Horror is one of the most popular genres for movies, TV shows, and video games. What makes this genre popular is the thrill and excitement that it gives to people that no other genre can provide. In horror, you would often have villains that come in different forms, like monsters, ghosts, sharks, aliens, and even humans. With so many horror movies that have been released over the years, there are a few horror creatures that stood the test of time and are still iconic in recent years. These popular horror creatures helped shape pop culture into what it is today. To know more, here is the impact of creature features on pop culture.
The Origins of Horror Creatures
Before the creation of the first horror movies, people’s fear of monsters, ghosts, devils, and supernatural beings have already existed for centuries, and this is proven by the number of ancient folk tales that tell the story of creatures preying on humans. Then, the people’s fascination for the horror genre grew with the rising popularity of Edgar Allan Poe’s creepy and peculiar short stories during the 1830s.
One of the first iconic horror creatures was created during the 1800s, and this creature is called “Frankenstein’s Monster,” which was featured as one of the main characters in “Frankenstein,” a novel written by Mary Shelley and first published in 1818. In the novel, Frankenstein’s Monster was created by Victor Frankenstein, who is supposed to be the titular character.
However, many people would often refer to Frankenstein’s Monster as simply “Frankenstein,” when the title is actually referring to the character that created the monster. Shortly after the publication of Frankenstein in 1818, a new genre of fiction called “Gothic fiction” was developed. This genre is characterized by its dark themes, characters with dark personalities, and settings that can be scary to most people, like crypts, cemeteries, and dark castles.
The First Horror Movie
According to historians, the first horror film ever produced was Le Manoir du Diable or “The House of the Devil.” This film, which premiered in the United States with the title “The Haunted Castle,” is a French short silent film that was released in 1896 and was directed by Georges Méliès, a French illusionist and actor.  The movie depicts a pantomimed sketch of a man that had encountered a devil and other supernatural creatures while inside a haunted castle.
This film would create several staples of the horror genre, like haunted castles, encounters with devils, and experiencing hauntings with ghosts and supernatural beings. However, the film lacks the scariness and eeriness that future horror films have, although this particular movie is made as a fantasy comedy sketch that is supposed to bring wonder and amusement to the audience.
Early Years of the Horror Movie Genre
Years after the release of the first horror film, other horror movies began popping up in different places around the world. During the early 20th century, most of the horror films that were produced were adaptations of stories that were created by popular horror writers like Edgar Allan Poe. One of the most adapted horror stories during that period was “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” which was an 1886 novella written by Robert Louis Stevenson. In just the year 1920, there were three movie adaptations of the said novella.
In the early years of the horror movie genre, there was one particular film that truly stood the test of time as a classic. This film is “Nosferatu,” which was directed by F.W. Murnau and released in 1922.  Unlike the previous depictions of Count Dracula (a vampire that first appeared in Bram Stoker’s 1987 novel “Dracula’), where he looks like a normal human being but with two fangs, the Dracula depicted in “Nosferatu” features a much scarier face with an elongated bald head, bushy eyebrows, pointy early, several fangs in the mouth, and sharp nails.
The film was described as having the true horror depiction of Dracula as a terrifying creature that made the audience feel uneasy and afraid. It was Dracula’s horrific depiction in “Nosferatu” that inspired many directors to also create scary characters that brought fear to the hearts of the characters in the movie, as well as the audience. Interestingly, it was also “Nosferatu” that introduced the idea of vampires dying when exposed to sunlight.
The Most Iconic Creature Feature Monsters
Throughout the years, there have been several iconic monsters and beings that have appeared in different creature features, and these monsters served as an inspiration for directors and producers to push the genre of horror to new limits each year. Here is a list of some of the most iconic creature feature monsters in history.
Godzilla is a giant monster, also known as “kaiju” in Japan, that first appeared in a self-titled film that was released in 1954 and was directed by Ishirō Honda. In the movie, Godzilla is a prehistoric monster with reptilian qualities or attributes, such as lizard-like skin, a long mouth, a set of fangs, and a pair of reptilian eyes. However, what makes Godzilla different from other reptilians today is that he is gigantic and he is empowered or strengthened by nuclear radiation.
Because of how menacing and imposing Godzilla looks, he has become one of the most popular fictional creatures not only in Japan but also in other countries around the world. Because of the creature’s popularity, it has already appeared in more than 30 Japanese films, at least five American films, a few television shows, comic books, and various video games.
Another iconic creature that is gigantic in size is King Kong, a giant monster that resembles a gorilla. King Kong first appeared in the titular movie that was released in 1933 by an American film production company called RKO Radio Pictures. The movie was a critical and commercial success in the United States and other countries, and King Kong became an icon in the horror movie genre.
