This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the original release of Pokémon Red and Blue. February 27th, 1996 marked the very first time that the iconic Pocket Monsters were able to be collected, sent into battle, and evolved. We’ve come a long way from those initial 151 creatures (plus the greatest video game glitch of all time that is Missingno), as now the total number of Pokémon in existence is closing in on one thousand as of the most recent installments, Pokémon Sword and Shield.
While many of these adorable creatures have unacceptable features, there are a few that are genuinely terrifying. Between moves they use or specialize in, their Pokédex entries, or any other lore they have, some of the featured characters from what is supposedly a children’s game deal with some pretty Mature-rated material. Up front, while this list is going to include a number of Ghost-type Pokémon, the spirits don’t exactly have a monopoly on macabre.
Also, bear in mind that this list is about Pokémon that could be the subject of their own horror movie, so if I get into any elevator pitches… you know who to thank if anything gets picked up by the proper people.
Phantump / Trevenant
Few things in horror can be as genuinely unsettling as small children. To some, kids are annoying. To others, they’re so cute, you wanna pinch their wittle cheeks. This pumpkin-headed Grass/Ghost creature from the sixth generation of games has some interesting, ominous backstory, particularly in its Pokédex entries in Ultra Sun and Sword, respectively:
By imitating the voice of a child, it causes people to get hopelessly lost deep in the forest. It's trying to make friends with them.
After a lost child perished in the forest, their spirit possessed a tree stump, causing the spirit's rebirth as this Pokémon.
The rebirth part of this one’s lore is carried into its evolved form’s name, Trevenant, so the pitch is like so: the story of the lost child in the forest lives on for a couple of generations, until one unwitting soul goes to explore that forest. They find that the little guy has transformed into a redwood-sized problem, and containing it may not be enough to settle nature back down. There’s room for eco-conscious commentary in a script like this, and we can avenge the reputation of flora, forever marred since that scene in The Evil Dead.
Everybody loves puppets, right? Anymore, puppets in horror have been mostly restricted to The Conjuring universe, but given the backstory of this sinister Generation III monster, the Marionette Pokémon would be right at home there. Let’s start off with its Pokédex entries from all three of the Gen IV games (Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum):
A doll that became a Pokémon over its grudge from being junked. It seeks the child that disowned it.
But then we get to its entry in Ultra Moon, and we get another ripple:
Resentment at being cast off made it spring into being. Some say that treating it well will satisfy it, and it will once more become a stuffed toy.
So would the antagonist Banette in this supposed film be able to be killed with kindness? While it would be a welcome change of pace from traditional horror fare, that’s only so entertaining to see play out. Given the stature and look of its Mega Evolution, Banette is a terrifying creature, and that form in particular screams climactic fight. There’s temptation to tie in its previous form, Shuppet, to bring themes of jealousy and vengeance, but there’s already plenty of meat on the emotional bone with Banette on its own.
Note to self, don’t ever type the phrase “emotional bone” ever again… moving on.
Staying with Gen III for a bit, this Pokémon was the statistical picture of mediocrity in its time, and that’s a shame. Though it’s known simply as the Face Pokémon, this super heavyweight Ice-type has a gruesome appetite, and an equally gruesome method of taking down its prey. Take a look at its Pokédex entry from Moon:
Its prey is instantaneously frozen stiff by the cold air it exhales from its huge mouth. While they're in that frozen state, it gobbles them up.
Claustrophobic spelunking lends itself well to horror, as evidenced by films such as As Above, So Below and The Descent, so why not put Glalie in the deepest cavern? Chills of a literal kind can accompany the thrills and kills, leading up to a mastication the likes of which we’ve never seen on film before! And let’s be real, while its previous form Snorunt looks like it’d hang out with Elsa on the reg, Glalie looks like it will devour you at the drop of a hat. Just please, especially with a creature like this, let the effects used in this film be as practical as possible.
Longtime fans of Pokémon will know the tragic story of Cubone and its mother, not to mention that creepy as all get-out music in Lavender Town. While the OG Marowak has turned tragedy into triumph, the Alolan form of the Bone Keeper Pokémon breeds infinitely more opportunities for a horror film, especially with its Ghost/Fire typing and club-based moves. The power of the bone club it wields is explained best by its Pokédex entry in Shield:
The cursed flames that light up the bone carried by this Pokémon are said to cause both mental and physical pain that will never fade.
