Top 10 eyeless monsters

Sometimes the eyes don't have it when it comes to scary creatures...

In last week’s trailer for the Doctor Who special ‘Planet Of The Dead’, we get a glimpse of the ‘flying jellyfish of doom’ (not the official name for the race) – eyeless airborne creatures with frighteningly bitey mouths under a kind of manta-ray body.

As someone who was so scared of Giger’s optically-challenged monster design for Alien (1979) that I had nightmares for years afterwards, I thought it might be fun to check out other eyeless nasties from movies, TV and games, with the help of suggestions from the writers at DoG…

n.b. This list is in ‘movies’ because there are more monsters from movies here than any other category.

10: Walking ‘graboids’ – Tremors 2: AftershocksSuggested by Ron Hogan

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The Tremors series has produced enough genetic ‘graboid’ variants to populate this list. The only reason to include the bipedal variety of graboid in Tremors 2 is that the original creature from the first (and best) film tends to occupy similar space to the Carlo Rambaldi worms in David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Dune.

9: The Raston Warrior Robot – Doctor Who, ‘The Five Doctors’Suggested by Anthony Harvison

We shouldn’t really be giving this mechanoid-creature a second outing so soon after Ten Doctor Who monsters that should return, but he’s just too cool to leave out. In a show famed for the lumbering, lurking sloth of its monsters and villains, classic Who really pulled something surprising and new out of the bag for this Doctor-laden special story. Raston moves like greased-lightning – he’s killed you before you even get your gun out of the holster, eyes or no eyes. Clint Eastwood himself couldn’t outdraw him. He was scary as hell at the time, and the years have been kind to him. Check out the link above for Cliff Chapman’s take on the gazelle-like autobot…

8: The brain-creatures – Fiend Without A Face

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This 1958 sci-fi shocker was one of only a handful of British contributions to the ‘atomic monster’ mania of the Fifties. Set in Canada and replete with phoney North-American accents, it nonetheless features some of the longest and most complicated stop-motion animation of the decade. The camera pans back and forth on the hideous spine-brain creatures that have emerged from dangerous experiments with telekinesis, and there’s a real sense of tension and horror. A largely-forgotten gem, and unjustly so.

7: The doctor – Jacob’s LadderSuggested by Rupert De Paula

If a doctor with a syringe and no eyes isn’t one of the ghastliest prospects in medical horror, I’ll buy a hat and eat it. Adrian Lyne’s increasingly influential and hallucinatory shocker features a raft of bizarre dream images, as protagonist Vietnam veteran Tim Robbins comes to understand that something horrific may have been done to him in the name of military medical research.

6: The lickers in the Resident Evil gamesSuggested by Duncan Bowles

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Duncan’s having a hard time with these particular nasties in Resident Evil 5 right now. Their brains might be on display, but you’ll have to get past that torso-ripping tongue to do any damage to them. Since Lickers can walk on walls too, that’s not remotely easy. These ghastly horrors are genuinely blind, but compensate with an increased sense of smell and also hearing. So you’d better not soil yourself in fear as you’re trying to creep past them…

5: The nurses in Silent HillSuggested by Aaron Birch

The second of two medical monsters in this list, these endomorphic terrors are more likely to put you in the morgue than take your temperature. Alchemilla and Brookhaven hospitals are full of these faceless and deformed ministers of ill-health, who are generated from the psychological turmoil of the central character, and therefore vary throughout the franchise as it has developed. The ‘puppet nurses’ of Silent Hill 1 evolved into the ‘Bubblehead nurses’ of the second outing. In SH3, the nurses are manifested by a female protagonist character, and are a bit lighter on the classically sexy curves. But no less deadly.

