Horror films (and television shows, books, etc.) have featured countless different types of terrifying monstrosities over the years. Some of them have struck a chord with the public and have been used repeatedly. Here is a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the most commonly used genre monsters and how to survive an encounter with them.
Definition: Demons are evil, malevolent supernatural beings. They are usually associated with the Devil and Satanism.
Traditional portrayals: Demons are pure evil and take great delight in torturing humans. Unlike ghosts, demons have no human characteristics. They often possess the bodies of vulnerable people and force them to commit horrific acts against their will. There were many demons in the religious-themed horror films of the late ‘60s and ‘70s. Demons have made a resurgence in recent years as well. Examples of demon film portrayals include “The Exorcist” (1973), “The Last Exorcism” (2010) and (arguably) the malevolent entity in the “Paranormal Activity” series.
Alternative portrayals: The demonic Pinhead from the “Hellraiser” series is portrayed as a former human, a British World War I veteran who is transported to Hell after gaining possession of a supernatural puzzle box.
Why They Might Kill You: If you get possessed by a demon, you’re pretty much screwed. You will be a prisoner inside your own body, able only to watch helplessly as you puke green slime, swear incessantly, snap people’s necks, commit unspeakable acts with crucifixes, and so on. Once the demon has tired of you, it will move on to its next victim and leave you to rot.
How to Defeat Them: An exorcism is usually the best way to expel a demon from a person or a household. Holy water burns demons and can be a useful weapon. Crosses are effective as well.
Definition: A ghost is the spirit of a deceased human or animal who, for whatever reason, has remained on Earth after death. They are typically attached to one particular location and remain there indefinitely. They are not to be confused with demons, who were never human and are usually even more dangerous.
Traditional Portrayals: Many ghosts take delight in tormenting humans, especially people who are living in the ghost’s former home. Other ghosts have stayed on Earth because they are trying to resolve unfinished business from their lifetimes. Ghosts can manipulate objects, make noises, play pranks, make objects disappear, and even materialize if they can summon enough energy. Their goal is typically to either to scare the hell out people or to communicate some sort of message. Examples are “Poltergeist” (1982) and “The Haunting” (1964, remade 1999).
Alternative Portrayals: Some ghosts are depicted as being unaware that they are dead, as in“The Sixth Sense” (1999). Other ghosts continue to relentlessly follow people no matter where they go as in the “The Grudge” (2004).
Why They Might Kill You: Their ability to manipulate objects makes them a potentially lethal adversary. You never know when you might be shoved into a burning fireplace or have an axe hurtled at your neck.
How to Defeat Them: Ghosts, of course, cannot be killed because they are already dead. They are not even “undead” like zombies and vampires. They’re just dead, period. A séance might be helpful if you have an Ouija board handy. Perhaps the ghost will leave you alone once they have communicated with you. Hiring a legitimate psychic, like the creepy old lady from “Poltergeist”, could also do the trick. If a ghost cannot be appeased, however, the only solution is to simply leave their haunted house and never return.
Definition: Vampires are fanged undead beings who survive by sucking and drinking the blood of humans.
Traditional Portrayals: Vampires are seductive, attractive, charismatic, intelligent, and pure evil. They can often hypnotize a human by simply gazing into their eyes. Despite these attributes, they have many weaknesses. Sunlight is fatal to them, so they can only come out at night. Vampires tend to be very arrogant and sometimes underestimate their potential victims. They are also sometimes portrayed as having obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Some vampires can transform into bats and fly. Examples of traditional vampires include Dracula, Jerry Dandridge from“Fright Night” (1985, remade in 2011), and Barlow from the Stephen King novel “Salem’s Lot” (1975).
Alternative Portrayals: Some vampires are portrayed sympathetically. They genuinely care –or at least seem to care – about some of the human beings they encounter. Examples include some of the vampires in the HBO series “True Blood”, Nyssa from “Blade II”, and Abby from “Let Me In” and “Let the Right One In”. Even in these cases, however, the vampires often exhibit violent and amoral tendencies.
Why They Might Kill You: Despite their limitations, vampires have many advantages over humans. Many vampires are hundreds or even thousands of years old, giving them a massive experience advantage over any human being. They also have the ability to “glammer” humans and force them to do their bidding. And did I mention that vampires tend to be extremely attractive?
How to Defeat Them: There are all sorts of ways to destroy a vampire. Drive a stake through their heart, shoot them with silver bullets, expose them to sunlight, chop off their head, or dismember their body. Crosses and holy water are also sometimes effective, but only if you have complete faith that they will work. Garlic drives vampires batty, so if your goal is simply to keep a vampire away, stock up on it. Also, a vampire cannot enter a private home unless they have been invited by the rightful owner.
Definition: Humans who have the ability to transform (sometime voluntarily, sometimes not) into a wolf or wolf-man hybrid during a full moon.
Traditional Portrayals: Werewolves are reckless, vicious creatures that hunt and kill humans and other creatures with impunity. They use their powerful jaws and superhuman strength to dismember and devour humans and other animals. They sometimes do not remember, or are unaware, of their activities after they return to human form. Examples include the werewolves in “The Howling” (1981) and its sequels and the Lon Chaney “Wolfman” movies of the 1940’s. The Canadian horror flick “Ginger Snaps” features a rebellious teenage girl who gradually transforms after being bitten by a werewolf.
Alternative Portrayals: Like vampires, werewolves have been portrayed sympathetically on occasion. They are sometimes depicted as being ashamed of their behavior and having no control over their transformations. An example is David Naughton in “An American Werewolf in London” (1981).
Why They Might Kill You: Few supernatural monsters possess the sheer strength, speed and power of werewolves. They can cause massive carnage on an almost unimaginable scale. A werewolf could singlehandedly take down a whole pack of zombies and would be able to hold its own against vampires as well.
How to Defeat Them: Silver bullets are the classic method, but aren’t usually a requirement. Most movie werewolves can be killed by more conventional means, such as being hit by a car. Don’t bother sprinkling them with holy water though, that will just piss them off.
Definition: Zombies are reanimated corpses that feast on human flesh.
Traditional portrayals: Zombies are relentless, slow-moving, and unintelligent. They are extremely single-minded and have no interest other than the pursuit and consumption of living humans. The only sounds they make are grunts and moans. George Romero’s“Living Dead” series set the standard for how zombies are portrayed.
Alternative portrayals: The “Return of the Living Dead” series and the recent spoof “Warm Bodies” feature zombies who can talk, are somewhat intelligent, and exhibit some human characteristics. The remake of “Dawn of the Dead” (2004) features zombies who have the ability to run.
Why They Might Kill You: In most zombie films and television shows, surviving humans are vastly outnumbered by the zombies. Inevitably, the zombies eventually overrun and overwhelm the humans, either killing them or turning them into zombies themselves.
How to Defeat Them: An individual zombie is one of the easiest monsters to subdue in the horror genre. Anyone with a gun and halfway decent aim should be able to blast these shuffling, dim-witted creatures to kingdom come. A direct shot to the head will do the trick. Dismemberment works too. Unfortunately, zombies usually hunt in packs, so hopefully you have plenty of ammunition.