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The College Kids
Dana Polk (The Virgin)
Played by: Kristen Connolly
- Action Survivor: She goes through some seriously horrific events and manages to emerge for the grand finale. Hadley even admires her will to live.
- Almost Kiss: With Holden, before Marty interrupts.
- Apologetic Attacker: To Marty, when she's about to shoot and kill him to save the world.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Dana is a nice young lady, but she was still willing to kill Marty, albeit for the greater good.
- Break the Cutie: Most of the film, as is typical and expected of the genre, is designed to breed dread in the survivors. Indeed, her death is optional to the ritual.
- Broken Bird: Deconstructed. Dana being broken so heavily directly leads to The End of the World as We Know It.
- Combat Pragmatist: If she wasn't she wouldn't manage to go far enough to become the Final Girl.
- Covert Pervert: After switching rooms with Holden because he decided to reveal the two-way mirror, she watches Holden getting shirtless before having a similar attack of conscience and covering the mirror..
- Decoy Protagonist: While engineered by the plot to be the Final Girl, it's Marty who does all of the thinking and heroics during the climax of the movie while she mostly freaks out. She starts to pull it together toward the end, but by that point the world is literally minutes away from ending.
- Despair Event Horizon: Hits this in her last scene.
- Final Girl: An Enforced Trope. She's "The Virgin", so Sitterson and Hadley push her to survive the longest.
- The Hero: One of the two who survive their ordeal to the end, and ultimately makes the decision to end the world rather than sacrifice more lives.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Dana is rendered borderline catatonic after watching most of her friends being murdered and being swung around by the largest zombie. But snaps out of it to push the Big Red Button...
- Non-Indicative Name: Despite being referred to as "The Virgin", she's not a virgin, having had an affair with her professor.
- One Last Smoke: At the end of the film.
- Suicidal Cosmic Temper Tantrum: Does this to the entire world.
Curt Vaughan (The Athlete)
Played by: Chris Hemsworth
- The Ace: Curt is handsome, athletic, intelligent and an all-round competent guy. He probably could have led them all out of danger if it wasn't for the various manipulations put in place to stack the deck against him.
- Badass Biker: If it wasn't for that Invisible Wall, he might have actually pulled off that jump.
- Dead Star Walking: Chris Hemsworth is the biggest name among the initial Five-Man Band. No way he'll turn out to be the second to die, right? Since it wasn't released until after Thor it's Retroactive Recognition.
- The Determinator: He gradually turns into this. It gets him killed.
- Genius Bruiser: He's a great athlete, but also a sociology major with a full academic scholarship. The overseers manipulate him into acting like Dumb Muscle instead.
- Jerk Jock: Pushed into it, but he's actually more of a Lovable Jock.
- Minored in Asskicking: He's in school on a full academic scholarship and shows more interest in studies than sports, but he is on the football team and in shape.
- Nice Guy: He's shown at the beginning of the movie to be a funny, intelligent and all around good guy who's very supportive of his friends.
- His niceness seems to make him the center of the group. He knows Marty and Holden from different social areas, is dating Jules, who's friends with Dana.
- Senseless Sacrifice: His attempt to leave for help with a dangerous bike stunt backfires. Hilariously.
- Wrestler in All of Us: When fighting the Redneck Torture Zombies.
Jules Louden (The Whore)
Played by: Anna Hutchison
- The Chick: Compared to her more academic female friends, she embraces her emotions more freely. This is enforced by the Controllers, who have been working to dull her mind for a little while before the film starts.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: She gets decapitated by the Buckners offscreen in front her boyfriend Curt.
- Death by Sex: Enforced by the technicians, who aerate pheremones into the environment whenever it would be convenient.
- Dumb Blonde: Enforced; she's neither naturally dumb (being a pre-med student) nor blonde. The blonde dye she uses is poisoned by people from the organization, dampening her intelligence.
- Ms. Fanservice: Enforced by the technicians; it's pointed out by Marty that she normally doesn't act like this.
- Team Mom: Her original role, considering her disapproval with Dana's affair with a professor. Unfortunately the Controllers already were altering her into a Dumb Blonde Ms. Fanservice before the film starts, so only hints of this appear.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: She's the first of the group to die.
