Whether by infection, transformation, or scientific experimentation gone horribly wrong, creatures that are not-quite human and not-quite something else have been a staple in horror since the beginning of the genre. In the biological sense, hybrids happen on a genetic level. It’s more than just sewing non-human parts onto a human body; DNA is altered or mutated and a whole new creature is formed. Of course, given the ethical and biological can of worms opened up by the very concept of human hybridization, the horror genre is rife with half-human monsters.
For this list, I’m specifically going to focus on half-human hybrids, mostly because I think that non-human hybrids, like Sharktopus, Mansquito, and the Judas Breed bugs from Mimic deserve a list to themselves. For similar reasons, I’m skipping werewolves and vampires for this list. Technology-human hybrids aren’t on this list either, because they’re technically cyborgs and I’m a pedant. You might be wondering, what’s left to qualify as a horror hybrid? The answer is: this list of totally awesome animal-human and alien-human mutants.
10. Grant Grant – Slither (2006)
A small town is taken over by an alien plague, turning residents into zombies and all forms of mutant monsters.
Grant Grant (Michael Rooker) is one of the only hybrids on this list who is not born from negligent scientists. Grant just had the bad luck of having an alien parasite-carrying parasite crash onto his property. Once infected, Grant‘s mind and body are sacrificed to gross-out parasitic transformations that he can spread to others in his small town.
9. David Blake – Sssssss (1973)
A college student becomes lab assistant to a scientist who is working on a serum that can transform humans into snakes.
As if the grunt work typically shoveled onto lab assistants weren’t bad enough, herpetology student David (Dirk Benedict) ends up an experimental subject without his consent. What his supervisor (Strother Martin) says are injections to protect David from potential snake bites are actually an experimental serum meant to transform David into a human-snake hybrid. Trust me when I say that lab assistants are not paid enough to deal with this sort of thing.
8. Sil – Species (1995)
A group of scientists try to track down and trap a killer alien seductress before she successfully mates with a human.
Sil was born from human contact with aliens, who sent a message containing information about alien DNA and how to splice it with human DNA. What’s fascinating about Sil (Natasha Henstridge in her film debut), is that she’s created by human scientists without any of the team understanding or considering her purpose. It is only later that Dr. Laura Baker (Marg Helgenberger) speculates that Sil might have been intended all along as a biological weapon sent to eradicate the human race and propagate the alien species on Earth, and that her team of scientists had a direct hand in their own demise. I guess that’s what you get for blindly trusting that you’ve made contact with friendly aliens.
7. Wikus van de Merwe – District 9 (2009)
An extraterrestrial race, forced to live in slum-like conditions on Earth, suddenly finds a kindred spirit in a government agent who is exposed to their biotechnology.
Wikus (Sharlto Copley) is definitely the most ironic hybridization on this list. Tasked with relocating alien refugees to a camp (the titular District 9), Wikus accidentally sprays himself in the face with a mysterious alien liquid. The exposure begins to transform Wikus into a human-alien hybrid, giving him more than a taste of the oppressive forces that have been affecting the aliens for decades.
6. The Shimmer mutants – Annihilation (2018)
A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don’t apply.
Looking exclusively at the film (rather than digging into the mythos as elaborated upon in the book), we see our team of scientists succumb to the Shimmer in different ways as it alters them on a genetic level: Josie (Tessa Thompson) describes the Shimmer as “refracting” DNA, distorting and transforming it like how a prism transforms light. Josie refracts into a human-shaped plant. Part of Cass (Tuva Novotny) is refracted into the mutated bear, lending it screams in her voice. Lena (Natalie Portman) becomes the ultimately truest hybrid, as a Shimmer-formed doppelgänger born from a drop of Lena‘s blood.
5. The Kothoga – The Relic (1997)
A homicide detective and an anthropologist try to destroy a South American lizard-like god, who’s on a people-eating rampage in a Chicago museum.
The Relic features one of the most creative hybridization methods on this list. Here’s my advice to anthropologists: do not drink mysterious ancient-fungus soup or you might be mutated into a killer forest monster-hybrid that needs to survive on hormones found in the hypothalamus and must resort to eating parts of peoples’ brains.
4. Dren – Splice (2009)
Genetic engineers Clive Nicoli and Elsa Kast hope to achieve fame by successfully splicing together the DNA of different animals to create new hybrid animals for medical use.
Talk about an ethical can of worms: Dren (Delphine Chanéac) is an animal-human hybrid born from scientists’ (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) blind ambition and purely as means to an end. The end in this case is the synthesis of a protein (from Dren‘s scorpion-like stinger) that will have important medical applications, but there are absolutely ways to synthesize new proteins without resorting to creating and abusing human hybrids.
3. Ripley 8 – Alien Resurrection (1997)
200 years after her death, Ellen Ripley is revived as a powerful human/alien hybrid clone. Along with a crew of space pirates, she must again battle the deadly aliens and stop them from reaching Earth.
Ripley 8 (Sigourney Weaver) was just meant to be a straight clone, but the 200-year old blood sample used to clone her turned out to be a cocktail of human and Xenomorph cells. The result is a faster, stronger version of Ripley, who is freakishly talented at basketball. A scene that reveals the various failed Xenomorph – Ripley hybrid experiments remains the most memorable scene of the movie.
Honourable mention goes to the newborn Xenomorph hybrid in this movie, who is born from the Alien Queen‘s humanoid uterus (thanks to its own human-contaminated DNA) and has jarringly human traits.
2. Lota – Island of Lost Souls (1932)
An obsessed scientist conducts profane experiments in evolution, eventually establishing himself as the self-styled demigod to a race of mutated, half-human abominations.
H. G. Wells’s novel The Island of Dr. Moreau has been adapted more than a few times, but the first non-silent film version, directed by Erle C. Kenton, is my personal favourite. Lota (Kathleen Burke) is the only woman on Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton)’s island, but started her life as a panther. In this version, it’s hard to tell if Lota is a true hybrid on a genetic level, since Dr. Moreau‘s methods involve a lot of plastic surgery, blood transfusions, and largely physical transformations. But Lota is both human and panther at the same time and that’s more than good enough for this list.
1. Brundlefly – The Fly (1986)
A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.
Brundlefly is the quintessential body horror hybrid: part Jeff Goldblum, part common housefly, and scores of peeling flesh, food-dissolving vomit, and transformation. Part of what makes Seth Brundle‘s hybridization so special is that we are privy to the takeover of his human qualities. Rather than finding a balance, his fly traits elbow his humanity out of the way.
Do you have a soft spot that are half-human half-something else? Is your favourite hybrid not here? Let us know on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club.