Monster Categories a Writer’s Guide
I honestly think if you can create a real original monster, you can make your fortune in writing or film. Here we’ve created a list of all the kinds of monsters we could think of and their first or best example. These examples are the icon that influenced all the rest. These are not in any particular order. These are the icons of horror monsters. We are also boldly naming these new categories/archetypes.
We are doing this in hopes that one of you will break these molds. We believe the more you know about a genre, the more you understand the conventions, the easier it is to create something new.
Honestly this list is a draft, feel free to point out mistakes in the comments or make suggestions for new categories or classifications
Dracula, Stoker’s version and all the movie versions after him have influenced countless copies. At first Dracula after Dracula was born, and then, twist after twist…..Twilight, Lost Boys, Vamp, Interview with a Vampire are all unique copies of the same thing, the same monster.
Giant Mutations/ Monsters (Godzilla)
Honestly I was going to pick King Kong, but most copies of this Icon are lizards. How could we pick anyone but Godzilla for this? All the giant movie monsters that follow, Food for the Gods, Ants, and Jurassic Park are just a twist on this original.
The Enlivened Corpse (Frankenstein)
All reanimated dead things, of course, owe their lives to Dr. Frankenstein. A terrific story, with several amazing versions.
Mutated by Science (The Fly)
Mad science gone wrong but not dead. These are the monsters, sometimes humans, who are set upon the world by science. Many superheroes would fall into this category. After The Fly in 1958 many copies were made. Many mad science experiments turned people into bugs or monsters. Films like Species owe their existence to The Fly.
Animal Transformation (Wolfman)
If you transform into an animal on screen be it a panther or a lizard or even a turtle, you owe that transformation to the Wolfman. Many copies have come after this film, so many faces, I’m not going to bother to list to many examples: Cat People, American Werewolf,
Formless manifestation (Blob)
The Myst, Fog, the Raft, all owe their creepiness to the blob. The formless mass or science or witchcraft has been copied many times. Whatever goes in, never comes out.
Creature from Outer space (War of the Worlds)
War of the Worlds is by far the best alien movie ever, I think. The monster itself is inventive and terrifying, and oh so many films copied it. I know there were aliens from outer space before this one, but honestly, it made it unforgettable mark.
Unreal Stalker (Freddy)
If you are in a horror film, and you are being chased or teased or even harassed by a figure that can hurt you but has no form, you are problems being stalked by the unreal stalker. Freddy is of course the iconic figure representing this monster genre. Others did come after him, Shocker, Final Destination…
Destructive Artificial Intelligence (Terminator)
End of the world AI anyone? Ultron came before Terminator in comics, but how can anyone be more iconic than Arnold? Any time you see a computer calculating to take over the world, you to think of the original Terminator.
Indestructible Slasher (Michael Myers)
If you are running from an unstoppable, unkillable, unflinching plain faced killer you are most likely being chased by the indestructible stalker. Michael Myers was the first and Jason was probably the most exploited. Many others can be listed.
Natural Terror (Jaws)
Anything we know in nature that either grows to great lengths or into massive numbers, usually is a natural terror. Jaws we put as the example here, but there have been many. Bears, swarms of bees, spider hoarders (not gigantic spiders see giant mutations).
Reanimated corpses (Night of the Living Dead)
Anything that is dead, fast or slow, and more or less mindless….
Natural Mutations (Freaks)
Generally people who have been mutated and are either killers or friendlies.
Demonic Possession (Exorcism)
This one goes without saying and is already classified. One of the scariest movies ever, and all the copies tend to be really scary too. If a living thing is taken over and controlled by a dead thing, it’s usually going to fall here.
Manifested Demons (The Evil Dead)
These are the demons who take form and hurt you. Ash has his hands full through all 3 movies with the manifested demons who have sprung from the Necronomicon
Ghosts (House on Haunted Hill)
Honestly Poltergeist might be a better example, but House on Haunted Hill was an original for sure. If you have unseen (more mischievous than evil most of the time) spirits, you are probably dealing with a ghost.
Realistic Serial Killer (Psycho)
Realistic/explainable by real psychological conditions and adhering somewhat to the real world. Norman and Hannibal are of course the 2 most famous examples, but there are many others.
Undocumented Creature from an Abyss (Creature from the Black Lagoon)
When some people think of monsters, these are the only ones they seem to come up with. These creatures tend to be very strange, something outside the real world, but at the same time oddly believable. In recent years the Crawlers from the Descent are good examples.
Mythological Monsters (The Clash of the Titans, The Kraken)
These are monsters handed down from another world. They usually have some type of spiritual significance. Monsters like Medusa or Cerberus coming from hell or heave have more meaning generally than just a monster. I will say that monsters inside of myths that do not hold spiritual significance can still fall into other categories. Giant scorpions like in Clash of the Titans are still giant mutations for example.
Humanoid Aliens (Fire in the Sky)
To me these are the aliens who are more terrifying. They are slightly different than humans, usually far more advance, and fascinated with dissecting humans. Some people report them to be real.
Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal…check our About Us page for more. Also here is info on our On Classic Articles