Hey: What's the Best Monster?

Halloween, isn't it. Spooky season. What's the best monster?

by Joel Golby
Oct 17 2018, 1:21pm

Photo collage by Scary Jack Cummings

The situation is this: you are running through a complicated woods-adjacent cabin. The cabin creaks and is made of old logs. It is mazed like a rabbit warren.

You and the guys thought you could come down here, didn't you, for the weekend, just get away from it all: fresh cool air; a glass-like lake or pond; fishing; cooking over an open fire; a case of beers drunk out the back of the pickup truck that drove you here. How foolish you were – because it wasn't long, was it, before the incidents started happening: that weird doll made of twigs found in the morning by the smouldering campfire; the screeching sound whenever you looked in the mirror at night, flashes of peripheral movement behind you; the disappearances of all your friends, one by one by one, you shouting, "HELLO? HELLO!" alone into the echoing woods.

You have to admit you are starting to worry. Now, when you try to sleep, all you can hear outside is movement: closer, ever closer, louder, at first just one scurrying run – "a rabbit", you say to yourself, "a large fast dog" – and now it sounds like a storm is coming, a thousand booted feet opening and closing every door in the house. You just found a severed arm dangling from the roof of the kitchen and the tattoos match those of your AWOL best friend. You’re definitely starting to worry a bit. "Huh," you say to yourself, every nerve in your body on fire with fear. "Maybe I should run! Away! Very quickly!" Which you try to do, and then—


Behind you, a monster. The definition of "monster" is bendy and unclear: is Godzilla a monster? Yes, as is the gigantic Mothra. But are they scary in the jump-out-from-behind-a-mirror way? No. Godzilla is scary like a volcano is, or a hurricane. Say you're home alone in a dark house: you’re not scared of Godzilla, are you? You’re scared of, like, a single hand grasping your ankle urgently from beneath a bed, or a door slamming shut without you touching it, or the pallid dead skin and black eyes of a hissing vampire. If Godzilla comes for you, you’re dead, squashed under a single foot the size of a city block. If a vampire has a bash… well, you know, maybe you could run away.

And so, by that metric, we must discount the following large – and admittedly scary! – monsters from being the best monster:

— Loch Ness
— Godzilla
— Just like a properly big dragon
— Mothra
— King Kong
— Kraken or any of that gigantic sea shit

To ascertain which is the best monster, then, we must first design a matrix of characteristics by which to judge each monster. How scary is each monster, for instance? How obscure? Is the monster only scary to children, or are adults afraid of it too? Is the monster very spooky? How horny is the monster? Would you fuck the monster? How cool is the monster? Does the monster have a strong personal brand or vibe? Is the monster an individual monster – one of one – or a broader member of the tribe from which it comes? What is the monster’s particular brand of terror?

Discuss these, figure out the percentage strength of each horrid ghoul, conclude at the bottom which monster goes hardest. Halloween, bitches. Off we go:


frankenstein's monster boris karloff
Photo: Public domain, via Universal Studios / Wikimedia

Fucking sucks. Shit monster, top to bottom. Firstly: not even that scary. Frankenstein's Monster is just this sort of electrified tortured soul who only ever turns to ghoulishness and murder to push his creator into action and as a reaction to the way a hateful society treats him. F.M. is, by extension, our most emo monster, because all he really ever does is wail and gnash and sob after a wife ("Why does no one love me! Uwu!" — Frankenstein’s Monster, a crying coward) and hug kids so hard they die and kill wives on their wedding night and then storm off in a big tantrum to the arctic or antarctic, I forget which.

Brand-wise, Frankenstein’s Monster has evolved a vibe, I will admit this – green skin, bolts thru the neck, 1980s-cut suit w/ frayed cuff trousers – but mostly he is just a collection of scars and a slurred mouth and is too tall and keeps going missing, and if you encountered him in a cabin (remember the cabin scenario?) you could basically ward him off from murdering you by being like, "Hey: you want to sit down and I’ll listen to your problems?" or, "What if I stitch enough dead tits together to make you a sort of wife? Would you like to do that, instead of killing me?" Any monster you can reason with by speaking English to in a soothing voice – instead of, I don’t know, screaming ancient incantations into the wind to transport them suddenly back to a hell dimension where they will be flayed forever – is not, actually, a very good monster at all.



