Stephen King has earned his Master of Horror title for good reason: the author is quite skilled at turning the everyday humdrum of life into a living nightmare. He can render his readers afraid of everything from refrigerators to sinks to even cats, spawning a lifetime of irrational fear in a few chapters (or, in many cases, hundreds of pages).
King has scared many a Constant Reader out of their pants, yet his beasties, ghoulies, and baddies occasionally just miss the mark. Whether they're too unrealistic or silly to be scary or just don't work in the story he's set them in, some of King's monsters seem to lack the heebie-jeebie factor.
10 Charlie Decker
The protagonist in 1977's Rage, which was originally titled Getting It On, is a monster for a number of reasons, but mostly because he's a school shooter who doesn't care about human life and takes out his teacher before holding his classroom hostage. King has taken this novel off the shelves since it's been used to inspire multiple school shootings.
Even if the book weren't cited as the inspiration for school violence, Decker is pretty terrible, not even understanding his own motives and sounding like an incel fantasy. King has since used the sale of his essay "Guns," which explains his decision, to benefit the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
9 The Buick 8
Anything can be terrifying in a King work, and many of his cars, from Christine to the station wagon on the Mile 81 rest area, are prime examples. The Buick 8 from the 2002 book From a Buick 8 was not. It can't keep its own monster status clear enough to be one.
Is it an inter-dimensional portal? Does it maintain the balance between multiple worlds? Does it lure people to their doom? We don't know. Nothing is for sure, save for the weird serial killer trophies the Buick has collected over the years. In the end, save for a cracked windshield, the beast stands as law enforcement still doesn't know what to do with the thing.
8 Reverend Lester Lowe
Who picks flowers at a graveyard and becomes a werewolf? Reverend Lester Lowe, that's who! Cycle of the Werewolf is a fun book that, unlike most of King's works, can be read in a single sitting, but it doesn't give us a great monster. There's no backstory to the werewolf, likely because the book was too short for one, and while many of King's "no rhyme or reason" horrors work well due to their chaos, a pastor does not.
We need more from Lowe for him to be a real King monster, and Lowe himself should have more complicated feelings about his dual life. The pacing of the book around the moon's cycles and the protagonist, who uses a wheelchair, are fantastic. But given that King's only worked with werewolves twice, and that this instance was the only time the wolf was the main antagonist, it's a letdown.
7 The Sleepwalkers
Stephen King is proof that you have to make a lot of mistakes on the path to success, as several of his dud projects have revealed. 1992's Sleepwalkers is campy and gross on a level that doesn't work with its premise. The second half of the film doesn't complete the horror setup the first part established, but the monsters are a terrible mother-and-son duo whose obsession with virgins and each other ruin the supernatural creatures they should be.
There are so many problems with these shapeshifters. Their weakness? Cats. They can be invisible, but they don't use that power to protect themselves in order to actually drain anyone's energy because then there would be no movie, as there shouldn't have been in the first place.
6 The Killer Kite
It would be a Lovecraftian monster if it had a better name, something to do, and basically anything other than a passing mention in a novella. We all want Stephen King to scare us with our childhood toys, appliances, and even our sink drains, but a Killer Kite seen in passing during The Mist is just stupid.
There's a reason why it wasn't included in the adaptations of The Mist, and that's because nobody is scared of a green killer kite merely described as a "nightmarish, half-seen living kite." Even if it has tentacles or teeth, it at least needs a new name.
5 The Sun Dog
Stephen King's Four Past Midnight is a delightful collection of novellas. It rightfully won the Bram Stoker Award in 1990 for Best Collection and became the source material for some of King's so-so films, including The Langoliers. But the novella The Sun Dog, however fun it was in terms of the return to Castle Rock and the exploration of a supernatural object, just didn't deliver the terrifying monster it needed.
The novella is built around the tension of the threat of the beast, which works quite well until we realize we're never going to meet the dog in the photos. Pop Merrill and an exploding camera prove to be more formidable than a monster that never even manifests. The book still ends with the threat of the sun dog and not with its appearance.
4 The Plant
Back in 2000, Stephen King released a serial novel published via six installments known as The Plant Book One: Zenith Rising. The story just began to rise in tension when he abandoned the project, leaving Constant Readers to wonder just what was so bad about this plant.
Is the plant the primary villain in the story, or is it the author who has been revealed to the police? We may never know, and it was probably a mistake of King's to publish his old Christmas cards as a chapbook that he hadn't already finished in the first place. Even writers who dabble in fanfiction know the wrath of readers who want a resolution to a story started a decade ago.
3 Mr. Gray
Dreamcatcher, published in 2001 after King was recovering from a terrible accident, is another work that the author cites as one of his worst. Under the influence of pain medicine while writing it, King said he doesn't even like the book. While it has so many great King themes, from its Derry, Maine vibes to the quartet of friends taking on a monster together to the inclusion of Duddits as the hero, it ultimately is a hot mess.
Mr. Gray and the alien spores aren't even scary. This time around, the monsters come off as goofy, which is even worse when you consider that King almost named the book Cancer instead.
2 Tommyknocker Gas
Stephen King admits that 1987's The Tommyknockers is one of his worst books, even if it's still fun to read. The antagonist in the book begins as a deadly gas that inhabits the people of Haven, causing them to become destructive geniuses who create cool things but take each other out. It's like Iron Man meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Even though there are parallels in the story to King's substance abuse and some horror and sci-fi goodness, there's also so much nonsense that it's just not something that terrifies us like his better works are known to do.
1 All The Machines Of The World
1986's Maximum Overdrive may have the best soundtrack of any film, but it's one of King's worst works. Rendering every piece of machinery in the world a murderous contraption overnight sounds incredible in theory, but it just wasn't executed well. Sentient machinery is already far-fetched, but the cheesy film's annoying characters really doomed the picture. It didn't work when M. Night Shyamalan did it with plants years later, either.
Just picturing that waitress (or Tupper babe, as King might say) shriek, "We made you!" is cringey. This is one that would probably be much better if it were remade today, especially considering how many humans rely on machines as parts of their own bodies.