Marty Mikalski (The Fool)
Played by: Fran Kranz
- Big Damn Heroes: Saving Dana at the end of the movie.
- The Coats Are Off: Word of God is that the reason he dresses in many layers and isn't shirtless in the lake scene is because Kranz was in as much shape as the other leads, and they wanted him to seem weaker. When he gets his Big Damn Heroes moment, he's stripped to form-fitting clothes showing off a more muscular physique for his transition into The Hero.
- Combat Pragmatist: His weed smoking bong isn't only an instrument to get him high but also a very efficient weapon of choice to save Dana.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Despite being high for the entire movie, he was the only one to actually win a confrontation with the Buckners.
- The Cuckoo Lander Was Right: Marty was surprisingly on the money about a lot of things even before they started to go to hell. Apparently, his pot has made him mostly immune to the controllers' attempts to control him.
- Deadpan Snarker: Likely due to being an Erudite Stoner.
- The Fool: Marty is called this by many, but he surprisingly fits into the Tarot archetype beyond just being a hippie stoner—he manages to succeed where others fail, often by pure luck.
- Get a Room!: Tells this word by word to Holden and Dana.
- The Hero: More or less becomes this by the film's third act, throwing the movie Off the Rails and foiling the organization's plot.
- Hidden Depths: He's shown to be astoundingly philosophical during the final scene. Before that he proves to be both great at thinking on his feet and a surprisingly adept fighter. In fact, his introduction presents him as being close friends with Curt, the guy with a full academic scholarship for sociology, so they likely met through class.
- Improbable Weapon User: He used a bong as an improvised weapon, twice. Offscreen, he uses a trowel to dismember a zombie.
- Killed Offscreen: Subverted. He's incapacitated and dragged offscreen by one of the Buckners to be killed, and the Controllers assume he died a gruesome death. It turns out that they really should have made sure, because during that time he dispatched the zombie, found an entrance to the Organization's HQ, and went back to save Dana from Pa Buckner. No offscreen inertia here, folks.
- Not Quite Dead: He seemed to have died, until his Big Damn Heroes moment when he saves Dana.
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: When one of the Buckners attacked and apparently killed him, he had not only survived, but neutralized the zombie by dismembering him with a trowel, offscreen. And of course this was a surprise to everybody, including the people in the Control Room.
- One Last Smoke: He shares a blunt with Dana while waiting for the world to end.
- Only Sane Man: Marty keeps cautioning the group against actions like reading the mysterious Latin. His pot-smoking has made him Properly Paranoid as well as resistant to the mind-altering chemicals used by the villains - mainly due to a mistake on their part.
- Spanner in the Works: He singlehandedly ruins the entire Ancient Conspiracy simply by staying alive until sunrise. Not to mention he saved Dana, and helped unleash a whole lot of ironic death upon the controllers, mostly due to dumb luck.
- The Stoner: Always seen stoned and never taken seriously, though he happens to be the most sensible person in the whole film.
- Stoners Are Funny: Which serves as a Red Herring; you think he's the Plucky Comic Relief when he's actually The Hero.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Although, even after encountering the Buckner zombies, Marty finds a hidden camera and concludes, "I'm on a reality TV show!" It's a Justified Trope in that he's on pot... and the control room actually treats the situation like a reality show.
Holden McCrea (The Scholar)
Played by: Jesse Williams
- Badass Decay: Invoked. He's in college on a full athletic scholarship for football, and is in amazing shape. The organization forces him into the role of the Hollywood Nerd, sidelining his physical prowess.
- Covert Pervert: When he finds a two-way mirror that gives him a view of Dana, he lingers for a moment to enjoy watching her get changed before having an attack of conscience and letting her know.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Especially in the novel, where Holden is still alive, and in pain, after being stabbed in the neck as he drowns.
- Danger Takes A Back Seat: How he dies.
- The Generic Guy: Almost no personality. Intentional since he's introduced as a jock who's forced to become a Hollywood Nerd.
- Hollywood Nerd: Intentional. He's being made into one by drugs.
- Lovable Jock: Less so than Curt.
