Diminutive Horror: Tiny Terrors All Around

It's St. Patrick's Day and I think for most people that means the go to mischievous little creature is the leprechaun. Luckily for genre fans, we have a whole seven film series based on the Irish folklore BUT that's not even CLOSE to covering how much horror abounds that's just a knee high (or less.) Here's a list of some of our all time favorites. 


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The Gate

While this pint-sized treat boasts all the fun qualities of a typical critter adventure yarn, it’s also very much a product of its time. The story, which tells the story of miniature demons from hell causing chaos, is a response to the Satanic Panic hysteria which dominated the decade -- a period which saw everything from horror movies to heavy metal and even board games being accused of corrupting America and promoting devil worship. More than anything, though, it’s just a fun little critter movie. (Kieran Fisher)

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The Puppet Master series

The most successful straight-to-video horror franchise of all time, Puppet Master introduced viewers to iconic new characters and an underrated central concept that is almost catered to franchise longevity: the puppets retain individual quirks and personalities, but must obey the will of a master, whatever their intent. It allows for a series where the central characters can be good or evil in equal doses. It screams of Old Hollywood and yet is filled to the brim with all of the wonderful, goofy eccentricities of '80s and '90s DTV horror. There's truly no other franchise like it. (Nat Brehmer)

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Gremlins and Gremlins 2

Electric. Vegetable. Brainy. Spider. Mugger. Mob Boss. Aerobics Fanatics. Dumb-looking. Bat. Phantom. Female. The list of different types of Gremlins is seemingly endless. Sprouted from the back of our hapless hero Gizmo after they get wet. Now that’s Rule #2 in the infamous rules in Joe Dante’s classic film Gremlins. As you know, the first is no bright light, and the most important: don’t feed them after midnight. Because that’s when the Gremlins really come out to play. Grotesque green little monsters that only could come from the mind of Chris Walas, the Academy Award Winning artist responsible for the nightmare fuel that is Cronenberg’s The Fly and the endless looping gif that is The Fly 2. Each Gremlin, a combination of puppetry and animatronics, conveyed its own distinct personality in ways we rarely get from these “little monster run amok” films that followed in Gremlins wake (Critters deserving credit for giving their monsters actual dialogue). What the Gremlins lacked in size, that made up for far greater in numbers to wreak havoc across Kingston Falls and Clamp Towers in Manhattan, an allusion to their origins in World War II that Mr. Fudderman (Dick Miller) relays to Kate (Phoebe Cates) in the first film, “It's the same gremlins that brought down our planes in the big one. Y'know their still shippin’ them over here. They put ‘em in cars, they put ‘em in your tv. They put ‘em in stereos and those little radios you stick in your ears. They even put ‘em in watches!” (Jacob Trussell)

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The Critters series

My experience cannot be unique. My introduction to Stephen Herek’s Critters was in a whole different film: 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When Raphael blows off some steam early in the film after losing a sai to future Academy Award Winner Sam Rockwell, he takes in a picture at the old Loewes/Paramount in Columbus Circle (that was unfortunately gutted to make way for, wait for it, a Trump Hotel). That film? Critters. The classic poster of one of the Crites standing on a lone dirt road leading to a farm house under a skylight night burned into my memory that I still can’t think of one without thinking of the other. A simple story with deep ties to old Hollywood Sci-Fi, Critters were a clear cash grab to Gremlins (and takes from the Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter, that itself was an inspiration for both Gremlins and E.T.) but separated itself by being sheer entertainment, in no small part helped by Broadway’s Rum Tum Tugger Terrence Mann and his Rock Star alter ego Johnny Steele (Power of the Night is a blissfully 80's earwig). The Crites were cemented as their own entity with Mick Garris’ wonderful sequel The Main Course, co-written by David Twohy (the creator of Pitch Black and Vin Diesel’s career). Quickly Critters jumped the shark for straight to video early 90’s entertainment and not only went to the city and met Leonardo DiCaprio (Critters 3) then chilled with Angela Bassett in space (Critters 4), but the films never lost their youthful sense of fun. Critters is a party that you hope you’re on the list for. (Jacob Trussell)

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The Child's Play franchise

From the moment we saw serial killer Charles Lee Ray put his bloody hand on a Good Guy Doll in a Chicago toy store in 1988, audiences have been rabidly loyal to the "Chucky" franchise. While the first film is a commentary on the commercial consumerism of the 80's akin to Romero's, the subsequent films became more campy and gory. Chucky's since been given a wife Tiffany (creating one of the most iconic horror couples in pop culture) and a transgendered child (who was seemingly ret-conned in later films), but the films have maintained something that their colleagues in Crystal Lake, Springwood and Haddonfield have not; they follow a linear timeline with repeating characters and a 'final boy', Chucky is still a practical puppet engineered by some of Hollywood's best animatronic FX artists even in today's CGI-replaced world, and genre favorite Brad Dourif is still voicing the iconic doll. Nearly three decades later, we are still eagerly tuning in, ready to be "friends to the end" with our favorite murderous doll. (Amanda Rebholz)

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The Leprechaun franchise

Over two decades and seven films in, the Leprechaun series is still chugging along. Hell, SyFy just announced a new return-to-form sequel TODAY. IN 2018. The series went from horror comedy, to Freddy-type slasher, back to full tilt comedy and then allllll the way back to super grim horror film. It's been a blast to see the series shift back and forth and when it's good, it's really fun. Leprechaun and it's two immediate sequels are a blast and continue to get more outrageous in the best way possible. The fourth entry puts Leprechaun in a special category with few other horror films: in space. While it's not the best of the series, it's a lot of goofy fun and it brings into perhaps one of the silliest premises. The leprechaun goes from outer space back into orbit and right into the streets of Compton. The direct sequel to In The Hood attempts to right the ship and balance horror and comedy and the final (as of now) film, under the banner of WWE Studios, is a gory creature feature with a new iteration of the beast. Say what you want, Warwick Davis is an absolute treat in every film, putting his heart into every movie, never phoning it in. That can't be said for even some of the biggest movie all stars. (Ryan Larson)

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Troll 2

Why Troll 2 and not the first entry? Because Troll really has absolutely effing nothing to do with Troll 2 and Troll 2 is truly one of the most outrageous bonkers sequels ever. Even outside of spawning a truly spectacular documentary, Worst Movie EverTroll 2 must be seen to be believed. With wonky costumes and some truly silly plot points, the movie is a laugh riot. I mean, a kid pisses all over dinner. I understand that may not be what anyone was looking for in the horror genre but the creators have managed to transcend the genre and become a cinematic phenomenon. (Ryan Larson)