Now werewolves, I like. Werewolves are one of the few monsters without any real motive (beyond: to feast), no sinister agenda, nothing like that: they are just extremely sensitive to the moon and they sprout hair violently and against their will. They kill anyone who gets in their way and only do that one night a month. They wake up naked and frail and confused and with the taste of teeth and blood in their mouths. Spiritually, there is a decent amount of crossover between werewolves and "you, when you get drunk". Werewolves are also often seen in cool torn-off varsity jackets or shooting hoops on a high school basketball court. Despite werewolves being a common theme across folklore both ancient and not, nobody really knows how someone becomes a werewolf, as there is no widely accepted method of catching werewolfery. That keeps them mysterious, and I like that.



walking dead zombies
Photo: 'The Walking Dead' / AMC

Simply, a completely bullshit monster. "Ah mate, I'm dead, but… nah, I'm not really." Absolutely cannot be arsed with zombies. Zombies come in two flavours: either ambling, shuffling, groaning green lads with their jaws hanging off, i.e. 90 percent of the foot traffic of Oxford Street, or super-fast muscle boys who sprint and climb over buildings and are incredibly efficient at eating the brains right out of your best friend’s head while you, with a rifle aimed directly at their skull, weep and tremble over the trigger until they shout "do it", and you shake your head no, and they go "DO IT!" and you still can’t do it, and then their eyes go dead and dreadful, and then – only then, in the spark-like moment as they reanimate and instantly attack you – do you work up the nuts to shoot their brain apart like a balloon, shattering them into pieces.

Zombies: no style, no cool catchphrases, easily defeated with a spade or bat to the head, absolute bullshit monster, not scary at all.



Ghosts I hate, because you never know where they’re coming at you from. Ghosts always drip-feed fear into your life as well, which I hate. First you’re brushing your teeth and the light in the bathroom starts to glow and fade, making that metallic wrrr sound, then unusual things keep happening: speakers coming on in the middle of the night, sharp pulses of TV static, the doorbell rings and when you go to answer it nobody is there, but when you walk back through the house a single kitchen cupboard is swinging off its hinges. Ghosts always have some sort of reason to be haunting you – they have some unfinished business, or you wronged them in a past life, or they are protecting the gothic old mansion you bought at a phenomenal price on the outskirts of a new town you’ve never researched but moved to in a bid to start your new life, and great, cool, now a ghost is here: spectral shit that needs banishing from the walls of your house.

I would say ghosts' only real fault is that they can easily be vanquished by a man of God coming in and blessing the house with holy water (or, if their bones are buried in a shallow grave on the grounds of your home, digging them up and re-burying them somewhere respectful), which makes them kind of soft, but it normally takes months of terror to get to that point, and at least one incidence of you climbing into the attic and finding an old music box slowly plinking to itself and yelling, "What do you want? WHAT DO YOU WANT?" at nothing, so I’ve got plenty of time for ghosts driving you nuts like that.



Photo: Justin McIntosh, via / CC By 2.0

Vampires are horny. Vampires fuck. They are scary, of course – depending on your flavour of vampire, they can either fly, or run super fast, or have super strength, and they are pallid and pale like a corpse, and they live for infinity (every time you encounter a vampire you end up going through an old library book a few days later and flicking to a portrait, a family lined up for the camera in like 1888 or some shit, all in tweed and bowlers, only… look in, look closer. That man, standing at the back… it’s—? But it can’t be! But it— my GOD! But it CAN’T BE!), and also I think biting someone in the neck (v. tender part of the body) with spiked teeth and draining them of blood is both rude and horrible, and is a horrible way to die, but… vampires fuck.

They always own castles, and because they’ve been alive for infinity time they are always rich. They always have well-cut suits and dapper slicked back hair. Vampires fuck on crushed velvet sheets, I’m sure of it. They’re dripping red candle wax on your body, naked in the moonlight. They are licking your neck and whispering frisky things into your ear. They wooed you over an exquisite banquet buffet. Last time you got shagged it was after a 2-for-1 voucher at Pizza Express and two pints at Wetherspoons. Now you’re getting ploughed in a castle after a whole suckling pig. I mean, yes: real chance you’re going to die at the end of this one, cursed to an eternal lifeless life, flying cackling into the cloudless sky. But also… is that so bad? Vampires are cool, vampires are exceptionally sick monsters, vampires fuck.



Absolute dogshit monster. "Ooh don’t come in my pond! I’ll grab you with my long arms!" lol OK mate you only live in Yorkshire and Lancashire anyway I’m not that arsed. Stay in your pond! In Preston! Nobody cares!



Bigfoot is unusual, because if you were in the cabin and running around and then Bigfoot turned up, you’d be like: ah well, gonna shit myself to death in fear at this, now. Massive curiously eerie hybrid beast-man with mega-strength and height? Powerful enough limbs to tear you in half like a breadstick? Not for moi. But Bigfoot’s real strength comes from how delirious its existence/non-existence drives the kind of men who wear camouflage fatigues to do their big shop in and who buy pheromones off the dark web, i.e. your dad if he were an American divorcee who owned a truck within driving distance of the Pacific Northwest. Bigfoot isn't a monster, really, but for the fact that it haunts the hearts and minds of maybe 5,000 extremely weird men who live in America, and I respect that. I respect a monster that makes people stockpile food and smother themselves in elk piss in consistent failed bids to capture it.



