Like a list of the 10 greatest rock songs of all time or the 10 best kebab shops in Islington, a list of the 10 best X-Files monsters is a subjective thing based on taste and memories and how much change happens to be in your pocket.
So while we must tip the hat to YesButNoButYes and their 10 Greatest X-Files Monsters, we must respectfully disagree with several of their choices and justifications and offer a different opinion.
That’s X-phile talk for ‘they’re wrong, we’re right, nya nya.’
The X-Files quite literally paved the way for some of the best narrative television today, and although few deny that it ran out of steam in its later seasons the first five or six still rank as some of the best stuff to come out of Vancouver before Battlestar Galactica. Part of the show’s charm was that it mixed its main story arc about alien invasion with regular ‘monster of the week’ episodes, one-offs that contained some scary something-or-other from various mythological sources. And here is our expert opinion about what the ten best of those monsters are.
We recommend reading this list on a Friday night, with a loved one, under a blanket, lights off. Because that’s how The X-Files is best enjoyed, how we fondly remember it. Because some of this stuff will still scare the shit out of you.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
10. Polly Turner and ‘Chinga’
The episode Chinga (changed to Bunghoney outside of America) was co-authored by best-selling horror writer Stephen King, and features many of his signature touches: a small town in Maine, a dysfunctional family, the repetition of various innocuous phrases that take on an increasingly sinister meaning. Polly Turner uses her doll Chinga to focus her growing supernatural powers – although the doll itself may be to blame for awakening Polly’s abilities. She cuts a murderous swathe across the small town where Scully is taking a much-needed holiday, while Mulder tries to help her out from afar (tossing pencils into the ceiling of his office, which would become an X-Files trope.) The recurring use of ‘the hokey pokey’ as Chinga and Polly commit their crimes will inevitably link the song to slaughter by evil children’s toys in even the most resolute of viewers.
9. The Peacock Family
Home is a classic episode known as much for its controversy as its content: the episode was only aired once on American television because of its (for the time) graphic content and incestuous relationships between the villains rankled Yankee senses that still had their nose out of joint for Murphy Brown having a child out of wedlock. (It has since been released on DVD and is in syndication.) The Peacock family live in the small town of Home, Pennsylvania, and have bred only with each other since the American Civil War – more than 150 years by the time the episode starts. When one of their babies dies and is discovered by some local children, Mulder and Scully are sent to investigate. What happens is a shoot-out in the best tradition of American splatter films of the 70s and early 80s – cops raid filthy hillbilly horror-den, bloodshed ensues. And the closing scene of the Peacock survivors getting away in their classic Cadillac is one of the best examples of the X-Files theme that evil can never truly be defeated.
8. The Survivors of Ponce de Leon’s expedition. AKA, the chameleon humanoids from Detour.
Here’s one YBNBY got right: even though the special effects are dated by today’s standards, a race of killer humans lurking in the Florida swampland (which looks suspiciously like the Pacific Northwest) is stone-cold terrifying, especially since the only hint that they’re after you is their piercing red eyes. Mulder and Scully barely make it out of this one alive: after they flee Scully’s hotel room at the end of the episode, a pair of those red eyes appears under Scully’s bed. They lurk in the forest and they enter your room. We dare you to watch this episode and not get the chills when you see their horrible, horrible red eyes… Pardon us while we go lock the door.
7. Darren Peter Oswald
It may be tempting to cheer for the video-game-playing nerd who calls lightning to electrocute his tormentors, the fact that he seems utterly without morals and fries whomever he happens to dislike is even more subtly horrifying. From the episode D.P.O, Darren (played by a young Giovanni Ribisi) is a sociopath in training, and imagining what someone with his ability could be like in ten years without Mulder and Scully to stop him ought to be enough to keep you awake at night. And playing Filter’s Hey Man, Nice Shot while he zaps his enemies is a nice touch.
6. Charlie Holvey
Maybe evil children just don’t sit well with us, but the opening scenes of the episode The Calusari – where a balloon acts of its own accord and leads a toddler onto the train tracks, where he is run over while his older brother Charlie looks on – are creepy in a way that few X-Files episodes recreate. Turns out Charlie is actually possessed by his dead evil twin (aren’t they all?) and the demon presence in him proceeds to attack and kill the family members protecting him. The Calusari are a Romanian cult who seem to understand how to exorcise the demon, but not before a lot more creepy shit goes down.
5. Big Blue
Props to YBNBY for this one as well. Big Blue is part Loch Ness Monster, part Champ, part Crocodile-In-The-Sewer, but it’s all monster and it’s the reason why swimming in lakes where you can’t see what’s coming is always a Very Bad Idea. The real Big Blue only makes an appearance at the very end, after the alligator that is responsible for a series of deaths (including the memorable demise of Scully’s dog) is put down by Mulder and the other agents.
You always suspected there might be something off about your boss and your co-workers. And you know for a fact that your job is sapping your will to live. Pincus (from the episode Folie a Deux) is the boss you always feared: he’s actually some insectoid creature who can disguise himself as a human and feeds on people, turning them into mindless drone-like zombies. Sounds wacky? Sure, until you hear it chittering behind its office door, and your co-workers stare at you vacantly… and tell you the boss needs to see you now.
3. The Cigarette-Smoking Man
No, he’s not at the top of our list. Why? Because while he’s a heartless bastard who ends up crippled and dying alone by the end of the series, and he is a complete badass, he’s certainly not the stuff nightmares are made of. He may be worse, as he’s ‘real’ – the embodiment of a massive government conspiracy to keep people servile and ignorant, and to eventually turn the human race over to alien masters. But he does have a softer side: he always wanted to be an author. Isn’t that sweet?
2. The Alien Invaders
We’re grouping these as one monster because they do play such a major role in the show’s mythology. They’re coming to colonise earth, they use a sinister black oil to spread their DNA and enslave people, and they have sent a race of shapeshifting hybrids whose green blood is poisonous to help the conspiracy that aims to quietly give the planet over to them. Surely one or two of them could find nice government jobs and truly begin their reign of terror.
1. Eugene Victor Tooms
He’s immortal, he feeds on human livers, and he can contort his body to fit through tiny spaces like Mr. Fantastic turned evil. He’s also a serial killer. And rumour has it, he doesn’t like dogs. Eugene Victor Tooms is on the top of the list because he’s the iconic X-Files villain: mention the monster of the week and he inevitably pops to the top of people’s minds. He’s also one of the only monsters-of-the-week to appear more than once, and for good reason: if you have an already-scary monster, why create a new one? As far as serial killing monsters go, it doesn’t get worse that Tooms.
[story by Jason Mical]