It's one thing to base your horror film around a large, lumbering, machete-wielding madman in a hockey mask, but what if the ante was upped with an army of evil creatures, small in scale but big in scares? These creepy creatures might not be as large and imposing as someone like Jason, Leatherface, or Freddy Kruger, but they can certainly be a nightmare on any street. They might not wield knives, chainsaws, or other conventional forms of horror movie weaponry, but you'd be surprised how far claws and fangs can go in dishing out damage. Whether they come from a lab, another dimension, another planet, or the gates of Hell itself, the freaks, creeps, and ghouls might be small, but their threats certainly aren't.
Size is not an issue when it comes to monsters with malicious or mischevious intent. It's possible to outrun or outmaneuver your typical masked slasher, but what if the predator in question is something smaller, sharper, and speedier than a lumbering maniac? The realms of horror have no shortage of these tiny terrors, from their boom in the '80s to their slow return in our modern media. Viewers and fans have plenty of goblins, gremlins, and ghoulish puppets to fright and delight their strange appetites. There's a menagerie to choose from, but we've stacked up twenty of our favorite monsters and maniacs on a miniature scale. Here are our picks for the terrible and the tiny.
Honestly, we could fill up an entire list of tiny terrors from the '80s alone. Taking inspiration from another famous creature feature, Critters is a movie about another race of small, furry, monsters with big teeth and a big appetite. However, these creatures don't hunger for Christmas cookies, fried chicken, or movie candy. They've got a taste for human flesh.
The Critters come from an asteroid that crashlands on earth while being pursued by a pair of alien bounty hunters. With sharp fangs, big appetites, and four films in their series, Critters devour anything and everything they can. They might be cute upon first glance but as the Brown family finds out, they're far from cuddly.
Who could forget this '90s gem? The first remake of Universal's mummy featured some goofy CGI, an over-the-top villain, and a whole lot of Brenden Frasier weirdness, but it also featured a skin-crawling (and skin-eating) version of scarab beetles. As non-realistic as it is, the version definitely put the scare in scarab.
These creepy crawlies dwell in the tombs of Hamunaptra and serve as part of Imhotep's execution during the Hom Dai, as well as one of the first boobytraps discovered by the explorers. Seeing them crawl on and under their victim's skin is more than enough to get ours crawling for miles. If you think one does some gruesome damage, wait till you see them swarm.
When a freak storm causes a powerline to send electrical currents deep into the earth, it soon spells out a slimy doom for a little Georgia town. If you thought the scarabs were bad, you might not want to see our next pick. The 1976 film Squirm, is definitely worthy of its title. It features not flesh-eating scarabs, but bloodthirsty worms that eat right through human skin.
Seeing these things writhe and rise from the muck to pick the bones of their victims clean is really chilling. On the surface, we don't really think of worms as the most vicious of creatures. Mix them in with some '70s horror schlock though, you've got a real gut-wrencher of a movie.
Remember when Roger Corman tried to do Gremlins? Corman is great at doing psychedelic B-movies with classic horror icons, but some of his more modern stuff didn't exactly stick. At least these little guys were cool.
Think of Munchies as punked-out gremlins with an aggressive attitude, pink mohawks, and an appetite for junk food. Like many creatures on this list, they're cute and cuddly at first, but mess with them and they will mess you up. They've got an interesting design, but it's an overall cheesy film just to showcase a cool monster.
Continuing the '80s shlock fest, next on our list is Ghoulies, cheeseball of a film with standard horror-comedy tropes and all sorts of monsters running amok. The stars of the film are the Ghoulies themselves, a trio of ugly little demons summoned during a seance, and boy are they bonkers. They're a cheap puppet effect that completely dates the film, but they do cause some trouble for our human cast.
In a film about black magic, demonic creatures, and zombies, you'd think the little monsters would be the least of your worries. But these little monsters ended up starring in three more sequels and continuing their B-movie mischief.
14 TROLL (CAT'S EYE)
Cat's Eye is a horror anthology film with a screenplay written by the great Stephen King himself. It features three stories all connected by a rather curious cat, but it also stars a rather different take on a troll. Most trolls are big lumbering dummies with clubs and spears, this one, however, has a little more magic on his side.
