Tentacles. If the thought of these cephalopod appendages doesn’t summon Cthulhu, you obviously have no idea who H.P. Lovecraft is. What Lovecraft himself remained unaware of was the onslaught of tentacular movies that would surface in his wake.
Whether or not the tentacled things in Hollywood were directly inspired by his bizarre and often disturbing stories, the Elder God himself would be thrilled with the Cthulhoid spawn that went on to terrorize theaters long after he left for the nether realm. Octaman might as well have been one of his unspeakable creations, and the ill-fated Professor Crowley could have crawled right out of the pages of the Necronomicon. As for the alien parasites that invade a high school in The Faculty, the mastermind behind things such as Mi-Go and Shoggoths was obsessed with strange things from outer space. There is also no way Lovecraft wouldn’t applaud a giant gelatinous eyeball — with tentacles.
Forget the séance and pay tribute to all things Lovecraftian by binge-watching these 10 movies that have way too many appendages. Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
The classic tentacle-fest that could now be considered steampunk horror first emerged from the brains of Jules Verne in 1870, then mutated into a horror movie. The star cephalopod is a giant squid that is almost impossible to harpoon as it entangles the Nautilus in its many-suckered arms off the coast of Vulcania. Like many of its seething, writhing successors, this creature needs serious attack measures like electrocution and heavy artillery to take it down (at least the shockwaves ward off a bunch of cannibals). Unlike its successors, this one manages to get away. The gargantuan squid built for the film was “a great big blob of something,” as director Richard Fleischer recalls in the documentary The Making of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, which almost sank. The tentacles that were so lethal on film constantly kept falling off.
The Crawling Eye, The Trollenberg Terror (1958)
Beware things creeping out of radioactive clouds, like a massive tentacled eyeball that can literally rip your head off. It will also pull a Godfather-like move by stuffing someone’s disembodied head in a backpack. Also known as The Crawling Eye in Mystery Science Theater 3000, this movie follows a Lovecraftian expedition into the mountains that is wrecked by the pulsating, gelatinous life-form that doesn’t let anything out of its sight. It doesn’t even blink. Your only line of defense is a Molotov cocktail and possibly an aerial firebombing assault. If this movie sounds familiar but you can swear you’ve never seen it (see what I did there?), something must be lurking in your memory from reading Stephen King’s IT, because the thing from the Macroverse sheds its clown suit for a moment to manifest as the Crawling Eye.
Octaman, Octaman (1971)
Swamp Thing and Gill Man and even the infamous Kraken have nothing on Octaman. Not only is it hungry for human flesh, but this tentacled mutant is the most bizarre biped ever, stalking its prey on two legs and then tearing it apart with its many arms. It’s also one of those beasts you can’t kill, no matter what sort of otherwise lethal method you try. You can’t kill it with fire. You can’t kill it with a tranquilizer overdose. You can’t really kill it with anything except a storm of bullets at close range. This is what you get when you leave behind unearthly amounts of radiation in the water. Octaman could also win the award for best rubber suit ever — that suit was designed down to the suckers on the tentacles by Rick Baker, who would go on to win Oscars for films like An American Werewolf in London, Men in Black and The Wolfman.
Mutant Octopus, Tentacles, (1977)
Even though Tentacles drowned at the box office after trying to get its tentacles on the success of Jaws, it’s right about one thing: Octopi are vicious with their prey. Though the cephalopods don’t grow enormous enough to take down an entire boat and feast on humans down to the bones, if you’re a fish and get snared by a tendril, you will suffer the same fate as that of the really unfortunate beachgoers in this movie. Shots of actual octopi are spliced into some scenes (and you can totally tell what’s real and what’s rubber). It doesn’t seem Jaws is the only influence that seeped into this monstrosity, as anyone who’s read The Shadow over Innsmouth would be able to tell. "It slept. Until man disturbed it. Then it woke with a fury no man could control, rising from the ocean floor to bring destruction and death." Remind you of anything?
