Written by Jonathan Wojcik


Today, I'll be talking about yet another obscure, creepy toy line from the 1990's, and yet another that I completely missed as a child, which I'm going to chalk up to living in America. At least, I'm fairly certain that if HORROR PETS had ever come to the states, I'd have enthusiastically noticed and remembered. You can see why at a glance:

Alas, like Pocket Shockers, the Horror Pets were nowhere to be found when I'd have needed them the most, and what child wouldn't need the comfort of a colorful, plastic insect in its own gruesome carrying case? Luckily, they aren't all that difficult to come by on ebay, and I snatched up what I determined to be one of my personal favorites still in its package. Once again, collector's value takes a back seat to my childishness as I promptly tear it open to take pictures for a website article that's probably only going to get three or four comments, tops.

I know this because the amount of attention an article gets is often inversely proportionate to how interesting I personally think it is, and at this particular moment, I personally think nothing in the entire world could ever be as interesting as a plastic head with a moth in it.

Click to Enlarge!

Separately, a plastic bug on wheels is the kind of thing you find in a dollar store's clearance bin, but Horror Pets do a fantastic job of selling themselves, from the kitschy artwork to the slimy colors and tantalizing statements like "THEY HIDE IN THEIR LAIRS." I'd be more inclined to purchase almost anything imaginable if you could somehow describe it as hiding in a "lair."

My chosen Horror Pet, at least for this article, is the highly unique "SKUL," one of the few insect sculpts that I've only seen in one color option. SKUL appears to be a highly fanciful stylization of a Death's Head Moth, an insect which, in the real world, raids beehives for honey, squeals when pissed off, lays its eggs on nightshade and was believed in Romanian folklore to carry the spirit of a vampire. There is almost no possible arthropod more appropriate for Halloween, yet they're constantly overlooked.

One-upping the real thing, SKUL has both the skull-like thorax marking and an even bigger, Edgy DC Comics skull plastered across her blood-red wings.

Because SKUL apparently still doesn't feel hardcore enough, her lair is itself a beastly skull that's also overrun with snakes. Incredibly tiny, tiny snakes, smaller than a moth...or are those worms? I guess worms would make a lot more sense, but their shape kinda feels to me like they were going for serpentine reptiles.

SKUL herself also has the most delightful fuzzy bee-face and buggy eyes, even if that's nothing at all like the proboscis of an actual moth. This is the one and only thing I can detract any points for, or would if I were giving out points.

There's no particular way a horror pet fits into its lair. That is, the lair isn't sculpted for the bug to nestle in any specific position, but as long as SKUL faces the same way as her house, you can easily spy her skull markings through its shattered cranium. Every "lair" was actually recolored and recycled for more than one bug, but I feel like this one had to have been made with SKUL specifically in mind, which is a more literal statement than I realized when I was typing it out.

There were, of course, many other horror pets, and I haven't the time, energy or resources to review them all, but we can at least check out a couple of my other favorites. CRUNCHER here is a metallic blue cockroach, which honestly should be one of my favorite "bugs" of the series, but compared to some of our other options, even a Blattodean feels mundane. Not so mundane is Cruncher's fly trap lair, and I daresay this simple plastic plant maw is even more glorious than the one from Pocket Shockers. It's also a whole lot larger, and could have interacted with just about any other toy line under the sun.

I actually wanted a toy of a Venus Fly Trap SO badly as a kid that I'm pretty sure I tried to write a letter to "toy inventors" that I thought it would be a great idea. Somebody here owes me.

Next, we have STINKA, boasting one of the most impressive of all the "lairs." It appears to be the stylized skeleton of either a rat, a tiny dinosaur, or a space alien. In any case, an entire worm-eaten, curled-up corpse isn't something you saw all that often in children's toys.

STINKA itself is even one of my favorite animals in the world, a fly, and should logically be my favorite thing in the line, but alas, Stinka is another one forsaking an accurate, adorable proboscis for a pair of generic mandibles, which no fly really possesses. Yes, for me, this is enough to knock Stinka way, way down my favorites list. Of all the delightful things about a fly, the proboscis is the most precious of all, and without it, you have little more than a funny-looking bee with a missing pair of wings.

Was that my second use of "alas" in one post? Too bad. Both were extremely alas-worthy scenarios.

Last but not least is my actual personal favorite of the bugs, and a Horror Pet that had already been in my life for much longer than I ever knew. A variation on GORGA, the wonderful nondescript grubworm creature, fell into my possession at a thrift store at least sixteen or seventeen years ago, and I wouldn't find out where the little guy came from until X-E's review of the line back in 2011. Yes, the fact that X-E reviewed them first was one of the reasons it took me this long to cover them myself. It still proving kind of a challenge, because most of my thoughts and feelings on these things are pretty much identical to Matt's.

GORGA comes in a couple different color schemes, as you can see, but every version comes with a bizarre sort of "rotten egg" lair, which appears to contain trace remnants of a lizard fetus, or something. Nasty! The closest real insects to Gorga, in terms of anatomy, might be certain larvae of either beetles or net-winged insects, while the closest in terms of lifestyle would be the larvae of the pustulated burying beetle, which, as I once wrote about for Cracked, are often raised on a diet of live snake eggs. Gorga may not look like a burying beetle grub, but no less than Skul looks like a death's head moth.

Interestingly, there was actually more to this toy line than just the pull-back bugs and their sweet ass cribs; three larger sized "pets" were produced, including this huge spider with a freaky skull-like head, a rat covered in grotesque sores, and a toad with yellow spines all over its flesh. Unfortunately, this is one of the only half-legible images of any of them I could find.