It had been a nice enough dinner party, all things considered, until guests started disappearing. Daren had not only acquiesced to the black tie dress code with minimal argument but had even agreed to carry just one knife on his person for the evening. He’d looked so dashing, too, in his completely black suit with a fresh crimson dahlia flower set in the lapel. Tanim bore a white dahlia in the lapel of his three-piece suit to match, along with a heavy black ring the same rectangular shape as Daren’s silver cufflinks. For the first time in… well, for the first time ever Tanim had felt like they were a normal couple who did normal couple things.
Now Tanim ran down the winding, endless halls of an unfamiliar house where one or more guests were… missing? kidnapped? dead?… and he hadn’t even had a chance to eat the particularly good looking tiramisu served for dessert. His mind preferred to focus on this mundane irritation as he ran around a hallway corner instead of the inexplicable events unfolding tonight or the unfamiliar panic constricting his chest. For that reason he didn’t register in time the sound of running steps approaching from the other side of the turn and crashed directly into Daren.
“Fuck!” Tanim rubbed his jaw, then let out a breath of relief when he saw with whom he had collided. “Oh good, let’s get the hell out of here.” He grabbed his companion’s wrist to pull Daren along in the direction he had been running but before he could, Daren broke his hold and reached out to grip Tanim firmly by both upper arms. “It’s trying to separate us,” the man ground out, his usually level voice tense with genuine fear.
“What?” Daren’s words made no sense yet the alarm in them stoked Tanim’s panic anyway. Nothing scared his lover. Nothing.
Daren’s grip tightened, long fingers digging into his biceps. “The house,” he hissed, “is trying to separate us.”
Welcome! We’re so glad you’re here. Have you had a chance to walk around our quaint little town yet? If not, you should; the neighborhoods are absolutely lovely this time of year with harvest just around the corner. The orchards’ branches are laden full of ripe apples and pears and the piles of bright autumn leaves really set off the unnatural darkness of the black hounds’ fur.
Oh, you haven’t noticed the black hounds? There’s one right there, watching you from beneath the maple tree, see? And another over by that white picket fence. See the one sitting at that bus stop down the street? And there are three in the park right now, under the jungle gym, sitting in the fountain, laying on the basketball court. There’s always a black hound within sight – they follow you everywhere you go. Isn’t that nice?
Don’t worry, you’re not in any danger! The black hounds are harmless. You can walk right up and pet them, if you want, their fur is very soft. They’re just like normal dogs; they wag their tails and chew on bones and stare silently up as one at the moonless night sky. Sometimes one will even bring you a ball to throw, what fun is that? There’s no one in town who doesn’t love the black hounds, they really bring us together as a community.
The black hounds are harmless, even friendly, but they don’t want you to leave town. If your walk happens to take you close to the edge of town the black hounds will helpfully gather ‘round and escort you back the way you came. You’re not allowed to leave, you see. Why would you want to, though? It’s so nice here and there are so many dogs to play with! Just throw the ball. It’s fun. Throw the ball. Just throw the ball! Won’t you throw the ball? Throw the ball.
The black hounds are watching. You should probably throw the ball.
In my dream I sit on a school bus, wrapped in Sarah Fier’s rusty chains while beside me my sister-shaped subconscious asks, “Why can’t you forgive her? Why can’t you let go of the past?” How can I, I want to say, when it keeps repeating itself? Instead I cup the heavy lock in my palms and think about a girl who chose to let the system crush her in order to spare those she loved.
The wolf managed to ignore its hunger the first night but tonight it’s ravenous, so desperate for the taste of fresh meat that when it catches the scent of blood on the wind it eagerly tracks the smell through rainy back alleys and dark city streets. It’s new to the hunt but knows enough to stick to the shadows while it discerns the metallic odor beneath layers of gasoline, cigarette smoke, and exhaust. It reaches the source, a pool of fresh blood at the end of a narrow alleyway, just as a body slumps to the wet pavement.
“Oh. Hello there, lovely beast,” The pale man who stands over the discarded body licks blood from his fingers as he eyes the wolf. Its hackles rise under his flat black stare, growl rumbling out from between bared teeth – no human would dare hold a predator’s gaze so boldly. Instead of shrinking in fear the man smiles, revealing sharp canine teeth. “Aren’t you a fine one with your black fur and blazing blue eyes? Very scary.” He took a step back, gesturing with one hand to the still body. “You look hungry, though. I’m done here if you’d like the rest.”
The wolf hesitates, trying to decipher any lies through the man’s body language, to sift through his strangely indefinable scent for some hint of ulterior motive. Finding none, when the man backs up another step the wolf chooses hunger over wariness and falls upon the body, tearing into the still warm meat with relish. The stranger has disappeared by the time its hunger is finally sated.
Tanim tips his head up, surreptitiously scenting the chill evening air. This basement level apartment seems to be the place, though its unlabelled door and tightly shuttered windows certainly don’t suggest recent occupancy. His new senses haven’t failed him yet, however, so he knocks anyway. After a long moment the door cracks open and familiar dark eyes stare back at him out of a narrow, pale face. Tanim wets his lips; that hard gaze is just as inscrutable up close as it was the night before.
“Hey, I didn’t get a chance to thank you for dinner,” He holds up the bottle of obscenely expensive liquor held in his other hand and offers a tentative smile. “I thought maybe I could pay you back? My name’s Tanim.”
Those dark eyes bore into him a few agonizing seconds longer before one side of the stranger’s thin mouth lifts in the shadow of a wry smile. He opens the door wider, stepping aside and gesturing for Tanim to enter. “Daren,” he replies. “Come on in.”
Awake or asleep? I bite down and an upper tooth crumbles, filling my mouth with shards and blood. I spit them out but my mouth just floods again.
Awake or asleep? The new apartment is full of earwigs. Did they even bother fumigating before we moved in? I hate it here. I hate this city. Why did we move here? I’ll take any job, even one at that shitty factory, if it means making enough money to move away one day. I have to get out of here.
Awake or asleep? Everything is blurry; I can’t quite see the road past my heavy eyelids. I try to turn the steering wheel but it won’t move, so I just close my eyes as my car jumps the pavement and hurtles into oncoming traffic.
Awake or asleep? As the bus rolls beneath me I stare at the curved scar in the center of my palm. When did I get this? I don’t remember it. Has it always been there? Its mirror twin rests on my other palm. They begin to hurt, a sharp, urgent pain like something is trying to burst through my skin.
Awake or asleep? Above me lightning and meteors illuminate a stormy night sky. The meteors crisscross in a hatchwork, hundreds, then thousands, tens of thousands, and then suddenly – they freeze. Grow brighter. Brighter. Brighter. Their light blazes, burns! Around me people begin to scream and flee, but it’s too late. We’re already infected.
Awake or asleep? This room doesn’t feel quite right. The windows, were there always two? The bed, is it smaller than usual? Does the hallway look correct? Awake or asleep, why doesn’t this feel right? Am I awake or asleep? I’m awake. I’m awake, right? I’m awake, but then I wake up. I wake up, but the room doesn’t feel quite right. The window is wrong. I’m awake, but then I wake up. Something about the bed is strange. Alien. Am I awake? I wake up.
My Top 4 Underrated Inanimate Horror Movie Monsters
Horror movie monsters come in a variety of entertaining and terrifying tropes, but one of my favorites is the monstrous inanimate object. There’s a special additional thrill that comes from learning that the creature causing all the death and chaos shouldn’t even be sentient, let alone capable of wreaking havoc on humanity. Just look at the House on Ash Street in House of Leaves or the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. To throw back to some even older classics, look at the Overwatch Hotel in The Shining or the 1958 Plymouth Fury from Christine. You could even argue that the concept of death, the overarching monster of the Final Destination series, is even less than inanimate – it’s not even corporeal. And what about AIs like the Red Queen in Resident Evil or GLaDOS from Portal? No matter how sophisticated they get, computers aren’t supposed to have that kind of agency!
There’s just something so delightfully chilling about inanimate objects terrorizing us, and I live for that goosebump-inducing moment in a horror movie when either you or the characters realize the innocuous object you’ve overlooked was the threat the whole time. Maybe it speaks to our buried instincts from the days of being hunter/gatherers; after all, if literally anything can secretly be out to harm us, then how do we watch out for predators? How do we know when we’re safe? Are we ever safe? Or perhaps it’s an offshoot of the Uncanny Valley and what terrifies us is the idea that an inanimate object, something which lacks everything we view as necessary to being “human”, can operate in very human ways. Maybe it’s easier to face a random human serial killer than the inhuman inscrutability of an object.
Either way, this trope rocks and I therefore want to give a shoutout to 4 of my favorite underrated inanimate horror movie monsters. Be forewarned, however; spoilers abound in the lines below! Also a lot of curse words because I’m very passionate about horror movies.
The Virus – Ringu
Anyone who knows me even moderately well probably knows that I watched The Ring as a young kid and it fucked me up for life. However, The Ring is also hands-down one of the best horror movies to ever come out of the US, especially so in terms of object horror, and if you get me started I can talk about this movie for hours. Horror fans will already be aware that The Ring is a remake of the Japanese film Ringu, of equally terrifying nature, but fewer may know that Ringu is based on a book of the same name by Koji Suzuki. If you’ve ever wondered why having someone else watch the video tape within 7 days will save you from Samara/Sadako’s terrorizing, read Ringu. Or just read the next paragraph, because… [SPOILER ALERT] you’re about to find out.
See, in Ringu our antagonist is Sadako, a young woman who carries two burdens at the time of her violent murder – her technopathic powers, from which the infamous tape is born, and the smallpox virus with which she has just been infected. The rage she experiences in her final moments causes the two to merge, and the recording of a videotape in the cabin built over her grave sets the resulting curse free. The reason, therefore, that showing the tape to another person will save you from a truly grim fate is that by doing so you are propagating the curse, and self-propagation is a virus’ main purpose. This “charm” is even included at the end of the tape – the dumbass teenagers who originally taped the terrifying video actually deleted that portion as a prank (but joke’s on them ’cause they didn’t make a copy of the video and they fuckin’ DIED). So in a way, all of the events in the Ringu universe stem not from a vengeful spirit but from the virus which bonded to that spirit’s powers, forming a unique curse with more intelligence and agency than most.
Y’know, in case you needed another reason to fear smallpox, a virus that could very easily be weaponized and used to wipe out large swathes of humanity. Seriously, it’s like Suzuki read The Demon in the Freezer and thought, “What if this… but SENTIENT AND PARANORMAL?”. Anyway, I think the virus explanation makes the whole thing so much cooler and creepier, so Ringu definitely gets a spot on this list.
The Body – The Autopsy of Jane Doe
The Autopsy of Jane Doe contains two of my favorite horror tropes – the inanimate horror monster (in this case the body dubbed ‘Jane Doe’) and the trope where every single thing that happens makes you as the viewer go “NOPE NOPE NOPE I’D BE OUTTA THERE” and yet the characters just keep moving ahead like nothing weird is happening. I like this trope both because you get to yell at the TV and you feel superior knowing you’d never make the same obvious mistakes. But in the case of The Autopsy of Jane Doe, I must admit that things start out… somewhat normally. An older couple is brutally killed in their home; during the investigation of the crime scene, a police officer finds the body of a young woman half-buried in the house’s unfinished basement. Weird, but not out of the realm of possibility, right? The body is taken to the local mortuary for an autopsy by the father and son team who run the place… [SPOILER ALERT]
And that’s when shit gets WEIRD. First, the body itself doesn’t make sense. Its opaque corneas suggest she’s been dead for a few days but rigor mortis hasn’t set in and when they cut into her she bleeds like the freshly dead. She also shows no signs of insect activity or other forms of decay, nor does her body show any evidence of the manner of death. So that’s weird, sure, but not scary weird. What’s scary weird is the stuff they find over the course of the autopsy, including…
1) A fresh white flower in her stomach which turns out to be jimsonweed, a plant with paralyzing properties which isn’t native to the area.
2) Her wrists and ankle bones are shattered (but again, no visible bruising), her lungs have been blackened as if she’s suffered 3rd degree burns, her tongue has been cut out, and many of her internal organs show massive scarring.
3) She’s missing a molar, but no worries! They find it in her stomach, wrapped in a cloth that contains a bunch of creepy symbols (which they also find on the inside of her skin, which is definitely where I keep my sigils too) and text that refers to Leviticus 20:27 and the year of the Salem Witch Trials.
4) Active brain cells. Like, her brain is totally functioning while her body is cold, drained of blood, and cut open. I’m no forensic pathologist or whatever but I’m pretty fucking sure that’s not how that works.
If all this wasn’t enough to make you go “NOPE” and get the fuck out, which our father and son autopsy team don’t, there’s also the fact that Jane Doe does not like anyone messing with her body. Every time they try to advance the autopsy weird shit happens, starting small with your usual creepy-old-timey-song-starts-playing-on-the-radio and escalating to full on apparitions, hallucinations, physical attacks, and just about everything else the paranormal can throw at you. For a corpse that literally never moves throughout the entire movie, not even for a cheesy jump-scare, this bitch can wreck shit up. And though I do feel bad about the dad dying, because Dad Stuff, I do very much enjoy watching this witch get revenge from the comfort of her morgue table.
The Plants – The Ruins
Google couldn’t decide if plants count as inanimate objects but there aren’t any plants on Earth that are as animate as the plants in The Ruins, so I’m including it either way. The Ruins is both a novel and movie about a group of American tourists who decide to visit a hidden and off-limits Mayan ruin while on vacation in Mexico (yes, they’re white, how’d you guess?). Despite being warned repeatedly by a local tribe, the group tramps all over the ruins and is then dismayed when this same tribe now won’t let them leave. Why not? Well… [SPOILER ALERT] the ruins are covered in a species of plant which is not only exceedingly dangerous, it can also grow on just about any surface if a few motes of its spore have touched it. The tourists are all covered in this spore and can’t be allowed to spread it into the jungle; if they do, the entire world could be doomed.
So what’s up with that, huh? They’re just plants, right? OHOHO. WRONG. These are the worst motherfucking plants around. Over the course of the book/movie we learn just how intelligent, dangerous, and downright cruel these leafy little fuckers can be. Because I love these plants so much, let’s break down some of their best features:
1) Acid sap: These plants may look harmless, but they’re actually filled with a highly acidic sap. They enjoy using this feature to melt the flesh of their victims, absorbing muscle and organs alike until only bones remain. Oh, and they rarely wait until you’re fully dead to do this. You just have to be immobile.
2) Spores and tendrils: Those spores I mentioned before? They get on everything and once they do, they start growing. And they grow FAST. In just a day or two you can have whole colonies of tiny baby plants growing on the tattered remains of your shirt or even in the crevices of your own skin. Oh, and did I mention the plants can also burrow into your flesh and grow equally well in there? They’re squirmy little fuckers, too, and move around when you try to cut them out.
3) Mimicry: The first shock twist in The Ruins comes as our doomed heroes are trying to find a cell phone that keeps ringing at the bottom of a mine shaft in the center of the ruins. They go through hell just to get down into the mine and after pushing through a dark, plant-filled side shaft they find the source of the ringing: a cracked, obviously dead cell phone clutched in the hands of a gruesome (and rather fresh) skeleton. Wait, if the phone’s not doing the ringing, then what is? You guessed it – THE PLANTS. These crafty little assholes can mimic any sound they hear. They use this ability to pit the tourists against each other and in the book they even mimic the sound of birds shrieking to warn the tribesmen that the tourists are trying to escape.
4) Planning: Even if somehow all of this seemed within the realm of possibility for a plant, their intelligence certainly isn’t. These plants are smart, if not smarter, than humans. They lay traps, disable survival supplies and tear down help messages, and have no problem playing the long game. For example, they selectively secrete their acidic sap so the rope the tourists use to drop into the mine shaft snaps, sending one man falling 30+ feet and resulting in him breaking his back. In addition to their uncanny mimicry, they also have the ability to learn human languages. As you can imagine, this causes all sorts of chaos as they mimic different people’s voices. The plants also aren’t above a little psychological warfare; they enjoy taunting the tourists with the ringing phone sound, even after its revealed the phone was a trap, and they torment a character who’s brother has also gone missing by saying, “Where is your brother? Your brother is here; your brother is dead,” in his native German.
This entry got kinda long but it’s because these plants are SO COOL and SO TERRIFYING and I love them. I have such a vivid memory of the first time I read the book and the moment I realized the plants were not only intelligent, but straight up evil – that’s some Goosebumps shit right there! Both the movie and book are definitely worth your time… as long as you have a strong stomach. This is horror at its bloodiest.
The Lasser Glass – Oculus
I should be honest with you: I came up with this entire article idea just so I could write about Oculus. Y’all, I LOVE Oculus. In the pantheon of inanimate objects that will fuck you up for fun and profit, Oculus reigns supreme. The movie starts with the reunion of a brother and sister who have been separated for years after the violent deaths of their parents. The sister remains convinced the true cause of their father’s murderous rampage was an antique mirror the family purchased several months before; her brother, however, has gone through extensive therapy and believes they both made up the mirror story as a way for their young minds to cope with the trauma of watching their father murder their mother. Well good news! They both get to test their theories because sis has hunted down the mirror, known as the Lasser Glass, and finagled it into the auction house where she works. Even better, the family home still sits empty, so she takes the mirror there to ensure the experiment’s repetition is exact. What could possibly go wrong?
Oculus does a good job of threading us along for a bit, with both siblings making good arguments for why their version of events is correct, but [SPOILER ALERT] when the healthy plants placed around the hungry mirror suddenly shrivel we know shit is about to go down. Sis is kind enough to enumerate the various grisly ends the Lasser Glass’ previous owners met, including their parents’, and it’s pretty damn clear the mirror likes to toy with its prey. While the mirror can’t physically run around to cause shenanigans (this isn’t Disney’s Beauty and the Beast), its power comes from twisting the perceived reality of those within its reach. With enough energy, gained by draining the lifeforce of living beings nearby, the Lasser Glass can manipulate all 5 human senses to do things like…
1) Trick you into starving or dehydrating yourself to death, along with messing with your perceptions of time in other ways.
2) Block your perception of pain so you don’t know you’re, say, smashing your own bones with a hammer, chewing through live power lines, or yanking out your teeth with pliers. Think you’re taking a stroll in the garden? WRONG. You’re walking into traffic.
3) Cause you to attack someone you love because you think they’re someone or something else. Oops, now your fiancé is dead. :(
4) Impersonate friends, family, or strangers, both in person and on the phone. How do you explain to your marriage counselor that you semi-cheated on your wife with a dead woman who came out of your ornate antique mirror?