- We Hardly Knew Ye: Very little screentime and personality. Notable in managing to pull this off while lasting an hour in the movie.
- Anti-Villain: What they do to the sacrifices year after year is absolutely horrible. But if they don't do it, the world will be destroyed and far more people will die. That said, the staff at the facility seem to take an undue amount of satisfaction from watching the kids get slaughtered, but this could be a coping mechanism.
- Necessarily Evil: There aren't many multiple murderers with an argument as solid as theirs about the consequences of not doing what they do.
Played by: Sigourney Weaver
- Big Bad: She is the direct cause. She leads a team to make sure a rite of sacrificing a specific group of young people following rules and stereotypes of horror movies is done correctly. All because to appease the fury of the Ancient Ones and prevent an End of the World scenario.
Played by: Richard Jenkins
- Affably Evil: He must sacrifice the college kids to prevent an End of the World scenario, but he's a very cool co-worker you can talk with.
- Bald of Evil: Not much of a difference compared to the others, just one likely connected to his age.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Commonly unleashed upon failed scenarios, specially with the Japanese ghost's failure.FUCK YOU! Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you!
- Consummate Professional: Be it overseeing the day to day grind of appeasing the elder gods with ritual sacrifice or running like Hell to jury rig a remote tunnel collapse with two seconds to spare, Sitterson takes it all in stride.
- Deadpan Snarker: Once you have seen it all, there is not much to take seriously.
- Dirty Old Man: His work includes following the Death by Sex horror trope, so he willing or unwillingly has to watch two youngsters having sexual intercourse. Not so unwillingly.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Accidentally done by Dana when he escaped through the tunnels. That was the most merciful death an Organization employee could have instead of being devoured or tortured.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Along with Hadley, he monitors the whole rite of sacrifice.
Played by: Bradley Whitford
- Be Careful What You Wish For: All he wanted was to see a merman in messy action, not to be face smashed by him.Oh, come on!
- Deadpan Snarker: So much that his last words are snarking with disbelief at his ironic bad luck.
- Death by Irony: After spending the entire film wishing he could see a merman, Hadley is finally done in when a merman enters the control room and chews his face off. Hadley is pretty aware of the irony, too; his last words are "Oh, come on!"
- In Universe Nickname: "Aquaman," used around betting time as a reference for Hadley's desire to see a merman in action.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Pretty vocal in his dislike of the Japanese.
- Those Two Bad Guys: He and Sitterson are in control of the process of sacrificing the protagonists for the greater good.
Played by: Brian White
- Audience Surrogate: He feels lots of pity about the kids. Also, as a new recruit in security, he gets his answers responded about how the Organization works.Monsters, magic...
- Bald of Awesome: By the end he had the chance to show it.
- Covert Pervert: During Jules' sex scene, Truman can be seen making a few discreet but noticeable glances in the direction of the screens. He also is notably holding a clipboard in front of his crotch in that particular scene
- Cruel and Unusual Death: He gets disemboweled by the Scarecrows but luckily his grenades gave him a merciful demise.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Inasmuch as a Punch Clock Villain can have one, anyway.
- Naïve Newcomer: Despite getting the job, he doesn't know very much about how the Organization works until Wendy and the others gave him an explanation.
- Punch Clock Villain: He isn't happy with the organisation's line of work but he still accepted working there.
- Taking You with Me: He turned the Scarecrows into stacks of hay, which is by all accounts impressive.
- Token Good Teammate: Of all the Controllers, he's the most reluctant one to lead the kids to their doom.
Played by: Amy Acker
- Deadpan Snarker: She speaks Sitterson's and Hadley's mother language.
- Exit, Pursued by a Bear: Lin is last seen being dragged into the ceiling by an octopus tentacle.
- Not So Above It All: Though she clearly dislikes immaturity among the staff and joins Truman in disapproving of the betting pool, Lin isn't above placing a bet of her own.
The Ancient Ones
- Abusive Precursors: They were here before mankind and they demand a lot to be appeased.
- Devil, but No God: It's doubtful that there are any Gods who are satisfied with a romantic comedy scenario.
