crooked Man from The Conjuring (2013) is just a pretty cool design on its own.
The Doll In Possum (2018)
When it comes to independent horror movies that flew under the radar recently, no other deserved more attention than Possum (2018). It’s a truly devastating look into a broken man’s psyche, and the script keenly explores how childhood traumas manufacture mentally unstable adults.
As a psychological thriller, Possum (2018) avoids the paranormal. However, the main character – a burn-out puppeteer – holds onto an absolutely nightmarish doll that tends to be alive. Or at least that’s what it seems.
The Possum Doll consists of a massively destroyed doll head, with pairs of spider-like legs growing out of it. Technically, this doll isn’t a monster of its own, as it is not haunted. Yet the memories it holds within serve in Possum (2018) this ghastly function that normally ghosts serve. Thanks to the somber aura oozed in Possum (2018), all it took to disturb me was a few scenes with that toy store abomination included.
Which monsters in horror movies of 2010s would you add to the list? Blast off in the comments!
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