Written by Jonathan Wojcik


Almost everybody, at some point in their lives, has owned a set of cheap, unpainted, unbranded plastic toys. Army men, barnyard animals, dinosaurs, you know the ones I'm talking about. They might come in baggies, or they might come in buckets. They're always the same molds, again and again, but they might come in different colors, under all sorts of different names and even packed with a variety of equally cheap accessories.

Little did I know, this loosely related family of children's playthings have come in a rare horror flavor for decades now, and their latest incarnation comes in bucket format. Learning all this only about a week ago, I scrambled to order a monster bucket of my own, and it got here the same day as my bag of Virus Attack, with only a couple days left in Halloween 2. What better to help wrap up the season than more cheap, weird looking hunks of plastic? THE CONTENTS OF THE HAUNTED MONSTER BUCKET ARE AS FOLLOWS:


The inclusion of some wagons is important, because how else are your monsters going to blaze the Oregon Trail?


Both chests came with the same right hinge missing, so they don't open like they're supposed to, but they can still latch shut, and you can fit a couple of monsters in them for safekeeping. Unfortunately, the chests are far too large to be loaded onto the wagons, severely limiting the potential to act out colonial-era monster smuggling with any accuracy.


I suppose these were included to pull the wagons, but there isn't anything to connect them together. There are holes drilled in them for riders to hook into, but none of the figures are sculpted to sit on them. I suppose these may actually be monsters themselves, though.


Look at this thing. This is one of the best reasons to buy the bucket. It's not even that the castle is shaped like a skull, but that the castle is constructed in and around an actual, gigantic, organic skull, complete with a giant red eyeball in one of its sockets, providing a lovely focal point in its otherwise uniformly purple and green paint job!

There's also a huge snake slithering out of the skull, and a weird, three-fingered mutant arm emeging from one of the windows. This is just such a wonderful, beautiful object to own. It looks good anywhere in your house, and nobody would ever guess that it's a hunk of worthless plastic rather than the fancy, antique ceramic decoration it more closely resembles.


The other best reason to buy the Haunted Monster Bucket, these are some of the coolest and creepiest spooky-faced trees I've probably ever possessed, and I am a self appointed leading authority on spooky-faced trees. They're typically regarded more as scenery than "monsters" in the true sense, lacking any particular rules or powers of their own, but you'll never stop me from viewing them as full-fledged characters. Especially not these trees. I love the gruesome quality lent to them by the red highlights, as if there's blood and flesh just under their decaying bark. I like to think the clawed hands actually belong to the trees themselves, rather than some unrelated monster tunneling inside, and once again, we've got some giant, green snakes.


The star attraction of the Haunted Monster Bucket, you get exactly twelve different sculpts in red, blue, yellow and purple, though you're not guaranteed to get every monster in every color. I think a pukey green would have been nice, too, and would have at least been more appropriate than the yellow. Naturally, we're going to assess each of their biotypes individually.


One of the two most mundane characters, the witch at least makes a good candidate for a leadership role. I could definitely see that purple skull castle belonging to a classic pointy-hat Halloween witch, cooking up all of our other monsters in the same bubbling cauldron she makes all those giant snakes.


I know he probably comes in the other colors too, but I only got this guy in yellow. He looks like the berries and cream lad with giant, malformed feet, and he cannot stand upright of his own accord. I'm going to go with this being the witch's ultra-skeevy son that she still treats like a tiny child and probably feeds other, tinier children.


A simple, menacing devil guy with a warty head and dinosaur feet. From the front, it looks like he has a second head, but it turns out he's just carrying a small shield with a carved face. I suppose it could still be organic and even alive if we want it to be.


This could be any kind of animate corpse you want it to be. A zombie, a vampire, a vampiress, a wight, or maybe even not a corpse at all. Maybe just a gross old creepazoid who sleeps in coffins. It's another fairly mundane character, but you kind of need some of those to round out the weirder ones.


The last really humdrum addition, I do like how this guy's cranial structure is just off-human enough to be disconcerting, otherwise his clawed feet and shoulder horns would be his only indications of monstrousness.


Not content to include one of your white bread one-headed mummies, the Haunted Monster Bucket brings us these surprisingly eerie extracranial cadavers with a really withered, shrunken look to their faces. Even the slightly conical shape of their skulls is a little unsettling.


Another one that looks almost human at a glance, but just wrong enough, his stubby legs and forked tongue the only obviously inhuman characteristics. For such cheap toys, these really have a good grasp on how the uncanny valley works.


Getting into the stranger depths of the bucket, I really just don't know what to call this one. He has ampibian-like limbs, only one of which is also lined with fleshy ridges, and his body is some mucky blob with....what are those? Leaves stuck to it? Leaves and a big, gaping hole through the middle, which can actually hook onto the branches of the haunted trees.


Another squat, pudgy goblinoid? This one is a lot creepier, less human yet also more baby-like, except for the gaping, circular maw lined with tiny saw-teeth. It reminds me a lot of the movie "Ghoulies," despite not really looking like any particular monster that appeared in it.


I don't know what's going on here. He has a creepy smile on a blocky, chunky head, boneless arms and a body made of what are either fat segments or serpentine coils, each apparently with its own mouth and jutting, triangular fangs. If they're coils, is this even a humanoid being at all, or just currently posing as one?


The most horrific and menacing looking of the bunch, this looks like it's in mid-transformation from a human into some grotesque beast with a round, sucking maw and a huge tongue! It could easily be some sort of demon hound, or, come to think of it, a were-anteater. Yeah, let's go with that, actually. Someone was licked by an anteater under the full moon.


Calling these robots doesn't really do them justice. Who's to say they're even really mechanical? They could be made entirely of biological tissues, just in really angular, unnatural shaped with biological wheels on the bottom. Whatever they are, though, they're straight out of the finest childhood nightmares, with faces like distorted old men and tubular eyeballs that appear to be constantly flailing. I'm sure these abominations make all kinds of cartoonish boings, sproings and honks, which would only add to the horror.

And that's the Haunted Monster Bucket. Strangely, I'm left feeling like there's something still missing; like it could have really used a simple skeleton, ghost or giant spider, but considering this is the horror counterpart to those bags of generic cowboys or space men, it really goes above and beyond with far more imagination and variety than we might have expected. If only more children received a Haunted Monster Bucket than a pail of army men, maybe the world would have been a slightly more peaceful place?


Halloween 2014 Archive: