Terapusmordax is a species of flying rodent that appeared in the 2005 Universal Pictures film, King Kong.
The name "Terapusmordax" means "pungent-bat," while its species name, "Terapusmordax obscenus", means "filthy pungent-bat."
The Terapusmordax was created to fill the role of the Pteranodon from the original King Kong, and was developed from the Bat Creatures from Peter Jackson's attempted 1996 remake.
Christian Pearce, one of the designers of the Terapusmordax, describes his experience designing the flying rodent as "fun," saying that "You could just try anything you wanted." Though early discussions involving using naked mole rats, which would become the basis of the final design's skin, there was a period where Weta Workshop did not know the final brief from Peter Jackson, leading to many pterosaur-inspired designs. During this period, artist Greg Broadmore also created a flying mammal that had a "vulgar" upright posture. After the brief came in that Jackson wanted to stray away from pterosaur designs for what would become the Terapusmordax, Broadmore created another pterosaur design he dubbed "Uglor" that had a Hornbill inspired crest and a bony emaciated look. "Uglor" would later be reworked into the Foeducrista in The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island.
Jackson requested the Terapusmordax to be "as gross as possible". Pearce recalls that Jackson specifically wanted the creature to look infected with its skin bearing diseases and a "disgusting wetness to it" as well as batlike wings, large enough to pick a human being up, and a humanoid shape. For his drawings, Pearce referenced photos of young Siamese short-haired cats, earthworms, and naked mole rats. Concept artist Warren Mahy notably created a winged simian design inspired by naked mole rats with a prehensile tail and a beak. Mahy worked "out of town" during the design process of the Terapusmordax, but kept in touch with the designers at Weta Workshop. Pearce said of this relationship "we'd get a shipment from him every couple of days: 'Oh, my goodness! Look, what he was thinking! Let's steal some of those ideas.' And he'd get ours and some of those ideas would trigger things in him too. It was right towards the end of the creature design process. We were all fighting to get our little bits into [the Terapusmordax]. I think a bit of all of us ended up in it."
Not all designs were entirely practical in the biological sense. One such design had the wings located in the hind legs of the creature, a design choice that Pearce recalls caused a bit of an uproar among some of the zoologists at Weta, but he justified the design saying "we were just putting everything out there, trying new things to see what catches Peter's eye." Greg Broadmore has stated the "most preposterous" design he had created for what would become the flying rodent had a "big, gross belly" which Broadmore thought "was kind of funny" but "made it less likely as a flying creature." This lead to the creature becoming thinner throughout the design process. Jackson then stated that he wanted the flying creatures to have traits of the sphinx cat, which Jackson liked due to the excess skin they bear.
Despite superficially resembling a mixture of a bat and a naked mole rat, Terapusmordax belonged to a family of flying rodents named Volucerattidae, which also contained Voluceritis and the Howlers. Terapusmordax, in particular, was the largest of the family.
A swarm of Terapusmordax was awakened by King Kong in the ape's lair when Kong found Jack Driscoll attempting to rescue Ann Darrow from him. The Terapusmordax proceeded to attack Kong, which allowed Ann to become free from the great ape's hold on her.
As she and Jack escaped by climbing down a nearby vine by the cliff's edge, Kong began pulling the vine up towards him with several Terapusmordax circling around the fleeing humans, but Jack grabbed hold of the wing of an attacking Terapusmordax and escaped with Ann. Several of the flying rodents followed them until Jack and Ann fell into a river below.
Their excrement was notably repugnant, containing chemicals that were so strong that in sufficient quantities would induce burning nostrils and watery eyes. Despite the dung littering the floors of the caves they inhabited and their bellies being caked with it, the Terapusmordax was unaffected by the horrible smell of their dung. This might have been a defense mechanism, as it drove away predators from their colonies.
According to Christian Pearce, a designer of the Terapusmordax, its feet are used for hunting and hanging upside down from cave roofs, like a bat.
With light and strong bones, Terapusmordax had good eyesight and were excellent flyers. They were quite maneuverable for their size, being able to tip and roll in the air in pursuit of one another or winged prey.
List of appearances
- King Kong (First appearance)