Most modern horror films with a supernatural bent—and even some that lean more toward science fiction, even ones inspired by folklore rely on three basic monster types: vampires, werewolves, or zombies or some other form of animate dead which are different from vampires in that they’re usually not sexy or all that good at conversation. Aside from the occasional creepy doll or killer clown there’s not that much variation. But storytelling predates recorded history by—well, we don’t know since no one bothered to write it down, and folklore is filled with all sorts of creatures that could easily inspire their own franchises. Here are a few:
Kelpies-From Scottish folklore kelpies are usually described as black aquatic horses that live in lochs and rivers and drag down people who come too close to the water. Kelpies then throw the entrails of their victims up on the shore. Scotland’s famous Nessie draws thousands of tourists every year. Kelpies are there to make sure the tourists go back where they came from.
Penanggalan-A Malaysian monster the penanggalan is a flying head that sometimes has at least part of the digestive tract of its body hanging down. Flying heads are actually common in folklore around the world. In South American indigenous mythology they’re more often a nuisance than a menace, eating up a tribe’s food while everyone’s asleep, but, come on, if you see a flying head with an esophagus hanging down your first thought is going to be getting away, not “Better padlock the refrigerator!”
Bunyip-A creature from indigenous Australian folklore the bunyip looks like anything from an enormous starfish to a giant dog with a beak that would drag people down into lakes, rivers, and swamps. In the contemporary folk song “The Bunyip of Hooligan’s Creek” by Australian singer Pat Drummond the bunyip laments the extinction of its kind, which is a whole new type of horror.
The Sphinx-Everybody thinks they know the sphinx–it’s that giant statue in Egypt, or there’s the one that Oedipus encountered that killed any traveler who couldn’t answer its riddle. If you think getting through airport security is bad now just imagine being confronted by a human-headed lion who expects you to remember how to solve that one where you and two companions have to get away from cannibals by crossing a river in a boat that only holds two people. (Hint: as soon as someone says, “First we send two cannibals over to the other side” that’s the guy you leave behind.)
Kludde-From Flemish folklore the Kludde was a flying black dog or batlike creature that could produce a blue flame around its body, and if that doesn’t sound so bad just imagine the horror of burning Flem.
Selkie-A creature of the Irish coasts and waterways selkies have been described as seal-like creatures that could slip out of their skins and take on human form. Although romanticized in The Secret of Roan Innish selkies could also be dangerous creatures who could drown sailors or anyone else who came near the water, a theme that occurs so many times that folklore would be a lot less rich if more people just learned how to swim.
The Bonnacon-Found in ancient Greece or parts of southeastern Europe the bonnacon was a bull-like creature with horns that curved backwards. It was able to expel large amounts of excrement which would then burst into flames so it could escape. Why anyone thought the world needed such a creature is beyond me, but at least it would be more interesting than yet another sexy vampire or zombie.