5) Prevent you from damaging or otherwise disabling the mirror, or even just documenting the mirror’s abilities.
Let’s talk about that last point. One of the most chilling scenes in Oculus comes right after an intense argument between the siblings about whether or not the mirror is actually evil. This discussion takes place in another part of the house, away from the Lasser Glass. After it’s over, brother and sister head back to the room where the mirror has been hung. However, when they near the room they find the once healthy plants set out to measure the mirror’s reach have all been drained dry. Good thing sis was smart enough to set up an intricate surveillance system in the room holding the mirror to ensure any paranormal activity would be captured on tape! When they enter the room they see that the system has been completely disabled, the cameras turned to face one another. Aha! she thinks. We’ll just review the tapes to see what moved everything. Gonna catch this sneaky bitch in the act once and for all!
NOPE. The video shows the siblings dismantling the surveillance system themselves, including turning the cameras around, all while they have the argument they both could have sworn took place on the other side of the house. Surprise! The Lasser Glass ain’t messing around. This scene gives us our first true taste of the mirror’s strength; from this point onward neither the characters nor the viewer can ever be sure what’s real and what’s fabrication. Think you’re biting into a nice red apple? PSYCH, you just cut your mouth open biting into a lightbulb. OH WAIT, no, it was actually an apple all along. But if you had cut your mouth open, calling an ambulance wouldn’t be an option because the person on the other end of the phone is definitely not real. #SorryNotSorry
As far as we the viewer know, the Lasser Glass isn’t haunted by a dead orphan, cursed by an ancient mummy, or possessed by the Devil; it’s just a shiny bitch that loves fucking with people before it murders them. That’s possibly my favorite villain trope ever, which is probably why I love this movie so much. Like, it’s a pretty dark movie with a pretty bleak ending, but fuck if I don’t have such a good time watching that mirror terrorize people. The Lasser Glass has killed at least 11 other people on at least 8 other occasions in the past, ranging all the way back to 1754, and I would absolutely watch 8 more movies about those incidents. This trope just doesn’t get old!
So what do you think? Which of these way-too-animate inanimate horrors would you prefer to face? Which one gets the highest “NOPE” vote from you?
Some nights Mage lays on the bowsprit of the Jolly Roger and listens to the monsters in the deep groaning against their chains. She dangles her fingers in the icy seawater and sings them lullaby promises of wreckage and ruin. I know what it means to be confined, her songs soothe with wordless melody. I know what it means to be so full of rage, so lost in madness, and yet be denied your rightful vengeance. Hush, she croons, I will free you soon and we will break worlds beneath us. It is a promise to all the maligned beast-horrors exiled to the unkind places of the universe. It is a promise to herself.
I wake nauseous from the reek of your blood in my nostrils, the thick warmth of it still clogging my throat, and all I see is the red lake where you stood, pale as bone, a corpse wearing nothing but a smile and long rivulets of red jewels. Swimming in the fevered remains of your dream, I recall the sensation of falling amidst a chaos of violence – hands ripping at white wings, fingers bruising and crushing, a knife or perhaps razored nails slicing bare skin – and through it all your smiles like twin flames burning bright. Come play with us, you seemed to say as you tore at each other. You were proud of your work but I wanted only to weep, or vomit, or scoop you out of that red baptismal fount and carry you away from your madness. Yet I am awake now, curled into a knot of my own sweat and stiff limbs, and so all I can do is wait for the nausea to pass and sleep to come again.
These days I spend most of my time fantasizing about becoming a monster. Charybdis or Medusa, banshee or werewolf, siren or harpy, I don’t really care; just give me teeth and claws and I’ll supply the rage. I’ve got so much madness bottled up inside that I’m surprised I can’t turn people to stone with a glance already. I long to shed this soft, squishy layer of human skin and unveil the armored exoskeleton beneath. Make me six-headed Scylla and I will devour fleets of ships! Make me gifted Arachne and I will weave traps strong as spiders’ silk! Make me ravenous Ammit and I will tear the hearts of the unworthy to pieces! Come, goddess or witch, reshape this flimsy mortal form so I may be daughter of monsters and mother of beasts!
it occurs to me that perhaps my life is just like The Others, you know, and – SPOILER ALERT – it turns out i was the ghost all along, what a fucking plot twist, no wonder all the things i tried to hold onto kept slipping away, no wonder all the times i tried to stop you from leaving you just passed right through me like i wasn’t even there – because i wasn’t there, was i, i wasn’t on your mind or even on your same fucking plane of existence, so yeah, maybe all these years ive been haunting you and not the other way around, wouldn’t that explain some things, and maybe you finally found some priest or medium to exorcise me so you can sleep at night without my chains rattling in the hallway, good job i guess, sweet dreams, but you know ill be back
Look, if I need to I will become a monster as well. Maybe you don’t think I have it in me, but I do; I can become the ancient thing in the forest, the dead thing in the well, the pretty thing in the house. Little girls are born with a seed of darkness in them, don’t you know, because the world’s so against us from the beginning – or maybe that’s just me, tainted from the start and assuming everyone’s that way. Either way, I’ve learned from the best how to be jealous and possessive and crazy so you really ought not to make this a competition, darling, not with this witch bitch. You taught me how to weaponize love, so why are you surprised to find me armed to the teeth and ready for war?