- Eldritch Abomination: All of them, whoever "they" are.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Except for a giant human-looking arm at the end at the end of the movie, we have no idea what they look like.
- Greater Scope Villain: It's their fault that the Organization has to sacrifice young people for the sake of their desires and appeal to prevent the end of the world.
- Jerkass Gods: Big time. If the Organization doesn't follow traditional horror stereotypes or any single subversion, aversion, etc. occurs, they will cause a worldwide apocalypse.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: They are pretty clearly a metaphor for the audience themselves, especially of horror movies: If their specific demands for the scenario aren't met, the whole world ends, in the same way a work of fiction fails whenever its audience isn't pleased with it.
- Monstrous Humanoid: The only thing we see of them is a giant human arm, with dark skin and veins reminiscent of lava.
Overall Monster Tropes
- Always Chaotic Evil: If they weren't, what could they be possibly doing there? Justified, for some, because if they weren't depraved they would not have become monsters.
- Ax-Crazy: The ones who used to be humans became this due to their character. Most sapient ones could qualify anyway though.
- Blue and Orange Morality: One possible motivation for what they do.
- Evil Is One Big, Happy Family: Possibly, as they only attack humans and not each other, even the bestial ones.
- For the Evulz: Another possible motivation, one often encountered among the more humanoid creatures like the Dolls and the Suffocators.
- Kill All Humans: They don't attack each other, only regular people.
- Neutral Evil: There seem to be a few who kill not just For the Evulz but also because it benefits them on a pragmatic sense like the Witches and likely the Vampires.
- Our Monsters Are Weird: Those of them who don't represent classic horror archetypes, anyway.
- Alien Blood: Seems to bleed yellow as the attacking guard fights black.
- Aliens Are Bastards: Right in the name.
- Face Hugger: Its Dynamic Entry is going straight for a guard's face.
- The Cameo: It's explictly the game zombies.
The Buckner Family
- Antagonistic Offspring: Matthew, who not only murdered his father but also his brother and sister.
- An Arm and a Leg: Patience had her arm cut and eaten by her family, forcing her to write the rest of her diary (and wield a hatchet...) with her non-dominant arm.
- Apocalyptic Log: Patience Buckner's diary, which is also an...
- Artifact of Doom: Specifically the Latin words at the end of the book.
- Ax-Crazy: Yup its a family trait and proud tradition to kill For the Evulz.
- Big, Screwed-Up Family: Apart from the casual emotional abuse and sadomasochism metted out on a daily basis while they were alive, the Buckners eventually went from murdering travellers to mutilating and killing each other. In short order, Pa tortured Ma to death by cutting her belly open and filling it with hot coals; Matthew killed Judah; one of Patience' arms was cut off and fed to the rest of the family; Matthew killed Pa, specifically by mutilating his jaw; finally, he presumably killed Patience.
- Cannibal Clan: A possibility. They certainly didn't have any qualms about hacking off Patience' arm and eating it.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: A fine passtime for the whole family.
- Cool, but Inefficient: Matthew Buckner's beartrap attached to a chain. Ditto Ma Buckner's saw, which is most effective when the victim's being held down.
- Combat Sadomasochist: All of 'em. Matthew is undoubtedly the worst, however: according to Patience, he is literally aroused by torture and self-mutilation- to the point of getting "a husband's bulge."
- Danger Takes a Backseat: While his children go about trying to break into the Cabin, Pa Buckner stows away in the back of the Rambler and waits until Holden and Dana try to escape in it.
- Giant Mook: Matthew.
- The Heavy: Collectively, due to their Artifact of Doom being the one activated. The surviving ones even do some things in the third act.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!:
- Patience Buckner eventually finds her way down the ritual chamber and kills The Director with a hatchet to the head, before falling to her doom herself. This didn't really fix anything, since her actions inadvertently saved Marty, but essentially doomed him and the rest of the world a few minutes later... but since Marty is The Hero and The Director is the Big Bad, it rather feels like a fix.
- Previously, Judah's cut hand grabs a soldier that came to finish off Marty, foiling the Organization's first attempt at finish the ritual.
