Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the generation-spanning, stoner cult comedy series about a trio of fast food mascots and their disgruntled neighbor living in New Jersey gave us some of the most absurd laughs and graphic monsters of the first leg of the 21st century. With an eleven to thirteen-minute runtime, they managed to pack more story, character development, and amusement into a single season than most horror and sci-fi films manage in a three-part film series. After marathoning a bit, I’ve managed to compile a list of some of some of the best monsters to come from the folks over at Williams Street/Adult Swim over the last 15 years. Get ready, because this is how Aqua Teen Hunger Force did monsters better than Hollywood ever will.
- Willie Nelson
Well, no, not the Willie Nelson.
I figured if I’m going to talk monsters I’d at start off with the most deceptively lame monster in television history. Willie was chased into the attic of the Aqua Teen’s home before they moved in by the villagers… well, villager. Okay, it was just this one guy. Anyway, coming out on Halloween he implores the crew to help him find his gimmick and awaken his inner scary monster. For the onion spider with an electric razor and an otherwise bland, vanilla personality becoming a B-movie villain seemed a little farfetched. Trying everything from creating a confused back story to petty vandalism and wielding electric chainsaws, it was only when he invited the crew into his attic abode that the real horror comes to light. Bodies, literally floor to ceiling hanging from rafters, nailed to walls, and piled waist deep all to feed Willie’s appetite for “juice.”
Big, ugly, and in need of some anger management counseling Paul devastated Seattle, NJ after his girlfriend and father left him heartbroken and alone. Tanks, choppers, and even the Fightan Titan were all incapable of stopping this kaiju/single dad from devastating the city skyline as he jumped from building to building, toppling skyscrapers and cursing his ex’s name. The creature reminds me a lot of the Cloverfield monster, minus the people exploding sea lice falling off its body. I mean, I’m going to call it as I see it and his body looks like a gray scrotum with tentacles and a face. But the face. Jeez! With huge fangs, bulging veins, and red and yellow eyes glaring in bloodshot disdain for all life and property surrounding him, his face is terrifying. In a Lovecraftian sort of way, he is an amazing monster and a perfect fit for a show built on absurdist humor with an undercurrent of horror.
Straight out of Donald Sutherland’s nightmares comes this space invading, body snatching nuisance hell bent on cloning Shake and friends. His ultimate goal: to follow Chicken Foot on their North American tour with his new alien pod duplicate army. The fact that anything, plant or animal wants to follow Chicken Foot on tour is terrifying in and of itself, body duplication be damned. The pod creature is a fantastic design with tendrils that reaching up from a budding flower at the top of its head. It reaches out and forms a sack to begin the cloning process until it meets Vince Neal, bassist of Chicken Foot, and swallows him whole. It pays homage to the 70’s take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers in an absolutely fantastic way with its own unique spin on the story.
- The Clownacillus Virus
I explained a few weeks ago that no monster is more debased and horrific than a clown. Well, I misspoke. A disembodied robot clown head spreading a super-contagious virus that mutates its victims into suicidal clowns is way more terrifying. Now there’s a horror movie I could get into. Bingo the clown (head) is working in tandem with an unnamed dummy head that holds the wig carrying the Clownacillus virus. Much like Eli Roth’s Clown, as soon as the object takes hold on a living host, it’s too late. It quickly begins to change the biological makeup turning a normal person into a grotesque, deformed circus act. Trust me, it may be done for a few laughs but it’s a terrifying premise.
- Lenny the Totem Pole Troll
And speaking of a terrifying premise, horror rises when East German death metal and the Human Centipede meet as Carl introduces us to the band Totem Pole. The band has an Alice in Chains motif with a mascot known as Lenny the troll and their music centers on using the troll as the head of a human totem pole to summon demons and undead monsters. Inserting heads up various asses to create a sort of paranormal broadcasting antenna, the episode has the pseudo-sexual, cringe-inducing ass to mouth depravity of the Human Centipede with the over the top raunchy social commentary that ATHF was so good about the band raises their skeleton army to try and sell merch to before fleeing the gymnasium, leaving the totem pole to be ripped apart by the living dead.
- The Number 100
This fourth wall breaking, reality warping, soul-stealing monster is everything a horror fan could ever hope for. A grotesque monster composed of numerical symbols and a painfully unpleasant face, The Number 100 intends to steal the “episouls” of the Aqua Teens as they reach their hundredth episode and make a bid for syndication. The monster is more a painful nuisance than an actual threat until the gang breaks into a Scooby Doo style animation as the Aqua Unit Patrol Squad to avoid their fate. Their female companion Tabitha (who came with the van rental) is taken off into the woods by 100 who intends to “rape her and behead her, possibly not even in that order.” Yeah, jinkies, right? That single line takes a repellant but otherwise harmless soul craving monster and turns it into one of the darkest villains ever seen in the comedy series.
- Doctor Weird
This monster making, body modifying, lab assistant slaughtering mad scientist would be the most incredible supervillain of all time be it a monster movie or some superhero flick. He is literally so insane that he has no understanding of right, wrong, or any rudimentary morality. From turning his roommate into a Cronenberg-esque living fried pork chop to grafting a deer antler onto his groin, Doctor Weird lives up to his name time and time again in the opening sequences of the first three seasons of the show. And why does he do it? Is it for money or power or some kind of revenge against a society that has shunned him for his eccentricities and genius? No. He does it because he thinks it’s cool and that makes him the most dangerous of monsters in this or any other story. Someone with motivation can be reasoned with but a person driven by that hollow, formless void of insanity is capable of literally anything but reason or rationale.
I could write two or three more articles just talking about the strange, wonderful, even haunting monsters of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I won’t, but I could. I know it seems ridiculous to think about it but really watch some of these episodes and you’ll see that the writers and animators were twisted geniuses who paved the way for future shows including the routinely bizarre and off the wall Rick and Morty which has started its own pantheon of bizarre monsters. Sometimes the most outlandish idea is also the most entertaining so if you’re making a horror movie, be it a big budget summer blockbuster or a straight to video B splatter fest, don’t play it safe. Take a chance on the amazingly absurd. Your audience won’t be disappointed.