The Top 5 Supernatural Creatures That Should Become the Next Big Thing
It's looking like it might finally be safe to take down the garlic. The vampire craze certainly hasn't completely diminished—there are straggling Nosferatu in movies, television and books, but it's not like it was. Whatever glaring faults it may have had, the Twilight book series can rightly be called a worldwide phenomenon, spawning its own movies, rip-offs, and renewing interest in blood-suckers all around. Even if you loathed Twilight, never tuned into True Blood or The Vampire Diaries, or had zero interest in the idea of the 16th president of the United States slaying the creatures of the night, you couldn't just sit this one out. We all had vampires on the brain, but that can only last so long before oversaturation kicks in. And zombies are more interested in our brains than vampires anyway.
The Walking Dead, Warm Bodies, World War Z… It seems like the big bets have been placed on the shambling undead. Sure, zombies aren't as sexy as vampires (…to most people) but they have a lot of value symbolically and for scares. So, vampires: out! Zombies: in!
I'd also argue that to some degree there's a dragon thing going on, more in your Game of Thronesy end of the pop culture spectrum. Though that might be wishful thinking on my part since dragons are my jam.
So that all got me thinking: what'll come next once we ultimately get sick of zombies too? What'll be the next supernatural creature to hold the great hive-mind of popular culture in its scaly or possibly furry hands? I can think of at least five that I'd like to see. …Well, I can think of more than five, but I've narrowed it down to five. The idea here is to find something that's relatively familiar but untapped; something that'll be intriguing and provide good fodder for stories, but not so alien that the entire concept has to be explained at length. So this means no utterly bizarre and obscure creatures like Kasa-obake. My apologies to Kasa-obake fans.
Without further ado, here are my Top 5 Supernatural Creatures that should be the next big thing!
Nāga have a couple of different permutations: deities of Hinduism and Buddhism, monstrous snakes with human faces, lake dragons, or to snakes what mermaids are to fish. I see these guys most often among that last category since they are often used as enemies in fantasy games. Part of this is because the Nāga has a lot of interesting folklore behind it; the other part is that modern depictions of these snakey people portray them as even more reluctant to put on a bikini top than most mermaids.
But hey, a little sex appeal never hurt, right? And there's a lot to work with here just in its basic concept. Like the concept of mermaids but having trouble getting around that pesky inability to get around on land? You have your solution.
Beyond sex appeal, this option allows for a lot you can do story-telling-wise. Snakes are an incredibly variable symbol, standing in for deception, temptation, medicine, poison, rebirth, change, fertility, etc. Not to mention that snakes are just cool creatures in general. Taking their bizarre locomotion, acute sense of smell, ability to shed their skin, and unique eating habits and putting that onto a character that's more human and relatable… that sounds like it could be interesting.
Not to mention, we could all repurpose those costume vampire fangs we bought. Waste not.
The Wendigo is straight-up terrifying and I'm surprised it hasn't popped up in a more mainstream pop-cultural way. Yes, it has been used in a lot of horror fiction, but it's pretty underutilized in the visual medium, barring a few monster-of-the-week one-offs. I mean, this is a monster with street cred. Rooted in traditional Algonquian beliefs, the Wendigo is a creature associated with desperation and cannibalism. It is gaunt, but gluttonous: an apparition of starvation that can never eat its fill of human flesh. A person can even become a Wendigo if he succumbs to famine and engages in cannibalism. There is even a psychological phenomenon called Wendigo Psychosis, where a person is convinced that they are turning into a Wendigo.
Both the terror and the appeal of the Wendigo work in a lot of ways that are similar to zombies. They show how humans prey on each other, how greed can make us monsters, and the cruelty that exists on the margins: where people choose survival over their humanity.
The Wendigo is way scarier than the Slenderman, but… I don't know, for some reason I could see the two getting together for tea. Or whatever it is that nightmare creatures do when they're not carving terror into the souls of men.
Yes, yes, I agree that this one might've missed its ship since not much has been seen on the main stage since Pirates of the Caribbean and Clash of the Titans, but the thing is: sea monsters will never not be cool. The ocean is massive and much of it is unexplored, so it's much easier to believe that horrors are hiding in its depths than pretty much any other setting. Heck, sea monsters basically do exist already. What else would you call a forty-foot long squid or an overgrown fish with skull-cracking jaws?
With movies like Cloverfield, Pacific Rim and the recent take on Godzilla creating a lot of buzz for Kaiju films, our enduring love affair with the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, and a general fascination with the sea, I'm pretty sure we're going to be seeing a lot more of the Kraken or one of its aquatic cousins.
No, it's not just because of David Bowie. Goblins are a really useful and variable sort of creature. Sometimes they're similar to dwarves, other times they're from a more malevolent chapter of the fairies, and in still others they're basically demons. In any and all cases, goblins are an opportunity for some wonderfully ugly-quirky creature designs. Next time you watch Labyrinth, try not to get distracted by Jareth's junk and instead look at all the neat puppet designs they came up with for goblins, okay?
As much as I love goblin's designs and their adorable propensity to kidnap children, I have to admit that a lot of the magic of goblins is in their name. I don't like imps or gnomes or orcs nearly as much and, fair is fair, there's a lot of overlap between all of those. But the name "goblin" evokes a very specific fairy-tale feeling: a mythic quality. Add to that a heap of traditional literature and myth and you have a recipe for a timeless supernatural critter.
Wait a minute… Nilbog is goblin spelled backwards! OH MY GOOOOOOOOD!
Not everything made the cut for this list, so before I go on to number one, here's a few worth mentioning:
Valkyries nearly made the list. Between Thor and Frozen and How to Train Your Dragon, interest in Scandinavian-inspired tales is growing. And we could always do with some more badass lady warriors.
Dryads probably missed their most obvious jumping-off point during the more heavy-handed period of environmentally conscious kids' films such as Fern Gully and Once Upon a Forest. Global warming, though, is no less of an issue now and I could certainly see tree spirits playing a part in representing the victims of pollution and deforestation. The Lorax may speak for the trees, but his recent movie incarnation has me thinking I'd rather hear from that tree lady from Fantasia 2000.
Wyverns, however rad they are, got left off the list because they are basically dragons—just with fewer limbs than usual.
What I was saying about the Valkyries and an interest in Scandinavian mythology? Yeah, you can apply that here too. I'd also add Pixar's Brave onto the list of movies that make me feel like berserkers totally need to happen more—because bears. Let it never be said that I shrink from controversy: werebears > werewolves. That's right. I said it.
Yes, yes, berserkers are often bloodlust-fueled warriors that go into a frenzy that allows them to gain the strength of a bear, but full-on shapeshifting is what I'm really after here. An army of werebears could make a really awesome addition to some sort of fantasy war epic set in the freezing north.
The violent frenzy associated with the Berserkers opens the door to a lot of drama. In the midst of their mindless slaughter, they might wind up attacking friends as well as enemies. That's the problem with accepting this sort of gift: astounding strength, but an inability to direct it.
C'mon, guys, let's make it happen. Werewolves may be a safer bet, but berserkers have a lot more unexplored potential to unlock.