- Our Zombies Are Different: They are a "Redneck Zombie Torture Family", incomparable to regular zombies as an elephant is to an elephant seal. Mostly they are Revenant Zombies, clearly retaining their intelligence and motivated by the desire to torture and murder rather than some instinct to eat.
- Religion of Evil: The "Great Pain", based around inflicting and suffering pain.
- To the Pain: They practice a religion based around pain.
- Undead Child: Patience. Albeit one nearing adolescence.
- Weapon of Choice: Scythe for Father, trowel for Judah, a flail-like Bear Trap for Matthew, hatchet for Patience, and a saw for Mother.
- Artifact of Doom: Word of God states that the Fortune Teller Machine in the back of the cellar would have summoned the clown.
- Giggling Villain: All his dialogue is creepy laughter.
- Monster Clown: As pure an example as any.
- Nigh-Invulnerability: In the film, getting shot three times in the chest doesn't even slow him down; the novel features him easily shrugging off several shots to the face as well.
- Shout-Out: To It by Stephen King. Also to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The costume/design used was the same one from Xander's nightmare from the first season.
- Our Zombies Are Different: Along with regular zombies and "Redneck Zombie Torture Family", the Necronomicon-induced undead.
- Shout-Out: And some time before the Evil Dead remake in that!
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Goblins who dismember people.
- Funny Background Event: During the purge, they can be glimpsed on the security monitors, taking one of the facility golfcarts for a joyride.
- Good Wings, Evil Wings: One of them sports a villainous set of bat wings.
- Half the Man He Used to Be: In the first few seconds of the purge, the Goblins can clearly be seen living up to their namesake by grabbing a guard by his arms and legs and ripping him in two — flinging the upper half at the camera for good measure.
- Slasher Smile: Just look!
- Deadly Doctor: It is safe to say that the oath of Hippocrates is not their motto.
- Dressed to Heal: Both of them are dressed in bloodstreaked hospital scrubs, aprons, surgical caps and masks. Close examination reveals that these clothes have been crudely stitched onto their bodies.
- Evil Duo: They are united by their professional duties.
- Eye Scream: Closeups reveal that their eyes have been sewn shut.
- Mad Doctor: It's not established if the Doctors are motivated by scientific curiosity, a misguided desire to help their victims, or pure sadism- it's not even certain if they have any real desires of their own. Whatever the case, regardless of what drives them, they are this trope from beginning to end.
- Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Healing is not their intent...
- Strapped to an Operating Table: During the brief montage of security camera footage, the Doctors are seen getting ready to vivisect a captured technician in this way.
- Artifact of Doom: Appropriately, their artifact of choice is a porcelain mask.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Appear taping, binding and preparing to burn a guard.
- Malevolent Masked Men: To the point their intro is Emerging from the Shadows focused on the masks.
- Serial Killers: Its not known if fire is their modus operandi or if they are more open-minded, but it was surely neither their first time nor their last.
- Shout-Out: To The Strangers.
- Giant Flyer: As big as a human.
- Hybrid Monster: A huge bat, but with some dragon-like features. In the novelization it breathes fire.
- Amusing Injuries: He has circular buzzsaws in his head!
- Artifact of Doom: A puzzle, almost exactly identical to the Lament Configuration (except it's a sphere instead of a cube).
- Bald of Evil: He might have bathed in acid.
- Expy: Of Pinhead from Hellraiser. Like Pinhead, he's a mutilated demon lord dressed in leather who wants to test the limits between pain and pleasure, and has sawblades pushed into his skull rather than pins.
- Hell-Bent for Leather: The BDSM standard clothing;
- Humanoid Abomination: His love for receiving pain has turned him into a literal and his love for giving into both a literal and a figurative abomination.
- The Stoic: Hearing helpless screams doesn't mean much for him, especially if he is not the reason and he can't touch them.
- Torture Technician: "Bondage and pain", after all.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Just big versions of animals.
- Artifact of Doom: The Film Reel, see Nothing Is Scarier below.
- Expy: He's seemingly inspired by We Need to Talk About Kevin.
- He Who Must Not Be Seen: Quite a presence, for someone who qualifies for this.
