- Bad CGI monsters have ruined otherwise solid horror movies, from comically goofy Pennywise to hilariously unconvincing Darkseekers.
- Slow-burn horror movies often obscure their monsters until the end, but bad CGI can be a letdown, like in Children of the Corn and Dagon.
- Mama and Case 39 had promising stories but were let down by poorly realized CGI monsters, undermining the suspense and atmosphere.
While CGI monsters can look great, some laughable horror villains have ruined otherwise solid movies. There are few things more disappointing than an underwhelming monster in a horror movie. While a lot of slasher movies can get away with a masked murderous madman as their villain, supernatural horror movies and creature features tend to require more impressive and original antagonists. From Godzilla to Hellraiser‘s Pinhead to Alien’s Xenomorph, to more recent screen fiends like the Babadook or The Ritual’s memorably weird Moder, the history of screen horror comes complete with a rogue’s gallery of memorably scary villains.
However, while a great villain can elevate an otherwise passable horror movie, the inverse is also true. Some slow-burn horror movies are worth the wait, but all too often, entries into the genre obscure their monsters in shadow until the finale only to then let viewers down. While the genre has provided audiences with memorably bad practical effects over the decades, the uniquely unconvincing nature of bad CGI is responsible for horror’s more recent failures. Whether they looked silly, fake, or unintentionally funny, bad CGI monsters have been the ruin of many initially great horror movies.
10 Pennywise’s Final Form — IT: Chapter 2
The sequel to Stephen King’s IT revealed a comically awkward spider-clown
It Chapter Two
- Release Date
- September 6, 2019
- Andres Muschietti
Penywise’s final form was a comically goofy giant spider with a clown’s head.
2019’s IT: Chapter 2 was a little tonally uneven, with the sequel bouncing between knockabout comedy scenes and dark, gruesome horror without much warning. However, for the most part, this second chapter of 2017’s blockbuster was a success. The adult version of The Loser’s Club was well cast, Pennywise was still terrifying, and Bill Hader stole the show as Richie Tozer’s older self. What a shame that IT: Chapter 2’s ending revealed Penywise’s final form was a comically goofy giant spider with a clown’s head.
9 He Who Walks Among the Rows — Children of the Corn (1984)
This Stephen King adaptation featured some of the worst early CGI
Children of the Corn (1984)
- RLJ Entertainment
- Run Time
- 92 minutes
IT: Chapter 2’s big monster reveal might have been disappointing, but it was a lot better than 1984’s earlier Stephen King adaptation Children of the Corn. In its opening half, this rural chiller was an effective little adaptation that followed a bickering couple as they got lost in a seemingly abandoned Nebraska town. The revelation that the town’s children had slain all the adults was genuinely creepy thanks to a pair of superb villainous performances from Courtney Gains and John Franklin. However, the dreadful CGI used to realize He Who Walks Among the Rows derailed the finale.
8 The Boogeyman — Boogeyman (2005)
2005’s titular villain ruined the preceding movie’s unsettling atmosphere
The Boogeyman was a slack-jawed CGI monstrosity.
Few horror movies depict the Boogeyman onscreen, perhaps because no monster could match the imagined horrors of the audience’s childhood. However, 2005’s Boogeyman attempted this with the story of a disturbed young man returning to his childhood home and confronting the unseen force that killed his father years earlier. A slack-jawed CGI monstrosity, Boogeyman’s monster was bad enough to undo the considerable promise of the movie’s creepy early scenes.
7 Uxia — Dagon
2001’s almost-perfect Lovecraft adaptation was let down by bad CGI
Dagon combined two of the legendary horror author HP Lovecraft’s best-known stories into an unsettling tale of a town with a dark secret. Some mean-spirited twists, truly shocking gore, and spirited, campy direction ensured that this was, alongside 1991’s The Resurrected, one of the best Lovecraft screen adaptations. That is until the revelation of one jarringly inept piece of special effects work as the villainous Uxia’s laughably bad CGI tentacles undid all the movie’s patient tension building.