This troll assumes the role of the boogeyman in a little girl's bedroom and attempts to steal her breath away/take her soul. The eerie design and downright creepy movements of the troll are very unsettling, especially when the little monster is just inches away from a sleeping child. He might be small, but he has some seriously scary presence. The creep factor is strong.
13 GREMLIN (TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE)
A theatrical adaptation of the episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," this version of the Twilight Zone classic features a neurotic John Lithgow in the role of the airline passenger who has an encounter with a strange creature on the wing of his plane. This gremlin is no dude in a goofy suit, but a nightmare direct from George Miller. It's a quick scare that's fast and fearsome, but the effects and monster are certainly eye-popping.
Though the scare happens in an instant, nobody forgets that freaky face anytime soon. It's the kind of scare that lingers after the movie's over. It's not just scary on a physical sense, but it follows you deep in your subconscious as well.
12 TOROK (TROLL)
One of many '80s cult classics, Troll featured a pint-sized monster with a magic ring who seeks to wreak havoc in an apartment complex than to steal the soul of a sleeping girl. This troll uses his magic to transform apartment tenants into fairytale creatures. He's short, grotesque, hairy, and more comical than most of his type. He's not out for blood per se, but he doesn't make life easy for the Potter Family.
The film has some interesting creature effects for the time. There's a mystical element to the fairy world that screams '80s cheese. It's a bit corny and dated, but definitely worth a rewatch for cult-film enthusiasts.
The Leprechaun movies, like their green-skinned, limerick-spewing, gold-obsessed antagonist, are one of those horror features that just won't die. Made famous by character actor Warwick Davis, this mean, green, one-liner machine has been terrorizing teens since 1993. He's been to LA, Vegas, and even in space, gotta give this guy credit for his durability.
The rules of the game are simple. Touch his pot of gold, get wrecked by the Leprechaun. The makeup effects are impressive and Davis's performance is loaded with bad jokes and goofy lines. The series may not be gold, but it's certainly green. Anyone up for a St. Patrick's Day marathon?
10 THE ELF
If you thought the Elf on the Shelf was a creepy Christmas activity, you're really not gonna like this little guy. A more recent entry to the world of tiny terrors, this 2017 flick takes the concept of a watchful elf and turns it into some hardcore holiday horror. It's a strange hybrid of Child's Play and Black Christmas, and no silent night.
With the body of a doll and the soul of an ancient evil, this elf is no toy. It's standard horror with an evil doll, but it certainly has a distinct flavor. If you're looking for a Christmas creep fest, this is for you.
9 TOULON'S PUPPETS
Now here's a B-movie with a laundry list of sequels and fans. The Puppet Master series by Charles Band continues to be completely ridiculous, but still impressive with its cast of demented puppets. Jester, Blade, Pinhead, Leech-Woman, and all the rest of Andre Toulon's miniature minions are normally only as evil as the one who brings them to life, but they're still not entirely friendly.
These guys might be little, but they'll gleefully rip you to shreds. They've gone up against psychics, an army of demonic toys, and even the Third Reich, never being picky about who they terrorize. Whether you watch them for the practical effects or just how ludicrous the films are, you'll get your mini monster fix with this series.
A group of stranded travelers in the English countryside, an overly curious little girl, a pair of eccentric elderly toymakers, and a mansion with a gigantic doll collection, what could possibly go wrong? Dolls is one of those movies that goes above and beyond to skeeve the audience out. Before Chucky burst out of his box in 1988, these little freaks were the name in toy-sized terror.
The collection includes cannibal china dolls, toy soldiers with live ammunition, and possessed puppets cut from their strings. All are equally disturbing, but their motives might not be as evil as one might think. The acting is a little hokey, but the effects and puppets are impressive for '80s standards. It's worth a watch, but still quite disturbing.
7 DEMONS (THE GATE)
Portals to Hell always seem to pop up in the most inconvenient of places, don't they? The Gate is one of those films that act like a kid's gateway to horror films. The horror presented in the film feels like something out of Fright Night, but tiny demons take the stage instead of vampires. The demons are the stars of the movie and they are some tough customers.
Once again, the monsters are portrayed through stop-motion, and it works to great effect. Watching these guys is a creepy and surreal experience. Though they might be minor demons at the doorway to damnation, they have a lot of power. They reanimate corpses, turn into maggots, and put their young victims through a living nightmare.