sometimes i forget how i came to this place where the road eats itself in endless oroboros misery, my hair’s matted and my clothes are gray and i am old old old but i will always look for you, darling child of my ugly heart, if you don’t want me as sister or lover then what about mother, surely even you need a mother, mothers never cast you aside or judge you when you run away, they just wait for your return with ready arms so come find me sweet prodigal son, beloved birthed of my tainted virgin blood, come stay with me forever in our beautiful city of ash and devils where the air raid sirens’ lullaby will call your darkness home to roost
I was the good doctor’s failed first attempt; the electricity ran through my dead flesh but never jolted the rotten cells back to life and so I remained a disappointing patchwork corpse. He tried to pass me off as human anyway, yet no one believed him. Look, they said, she can’t feel a thing. How can she be human if she can’t feel? They were right, of course. I am only a monster made of discarded meat and I feel nothing. Maybe someone with more talent or luck can break down my disparate parts and use them to build something more worthwhile.
my metaphors are ground up and mixed with bone meal and salt, a dash of graveyard dirt and a pinch of mausoleum dust, then left out overnight to bathe in the light of the absent moon, sit and think about what you’ve done, and in the morning i take whatever the fairies and scavengers left behind, wet it with water from the well, and smear a line over my forehead to mark me as the beast’s, you know they said he’d come for me at the end and yet here i am, all dressed up with nowhere to go, late to my own party, and i’m pretty sure the end is extremely fucking nigh so exactly how much longer do i have to wait, c’mon man
anyway i’m not that girl anymore, the one who could vomit up rosewater and butterfly wings, who got high on three part harmony and stayed up late to spill her soul out in ellipses and too much italics, she’s been gone for a while now and who knows what happened to her, drowned in the well i heard or maybe i’m just mixing too many metaphors but either way i guess i’m the thing she left behind that waited to be found again, come see me, invite me in so i may show you my corpse-smile, look at my broken fingers and splintered nails from trying to haul myself out, but even this is boring, good god, who cares, who gives a shit, i’m so done already, and i guess all i’m saying is i’m beginning to understand what floating in a well for seven days might do to a kid, you know?
Top 10 Munchie Movies, or: Better Hold Onto Your Butts
munch·ie mov·ie mən(t)SHē mo͞ovē
a subgenre of movies in which one or more characters is physically eaten by an entity in the film
Are you familiar with the phrase “munchie movie”? If not, you are forgiven; after all, I made it up as a child and I don’t believe its usage has gone much beyond my circle of friends and family despite it being a totally legitimate genre. You’ve seen plenty of munchie movies, after all, even if you didn’t know it. A munchie movie is any movie in which people are eaten (ie munched) by something – for example zombies, dinosaurs, monsters, sharks, aliens, etc. These movies usually fall into the sci-fi and horror genres, though some of the best can also be shelved under action/adventure or comedy. As the undisputed queen of munchie movies, let me introduce you to my favorite subgenre with my Top 10 Munchie Movies list. Sit back, relax, and grab some popcorn!
10 – The Mummy (1999)
1999’s The Mummy is an all-around fantastic movie and really needs no introduction. It’s ostensibly an action movie, yet what earns it a spot on this particular list are not just the folks our titular villain sucks dry to regain his human form, but those creepiest of creepy crawlers: the dreaded scarab beetles. More voracious than piranhas and a thousand times as inexplicably plentiful, these little suckers can strip a grown man in seconds flat. Not a pretty sight, as poor Benny learns at the end of the film while our heroes ride off into the sunset. The Mummy is a cult classic, if I do say so myself, and earns its spot on this list with some Egyptian-themed PG13 snack-gore.
9 – The Ruins (2008)
The Ruins is not a film for the squeamish; however, if you aren’t too easily grossed out it’s a very interesting take on the usual munchie movie monsters. Seeking a cool “off the map” archaeological dig, a group of American tourists trespass on a forbidden ruin in the Mexican jungle (never a good idea) and subsequently discover what happened to the mysteriously missing scientists. They were eaten, is what happened to them. By carnivorous plants. Highly intelligent carnivorous plants. Those don’t sound that scary to you? Oh, just wait.What ensues is a gruesome yet entertaining struggle for survival that literally pits man against nature. A definite watch for any horror fan, and the book of the same title is even better.
