Mythological creatures have been the basis of many forms of adaptations. Whether those are books, TV shows, or movies, folklore has set the stage for many movies in the horror genre throughout the years. Indeed, many popular horror movies have taken a mythological creature or demon and put them in a story that coincides with the creature’s background. In The Conjuring, for instance, screenwriters based the first movie on a mythological demon named Bathsheba. This high-grossing horror franchise has two mythological spirits on this list, with the second being the Spanish demon La Llorona who seeks out children.
Newer movies like the 2021 film Antlers used Indigenous mythological creatures like the Wendigo. According to an interview with Inverse, the director Scott Cooper said the use of the Indigenous-based Wendigo was vital to his film and required meticulous planning to get the mythological creature just right. Regardless of whether the mythological creatures can be proven real, their legends make for scary horror movies. These are 8 of the scariest mythological creatures in horror movies.
Updated on September 10th, 2023, by Gargi Chatterjee: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.
13 The Krampus
Christmas is a time of merry and joy — until it isn’t. When children misbehave, Krampus, a horned anthropomorphic figure, appears to scare the children. The creature isn’t necessarily good or bad; its folklore says he is the representation of punishment and retribution.
Of course, at the same time, he has been known to lure the children to his cave and eat them, which we can all agree isn’t very “nice.” You can catch this mythological creature in the 2015 horror film Krampus, starring Toni Collette and Adam Scott.
12 Aisha Kandisha
The 2020 French language film Kandisha uses a character from the Moroccan folklore as its central evil force. Three young girls are shown to invoke the spirit of Kandisha on a whim when one of them gets attacked by her ex-boyfriend. But soon they find out that the Kandisha is out for the blood of not only one victim but multiple.
In the film, it is said that the Kandisha, once invoked, claims the life of six men before its thirst is quenched. In Moroccan folklore, the Kandisha is a vengeful spirit that appears as a beautiful and enticing young woman with the legs of a hoofed animal. She seduces men and lures them to her to madden and kill them. There are many different renditions of Kandisha across different Moroccan folklore but the depictions are all very chilling, including the one in the movie.
The Leprechaun Franchise
Leprechauns are always depicted as cute, lucky, green-wearing men. In the eight-film franchise, beginning with 1993’s Leprechaun, the titular creature is malicious, and murderous and will stop at nothing to get back any gold that is stolen from him.
While the Irish mythological creature is often associated with good, humans tend to take things too far, which is the case in this franchise. Humans’ greed can often lead to bad things like taking someone else’s gold, thereby unleashing a terror they couldn’t imagine.
Ek Thi Daayan (2013)
The 2013 Hindi-language movie Ek Thi Daayan includes many different lore from across various old Indian mythology but at the center of it all is the Daayan or a witch. Daayans have been depicted across many different mythologies to be women who practice black magic and they are especially prone to harming children.
In the movie, we see the Daayan sacrificing young children whom she loves to keep restoring her dark powers. One of the other interesting facts about Daayans is that their power is said to be stored in their hair and cutting off their braids is said to make them powerless. The movie also depicts that very well. Daayans are truly one of the scariest mythological creatures of Indian folklore as they tend to harm kids and practice dark, unholy magic.
9 The Weeping Woman
The Curse of La Llorona (2019)
The spirit is from Mexican folklore origin. She preys on children who wander too close to the water. She is often shown wearing a white dress and veil.
Under the Shadow (2016)
The Djinn/Jinn is an immensely scary mythological creature that has appeared in many movies. Even though in Arabic mythology they are said to be creatures that are not innately good or evil, in most of their recent depictions, they are portrayed as evil creatures that can possess, scare, and even kill humans if they are angered.
In the movie Under the Shadows, a young mother-daughter duo is harassed and harmed by the unholy presence of a Djinn. The other movie which depicts young women being possessed by Djinns and doing their unholy bidding is the 2013 movie Dabbe: Curse of the Jinn.
The Conjuring (2013)
In The Conjuring, the spirit Bathsheba serves as the main antagonist. Bathsheba is based on Bathsheba Sherman, a woman who tried to sacrifice her newborn son to Satan. Her husband caught her before the sacrifice went through, causing her to hang herself after proclaiming her love to Satan and cursing the land.
She was then on known to possess the mother in the families who lived on her land and would force the mother to slaughter her children. She attempted to take over the matriarch of the Perron family, though Ed and Lorraine Warren were able to banish Bathsheba before she accomplished her mission.
Hereditary is easily one of the most bone-chilling supernatural horror movies of the last decade. The movie depicts how a family is slowly torn apart by a vicious presence that ends up being a demon named Paimon.
There have been many demons from Biblical mythologies to have graced the screen but the way Paimon’s effect is shown throughout the movie easily makes him one of the scariest ones. Paimon in mythology is called King Paimon and is known to be quite obedient to the Devil himself. Being a favorite of Lucifer also makes him a terrifying entity with a lot of power.
Bagul, or Mr. Boogie as he is called in the Sinister franchise, is based on the Babylonian pagan deity who consumes the souls of children. He can travel to our realm via images of himself, which he does through film in the franchise.
His mouth was sewn shut by his brother, making the deity even more sinister. He is bloodthirsty and forces the children he wants to brutally murder their families. These murders were filmed and left to be watched by the new inhabitants of the house in the first Sinister film.
4 The Wendigo
In the 2021 film Antlers, the mythological Wendigo creature is brought to life after the creature inhabits a father. The Indigenous-based evil spirit makes its captive human body crave the flesh and blood of others.
In Antlers, the creature possesses a father and slowly drives him insane in his thirst for human flesh. His youngest son was also infected, and it’s up to his other son to take care of the two, which he locked in their attic.
3 Headless Horseman
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Tim Burton is known for his gothic horror movies and the campy yet terrifying way he depicts different mythological creatures is evident in the movie Sleepy Hollow. The story of Sleepy Hollow is very loosely based on a short story called ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ by Washington Irving. In the movie, a police officer named Ichabod Crane is sent to a quaint place called Sleepy Hollow where there have been multiple cases of decapitation, believed to be committed by a headless horseman.
The Headless Horseman appears in many different mythologies. Some believe he is a demonic entity whereas some others think he is a ghost who was beheaded in battle and now takes revenge on unsuspecting people. However, the story may be, that the entity is terrifying as it has a knack for decapitating people and taking their heads for himself.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
Homunculi, also known as Tooth Fairies, are creatures who started to prey on children’s teeth, but now prey on the child itself. The small creatures are nocturnal fairy-like creatures from the netherworld.
They appeared in the 2011 fantasy-horror film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. The goblin-like creatures are locked in a basement only to be awoken by eight-year-old Sally’s carousel-style nightlight, which plays a lullaby. Sally releases them and is terrorized by the creatures who long for children, but settle for grownups if needed.
The Ritual (2017)
The 2017 horror film The Ritual brings to life the mythical creature called Moder or Jötunn. In Swedish cults, Moder the Jötunn is known to be a bastard offspring of the Norse God, Loki. Moder, which means mother in Scandinavian, stalks people who enter her forest and marks the one who has suffered the most emotionally.
That marked person is then given the choice to join to cult or to die. Those who are not marked are tortured and killed by Moder, who was brought to life in The Ritual with terrifying success to become one of the most disturbing cinematic mythological creatures ever.
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