6 IMPS/TOOTH FAIRIES
How can you have a list about monster movies and not talk about Guillermo del Toro? Don't Be Afraid of the Dark combined a haunted house film with a dive into dark fantasy. The "fairies" are more rat-like than their storybook counterparts and their appetite for children's teeth is more than a bit voracious.
These things are viciousness made flesh as they prey on children who open the gate to their underground lair. Quickly turning from mischief to malice, they not only cause havoc in the house but terrorize its residents, making weapons out of scissors and silverware. The creatures bear the creative lore and design of del Toro himself and serve as an imaginative and insidious antagonistic force in this 2010 creature feature.
Small Soldiers was a weird movie to put it lightly. We've had living dolls and living puppets on our list, but how about living action-figures? These toys aren't brought to life by black magic or an ancient curse, but by military combat technology. That's fun for kids, right?
Though there is actually a race of monster characters in this movie, it's the GI-Joe wannabes that are the real enemy. Military AI in a violent military-themed toy, that can't backfire in any way. Naturally, the cybernetic action figures get too smart and declare war on their monster counterparts and lay waste to a sleepy little town. Armed with military intelligence and a thirst for battle, the Commando Elite bring new meaning to the term wargames.
4 MUTANT SPIDERS
Arachnophobia is one of those horror flicks that are more fun than fright. What can you expect from a movie about mutant spiders and an overzealous exterminator played by John Goodman? When a Venezuelan spider breeds with a brown recluse, it's a cocktail of crawling danger for a rural community.
The film has thrills, chills, shrieks, and spills as these little creeps pick off members of the town one by one. They might be small but they are many, and with a bite that would make Venom jealous, there's nothing itsy-bitsy about them. The number, appetite, and sheer viciousness of these eight-legged-freaks is enough to get anyone's skin crawling. We highly recommend this slice of spider cinema.
3 CETI EELS
Allow us to introduce you to Ceti Alpha V's only remaining indigenous lifeform, the Ceti Eels. If the mutant spiders didn't get your skin crawling, these things will. A favored method of torture and information extraction of Khan Noonien Singh, the Ceti Eels are one of the most shudder-inducing creatures this side of the galaxy.
The creatures crawl in their victim's ear and latch themselves onto the cerebral cortex, making them highly vulnerable to suggestion and eventually drive their host to total madness. These things sound more like something out of a Lovecraftian Horror than a series by Gene Roddenberry. Explorers or not, this is one species we're glad Kirk took a phaser to.
The larvae stage of the ever-terrifying Xenomorphs, the Facehuggers are just stage one of one of the most visceral and gut-wrenching scenes in sci-fi film history. For those few unfamiliar with the films, these crab-like creeps burst from their eggs and latch on to the face of whatever unlucky victim happens to be nearby. This is body-horror with a capital B.
The Facehuggers, Chestbursters, and other stages of Xenomorph development have been featured in nearly every Alien franchise entry, and these guys are a particular problem. Though the Chestburster is the more gore-inducing stage, we see more of his multilimbed brother. It's one of the most recognizable versions of the famous alien, and one we had to put on our list.
1 KRAMPUS'S MINIONS
Michael Dougherty's Krampus was practically a love-letter to the genre of classic creature flicks. Though the titular Christmas demon owns the title, it's his menagerie of minions that make up most of the film, but that's not a bad thing. It's always nice to save the best for last.
You'd better watch out, Krampus's cronies include a sackful of evil toys, a militia of masked elves, demented gingerbread men, and one nasty Jack-in-the-box. These holiday hellspawn make it a nightmare before Christmas for the dysfunctional Engel family when one of them loses faith in the spirit of Christmas. There are more monsters in this film than you can shake a stick at, and you better believe these guys are the top of the naughty list.
You knew these guys were coming, so of course, they're the top of the list. Gremlins was the catalyst that started the miniature monster craze in the '80s and spawned several copycats and homages to the form. Gizmo and his green gruesome brethren have been the standard little monsters strive to be, and they will always be classics of the genre.
The Gremlins are mischevious as they are dangerous, wreaking havoc through town and laughing all the way as they run rabid in their fiendish frenzy. Cute yet creepy, freaky yet funny, these little guys take the crown of the tiny terrors with a grab and a grin. And we're glad to give it to them.