For this pitch, I feel like the bone club could be a family heirloom of sorts, plunging the owner into supernatural despair before a Professor Oak type informs them of its true nature. Urban legend/folklore horror is something that relies heavier on the atmosphere than the kills, and while that feels strange for a Pokémon whose signature move is Bonemerang, that just means that the eventual head smash kill would be that much more impactful.
Step aside, Freddy, there’s a new nightmare in town. Drowzee is steeped in lore, as an OG Pokémon, as it’s based on the Japanese baku, a mythical creature that devours nightmares. Without Drowzee, there is no Dream Eater, otherwise known as “Giga Drain but make it weird,” and the Hypnosis Pokémon has more juvenile predilections, as evidenced by its Silver Pokédex entry:
It remembers every dream it eats. It rarely eats the dreams of adults because children's are much tastier.
And its Ruby and Sapphire entry is the stuff of jumpscares and/or cold opens:
If your nose becomes itchy while you are sleeping, it's a sure sign that one of these Pokémon is standing above your pillow and trying to eat your dream through your nostrils.
While I have an issue with Hollywood white-washing a lot of international myths for the sake of an “exotic” film, leaning into the story of the baku by way of Drowzee could make for some interesting psychological horror. Add in the evolved form Hypno, and there’s sequel potential to be had, and we know how the horror world loves a sequel.
There had to be one Pokémon from this family on this list, but picking which stage of the Gastly line came down to this Pokédex entry from the original anime series:
“Haunter, a Gaseous Pokémon. No further information.”
The original Ghost-type (yes, it was Ghost/Poison, but work with me here) was the horror segment in non-horror media if ever there were. In the manga series The Electric Tale of Pikachu, there was a Haunter known as “Black Fog” which even killed a young Sabrina’s Pokémon when she was a preteen. While the core games haven’t gone quite as dark with its backstory, its original sprites are the stuff of nightmares even today, much less 25 years ago.
Frankly, you could make a movie out of the aforementioned manga storyline as it is. After all, the horror world loves a female lead with telekinetic powers.
Never investigate by yourself, lest the killer find you and take you out. One of the first rules of horror movies, right below “don’t be anything but a virgin who doesn’t take illicit substances, but has major parental issues.” Such is the case with the desert-dwelling Scarecrow Pokémon Cacturne, whose Sapphire Pokédex entry reads as follows:
If a traveler is going through a desert in the thick of night, Cacturne will follow in a ragtag group. The Pokémon are biding their time, waiting for the traveler to tire and become incapable of moving.
There’s ample opportunity for body horror, pins and needles, all sorts of uncomfortable visuals, not to mention the perils of a desert scene. There could be more of a survival adventure twist, as since Cacturne stays motionless in the daylight, there’s a sense of urgency to get to steppin’ during the day, so as to not end up on the bad end of that Needle Arm at night.
All I’m saying here is that if we don’t get a kill via Needle Arm, Cacturne’s signature move, I’m gonna be upset.
I’m a sucker for a good horror-comedy, and this Gen VII heavy hitter would be the perfect antagonist, albeit in a Leatherface “menacing but ultimately endearing” sort of way. The Starburst of its time, as a Normal/Fighting dual type, is one that can catch unsuspecting Trainers off-guard, as evidenced by its Pokédex entry in Moon:
This Pokémon has the habit of hugging its companions. Many Trainers have left this world after their spines were squashed by its hug.
A movie with Bewear at the center would be a comedy of errors in the same vein as Tucker & Dale vs Evil, and could be just as insane. A move like Hammer Arm could smash a head in, Dr. Sartain in Halloween 2018 style. It would be absolutely ridiculous, and I’m only semi-joking around by including the Strong Arm Pokémon on this list, but we can’t be completely serious here, can we?
The feminine counterpart to Glalie, this Gen IV Ice/Ghost type brings some fascinating options for a revenge or feminist horror. Exhibit A for this is the Pokédex entry for it in Moon:
The soul of a woman lost on a snowy mountain possessed an icicle, becoming this Pokémon. The food it most relishes is the souls of men.
