Dread… one of my all time favorite emotions experienced from film. It is the impending doom that’s scary, not cheap tricks such as startles or gore. Dread is the thing that keeps you up after the movie is over and it’s time to sleep. Dread is the psychological horror, and these ten creatures managed to keep me up night, feel uneasy, or downright hopeless.
These are in no particular order.
The Tall Man (Movie: Phantasm Series)
Among the first horror movies I ever watched was Phantasm. The Tall Man was the creepy old man who seemed to always be around the next corner. As a young kid, he helped to instil a fear of old people in me, while still maintaining an aura of dread as he cleared out small towns to transform their inhabitants into Jawa like slave-monsters. To this day I still think about the Tall Man visiting towns near Pittsburgh as I drive through deserted sections of towns.
The Ghost (Movie: The Grudge Series)
The Grudge is probably one of the scariest movies to incite dread in modern cinema. That was, until I watched it for a second time, then a third. The best time was my first. The way the ghost girl moved so unnaturally, the sound she made as she clicked and creaked in some sort of paranormal speak, and the way no matter where you went, there she was. No matter how fast you ran, she was going to get you. What ever sort of end you received from her, you knew it would be just as hororfying as the chase.
Pod People (Movie: Invasion of the Body Snatchers)
Oh man, does this one incite dread. While the movie is most memorable for the high pitched screams of the aliens who take human form, what really gets me is that the transformation doesn’t happen until their victims sleep. Growing up, anytime my Dad would play this movie I always had trouble falling asleep. In the back of my mind I dreaded the thought of turning into one of “them”.
Extra Dimensional Creatures (Movie: The Mist)
Stay out of the Mist! The Mist is a perfect example of how less is more in Horror. The Mist inspires dread since it covers the whole region in a thick fog like Mist However this Mist is home to some incredibly strange and dreadful creatures who have a whole host of ways of immobilizing and killing their victims. Medicine run anyone?
The Monster (Movie: Jeepers Creepers Series)
You don’t want the Monster from Jeepers Creepers to get a scent of you, as he just might want to consume your body parts. In the first Jeepers Creepers the Monster stalks one of the main characters for his body parts. While the Monster might show pain or even getting smashed, he just picks himself up, straightens out a few limbs, and continues the chase.
Contagion (Virus or Bacteria) (Movie: Various)
As someone who has a slight case of Mysophobia (or Germaphobia), I love a good contagion movie. Contagion (not the movie, but rather the virus or bacteria that causes the ailment) makes the list is that disease is a very human fear. As victim after victim contracts the contagion, it spreads like wildfire. Its only a matter of time before you notice that scratch in the back of your throat and the blood coming from your nose.
Xenomorph (Movie: Alien Series)
It’s out there. It’s crawling around in your cargo vessel, or your favorite atmospheric processing plant. If you’re lucky it just wants to kill you. If your unfortunate, it wants to capture you, cocoon you, then ultimately transform you into one of them. Using sneak attacks and/or constantly having sheer numbers, the Xenomorph always causes me dread.
Shark (Movie: Jaws Series)
Jaws is a great example of clever camera work and a great score to inspire dread in countless movie go’ers. What’s better is that in many scenes you didn’t even need to show the shark to inspire dread in people that something deadly was just beneath the surface.
Zombies (Movie: Various)
The biggest reason I support slow moving zombies, is that they are the most impactful. Some may think it’s silly to have them move so slowly and would prefer the zombie to be an athletic sprinter. Not me… zombies are the slow moving curtain of dread and despair that only slowly pulls the noose around the necks of those who dare survive. Only exception I’m willing to consider is 28 Days Later. fast moving zombies, gargled screams of warning, makes for a great combination. However I might contend that 28 Days later does not have real zombies… see contagion above!
Shape-Shifting Alien (Movie: The Thing)
While the effects in the 1982 classic, The Thing are starting to get dated, no matter how many times I watch it, I still feel dread. I think this is attributed to the isolated location of the film, a powerful score, and the fact the characters fit well in the story. I can’t think of another movie that has such a long lasting impactful emotion of dread that the Thing helps to inspire.