One of the key components to a successful horror film is a memorable adversary for the protagonists. Usually the villain is human, or once was. Sometimes the primary opponent is a possessed home, or a revenant that just won’t die. In rare cases, the monster is something a little more… unusual. As evidenced in the list below, we sometimes discover the enemy is more bizarre than we could ever dream: evil objects, demonic playthings, even malevolent pastries... monsters come in many forms.
With that said, it’s time to take a walk down memory lane and recall some of the most unconventional monsters in horror cinema history. Here are ten of our favorites:
The Vines in The Ruins
The Ruins has some genuinely creepy moments, and features a respectable cast and mostly bearable performances. But I could never fully get on board with the concept that the characters are being tormented and killed by naughty plants. When I recall things that I find threatening, dandelions and rhododendrons don’t exactly top the list. Still, in spite of the outlandish premise, the film still packs enough chills to make it worth a look.
The Haunted Tree in Hollow
Like The Ruins, Hollow also features an antagonist that grows from the ground. In this case, we have a haunted tree in the English countryside that draws young lovers to an untimely demise. The film as a whole is decent, but let's face it... it's almost impossible to be frightened by a vengeful tree.
The Stuff is a great example of Larry Cohen's satirical slant in horror, brilliantly skewering consumer culture and the overt and subliminal advertising tricks used to manipulate consumers into spending their hard-earned cash. However, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that the monster is basically sentient yogurt.
Stephen King loves malevolent machinery, and his choice of villain in The Mangler is no exception. However, we have to admit that a killer laundry-folder is a little "out there." The film adaptation of King's story has so much talent involved, including director Tobe Hooper and star Robert Englund, but the picture still failed to connect with critics or audiences; somehow, evil laundry equipment just didn’t stir up the scares that the filmmakers were hoping for. (That didn’t stop the film from conjuring up several sequels, however.)
The Killer Tomatoes in Attack of the Killer Tomatoes!
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! wasn’t meant to be taken seriously... which is good, since giant killer fruit isn’t really scary, no matter how you look at it. In spite of its preposterous nature, the film went on to inspire a couple of sequels (one featuring a young George Clooney), an animated television series, a video game, and even a variety of tie-in products.
The Soda Machine in Maximum Overdrive
Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive is silly from start to finish, but this sequence takes the cake: when a Little League coach visits a possessed soft drink machine at the ballpark, it starts blasting cans at him with deadly force. The projectiles then begin to fly in all directions, taking out the young ballplayers as well. The scene is more comical than scary, but it’s worth a look if only for camp value.
The Lamp in Amityville IV: The Evil Escapes
As the title says, this made-for-TV installment in the Amityville Horror series finds the evil escaping the infamous house, by way of a creepy lamp. The light fixture winds up in California, and subsequently wreaks a whole new brand of havoc. This film is not the worst in the franchise – that honor belongs to The Amityville Haunting – but the premise of a possessed lamp is still preposterous.
The Killer Tire in Rubber
Rubber is actually a terrific film, despite being derived from one of the silliest ideas imaginable: it depicts the plight of a killer tire named Robert. Seriously. The film is totally nonsensical, but nevertheless well-made... and somehow completely entertaining.
This is an example of a film that's so bad, it’s... well, just bad. It’s crude, poorly made, and the premise is simply idiotic. How can you take a killer snowman seriously? The only thing I really have to say about this film is that the scene where Frost rapes Shannon Elizabeth (in one of her first feature film roles) to death is in extremely poor taste.
The title monster in 1958's The Blob and its 1988 remake is certainly unconventional, but that doesn’t stop both films from being a lot of fun to watch, and each is a genre classic in its own right. Still, you have to admit that a giant lump of gelatinous goo attacking a city is a pretty outrageous concept.
(Honorable Mentions go to The GingerDead Man and Evil Bong.)
Did we miss any of your favorite bizarre cinematic perpetrators? Let us know in the comments below!