The Urban Legend; stories of monsters or ghosts or demons or killer clowns or haunted dolls that stalk the unsuspecting make for good films. Well, if not good, then bloody. Sometimes it is a creepypasta short on YouTube or the like. Sometimes an Urban Legend, like Annabelle the haunted doll, gets its own feature film, maybe even extending to a franchise. Urban Legends are just that. They are stories that you can’t prove or disprove. The story about the woman who wears a wig that is infested with killer spiders. Or the tale of the hanging body everybody thinks is a prop that turns out to be a suicide or murder victim. Or maybe it’s the one about the babysitter and the killer upstairs. Then there is the hitchhiker who thumbs a ride and then vanishes into thin air. Most, like the Boogeyman, have been around forever. The West likes its serial killers, ghosts, things in sewers and witches. In Japan and China you find demonic, sometimes disfigured or legless spirits that come after you and drag you to hell. If you’re lucky, they will only kill you.
Here are 15 Urban Legends and the movies that have taken them on. Sometimes it’s a cheap and cheerful YouTube short. Sometimes it’s a full blown feature film. But one thing is for certain: They are perfect for Halloween.
15. Satoru Kun
Only the Japanese could come up with this one. Satoru Kun is a demon that takes the form of a little boy. And he can answer any question. We mean any question. So if your pesky kid brother wants to know if he’s got an iPhone 7 in his future, this is what you’ll do: Find a payphone (are there any anymore?), a mobile phone, and some coins. Put the coins into the payphone, dial the cell phone and while it’s ringing, say: “Satoru, Satoru, Satoru, come to me” three times. Hang up the payphone and turn off the mobile. Then switch it back on. Satoru Kun will call to tell you where he is. Then he will hang up. He will call again and again until he is right behind you. Whatever you do, don’t look at him and ask your question, like really fast. Otherwise, it’s straight to hell with you. This is a neat game to play, especially if you have a Japanese friend who can help. And there are lots of creepy videos on YouTube.
14. The Killer In The Back Seat
You know the story. A girl is driving down a lonely road at night. A car behind her keeps honking and flashing its lights. She goes faster and faster, but the car keeps up, flashing its lights and honking his horn. Then a cop car shows up and the cops rush over to her car. Then the twist. They drag a guy with a knife (or a machete or an ice pick) out of the back seat. The man in the car behind her rushes to her side and tells her he was flashing and honking every time the guy raised up to strike. He had, in fact saved her life. In 1998, Urban Legend told the tale of a college community beset by a string of murders that seemed to copycat notorious Urban Legends, including the killer in the back seat. It’s not very good, but does feature a very young Jared Leto.
13. The Haunted Doll
The haunted doll that maybe moves on its own, emits sounds, attacks people. Go to Key West and see Robert, the 100 year old doll that reportedly can do a voodoo curse on you. He got his own feature film called (what else?) Robert. Or Ted the Haunted Clown Doll that is said to walk and talk. But our favorite film haunted dolls? That has to be Chucky in Child’s Play and Annabelle in The Conjuring. Chucky is the sinister doll inhabited by a serial killer who just happened to be bumped off by the cops in a toy store and transfers his soul into a “Good Guy” doll using a voodoo spell. It’s a slasher movie on steroids. Then there’s Annabelle, a real doll owned by paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren, a beautiful vintage doll in a white dress that reportedly got zapped by devil worshipers and is said to be haunted. After The Conjuring, she’s even getting her own movie. Three guesses what it’s called.
12. Aren’t You Glad You Didn’t Turn On The Light?
This is a classic. An oldie, but a goody. Late one Halloween, a female college student is going away for the night. She packs up her car and leaves her roommate eating pizza in their dorm room. Just before midnight, she stops for gas and realizes she has left her wallet in the room. Cursing under her breathe, she drives back, quietly entering the now darkened room. Not wanting to disturb her sleeping roomie, she does not turn on the light. Fumbling in the dark, she finally finds her wallet and tip toes out of the room. The next morning, she returns to find her roommate dead in her bed, her throat viciously slit. And scrawled on the wall in blood the chilling message: “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the light?” No feature movies for this one, but YouTube is full of creepypasta shorts.
11. The Hook
You’ve heard the story. Couple making out in a car on a deserted road. The news on the radio talks about a serial killer with a hook for a hand on the loose. The guy is annoyed and switches the radio off. Then, they hear a noise, a scratching sound and hear someone trying to open the locked car door. They speed off and when they get back to safety, they discover… a hook on the door handle. 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer takes this Urban Legend to a whole new level, because the kids are a group of friends who run over and kill (they think) a man while they are having a wild party night. But then they get the notes saying “I know…” and are stalked by an eerily familiar man with a giant hook. It’s one heck of a slasher movie.
10. The Babysitter And The Man Upstairs
Sometimes it’s the babysitter and the haunted doll. Or the babysitter who finds a giant clown doll, phones the parents to ask if she can put it away, and is told they don’t have a clown doll. Get out of the house fast. Chills all around. But often it involves a babysitter alone in a house with usually sleeping kids, who is looking forward to putting her feet up and watching a horror movie. Then a phone call. A creepy man, maybe breathing hard or whispering threats. She slams the phone down. Then another call. And another call, and on and on. The moment of total terror comes when she realizes the guy is in the house with her. The cops say something like “We’ve traced the call and he’s in the house.” When a Stranger Calls (1979 and 2006) tells the story of a babysitter, a serial killer, and those all important creepy phone calls. Get out of the house now. Or check out Canadian film Black Christmas for a retelling of the UL.