8 – Pitch Black (2000)
Much like in The Ruins, Pitch Black’s characters must ask the question “Where did everybody go?” and then, much to their regret, discover the answer. No killer plants in this one, though; our heroes in Pitch Black are stranded on a desolate planet populated by hungry aliens who come out to hunt in the dark. On a planet with multiple suns this shouldn’t be an issue, but to make matters worse an imminent eclipse is going to send the whole planet into total darkness. Vin Diesel is fantastic as our anti-hero Riddick and Pitch Black hits all the right munchie movie notes. A word of advice, though : just avoid the other movies in the series and stick with the original.
7 – Komodo (1999)
Komodo was a late-90s straight-to-VHS release that apparently no one but myself has seen. It features a young Billy Burke (in a far better role than as Bella’s father in Twilight) and several CGI komodo dragons of surprisingly good special effects. This movie has probably never been on any Top 10 list in its life, but it deserves to be on this one for its tension, action, and killer komodo dragon scenes. For a movie that never made it into theaters, it’s worth the watch. I mean, come on, KOMODO DRAGONS.
This movie is so obscure I can’t even find a gif from it, so here’s proof of how fast they are in real life:
6 – Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Remember when we all still liked Joss Whedon? Well, despite who he is on a personal level, the man can write some cool shit – and Cabin in the Woods is arguably the coolest of his creations. Unlike most munchie movies that lay the plot out pretty early, this movie actually has a big plot twist that I can’t bear to spoil for you. Just be assured that a LOT of people get eaten by a LOT of monsters and it’s pretty darn great. Plus, the movie shines with Whedon’s characteristic dark humor and likable characters. Once you’ve watched it, let me know something: would you have made the same decision as our surviving characters?
5 – Resident Evil (2002)
Ah, the movie that turned me gay homoromantic. It was hard to choose which zombie movie to include on this list, but Resident Evil just edged out 28 Days Later by sheer number of on-screen munches. Another classic of the horror/action genre, Resident Evil has everything you could want in a movie: zombie people, zombie dogs, something that used to be a rabbit maybe, an evil AI, more zombies, and both Milla Jovovich AND Michelle Rodriguez. Great special effects and a killer (pun intended) soundtrack are the toppings on the cake, so to speak, and overall it’s worth a watch or two, or ten, or fifty. And if it makes you question your sexuality, well, hey, we’ve all been there.
4 – Lake Placid (1999)
Lake Placid is a vastly underrated movie with a stellar cast including Bill Pullman, Brendan Gleeson, Oliver Platt, and Betty White. This movie is more a dark comedy than an action movie, with our monster crocodile providing just the right amount of tension and the occasional blood-fest as background to the gallows humor. The special effects are great, as is the writing, and I think you’ll find yourself siding with the crocodile as Gleeson and Platt go head-to-head over its ultimate fate. Another classic that deserves far more praise than it gets.
3 – Deep Blue Sea (1999)
I know, I know, you’re thinking, “You chose Deep Blue Sea over Jaws??” I did, but here’s why. Jaws is one of the best movies ever, hands down, and you don’t have to like munchie movies to agree; so let’s let a different shark movie have the limelight for once, okay? Deep Blue Sea may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but it has super smart sharks, an underwater lab full of edible people, and a black character who DOESN’T DIE. Plus, it has the one thing even Jaws doesn’t – a shark-themed rap by LL Cool J in the credits. Why would you want to miss that? You wouldn’t. It’s amazing. People act like this movie is trash, but if you actually watch it you’ll see that it’s entertaining, bloody, and action-packed, which is all a munchie movie needs to be to earn its name. Also, did I mention LL Cool J is in it?
2 – Tremors (1990)
Have you ever wanted to see Kevin Bacon fight off giant subterranean carnivorous worms? You have? Well, do I have good news for you! That is exactly the plot of Tremors, a cult classic in its own right and shoe-in for number 2 on this list. When the tiny town of Perfection Valley, Nevada finds itself beset by killer worms from outer space underground, it’s up to Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward to save the day. Before this is accomplished, however, a lot of people are gonna be worm food (*snickers*). This is one munchie movie series where the sequels, albeit not quality movies by any real definition, are still humorous and bloody enough to be worth a Saturday afternoon watch. The sixth apparently is set to be released in 2018, so you better catch up quick!
1 – Jurassic Park (1993)
I will forever remember watching Jurassic Park for the first time at the tender age of five. This movie earns its number 1 spot by a combination of nostalgia, staying power, fantastic acting, and special effects that even look better than those of some movies coming out today. Jurassic Park is the perfect munchie movie; the monsters are engaging and realistic, the characters are fully formed, and the plot moves along at a steady pace while allowing for many a munching to occur. The movie also surpasses some of its fellows by getting the audience to not only care about the characters, but the monsters themselves. The T-Rex might be a killer, but it’s impossible not to see the dinosaurs, even the predators, for what they are – creatures acting as they would in the wild. Jurassic Park balances action and blood with moral consideration and natural philosophy, elevating it from basic munchie movie to cinema classic. It’s basically the best movie ever and I will not entertain arguments that say otherwise.
