Time for the fifth edition of Tiny Tributes to Minor Monsters. I hope you like Chicken McNuggets and demons from Hell.
Tales from the Darkside (1986)
The Grither was perhaps the most memorable monster ever featured on Tales from the Darkside — which is saying plenty when you remember all of those werewolves, witches and killer teddy bears.
During the first season’s “Christmas” episode, Seasons of Belief, a pair of subtly-twisted parents tell their kids a story about a terrible monster that preys on anyone foolish enough to speak its name.
Supposedly, this “Grither” lives in a dark, wet cave at the North Pole. The parents appear to be making up the story as they go along… until the creature crashes through the windows and snaps their necks. (The kids are spared, if you can call watching a monster break your parents’ necks being “spared.”)
With arms as long as trees and hands the size of punch bowls, we could only guess at what the rest of the Grither looked like. I’ve always pictured him as an extra-gnarly version of Pumpkinhead.
Bonus points: The Grither killed the guy who played Clark’s father-in-law in Christmas Vacation. On a squint and a stretch, it was retribution for that “little lights aren’t twinkling” bullshit.
World Wrestling Entertainment (1988)
Near the end of George “The Animal” Steele’s in-ring career, he started palling around with a little doll named “Mine.” The plush monster shared several traits with George, from the green tongue to the bald dome to the armor-like body hair. Mine was adorable, albeit in a Toxie sort of way.
While it made storyline sense for a character like George to play with toys, the goal was to get fans to buy their own Mine dolls. Originally sold at live events and in WWF merchandise catalogs, Mine is now one of the rarest wrestling collectibles. The doll routinely fetches hundreds of dollars, with some sellers demanding as much as a grand.
I get that Mine was just supposed to be a beastly version of George, but that was still one hell of a creature design. Like ALF spiced with Garbage Pail Kids. Steele was hardly a megastar by the “Mine era,” but I genuinely believe that this doll could’ve been a huge seller had WWE gotten it into major chains.
Ghost was more “romance” than “thriller,” but those shadowy demons that dragged people to Hell hit me a lot harder than whatever Freddy and Jason were doing at the time. I’m serious!
After the film’s villains die, their spirits are attacked by monstrous, moaning shadows that carry them off to the netherworld. It’s so extreme that you might even end up sympathizing with the bad guys.
Ghost used to be on cable constantly, and those scenes got me every time. “Monsters that appear from nothing” are always scary, but to the me-of-then, these demons were a signal to fear every dark corner and every stray shadow. I don’t remember being particularly terrified while watching the movie, but the aftermath was awful.
Check out this scene, and then imagine trying to handle it as an eleven-year-old in the dead of night.
Living, Breathing Chicken McNuggets!
Various McDonald’s Commercials (1980s – 1990s)
Anthropomorphized Chicken McNuggets have long struck me as the perfect pets. Yes, even better than Gizmo, Snuggle Bear or the Puckmarin. They’re adorable, they’re super portable, and best of all, they’re chatty. I can just picture myself fixing their beds of hay while they serenade me with trivia about toothed whales.
Oddly, these living, breathing Chicken McNuggets were often presented as literal food, sometimes going so far as to dip themselves in barbecue sauce, all while Ronald strutted around like Ursula. I wanted to rescue them. We’d spend our days beating Contra and our nights drawing dinosaurs.
Imagine them with crayons in their tiny little mouths, toiling away. God!
Ms. Ugly Ball!
Bonkers Candy Commercial (1987)
If you don’t remember the Ugly Ball from this older Dino Drac article, it was an insanely cool Madballs knockoff that was only available as part of a Bonkers promotion. Yes, Bonkers as in the candy.
God knows what compelled the bosses of Bonkers to create such an absurdly extravagant premium, but I’m not complaining. The Ugly Ball was legitimately better than most Madballs, looking something like an undead space zombie version of Skull Face. It’s wild that something this perfect was never sold in stores.
Now the swerve: I’m actually not giving this last slot to the Ugly Ball. Instead, the “minor monster” I’m paying tribute to is MS. UGLY BALL, the strange lady/beast seen in this old Bonkers commercial.
Picture a prudish Peg Bundy, but give her a goddamned Ugly Ball for a head. The commercial even suggested that she was raising a whole family of Ugly Ball-headed monster people.
I hate that the lore surrounding the Ugly Ball clan starts and ends with this one commercial. I want movies and books and Topps trading card sets. This was so much wasted potential!