The dark is scary. Open bodies of water are scary. Being alone—dreadfully, existentially alone—is scary. And, well, giant things—things much bigger than they should be—can send paralyzing shivers down the spine in the right circumstances. Megalophobia is the intense fear and anxiety someone experiences when they’re around large objects. These could be buildings, animals, or any other kind of nightmarish conjuring that’s bigger than it has any right to be. Megalophobia, like several other phobias, has no exact cause, though researchers suspect it’s a combination of past traumas and biological instincts to fear things bigger than oneself—big things kill, small things cute.
Characterized by intense fear, anticipatory anxiety, and avoidance, megalophobia can be serious if left untreated, but that hasn’t stopped the internet powers that be from triggering it every chance they get. Check out some examples below:
Here, we’ll be recommending ten movies that exploit the fear of giant things. Whether you have megalophobia or not, these movies are guaranteed to tower over you, reminding you of just how small– just how fragile—all of us really are.
While Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla isn’t strictly speaking a horror movie, it does adopt the less-is-more aesthetic of Edwards’ previous feature, the microbudget Monsters. Much has been said about the first in the new Monsterverse’s reluctance to, well, actually show its monster (some estimates have the titular Godzilla on-screen for a paltry ten minutes total). While it might not work for blockbuster sensibilities, it does work for horror. A third-act scene of several soldiers diving into the city from the sky, shot from a first-person POV, remains one of the most anxiety-inducing things I’ve ever seen. This was Godzilla bigger and scarier than audiences had ever seen before.
The apex predator of giant monster movies, Cloverfield remains a pop culture behemoth to this day. Matt Reeves’ monster extravaganza sees New York City attacked by a giant creature that’s emerged from the waters near Liberty Island. Shot in found footage style, Cloverfield re-popularized the shaky cam horror aesthetic with gusto. Its monster was a terrifying force to be reckoned with. Monster movies often opt for scale over intimacy, though being on the streets with rag-tag survivors opened up new avenues for Reeves to scare his audience to death.
Megalophobia doesn’t just apply to giant monsters. As noted, it can apply to anything, whether sentient or not, that’s too big. Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s The Platform, a Spanish-language Netflix phenomenon, might be more social allegory than an outright horror film, but for anyone paralyzed by the thought of giant structures, it’s more than just politics. Prisoners are housed on platforms in a giant, vertical tower. The thrust is that a platform of food descends every day, though those prisoners on higher floors naturally get more, leaving nothing but scraps for those below. The mere thought of being stuck in a giant structure of this sort is terrifying, even without the added stressor of food scarcity. It’s a capitalistic, megalophobic nightmare.
Troll Hunter remains the greatest thing André Øvredal (The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark) has ever done. Several college students plan to document the exploits of bear hunter Hans (Otto Jespersen) only to find out it’s not bears Hans is after—it’s trolls. This Norwegian shocker is equal parts comedy and horror, though there’s no denying the frightening efficacy of introducing audiences to these towering Norwegian legends with such intimacy and finesse. As the trolls amble and attack, your stomach might roll once, twice, or until the entire terrifying experience is over.
Frank Darabont’s The Mist achieved the impossible. A masterful adaptation of a King story largely considered unfilmable, The Mist’s melding of social commentary and monster horror remains one of the century’s greatest horror movies, especially with that ending. It’s also guaranteed to send an audience’s megalophobia into overdrive. While most of the focus is on the smaller creatures that emerged from the titular mist, there are enough glimpses of things much bigger, and much more frightening, just outside our characters’ field of view. Those giant legs are attached to something, and I don’t ever want to find out what that is.
Grabbers is really funny. Jon Wright’s monster comedy has the silliest of premises, and it pays dividends throughout. After giant, tentacled monsters attack a remote Irish island, the residents theorize the monsters, surviving principally on water, cannot stomach high blood alcohol content in their victims. To stay alive, the island residents need to stay drunk. While principally played for laughs, tentacles are innately terrifying. Maybe it’s on account of seeing the Kraken in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest too young, but octopi-like monsters are too big and scary for my tastes.
The Blob (1988)
Chuck Russell’s The Blob is a masterclass in horror remakes. Everything about this movie is pitch-perfect, from the casting, the pacing, and the state-of-the-art monster effects. A blob-like monster attacks a small town, growing larger and larger the more it consumes. Augmenting the scares with gooey body horror, this blob is even more vicious than it was in the original, and it’s absolutely, fantastically terrifying.
Greg McLean’s Rogue might well be conceptualized as “Wolf Creek but with a crocodile”. A river cruise in Australia’s Kakadu National Park is derailed after a giant crocodile sets its sights on the errant tour boat. With plenty of blood, a stacked cast, and a fantastically rendered giant monster, Rogue is one of the century’s greatest killer croc movies, even if it’s poised to send one’s megalophobia over the edge of the boat.
Eight Legged Freaks
Ellory Elkayem’s Eight Legged Freaks isn’t trying to scare its audience. More than anything, it’s very funny, anchored by an exceptional David Arquette at its center. Yet, for as much as it wants to ape the B-movies of yesteryear, all the goodwill and goofy humor can’t compensate for the innate terror of rendering spiders bigger than they ever, ever should be. No, thank you.
Tremors terrified me as a child. Like quicksand or sundry other misguided childhood fears, I genuinely believed there were giant worms living beneath my sleepy Maryland neighborhood. Why would they be there? I don’t know. But I thought they were, and I didn’t even have Reba McEntire there to protect me. Here, Kevin Bacon and company contend with giant worms after they descend (ascend?) on their rural Nevada town. Like several other entries on this list, the scares are mostly played for laughs, though there’s no denying the megalophobia terror induced by giant, razor-toothed worms from the deep.
What do you think? What’s your favorite megalophobic horror movie? Let me know over on Twitter @Chadiscollins, and as always, stay safe. There are blobs, worms, and giant octopuses out there just waiting to snack.
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