- Nothing Is Scarier: In the film, we don't know what he does. Although according to the Cabin in the Woods wikia, the film reel that Marty brief looks at, while in the basement, was supposed to bring out Kevin.
- Special Person, Normal Name: His entire role revolves around this.
- Stepford Smiler: From Word of God.
- They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: The novel describes him as "a quiet, normal-looking person with a small smile on his face".
Kiko ("Japanese Floaty Girl")
- Our Ghosts are Different: The victims intended for the Japanese ritual somehow managed to fight back and contain her spirit inside a happy frog.
- Stringy-Haired Ghost Girl: She is an onyro clearly inspired by Sadako from The Ring.
- A.I. is a Crapshoot: It is a Killer Robot.
- Artifact of Doom: Something akin a dog whistle.
- Mechanical Monster: The only explicitly artificial creature.
- Scary Scorpions: He's basically a Spider Tank made with another arachnid. And saws in his limbs...
- Combat Tentacles: The only part of it we see is a tentacle capturing a scientist.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Apparently the Merman has never been chosen for the Ritual during Hadley's tenure.
- Artifact of Doom: A conch shell, which has to be blown in order to work.
- Brick Joke: By the end, turns into one.
- A Day in the Limelight: During the Purge, when it kills Hadley.
- Graceful in Their Element: In its only scene, the Merman has great difficulty moving on dry land, and was only able to kill Hadley because he'd been knocked to the ground by an explosion. However, judging by the presence of a lake near the cabin, it presumably would have fared better had it been chosen for the ritual.
- Ludicrous Gibs: "Dude, be thankful. Those things are terrifying. And the cleanup on them's a nightmare."
- Our Mermaids Are Different: Sporting a huge fanged mouth, long tangled hair, webbed fingers, a fishtail, and a blowhole, the Merman seems only vaguely human at best.
- Alien Blood: When one of them is shot in the head by Marty, it bleeds green gunk instead of blood.
- Artifact of Doom: Apparently, a large chest of bottles and vials containing unknown substances, complete with an antique gas mask. At present, it's not known if the bottles had to be opened or the gas mask had to be worn (or both at once) in order to summon the mutants.
- Bald of Evil: Some may consider it not one of the worst parts of their mutation.
- Hazmat Suit: Most of the mutants wear these, minus the signiature helmets.
- Institutional Apparel: The few who don't wear biohazard suits- like the one Marty shoots- wear hospital gowns and scrubs.
- Vomit Indiscretion Shot: During the brief overview of the security monitors, the Mutants can be seen holding a captive down while one of them vomits green slime into his face.
- The Cameo: Joss Whedon just had to include another of his works!
- Serial Killer: Appear stabbing a guard.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: They suffocate their victims with plastic bags.
- Serial Killer: And pretty one-notes ones given their name.
The Sugarplum Fairy
- Artifact of Doom: The musical box- but only if it was allowed to play to the end.
- Creepy Child: What appears to be a ballerina, once a Face-Revealing Turn happens shows to have as its only facial feature a...
- Lamprey Mouth: With plenty of teeth.
- Fluffy the Terrible: Does this name appear to be Humanoid Abomination?
- Beware the Silly Ones: Who knew a gentle animal could be so bloodthirsty?
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Uses its horn for it.
- Shown Their Work: Mythologically speaking, unicorns were only gentle towards virgin maidens. Anyone else was stab bait.
- Unicorns Are Sacred: So very averted. They respect no life!
- Bald of Evil: Like their inspiration Count Orlok.
- Lean and Mean: Blood probably doesn't have too many calories.
- Looks Like Orlok: Production photos show that they even wear the same outfit.
- Shout-Out: To Nosferatu.
- Our Werewolves Are Different: We never see it in its human form, for one thing. It's also a Wolf Man-type biped.
- Evil Old Folks: Up until they start eating people's souls.
- Power Floats: Appear as floating wraiths.
- Wicked Witch: With even the regular Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette appearance.
- Your Soul Is Mine: As seen in the Purge, the witches prefer to dispatch their victims by devouring their souls. According to the novel, this allows them to rejuvenate themselves.
- Our Ghosts are Different: A ghostly skull-shaped fog.
- Horror Hunger: They eat humans, of course.