Due to how the popularity of King Kong never really disappeared over the years, the iconic creature has already appeared in numerous movies, including King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1962, the King Kong remake in 2005, and Godzilla vs. Kong in 2021. The similarities between Godzilla and Kong in terms of size and intimidation factor enabled them to become great rivals in different movies and video games. King Kong is responsible for the popularity of gigantic creatures or “kaiju” that appear in countless horror movies.
The xenomorph is arguably one of the scariest aliens in cinema not only because of how terrifying it looks but also because of how strong it is compared to the human characters in the “Aliens” franchise. The xenomorph, also known simply as “the alien,” is a fictional extraterrestrial species that first appeared as the antagonist in “Alien,” a film directed by Ridley Scott and released in 1979. The nightmarish and biomechanical appearance of the xenomorph is inspired by the works of H.R. Giger, a Swiss surrealist artist who likes to create grayscale artworks that feature biomechanical creatures and architectures. 
Much like Godzilla and King Kong, the xenomorph has already appeared in numerous movies, including “Aliens” in 1986, Alien 3 in 1992, “Alien Resurrection” in 1997, and “Alien: Covenant” in 2017. The last film mentioned, “Alien: Covenant,” is the sequel to “Prometheus,” a 2012 movie that serves as a prequel to the entire franchise and explains the origins of the xenomorph. The xenomorph is credited for popularizing the alien subgenre of horror movies.
A popular fictional alien besides the xenomorph is the Predator, also known as “Yatuja.” The Predator is an extraterrestrial species of humanoid hunters that first appeared in the titular film released in 1987. The Predator is known for having a metal helmet with dreads on its sides and back, and this helmet provides better vision for the alien as it hunts down humans and other species throughout the galaxy for sport or trophy hunting.
The Predator has appeared in numerous movies where it is either a protagonist or antagonist. Some of these movies include “Predator 2” in 1990, “Predators” in 2010, and “The Predator” in 2018. There were also movies where the Predator has duked it out against the xenomorph, and these movies are “Alien vs. Predator” in 2004 and “Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem” in 2007.
The Gill-man, also known as “The Creature,” is a fictional sea monster that first appeared in the 1954 film “Creature from the Black Lagoon.” In the movie, the Gill-man is a cunning humanoid creature that can survive in both water and land. This monster has gills on the sides of its head, a skin that has amphibious qualities, and sharp claws that it uses to kill some of the characters in the film.
The Gill-man is one of the most influential monsters in the horror genre, and it inspired the creation of other sea creatures found in different water-themed horror movies. The story of the Gill-man was reimagined in “The Shape of Water,” a 2017 film directed by Guillermo del Toro, who also directed other popular horror films such as “Pan’s Labyrinth” in 2006 and “Mimic” in 1997.
The Terminator or T-800 is the name of different cyborgs that are portrayed by famous actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in several films in the “Terminator” franchise. The Terminator first appeared in the titular film that was directed by James Cameron (who also directed “Titanic” and “Avatar”) and released in 1984. But, much like the Predator and the xenomorph, the Terminator was an antagonist who was sent from the future to hunt down a woman named Sarah Connor, who will have a son that will save mankind in the future against the cyborg created by a superintelligence called Skynet.
However, the Terminator became a protagonist in the sequel released in 1991 titled “Terminator 2: Judgement Day.” In the sequel, the Terminator (who was modified or reprogrammed) was sent by human resistance from the future to protect John Connor, Sarah Connor’s son. After the release of numerous movies in the franchise, the Terminator became one of the most popular science-fiction characters of all time and has been deemed as one of the inspirations for the robot and cyberpunk subgenres of science fiction.
So, these are the simplest things you need to know about creature features and their impact on pop culture. If you haven’t watched the movies we have mentioned above, now may be the time to do so, as they are some of the most entertaining films that you can watch at home alone or with loved ones.
 Johnson, R. (2010, January). The Devil’s Manor (Le Manoir du Diable) 1896. The Devil’s Manor: A Classic Horror and Fantasy Film Archive. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from http://thedevilsmanor.blogspot.com/2010/01/le-manoir-du-diable-devils-manor-1896.html
 Barber, N. (2022, March 4). Nosferatu: The monster who still terrifies, 100 years on. BBC. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from https://www.bbc.com/culture/article/20220303-nosferatu-the-monster-who-still-terrifies-100-years-on
 Domino, M. (2019, May 7). The Nightmarish Works of H.R. Giger, the Artist behind “Alien.” Artsy. Retrieved May 25, 2023, from https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-nightmarish-works-hr-giger-artist-alien