Image: Harem Malik, via / CC By 2.0

Slenderman is a genuinely horrible creation – a faceless man with long, twig-like limbs, in an ominous black funereal suit and the capability to grow tentacles made of shadows, and prying long fingers, and he’s always just on the edge of a forest or something, in the absolute flicker of a shadow, always making some monstrous violin-stretched-over-a-cheese-wire noise, always abducting groups of children and mysteriously burning down municipal buildings in provincial American towns (you know when, in silent fog on a close grey Sunday, you stumble through some woodland onto a rusted up, abandoned playground, and there, in the centre of it, a single swing, swaying back and forth, back and forth, gently squeaking? That is always Slenderman), but also Slenderman was literally invented in 2009 as part of a spooky creepypasta thread, and I’m sorry but I cannot respect a monster whose mythology is literally a meme. Slenderman is just a quite scary .gif or reaction picture. It’s basically a Spongebob meme for goths. Crap.



Boogeyman is not a monster with a strict definition, exactly – maybe he’s faceless, maybe he’s monstrously disfigured, maybe he’s enormous or maybe he’s slender and small; maybe he hides inside cupboard wardrobes or taps one single long nail on the pane of your window – but basically if you’ve ever been in bed and, in a moment of clamp-like irrational terror, tucked your feet in under the duvet so no hostile mythical creatures can wrap one single, clammy, death-grip hand around your feet or toes, you’ve been afraid of the Boogeyman, and that shuffling-in-the-shadows freak-you-out nature to the terror of the Boogeyman is actually very cool indeed. No other monster makes you shit your bed without doing anything, does it? That’s power, that. Big Boogeydick Energy.



The Mothman is good because: i. there is something eerie and unsettling about most insect extremities – a beetle’s spiked leg, for instance, an ant’s cold metallic torso – something that looks like it makes a clicking sound when it unfurls, and can you imagine anything worse than a human man with monstrous, ten-foot moth wings? No. And ii. the Mothman legend itself is only really associated with a period of paranormal horror in the Point Pleasant area from 1966 to 1967, where the Mothman was linked with unconnected supernatural events, including the eventual collapse of a bridge, which is all extremely terrifying and suggests a sort of forward-looking all-knowingness in the monster, which again is very horrible. Any monster with glowing red eyes that can whisper "37 shall die" ahead of an otherwise unpredicted earthquake is very scary indeed. An underrated monster. One for the true monsterheads.



In the 1970s they didn’t have any monsters or any good TV or anything really to do, so the best thing they could invent in terms of ghoulishness was "what if an owl… was big?" and that has to be, I’m afraid, the absolute shittest monster in all of history. And history has been going for ages. Monsters have been going for ages. Greeks had monsters, and the Romans too. Ancient Egypt? Chock full of monsters. Even Old English folklore has been rattling on for an age on top of an age. "What… if owls were bigger?" is properly, properly crap. First minus score in all of monster history.



Make your mind up, mate. "Ah, I’m half a man, halfeth a horse!" Make your mind up. "I… I am the wise man of the auld forest! I… I show unerring accuracy with my arrow and bow!" Yeah, make your mind up, though, isn’t it. Are you a bloke or a horse. Can’t be both. Pointless. Make your mind up. Crap monster, can’t wear trousers. Next.



the witches roald dahl
Image: 'The Witches' / Jim Henson Productions

I am, simply, terrified of witches. Even like just the goth girls on Tinder who call themselves witches are quite terrifying to me, but the actual witches – the ones who, like, bake children or are genuinely ancient but wearing a magick young skin, or the witches who whisper from the woods, the witches you can’t even see; you walk into an abandoned brick outhouse with no roof on it and just hear a distant cackling sound, then, even quieter, a sobbing, and then you and your campmates (for some reason you have decided to camp in the haunted witch’s woods) you and your campmates set up for the night, and then they go weird on you: you wake up and one of them is just standing there, staring into middle distance, completely silent, then turns around and breaks face like nothing happened; you check your watches and you’ve all been asleep for three days; no compass can tell you true north anymore, and now you’re running through the dark woods because you hear your friends are calling, and you come upon a house, and yes all the doors and windows are blown off and a residue of ominous grease leaks out from the frames instead, and old torn magazine pages and leaves and creaking chairs and the sound of children screaming fills the house, but you run in, running after the light from the torches, saying, like, "JAMES… THAT YOU?... JAMES?" and then the camcorder you’re holding drops to the ground and you just hear this ominous scuttling sound, and then the video clicks off. They have to show it to your mum and everything.

