When you close your eyes at night, who is it that you see in your nightmares? Do you stare back at Jason Voorhees and his iconic hockey mask? Are you running from a horde of George A. Romero’s zombies? Fighting off the attack of a knife-wielding Chucky doll? Horror movies have given us no shortage of reasons to sleep with the lights on. Everyone from Hitchcock to Spielberg to Jordan Peele has created a gang of ghouls, ghosts, goblins and other macabre characters who may or may not be standing right behind you with an ax as you read this. Who is the scariest one of all? It’s impossible to decide, though what if we didn’t have to? What if we could channel our inner Dr. Frankenstein and create a homicidal monster? Which parts of what bodies would we choose to sew together? How would we go about creating a character who is capable of both scaring the living wits out of victims and remorselessly cutting us open with a chainsaw? Well, I’ve taken a stab at it.
Hat Freddy Krueger, A Nightmare on Elm Street
I’m going to build my monster from underneath the brim of Freddy Krueger’s classic brown fedora. There are a handful of hats in the hat universe that double as projections of character. More than just a hat, the fedora says something. It says that the wearer has an abundance of (probably misguided) confidence. It says that the wearer is bravely adventurous, like Indiana Jones, or vaguely criminal, like Frank Sinatra. It’s a hat that makes the people around it feel a particular way—mostly uncomfortable. I want my monster to make people feel uncomfortable at first sight.
Head/Neck: Regan, The Exorcist
Freddy Krueger’s fedora is going to be perched atop the head of little Regan’s spinning, bloodied, taupe- colored head. When building the perfect monster, having a spinning head is highly relevant on two fronts. Firstly, and probably most importantly, it just looks terrifying. Looking scary is a big part of being a monster. Secondly, a murderously evil Franken-monster is going to have no shortage of enemies. Having a head that’s able to spin a full 360 degrees around the body is an excellent defense mechanism to combat any suddenly brave co-eds from Camp Crystal Lake who decide to try and sneak up behind you with a shovel. For a monster, the spinning head is the fanny pack of body parts, a perfect intersection of fashion and function.
Eyes: Jack Torrance, The Shining
The eyes are the window to the soul, of course. The eyes of Jack Torrance, maniacally expressive and framed by two devilishly snaking caterpillar eyebrows, are two enormous bay windows that offer a full view of a soul that is all consumed by homicidal psychosis. Even when my monster is still, I want it’s darting pupils to make everyone around feel uneasy.
Nose: Pennywise the Clown, IT
You cannot build a genuinely scary monster without some kind of clown accessory. People of all ages, races, genders and backgrounds are terrified of clowns. I don’t want my monster to dress in full clown garb and take away from some of its other repulsive parts, but I think the iconic, full red nose of Pennywise is a small touch that makes a big statement.
Ears: Count Orlok, Nosferatu
Count Orlok looks like the deranged love child of a rabbit antennae black-and-white television and a brown-eared long-bat. His ears are not human and probably not of this earth. Are they the ears of a bat? A wolf? A goblin? Worse? His ears are designed to disgust you. Those are the ears I want on my monster.
Mouth: Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs
I want Hannibal Lecter’s mouth for two reasons, both revolving around the fact that Hannibal Lecter’s mouth is the host to Hannibal Lecter’s tongue, the most important weapon that Hannibal Lecter owns. Firstly, and most famously, Hannibal Lecter’s tongue is covered in taste buds that welcome the taste of human flesh. Having a keen sense of cannibalistic taste, along with the ability to perfectly pair wine with a corresponding human organ, is a trait that sets this monster apart from other horror movie villains. Secondly, Hannibal Lecter’s tongue is capable of spitting forth such delicately threatening speech that the mere sound of his voice is capable of driving another man to suicide. That’s a dual-threat mouth, one that I’m happy to sew onto Regan’s spinning head.
Torso: Leatherface, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
You know what I like about Leatherface? Nothing. He’s a psychotic sexual deviant who wears human skin as a mask, terrorizing and murdering innocent people with a chainsaw. I don’t like Leatherface at all. You know what I respect about Leatherface? He wears a suit to work every day. Granted, his job is chainsaw murdering, but it shows that he takes the job seriously. You have to respect a guy like that. That’s why I’m stealing a page from the Leatherface playbook and throwing a sharp suit jacket, shirt and tie around my monster. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have, as the saying goes.
Left Arm: Carrie, Carrie
One of the more adorable prom night traditions (probably the only adorable prom night tradition, to be honest), is when a young man or woman places a floral corsage on their date’s left wrist. It draws attention to the left arm; an arm people often overlook in this right arm world of ours. I want the attention there. I want the left arm to remind people to treat my monster with fearful respect. I want the left arm to serve as a reminder as to what happened the last time somebody bullied and teased and disrespected the previous owner of this particular left arm. It went poorly for them, just as it will most certainly for you.
Right Arm: Norman Bates, Psycho
It just so happens that my monster is a righty. I wanted to give it the most infamous right arm in horror film history, the shower disrupting right arm of the greatly disturbed Motel-owner cum mommy-murderer Norman Bates. My monster has more of an Oedipus Complex in his right arm than your monster will have in its entire body, and I’m proud of that.
Legs: Michael Myers, Halloween
It’s a fact of life that at some point, we all have to battle through some adversity—not a reality that escapes our horror movie villains. No matter how terrifying they may be, no matter how aggressive or sneaky, no matter how high the body count has risen, there’s always going to be a Jamie Lee Curtis who thinks she can stop you. When the going gets tough, you can allow yourself to get impaled by a harpoon, or you can dust yourself off and keep at it (“it” being the murders). I’m using the legs of Michael Myers because perhaps more than any other iconic horror movie murderer, his legs have the least amount of quit. Shoot him, stab him, throw him out of a window and he’ll Just. Keep. Coming. At. You. His pace never breaks, his route never wavers. Michael Myers is just going to put one leg in front of the other, time and time again, and kill until the killing is done. That’s the kind of attitude and resiliency I want in the bottom half of my monster.
Feet: Velociraptor, Jurassic Park
Before Jurassic World flipped our expectations of the Velociraptor into something along the lines of “genetically enhanced killing machine with a heart of gold,” the original Jurassic Park raptor was something a bit different. Super intelligent, willing and able pack hunters who indiscriminately attacked men, women, and (screaming) children, though I’m not after the raptor for the intelligence or the questionable moral compass. I want its feet. Too often, horror movie villains are slow, lumbering creatures who seem to live by the creed that murder is a marathon, not a sprint. I want my monster to be quick and agile and capable of reaching top speeds of up to 40 miles-per-hour faster than you can say “Clever Girl.” The fact that my monster’s feet are now equipped with talons sharper than Jason’s machete and Freddy’s claws? Well, that’s just a bonus.
Go ahead now, Super-Monster. You’re alive. Aliiiiiiiiiiive!