Richard Connell's short story The Most Dangerous Game famously describes people hunting other people for sport. However humans aren’t alone in gunning for our world’s top predator. To celebrate the release of After Earth, set on a planet where everything has evolved to hunt humans, this is my Top Ten Nastiest Creatures With A Taste For Homo-Sapiens.
10. Weeping Angels – Dr Who
Not the Doctor’s best-known enemy but certainly one of the scarier from his more recent adventures, the Weeping Angels are among the oldest creatures in the universe. Why they look like a statue from our recent past is never explained, but it is this every day disguise that I find especially scary. The minute you look away, that innocent statue over there will reveal the quantum monster within, and zap humans into the past to feast off of their potential energy. After watching an Angel episode of Dr Who, you will be convinced that every sculpture you see has moved while your back was turned. So just remember, whatever you do, don’t blink.
9. Velociraptor – Jurassic Park
For years Jurassic Park was my favourite film. A Spielberg on top form filled his audience with equal parts wonder and terror at the sight of living, breathing dinosaurs. Never had good and evil been so clearly defined than in the contrast between the reptiles who eat plants and the reptiles who eat you. The standout dino from this film is undoubtedly the raptor. Yes, T-Rex is a brute but Spielberg’s improved raptors are clever, they hunt in packs, can open doors and display almost human emotions. My favourite moment is the irony of our heroes almost being eaten in a kitchen. All fans of the film should read this Wikipedia article on what science tells us raptors were actually like.
8. Wraith – Stargate Universe
Stargate has many alien villains but none quite as scary as the Wraith. Using advanced technology to harvest humans as a food source and spread fear across the galaxy, this bizarre progeny of humans and a life-sucking spider feeds directly off human life force. What makes the Wraith interesting is the sad inevitability of their story. They need to kill humans to live, and despite their cruelty they are still people trying to survive. The Wraith exploit the tragedy most vampire stories overlook or over simplify, the fact that they simply don’t have a choice.
7. Genestealers – Space Hulk
No one wants to be trapped in a confined space with something dangerous – let along something that is mainly made out of claws and wants to rip you apart. This is the main premise of Space Hulk, a Warhammer 40K spin-off in which humans explore abandoned space ships and try and avoid Genestealer attacks. The Genestealers are perhaps 40K’s most iconic alien menace, and in Space Hulk they came into their own. This game cleverly subverted the open space aspect of the 40k tabletop battlefield with its tight and confined setting. As a game it borrows extensively from films to capture a claustrophobic mood. The Genestealers are alien predators distilled: vicious, tough, fast and driven by murderous urges.
6. Polymorph – Red Dwarf
What do you fear most? Snakes? A bad case of indigestion after a vindaloo? Or perhaps this giant, killer monster? The Polymorph is a well-known Red Dwarf creation capable of turning into whatever its prey fears or hates the most. It is dangerous in itself, as it also sucks emotions out of its victims’ heads, but it is the Polymorph’s ability to transform into other creatures to torment its targets that makes it really special. Red Dwarf makes use of its limited budget to create a villain that is memorable and leads its fans to ask themselves the dreaded question – if I met the Polymorph, what would it turn into?
5. The Thing – The Thing
Another creature capable of changing its shape to infiltrate human circles, The Thing first attacked Kurt Russell in 1982, making him question his closest friends. An alien who crashes near a human research post in Antarctica, The Thing then disguises itself as its victims to pick them off the one by one. This film is John Carpenter at his finest, being genuinely nasty. The sight of characters split apart into unnatural configurations of organs as the Thing changes from its human form into its alien body is so unsettling that it has left a permanent impression on me.
4. Reavers – Firefly
People hunting people will always be scary. From Scream to Duel, the idea of being hunted by another person touches a deep chord of fear within us all. What makes the Reavers even scarier is the mindlessness of their aggression. The primary antagonists of Joss Whedon’s Firefly and Serenity, they move quickly and kill without reason. The perfect illustration of how narrow the line between civilisation and savagery can be, the Reavers hunt, torture and kill for no other reason than perverse thrill.
3. Predator – Predator franchise
Anything Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot kill is worthy of a place in this list. The nameless intergalactic skull-collectors first appeared in cinemas in 1987 and have since made the leap to comics and games. Unlike some other creatures on this list, the predators are made to look vaguely human and point of view shots throughout the film put the viewer inside their heads. However, their complete lack of remorse or restraint sets them apart. As space’s ultimate sportsmen, who hunt and kill for fun, they are a reflection of our own viciousness towards each other and other living things.
2. Slake Moth – Perdido Street Station
Giant dream-sucking moths from another dimension? It can only be a China Miéville novel. What I find scariest about the Slake Moths is how entirely unlike any other creature in the Bas-Lag universe they are. In a world populated by so many bizarre beings, it takes something truly aberrant and outlandish for Miéville to describe it as alien. The villains of Perdido Street Station start life as curios caterpillars but soon grow into huge vicious predators with indescribable limbs and hypnotic wings. The Slake Moths stalk the night in the city of New Crobuzon, feeding off the dreams of their prey. They hunt humans as a source of food but unfortunately for us, they have limitless appetites and their feeding drains their victims heads’ of all thought. Another genuinely terrifying aspect of the Slake Moths is the way that they eat your mind, but leave your body untouched.
1. Alien – Alien, Aliens, etc
A strong candidate for any scariest creature in science fiction award, the Alien has terrorised audiences in a number of media since it first exploded out of John Hurt’s chest in 1979. What begins as a routine planetary exploration trip for the crew of the Nostromo ends up with a monster chasing them through their own ship. The aggressive extraterrestrial of unknown origin boasts acid blood and two sets of razor sharp jaws, including one on the tip of its tongue. However, what makes it really scary is how unpredictable the alien is. It is clearly intelligent, but is so different from humans that we cannot communicate; leading to inevitable violence of the most basic and animal kind. Following the initial encounter, the Alien has appeared in a series of sequels, games, books and comics as well as several high profile crossovers with the Predators. The Alien is the original monster, delivering utmost terror with the tagline “in space no one can hear you scream.”