Just in time for Halloween, the staff of Toho Kingdom sound off the scariest Godzilla series and Toho kaiju to ever grace the screen. We aren’t discriminating based on size, so any monster focused in a Toho film can count. Furthermore, the MonsterVerse is fair game here as well.
For this article, several staff members were asked to list who they feel is the scariest among the plethora of Toho monsters. The criteria for each staff member is there own, so expect a wide range.
At first I wanted to just choose the recent Shin Godzilla because of his gruesome mutations, or Hedorah because of his ability to melt the flesh off of other characters. But upon circumspection, to me it seems like the scariest Toho kaiju is actually the Space Amoeba that produces Gezora, Kamoebas, and Ganimes in the often overlooked Space Amoeba (1970). The trio of monsters that appear in that movie are not very scary, I will admit. Their designs are more goofy than scary–especially the galumphing Gezora. But the idea behind the monster (aside from his ridiculous weakness) is pure nightmare fuel.
While most giant monsters are scary along the lines of a natural disaster, Space Amoeba takes things a step further. For one thing, the creature can invade any living organism and make it into a monster–either growing it to an incredible size, or just remote-controlling it to attack you where you are, unawares. In other words, it could change your closest pets into bloodthirsty beasts. Fido eats your face, your hamster stuffs you into his furry cheek. Even worse, the Space Amoeba’s powers are not limited to transforming and manipulating mere beasts. The creature can also take over human hosts… and if you should become the host for this space demon, you remain conscious the whole time. Even while you cannot move your body, you are stuck watching the monster use your own hands and voice and body to carry out his devilish deeds. It’s scary to imagine losing one’s mind in the first place, but to hold on to your mind while a monstrous creature uses your body to commit crimes and take lives–maybe even strangling your best friend, or murdering your family–is absolutely horrific. That’s a real nightmare, and I can’t think of any other Toho kaiju that can compete for sheer terror.
– Nicholas Driscoll
The greatest threats sometimes come in the smallest of packages. While there are plenty of giant monsters that would be terrifying to bear witness to, I still cannot shake the feeling of dread whenever I see the Matango. Eating one seemingly harmless mushroom has life-changing results, as it kick-starts your nonnegotiable initiation into becoming part of the fungi collective. Slowly losing everything that made you an individual – from your personality to eventually your physical form – and transforming into a grotesque, faceless puppet that obsesses over one goal: to add more members to your possessed mushroom family. There are no cures, and nothing to bargain for as you begin your transformation. All that will remain is the unceasing hunger for more Matango.
– Joshua Sudomerski
I loved Godzilla from a young age. Pretty much from the moment I saw Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) I was hooked. I then spent many a weekend going to rental stores and movie outlets trying to get as many of the films as I could. Godzilla Raids Again (1955), Rodan (1956), Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) and many others entered my collection. In retrospect, it’s kind of amazing how fast I saw many of them considering this was before online shopping was a thing. Throughout I enjoyed the movies to varying degrees, but never found them scary. Even the Shockirus scene in The Return of Godzilla (1984) didn’t phase my childhood self.
Then came the day I rented Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) from the store. I was excited, as at this point it felt like it had been awhile since saw a new Godzilla film (in reality it was probably only three months, but time moves differently at a young age). As the movie progressed I was enjoying myself and had gotten to the point where Hedorah first came on land and was battling Godzilla. Then came the scene where Hedorah was tossed around and a piece of him flew through a window, instantly killing a group of Mahjong players. This scared me. The way they were killed so quickly in what appeared to be a gruesome fashion… but I was still holding strong. Then came the infamous scene with Hedorah’s flying form as he passed over a group of people trying to escape, their flesh then melting away on film. Now I was terrified and hit the point of no return. I stopped the movie and did not watch the rest of it before it was returned to the store.
I remained scared of Hedorah for quite some time as a kid. For me, it was the idea of how effortlessly it killed people and how remote the chance of escape was. As an adult, you realize most of the kaiju are capable of the same thing. However, there is a degree of fantasy to it. Rarely do the films focus on the casualties when a building is destroyed, as it’s played more for spectacle than horror like a disaster film would do it. So as a child it’s easy to register this as just “cool”. Even when it does focus on the human level of these attacks, it rarely felt so absolute. Like when Rodan flew over cities in his debate film you saw soldiers being blown away. While many likely died, as a kid you could still see a route for escape, in fact earlier in the film they discovered that just by laying flat on the ground would avoid them from being lifted away.
Hedorah though? If he flies over you that’s it. There is no escape and you were going to die in a horrific way. So the idea of suddenly seeing Hedorah flying toward you, appearing over a mountain that could obscure him, was a haunting concept as there was nothing you could do. As a kid, it took years for me to build up the courage to try and watch the film again. When I did I really enjoyed it, and ended up really liking the Hedorah character in the end, but I’ll still always recall vividly how much he scared me as a child.
– Anthony Romero
There are some very solid monsters in the kaiju eiga that compete for being most terrifying. Destoroyah, Hedorah, Matango, Godzilla and Anguirus in their early appearances… But of all of them, the more I think about it, I find myself most unnerved by Dogora. The rhythmic heartbeat indicating its presence, the idea of a gargantuan jellyfish floating in the air as if it was water, being incredibly unflinching even at death’s door, and vacuuming carbon minerals from off the ground and potentially being caught in its vortex… While the movie Dogora appears in is a far cry from anything horror-related, the titular creature has really strong horror potential. Feels like something out of Lovecraft, and something I hope is emphasized if Toho ever decides to bring the character back properly.
– Andrew Sudomerski
Grand King Ghidorah
From the ancient, voids of space derives my choice for most terrifying Kaiju in the Toho Library. While I must give the Matango a shout-out as my close second, the ideas behind Grand King Ghidorah I believe make him deserve the title, King of Terror, if only barely. Why? Well it’s honestly down to what is left unsaid in his film more so than his actual appearance.
Unlike previous forms of the character, this Ghidorah is spoken to be as old as the stars, routinely visiting planets, removing all life, and leaving with little trace of his arrival. This idea isn’t new for a Ghidorah, but his new mystic abilities, showcased by teleporting the youth of Japan into his acidic prison, grant a new, almost personal tool for the draconic terror. The idea of be having your family shattered and being utterly helpless against the cause is a great new angle for the Kaiju, who up to this point is known solely for his nigh, unstoppable power. From the perspective of the youth, being gripped by terror as you’re eventually exposed to an agonizing death that holds no escape, with your last thoughts the sight of your tormentor, is frightening to think about.
While these concepts are great, the film Grand King Ghidorah stars in explores little or downplays much of this which is saddening upon realization of the potential at play. This is why I list Matango as the second choice, as while less spirit shattering in its terror, I do believe the execution was far superior. If a comic were to explore this character, and showcase the effects taken upon humanity as his draconic wrath was unleashed upon the Earth, with no guardian to miraculously stop his reign, I have no doubt that Grand King Ghidorah would be the most terrifying Kaiju in Toho’s library. An unequal King of Terror.
– Tyler Trieschock
Feel another kaiju should be highlighted, or agree with one that’s listed here? Sound off in the comments below to add your input.