9. Woman With The Split Mouth
If late on Halloween you see a woman walking down the street with a surgical mask across her face and wearing a trench coat, you’re probably about to meet “the woman with a split mouth”. Forget running. She can teleport herself to stop you. Seems she is the ghost of a woman who cheated on her husband and he took his revenge by disfiguring her. She will ask you, “Am I pretty?”. Say no and she’ll cut your head off with a big a** pair of scissors. It your answer is yes, she takes the mask off, revealing that her mouth is slit right across her face. She’ll then ask, “How about now?” If your answer is no, she will slice you in half. If you say yes, then she will slit your mouth like hers. It’s a no win situation, really. It’s fun to get a bunch together and check out the movie Carved the Slit Mouth Woman on YouTube. Don’t worry if you can’t speak Japanese. The dialogue doesn’t matter.
8. The Boogeyman
Parents everywhere use the Boogeyman. “Misbehave and the Boogeyman will get you.” He can look like a bloody zombie, a monster, or the Devil himself. And he punishes people, often whether they have done anything wrong or not. And, of course, everybody knows the Boogeyman lives in closets. In the 2005 film Boogeyman, a young man witnesses his father being taken by the Boogeyman and thereafter does everything he can to keep the Boogeyman away. Like he lives in a house with no closets. Let’s just say, he doesn’t succeed. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a film. In fact, although the film and its two sequels were panned by critics, they made big bucks at the box office. Get the boxed set and stage a Boogeyman marathon.
6. Bloody Mary
You can try the Bloody Mary Challenge at home. On Halloween, lock yourself in the bathroom. Candles optional. Face the mirror and say her name out loud three times. She should appear in the mirror. Or behind you. You’ll know her by her zombie look, bloody face and a tendency to kill people. The 2006 movie (on YouTube) was so bad it was funny good. In it, she is stalking some unfortunate psychiatric hospital workers. She crawls out from under beds, appears in doorways and kills, kills and kills some more. Yes, we know, they started it by doing the challenge and laughing it off, that is until a nurse just poof, disappears. Then Mary gets really serious and there is one heck of a bloodbath. Don’t have time for the movie? There are a whole bunch of Bloody Mary shorts on YouTube. And, if you want to go for it, there’s always the Bloody Mary costume on eBay.
5. The Evil Witch In The Woods
Disney used the Urban Legend to tell the tale of Snow White who was poisoned by a nasty witch. And the best retelling of the evil witch deep in the woods has to be 1999’s Blair Witch Project. Supposedly, footage of filmmakers was “found” and made into the movie. The story the filmmakers put out at the time was that the film was actual footage shot by students making a film about the Blair Witch. Seems they disappeared, never to be seen or heard from again. Let’s just say that it doesn’t end well for the students. 2016’s Blair Witch picks up the story where it was left hanging in 1999. No, you’re right, that doesn’t end well either. Zero for the students and two for the Blair Witch. And she doesn’t even make an appearance. Start with the 1999 film. You will be hooked.
4. The Nice Family That Move Into A Haunted House
You know how it goes. On a sunny day, a nice family moves into a house and everything is great. Then, “things” start happening. Take 2013’s The Conjuring where the Bathsheba Witch haunts an American farmhouse. Or maybe it’s like The Conjuring 2 where a girl is possessed by the evil spirits that have taken up residence in a London rental house. Then there’s Amityville Horror, where the nice Lutz family move into a house that has been the scene of a mass killing. But, whatever happens, we start with moving boxes and happy families, and pretty rapidly move to things going bump in the night, possessions and worse. Usually, the family gives up and moves out. Sometimes, as in Poltergeist, they call in a psychic who is just about as scary as the demons who have captured their daughter. Usually these films are “based” on a “true” story. In other words, you can’t prove it or disprove it. Perfect Urban Legend fare. Start with The Conjuring. You’ll probably never move again.
3. The Vanishing Hitchhiker
Sure, there have been a fair number of horror films using the Urban Legend of someone who picks up a hitchhiker on a lonely stretch of road only to see the thing disappear, vanish, in front of their very eyes. But in the 1985 film Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, there is a partly comic take on the legend. Pee-Wee is hitchhiking all over trying to find a stolen bike. Pee Wee (Paul Reubens) eventually thumbs a ride with a female truck driver named “Large Marge”. She tells him the story of a horrible accident just before her face contorts in a cartoon ghoulish kind of way. When she drops him at the truck stop, she tells him to “tell them Large Marge sent you”. Turns out that it was Large Marge who died in that accident. Chills for Pee Wee.
2. The Thing In The Sewer
The thing in the sewer. Or the thing that crawls out of your toilet. Maybe it’s a python or an alligator. An oldie but a goody Urban Legend. In the Urban Legend the sewer is the home of an evil thing. Sometimes they are zombies. And sometimes it is killer creatures. The English have a version where a rapacious heard of killer swine infest the sewers and stalk Londoners. But what if the creature was a 2,000 pound alligator, in the sewers of Chicago, that is chomping onto and killing people? That’s what 1980’s Alligator is about. It’s not funny bad, just schlock horror with a fake gator bad, a throwback to the really bad black and white horror films of the 1950s. Why is the alligator so p*ssed off? Seems as a baby, he was flushed down a toilet and didn’t particularly enjoy the experience.
1. The Corpse Bride
In Thailand, you have Nang Nak (and the film of the same name) about a wife who dies while her husband was away. He comes home to a ghost wife he doesn’t know is a ghost wife, a wife that kills to keep her secret. In Mexico you will encounter the Urban Legend that is La Pascualita, or the Corpse Bride. She is a mannequin that has stood in a store window for over seventy years. Some say that she is not a mannequin, but rather the well preserved corpse of a previous owner’s daughter. People literally flock to the store (which is probably the point). And in Hollywood? You get Tim Burton’s animated 2005 film Corpse Bride, a poignant retelling of the legend of a corpse bride who doesn’t want to be a corpse.