"This is the last known whereabouts we have for your son and/or daughter," they tell your mum. And your mum – grieving, now, smoking like a chimney, she hasn’t showered for days – your mum goes: I mean, to be fair. Sort of serves them right for chasing out after a witch.

Witches are 1 million percent scary, and once one decides to kill you then you have a zero percent chance of survival.



As best I can tell, the Victorian era was just so haunted, spectacularly haunted, and ghosts and ghouls and murderers stalked the streets (the streets were always smogged to a mist by the relentless pollution of the industrial revolution) constantly, and it was always night-time, for some reason, and you couldn’t move for, like, stabbed corpses and orphans ("Please, mister… it’s me dad and me mum, they both got rozzed by the coppers!"), and S.H.J. was part of that fine mythology: basically, just a lad with some canvas wings who liked to jump a lot, and had long fingers, and… quite a dandyish moustache? Ran along high walls a lot? Probably had a signature cackle? Scared people shitless so much that some of them went deranged and never recovered? An elegant monster, a self-mythologiser, a legend, we stan.



Trolls are fundamentally not scary, and should barely be classified as monsters. They’re just very large bulbous anti-social human-like creatures who live in the woods, don’t have haircuts and don’t like to help people at all. Basically: you know that kid you knew in sixth form who, over a three-year period, you took to 20 consecutive parties, and every time he just sort of sulked in one corner, occasionally playing Snake on his phone or moaning about dance music, but mostly just sort of cowering there, his posture slowly curling in on itself with sheer grumpiness? Went home and played Quake online until gone 4AM? That lad was a troll. That’s why you unfriended him on Facebook. Because he was a troll.



I always think anyone who gets killed by a crocodile or alligator has really fucked up, because yes they are very powerful beasts built to kill, but they’re also very much little homebodies, aren’t they, and to get killed off a crocodile you basically have to wade up to your junk in their swampy home and let them bite you in half like a meaty biscuit, and if you’ve gone so far into crocodile territory that you get killed by a crocodile, then – in my opinion! Sorry if you’ve been killed by a crocodile and you are offended by this! – then that’s on you. Merman are similar: yes, ancient lore suggests they can cause storms and wreck boats if they are put in a vengeful enough mood and/or not placated by a tide-time offering of fish from the local trawlers, but also… what are you doing if you’re in a position to piss a merman off? Why are you even there, in the water, provoking them? If a merman starts attacking you, just get on dry land. They can’t crawl up there, because they have a tail for a leg. Anyone who gets killed by a merman is a fool, sorry. Absolutely not a scary monster.



the mummy creature
Image: 'The Mummy' / Universal Pictures

Absolutely horrid, mummies. Wrapped in decaying old bandages? Horrible. Always come with some ancient un-liftable curse? Absolutely horrid. Always blessed with the monstrous power of the thousand kings that came before them? Grotesque. They are always creaking out of museums, or revived by some ancient magick, or blustering around in a whirl of sand, causing devastation wherever they go. Always got some zombified, decaying familiars running round after them – a cursed cat, a decaying camel, something like that – and have sharp reactions for someone with their brain pulled out through their nose with special brain tweezers. I’m absolutely sick of mummies, actually. They’re horrible and they fill me with fear, plus they are always buried with mountains upon mountains of gold, which is extremely Tory. Mummies make me feel very uneasy. I don’t want anything more to do with them.



Big horrible things, ogres – a man with the muscles of a horse, basically – who eats babies and infants and terrorises small villages in ancient folklore. They’re always bald and wear a lank, fetid loincloth. They’re basically just bouncers. Absolute crap.



Vampire, all day. Shouts to witches, a close and abominable second, and bronze medals to The Mothman, for some reason, and horrid mummies, but vampires run away with it. Vampires, grabbing you from behind a doorway. Vampires, hissing outside your window. Vampires, lurking in your garden in the blue-black light around midnight. Vampires, floating ominously above your house. Vampires, lured you out to an ancient chamber and allowed you to creep up on them through stone-hewn corridors unseen, and you watch with a single eye through an ancient arrow-slit as they perform the incantations and chanting that precede a blood ritual, and just at the final moment of surrender they stare up at you – the Vampire King making perfect pure eye contact with you – and bite into the neck of the innocent, and now you’re running but you can’t get away, the vampires hissing after you, chasing up and around the walls, crawling rapidly along the ceiling, vampires vampires vampires, and then they catch you, so inevitably, with their pale and undead hands, and lean down close to your ear and whisper: u wanna fuck then or what.

Vampires are both monstrously terrifying and monstrously horny. It’s a very unusual combo but it works. They are, by miles, the best monster.


This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

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