One of my favorite things about doing the Countdown is discovering, or rediscovering, old toy lines with a horror slant. Another is the crazy amount of marshmallows I seem to accumulate. But it’s never a mark in the “pro” column when you go off-topic in Paragraph 1.
The point was, I have cool bugs to show you.
From Mattel, get a load of 1994’s Horror Pets. I’m stressing their connection to Mattel because, if not for that, I may have assumed them to be more of a well-presented knockoff line. (There’s a marked Mighty Max influence, here – even more so than those Haunted Pocket Capsules had.)
The connection to Mattel makes Horror Pets feel…I don’t know…sturdier?
What I’m not so sure about is how prominent they were in the States. It seems reasonable that they were on sale here at some point, but it’s clear that they were bigger in Europe. I know this because the package taught me to say “they move like they’re alive” in German, French and Portuguese. A lot of vowel sounds.
There’s never been a time when I haven’t kept an eye on Toys “R” Us, but I don’t recall seeing these in the ’90s. They’re pretty easy to find on the collectors’ market today, though. Should you ever develop a craving for very old bug-related playthings, finding these should not be torture.
BUT WHAT ARE THEY?
That’s the fun part! Horror Pets are little, pull-back rubber bugs who live inside amazingly hideous shells. The cardback refers to the shells as “lairs,” doubling their coolness with the beat of just one noun. I have never heard anything described as a “lair” and not immediately liked it more. Panthro’s house was a cheesy shithole until he started calling it that.
The Horror Pet shown above (well, his shell, anyway) is named Stompa. I’m also just now noticing that the package calls these Horror Pets Insectoids, leading me to wonder if there was a whole separate branch of ’em that had nothing to do with bugs. I suppose I could look it up before publishing this, but if you’ve been reading X-E for any length of time, you know that I will not.
Yeah, I’m going to show you Stompa. In a minute, okay?
The shells are the real stars of the Horror Pets parade, being so much cooler than what’s inside them. I’m half-inclined to throw Stompa away and use his house as a coin purse. Give the lady at Dunkin Donuts something to talk about when she gets home.
I’m not sure what the theme of this shell is. Some kind of monster egg being invaded by sandworms?
When you flip the lid, Stompa makes his presence known. He’s a centipede with skeletal limbs, and the overall color scheme suggests that he hails from Algeria. If I ever have an urgent need for figs or esparto grass, he will be the bug I turn to.
Underneath Stompa is a set of wheels, with a pull-back gimmick. Yank him back, let him go, and watch him roll. Or do 2 out of 3, because Horror Pets don’t seem to roll very well.
(click pic to enlarge!)
The cardback explains Horror Pets better than I ever could. The chief things to know:
1. They move like they’re alive.
2. They’re awfully repulsive.
3. They hide in their lairs.
It’s the “hiding in lairs” part that gets me. I so enjoy the idea of psychotic insects roughing it out in preplanned exile. Are they avoiding their enemies, or merely waiting for the right moment to strike? I asked Stompa, and once I figure out what means, I’ll know.
Look close and you’ll spot the broad collection of Horror Pets. It’s the expected gamut of beetles and flies, but those shell lairs are something else. There’s even one that looks like a horse skull. Stompa, you may have to move.
In a shocking twist, I actually own a second Horror Pet. If I’m ever going to write about it, this is the time.
This one is named Cruncher, and he comes in an absolutely badass Audrey II-themed shell. Look at how those bristly plant teeth carefully align! If this is what people mean when they say “symmetry,” symmetry is my new favorite thing.
Cruncher himself is one of the weakest Horror Pets, being a rather dull cockroach. I think that’s why Mattel gave him the flytrap lair. He certainly needed it more than a giant skeletal centipede did.
The lair is almost as great on the inside. It has an enormous plant tongue and various bones strewn about, giving the impression that this particular flytrap has expanded its menu. It might not be safe for Cruncher to hide in there, so it is fortunate that I couldn’t care less about a rubber cockroach with wheels instead of an ass.
Conclusion: Horror Pets are a-okay.
Oh, and I made a video about a trident-shaped glowstick:
EDIT: How did I forget to say congrats to Amy? Frequent visitors to the comments know Amy as an all-around great gal. I know her as an amazing friend and confidant. Amy just became a new mother! Hooray for her, her family and Stompa the Algerian centipede.