6 The Devil — The Omen (2006)
The Omen’s remake shouldn’t have revealed its goofy devil onscreen
A remake of The Omen was always guaranteed to be a hard sell since the original is famously a rare horror movie where the heroes lose. However, 2006’s re-do proved surprisingly competent, with Liev Schreiber offering a more jittery, paranoid take on Robert Thorn, the diplomat who slowly realizes his son is the Antichrist. David Thewlis and the late, great Pete Postletwaithe provided fun, campy support and Julia Stiles was typically strong as Damian’s conflicted mother, but all this good work was undone by a dodgy CGI devil that looked like a goofily grinning horse skull.
5 Mama — Mama
2013’s Mama proved that a bad monster design could undo a solid movie
- Release Date
- February 21, 2013
- Andres Muschietti
The eponymous force, the largely unseen Mama, was effectively creepy until the disappointing ending revealed her to be a poorly realized CGI ghost.
Mama followed a couple who adopted their orphaned nieces, who had spent the past five years eking out a feral existence in a remote woodland. The pair struggled to integrate the girls into society, but this issue was worsened by the gradual realization that a supernatural force had seemingly followed them out of the forest. The eponymous force, the largely unseen Mama, was effectively creepy until the disappointing ending revealed her to be a poorly realized CGI ghost.
4 Lily — Case 39
This slow-burn horror had a comically weak reveal up its sleeve
- Release Date
- August 13, 2009
- Christian Alvart
Lilith was nothing more than a CGI demon with cliché black eyes.
Case 39 is supporting star Bradley Cooper’s worst horror movie, which is pretty impressive considering how bad the rest of his genre outings are. The story of a social worker who tries to raise a troubled child only to discover they are cursed, Case 39 started out like a fun, slow-burn killer kid horror movie. However, Case 39 spent far too long teasing its villain only to reveal that Lilith was nothing more than a CGI demon with cliché black eyes.
3 Mary Elnor — The Unholy
This religious horror seemed to be promising until its big villain reveal
2021’s The Unholy saw a cynical journalist investigate what seemed to be a string of real-life miracles performed by a young girl. When the girl claimed she was channeling the spirit of Mary, everyone assumed she meant the Virgin Mary until The Unholy’s hero had disquieting nightmares about a demon. This demon turned out to be the satanist Mary Elnor, a twist that might have worked better if Mary herself wasn’t a bland, by-the-numbers CGI monster with no memorable features.
2 Calvin — Life
This otherwise great sci-fi chiller’s alien couldn’t compare to the Xenomorph or the Predator
2017’s Life had tons going for it. A cast that included Jake Gyllenhall, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds, a genuinely shocking early death, and a story of a rampaging killer alien that felt more like 1979’s original Alien than Ridley Scott’s convoluted Alien prequels. However, all of these promising elements became less than the sum of their parts thanks to Calvin, the villain at the movie’s center. Life’s CGI alien was a weightless, bland blob whose limitless power couldn’t hide its uninspired design.
1 The Darkseekers — I Am Legend
Will Smith’s action-horror epic was ruined by PlayStation-style monsters
I Am Legend
- Release Date
- December 14, 2007
- Francis Lawrence
- willow smith , Salli Richardson-Whitfield , Will Smith , Alice Braga , Charlie Tahan
2007’s I Am Legend was incredibly patient for a blockbuster, with the movie taking a good hour to reveal the monsters that Will Smith’s troubled loner Robert Neville evaded in post-apocalyptic New York. However, the wait was not worth it when I Am Legend finally unveiled its Darkseekers and they were hilariously unconvincing monsters that wouldn’t have passed muster in a PlayStation game five years earlier. An otherwise solid horror movie was irreparably damaged by these villains, which are neither scary nor realistic enough to make Robert’s plight poignant despite a strong performance from Smith.