4: Indigenous species –  Pitch Black

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The hammer-headed and bloodthirsty swarms of David Twohy’s 2000 SF horror are what many commenters are reminded of by the new Planet Of The Dead footage. Visually a cross between a bat and a pterodactyl, these sharp-edged beasties seem eyeless, but are absolutely allergic to light. They’re relentless as mosquitoes and as savage as panthers, leaving shipwrecked Riddick (Vin Diesel) and company only a box of Swan Vestas away from a grisly end on a hostile planet…

3: The Triffids – John Wyndham’s The Day Of The Triffids (novel)Suggested by Nick Smith

I’ve already waxed lyrical on the merits of Brit SF writer Wyndham’s classic tale of apocalypse over at Top 10 Killer Plants. It only remains to add that this hugely influential tale of Britocalypse finds the world blinded by a meteor shower and at the mercy of poisonous walking plants which began to germinate on Earth years earlier, and which mankind had recently begun to exploit. 28 Days Later and Blindness owe a particular debt to Day Of The Triffids, which has been the victim of a poor Hollywood adaptation in 1962 and an under-funded BBC serial in 1981. Let’s hope the BBC’s second take on the tale really does it justice.

2: Davros – Doctor Who

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Those of us who grew up in 1970s Britain cowering behind the sofa at the monsters in Doctor Who found some of our most delightful chills with this one. Effectively a sci-fi Nazi scientist, Davros was revealed as creator of the Daleks in the utter classic Who story ‘Genesis Of The Daleks’ in 1975. GotD producer Philip Hinchcliffe told designer John Friedlander to create a disabled villain in the style of Dan Dare’s ‘Mekon’, whilst Michael Wisher, the actor inside, drew on the philosophy of Bertrand Russell to portray Davros’s mercilessly utilitarian point-of-view.

The introduction of Davros in GotD was a plateau the character was never to quite reach again, though he was later portrayed by David Gooderson (in 1979’s Destiny of the Daleks), Terry Molloy (in Resurrection, Revelation and Remembrance in the 1980s) and most recently by Julian Bleach in new Who tale The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End at the close of season 4.

1: H.R. Giger xenomorph – Alien series

The ultimate in eyeless horror, Alien director Ridley Scott was quick to accept writer Dan O’Bannon’s suggestion that Swiss painter H.R. Giger, his ex-collaborator on the ill-fated Jodorowsky Dune project, was the perfect visualist for the ‘monster’ in Alien. Scott fixated on the ‘Necronom IV’ painting from Giger’s 1976 book Necronomicon, and horror history began to take shape.  Giger’s alien, as realised by Italian prosthetics maestro Carlo Rambaldi, is a vicious mouth with an even more vicious (spring-loaded) mouth inside that one. A creature from man’s collective nightmares, the xenomorph is both sex and decay, birth and death; a fusion of feral stupidity and a terrifying and instinctive vulpine cunning. No eyes, but it knows exactly where you are. Gulp.

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After various revisions of the design in Aliens (1986) and Alien 3 (1992), the series ended in 1997 with the under-rated Alien Resurrection (no more films were ever made featuring the creature, and I refuse to be told otherwise).

Honourable mention: The berserkers in Gears Of War – These lumbering, murderous behemoths have eyes, but are blind. Don’t even breathe, because they can run like gazelles when they want to! Terrifying…

Rock monster in Galaxy Quest – Kirk-alike Tim Allen has a hard time indeed facing up to an animated pile of rocks in the 1999 Star Trek spoof.

Doom monster (game) – This supernatural nasty is one of many video-game monsters clearly ‘inspired’ by Giger’s masterpiece. You’ll find more in the videogame of The Thing and many others besides.

The beach ball in Dark Star – Would you believe this eyeless beast is the beta-version of Giger’s xenomorph?  Alien creator Dan O’Bannon has a long and painful struggle chasing this playful extra-terrestrial in Dark Star, before realising that Dark Star might actually work better as a horror movie.

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Worms in Dune Carlo Rambaldi, who created the xenomorph in the original Alien, constructed these impressive creatures for David Lynch’s Dune in 1984.

HellraiserPhantasm (suggested by Ron Hogan) Vervoids (Doctor Who)

Dishonourable mention:The Langoliers