The Kraken, Clash of the Titans (1981)
“Release the Kraken!” has become an iconic phrase for tentacled things everywhere, from the movie that mainstreamed tentacles. Everyone says it, but no one says it quite like Laurence Olivier. What appears to be some unholy mashup of Cthulhu and the Creature From the Black Lagoon also has an unnatural craving for princesses. They are that much easier to eat for an abomination that actually has hands at the ends of its multiple appendages. The only way to keep it from sinking its teeth into human flesh? Petrify it by wielding Medusa's decapitated head. The Kraken was designed to tentacular perfection by legendary special effects artist Ray Harryhausen, who brought three figures of varying sizes into being for the movie. There was a behemoth one for closeups so it would look as menacing as possible as it rose from the sea.
Behemoth, Hellboy (2004)
The Behemoth is one of the 369 hellspawn of the Ogdru Jahad, the many-headed monsters of chaos otherwise known as The Beast. What that essentially means is that it wants you for dinner. There couldn’t be anything higher on the list of priorities for an enormous wormlike life-form that has more eyes and arms than there are demons in the underworld. Not to mention a head covered in writhing tentacles (as if it didn’t have enough of them). It lurks in eldritch depths of Rasputin’s body until he finally unleashes it on Hellboy and Meyers. You know that scene where Rasputin divulges his nefarious plans to Trevor Bruttenholm? The endless arms of the Behemoth are squirming under the mystic’s skin, but the freak-out factor gets exponentially higher when a tentacle emerges from his eye socket. Then he explodes into tentacles.
Crowley Demon, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (2008)
You know it’s probably a bad idea to do the plumbing for a professor whose name is Crowley, as in occultist Aleister Crowley, who only tried to awaken evil forces his entire life and earned himself an Ozzy Osbourne song for it. You realize it was a really bad idea in retrospect when Professor Crowley suddenly sprouts an insane amount of tentacles and morphs into a thing so vile that only the most blasphemous demonic texts could describe it. If you think it couldn’t possibly get any worse than a monstrous blob with too many arms and too many teeth, it does. The behemoth blob that is now Crowley can now summon a tentacle from the depths of his viscera that can turn anyone into a demon by spewing unmentionable bodily fluids down the victim’s throat (while the other tentacles conveniently shut up any screamers looking on).
Sharktopus, Sharktopus (2010)
You don’t merge the DNA of the creature with the most ferocious teeth on the planet and the creature with the most ferocious tentacles on the planet. You just don’t. This is why you can never trust government experiments, because that’s exactly what happens when the powers that be hire a team of scientists to genetically engineer a different sort of bio-weapon. Somewhere in the genetic splicing process, teeth apparently merged with tentacles to create hybrid tentacles that can skewer prey before it ever reaches those gaping jaws. The fish-mollusk can even walk on its tentacles and seems impervious to bullets. It can just lash an arm out of the deep and coil it around a random sunbather (or swimmer, or bungee jumper) with absolutely no warning at all. At least Jaws gave himself away when that fin appeared above water.
The Watcher in the Water, The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
As if the Fellowship needed another reason to regret bringing Merry and Pippin on their trek to Mount Doom, Gandalf is just about ready to facepalm when that fool of a Took skips a stone across the black waters of the lake outside the Mines of Moria and releases the Kraken. This nameless horror of the depths is a monster octopus with tentacles that could probably extend to Mordor and back. They also move so fast that a tasty morsel like Frodo doesn’t stand a chance. You really shouldn’t expect anything less from a creature rumored to be fouler than even the Orcs. Aragorn’s prowess with the sword is what saves Frodo from getting devoured when the future king of Gondor slices off the tentacle that ensnared its Hobbit appetizer, but that still doesn’t stop it from slithering out of the lake and trying for some Elf or Dwarf flesh.
Rize Kamishiro, Tokyo Ghoul (2017)
For anyone who hasn’t studied the cryptozoology of Japan, ghouls are humanoid beings with predatory appendages called kagune. Rize’s kagune takes the form of writhing tentacles—with claws. This is one of those CGI effects that you keep trying in vain to convince yourself is CGI because of how horrifically biological it looks. She unleashes them on a smitten and completely unaware Kaneki Ken when she lures him into walking her home, ironically enough, because the streets are supposedly infected with ghouls. Then she eats him. Or most of him. Ken ends up just alive enough not to be called a corpse, and when he’s found unconscious and rushed to the hospital, some really questionable doctor approves an organ transplant from the same girl who had him for dessert. Except her organs are ghoul organs. You can see where this is going.