This icy siren could be the center of a glacial terror that moves at anything but a glacial pace. There’s room for supernatural elements because Ghost type, but playing with temperature is not something that is seen often in the horror realm, and given that Froslass employs a cold breath in the neighborhood of -60 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s plenty of room for practical frostbite effects, as well as possible guest spot from an Abomasnow to smash a frozen soul to pieces.
I had to force myself down to just one Legendary Pokémon, and given its powers, I think I made the right choice. Though it is the cover legendary of Y, its Dex entry for X best sums up the true might of this Dark/Flying destroyer:
When this legendary Pokémon's wings and tail feathers spread wide and glow red, it absorbs the life force of living creatures.
While it already had a starring role in the seventeenth Pokémon film Diancie and the Cocoon of Destruction, picture this: the cocoon that Yveltal stows itself away in busts open, unbeknownst to the town nearby. Every wingbeat chips away at the citizens, to the point where some escape the city. Few are aware of the power of Yveltal, till now a myth, but what is known to all is that it must be stopped.
If this doesn’t sound very scary… well, it isn’t, not necessarily. The horror would come in more of a Ito-an fashion, with the life force sapping causing all sorts of unpleasantness, body horror, and decay as the monstrous Destruction Pokémon runs rampant. It may be a bit more overtly existential, but the visual potential is substantial.
This sleeper fan favorite Pokémon from Gen VII has one of the outright creepiest backstories in series history, as evidenced by its Disguised Form’s Dex entry from Sun:
Its actual appearance is unknown. A scholar who saw what was under its rag was overwhelmed by terror and died from the shock.
It wears a Pikachu disguise because the little Electric mouse is hands-down the most recognizable Pokémon in existence. Of course, one offensive move breaks the disguise and… the Pokémon’s neck? Well, now I almost feel bad for it, but it’s hard to do so when that Dex entry makes it feel like the subject of Patrick Star’s ugly barnacle story.
All jokes aside, this presentation screams old-school creature feature. While you could play around with revealing what’s under the disguise at the very end of the film, that does ruin the mystique that Game Freak has managed to create around it for the last few years.
And besides, it’s Z-Move called “Let’s Snuggle Forever” could get really bloody weird and I’d pay to see it.
As pretty as this Water-type is to look at, especially now that we have full 3D animation in the main series, its Dex entry for Sapphire shows that beauty comes with brutality now and again:
Although Gorebyss is the very picture of elegance and beauty while swimming, it is also cruel. When it spots prey, this Pokémon inserts its thin mouth into the prey's body and drains the prey of its body fluids.
As much of a cop-out as it feels like, I see Gorebyss’ feature as a deep sea treasure hunt gone horribly wrong. The first encounter could see one of the divers blown overboard with Water Pulse or something of that nature, before things get very bleak, very quickly. Other Water Pokémon could be thrown in as red herrings, throwing off the sense of danger before the South Sea Pokémon itself relieves a poor sod of their vital fluids, just to drive home the “what just happened?” factor.
Another of the original 151, the evolution of Paras is a medical marvel, as shown in its Yellow Dex entry:
The bug host is drained of energy by the mushrooms on its back. They appear to do all the thinking.
With a Bug/Grass type like Parasect, this film would be an ecological horror, in the vein of The Stuff and Annihilation. With the Pokémon in question being little more than a sentient mushroom, there’s temptation to go the route of a zombie film, and while that would be interesting, there are better Pokémon for such a thing.
And rounding out the line-up, we have this Ground/Ghost creep from Gen VII, the evolution of the hauntingly cute Sandygast. So reads Palossand’s Moon Pokédex entry:
Buried beneath the castle are masses of dried-up bones from those whose vitality it has drained.
Such a threat begs for a beachbound flick, but rather than something in the water being the problem, it’s something ashore. The idea of the beachfront being shut down for bodies disappearing, some poor souls falling asleep while sunbathing, never to be heard from again, is a little kitsch if we’re honest, but given that this entire list is about would-be killer Pokémon, is that really that much of a problem?