Epic poems like The Iliad and The Odyssey – along with many cinematic adaptations of Greek mythology – feature a strange winged creature known as the harpy. Personifying the storm wings, these half-human, half-bird creatures were sent by the god Zeus to snatch away people from the face of the earth.
Considering that these creatures were often associated with negative connotations such as decay and destruction, it’s not surprising to find harpies appearing as villainous creatures in both fantasy and horror films. In some cases, they can also be amalgamated with other creatures such as vampires in Van Helsing and deadites in Evil Dead 2.
7 Harpies (Harpies)
For a film called Harpies, the titular creatures are hardly scary and unintentionally hilarious. A low-budget horror from the 2000s, the film is a time-traveling fantasy that revolves around harpies from the Middle Ages. The makeup and costumes of the harpies are simplistic with them just looking like women wearing dark eyeshadow and fake wings.
The bad makeup aside, Harpies also had some inexcusably bad VFX. Such elements of the film distract the viewer from all the horror that the harpies seem to embody. It’s safe to say that the TV film couldn’t really capture the frightening nature of the mythological characters.
6 The White Witch’s Harpies (The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe)
Sporting bat-like wings and pale white skin, the harpies serve the White Witch in the first installment of Chronicles of Narnia films. With their faces more humanoid in nature, the harpies can look intimidating when seen up close. However, in terms of physical strength, their contribution to the battles of Long Winter is limited.
One harpy tried attacking Aslan but then flew away in fear. Then, another flying harpy picked up one gryphon (an eagle-like flying creature) only to fall to its own death. This bumbling nature of the White Witch’s harpies makes them a weaker foe and the only creepy aspect remains to be their CGI appearance of the monsters.
5 Celaeno (The Last Unicorn)
Celaeno is an immortal harpy in the animated fantasy The Last Unicorn who serves the witch Mommy Fortuna who had also trapped her in a cage. It’s only when the film’s titular protagonist frees the harpy that Celaeno can kill Fortuna and seek her revenge.
Even though Celaeno does serve as a villain in the animated fantasy, her capture and eventual freedom still draw some sympathy from viewers. It’s for this reason that it might not go down as an inherently evil and creepy harpy. Regardless, the character’s vulture-like visual design still adds an element of hideousness and might add to the scares. Voice actor Keenan Wynn’s theatrical dialogue delivery similarly brings a sense of dread to the harpy.
4 Winged Deadite (The Evil Dead II)
Even though the deadites of The Evil Dead universe infect and take over the bodies of mortals, some of them can even evolve into other beastly forms. In the second movie of the Evil Dead franchise, a deadite evolves to possess bat-like wings for flight and closely resembles a harpy and even a gargoyle.
The orc-like appearance makes it as creepy as the other deadites. Further, the way this harpy-deadite flies straight towards Ash Williams adds to the intensity of its brief appearance. Rather than other weak harpies in pop culture that tend to flap their wings aimlessly, this particular one is intently swooping at its prey.
3 Greek Harpies (Jason And The Argonauts)
The classic sword-and-sandal movie Jason and the Argonauts was widely known for its stop-motion visual effects that were way ahead of their times back at the time of its release. Despite the older effects, the harpies in this film still look and sound grotesquely haunting. Because of its reliance on Greek myths, the film’s versions of harpies are also increasingly accurate to the original depiction, complete with wings, small horns, and three-taloned feet.
The blue-skinned creatures were animated by stop motion legend Ray Harryhausen. The effects and the smaller physique of these harpies might not make them outrightly scary. At the same time, their squeals and constant flapping of wings are bound to arouse some feelings of discomfort.
2 Chernabog’s Minions (Fantasia)
Several harpies serve as the recurring antagonists of the segment Night of the Bald Mountain from the Disney animated musical masterpiece Fantasia. They appear as minions of the demon Chernabog, dropping sacrifices to his hellfire.
For a Disney film, Fantasia can be pretty dark, and the scenes featuring the harpies bear testimony to this fact. The creatures appear with multi-colored facial features and radiant blue and red hair. Their arrival is equally scary, as they circle around the majestic Chernabog in a mysterious manner. The chaotic flying brings some scares, which only intensify when the harpies fly closer to the screen, looking directly at the audience for a split second. To put it in a nutshell, the harpies in Fantasia are nightmare fuel material.
1 The Brides Of Dracula (Van Helsing)
While Van Helsing polarized viewers, the character designs of the harpies has still stood the test of time. Dubbed as “The Brides of Dracula,” these vampiric harpies have sharp fangs, pale white skin, and wings that are strong enough to allow flight at greater heights.
The intensity with which Verona, Marishka, and Aleera attack the film’s titular vampire-hunter is notable and is thrillingly scary for a PG-13 film. They can not only bite and howl but also hiss to scare away their foes. The three characters can be seen as an interesting subversion of the formulaic characters in vampire movies by turning them into harpies. Even their interactions with their blood-sucking husband are amusingly creepy as they continue hissing and caressing him with lethal passion.
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