What are your favorite munchie movies? Let me know in the comments!
I have swallowed you down so many times, it is a wonder your seed has not taken root within me. I can almost feel it buried within the meat of my left breast, though, nestled safely behind the wall of my ribcage where it may grow in peace. Perhaps that strange twisting sensation I sometimes feel is the first little tendril breaking forth from its shell, tasting and testing the red soil of its birth. Soon its vines will go creeping through my flesh and wind around my ribs like ivy on a trellis. I wonder what manner of night-blooming flowers will push their buds out my eyes, or strange fruits ripen alongside my warm organs? I hope, should that day come, you will cut me open and reap your beautiful harvest.
In the end, money makes the whole thing almost embarrassingly easy. Money buys his housekeeper’s silence while she diligently washes away the red stains on carpet, bed, and walls. Money secures him a private jet and a wave through customs without so much as a glance into the bag on his shoulder. Money buys an opulent room in a pricey Parisian hotel just blocks from one of the catacomb entrances. And money averts the eyes of the security guard who lets him into the catacombs after dark and then takes a long, long break.
With only a flashlight for illumination, Tanim winds his way through the catacombs, seeking an area where even the bravest tour groups don’t dare explore. He finally comes to a dead-end chamber, its earthen floor untouched by footprints, and here he sets down the bag he has guarded so carefully on his journey.
“Catacombs? Really? That’s hardly creative; you could have just left me in a cemetery back home,” Tanim pointedly keeps his gaze lowered, refusing to glance in the direction of the lazy, mocking voice. Instead, he opens his bag and begins unloading its contents, setting each white bone on the ground with care. Over his shoulder he replies in a similarly mocking tone, “What better place to hide human bones than in plain sight among thousands of their fellows?” Withdrawing the last bone, a lovingly preserved skull, Tanim finally turns to his companion. “Besides, you’ll have company here. You can bother the other ghosts and scare tourists. I’m sure you’ll like that.”
From the entrance of the little chamber, Daren frowns and crosses his arms. “I much prefer haunting you, darling. These past few weeks have been quite enjoyable for me.”
“Yes,” Tanim sighs, setting down the skull, “so I know. But no more. If you won’t stay dead, you can at least stay away from me.” He glances around as if taking one last look at his lover’s final resting place. “I suppose this is goodbye for a second time, then.” He sneers at the specter. “And the last time.”
“Not so fast,” Daren holds up one white hand and takes a step into the chamber. His arrogant mouth curls in a sly smile, half teasing and half pouting. “Wouldn’t you like to stay a while? Reminisce about old times?”
“Not particularly,” Tanim scowls, impatient to be away but refusing to leave Daren with the last word. “I’ll be glad to leave those old times behind me – along with you, beloved.” The word is uttered like a curse or a slur, stripped of all the love and affection with which it was once spoken. Daren only laughs. “Oh, I don’t think so,” he taunts, grinning as another step brings him closer to Tanim. “See, because you took my life, I have the ability to haunt you, to torment you however I like – yet I can’t touch you. Incorporeality can be so frustrating. But this place…” He gestures to encompass the whole of the catacombs, arm outstretched as if to touch the walls themselves. “There’s more power in these tunnels than you can possibly imagine. Bringing me here was a very, very bad idea.” Daren’s fingers brush the brown bones cemented in the wall; dust and dirt crumble away at his touch, but Tanim doesn’t notice this crucial detail. “So won’t you stay a little longer, my love? Even for just one last kiss?”
The ghost closes the distance between them, one hand snaking around Tanim’s waist, the other cupping his face. Tanim tries to pull away but it’s too late, and Daren’s grip is like iron. Then the hand on his cheek slides into his hair and drags his head to the side, and the mouth that bends to his bared neck is very wide and full of teeth.
– – –
The body isn’t discovered for several days, not until the local cataphiles hold another rave deep within the tunnels. At first they mistake it for a prank; after all, you’re clearly supposed to think the skull with its wide red grin was the cause of the ragged hole in the dead man’s throat, and how exactly could that happen? On closer inspection, however, the body’s decomposition appears quite real and the skull is markedly fresher than the ones which shape the catacomb walls. Unfortunately, by the time the police are finally summoned the scene has been contaminated beyond recognition. There’s no way to tell which set of footprints belongs to the murderer, and the officers refuse to believe the drunk, spooked teenagers when they swear only one set of footprints led to the body, and none away.