The white mask of Michael Myers glints from the shadows. The gnarled human skin of Leatherface grins at you from down the hall. The decrepit form of Pan’s Labyrinth Pale Man lurches towards you with arms outstretched.
Too often it seems like the creepiest effects in horror are the ones that can be touched, True, effective CGI exists, but few can match the monster magic of a Guillermo Del Toro film or those classic 80’s slashers.
The masks end up becoming legendary. But in almost all cases we forget that there is someone behind the mask, bringing the magic to life.
Now let’s give some homage to those actors who brought those icons to the big screen, and into our nightmares.
29The Bride in Black From Insidious: Chapter 2
There was some reference to this specter from the first Insidious, but in the second film, the madness of this entity is truly brought to life, but not by a woman.
When approached for the film, Tom Fitzpatrick, who would go on to play the role in the third film, did not think that he would end of in costume. Little did he know, he would bring us one of the creepiest spooks in the genre.
28The Amphibian Man From The Shape Of Water
A story about the love between two outcasts in society, The Shape Of Water was an odd little romance. And if the amphibian-like humanoid playing opposite of star Sally Hawkins looks familiar, that is because the actor behind the makeup also starred in Hellboy as another frog-like humanoid.
A slave to his one-piece suit while filming, Jones could not use the bathroom while in it, making him feel like “a nursing home patient”.
27The Night King From Game Of Thrones
The haunting visage of the Night King is a looming presence throughout the series Game Of Thrones, and to achieve that look required six hours in the makeup chair.
Vlak Furdik was the man that brought the iconic villain to life, no one in the streets would know it, outside of those who remembered the one make-up-less scene he was in.
26The Predator In Predator
Predator was an exercise in building up a threat that was implied. The forest seemed to come alive and snatch their victims, as Arnold Schwarzeneggers comrades shakingly state. When the hunter is finally revealed, it is a moment of brilliant monster effects!
The actor behind the prosthetic dreads was Kevin Peter Hall, who was no stranger to heavy makeup from his Harry role is Harry and the Hendersons,
25The Creeper From Jeepers Creepers
“Where’d you get those eyes?” The line is the iconic radio tune that hauntingly echoes through a radio before The Creeper swoops down and snatches you, before flying off into the night sky. His looks gave us just as many creeps as the song, but the actor behind the suit was just as dashing as his makeup was creepy.
Jonathan Breck would land many other roles perhaps more suited to his looks, such as JAG.
24The Addiction Demon From American Horror Story: Hotel
The popular FX show is famous for its use of practical effects, and this emaciated thing is no exception. Its ribs jutting out from a thin stretched layer of skin, the actor behind this monstrosity was no stranger to monster roles.
Ward had landed big roles before in Westworld, Sleepy Hollow, and Teen Wolf, but his scenes as the Addiction Demon in American Horror Story even had the producers of the show exclaim that it was “the most disturbing scene we’ve ever done”.
23The Nun From The Conjuring 2
The Nun and her piercing stare terrified audiences over, enough to land the devilishly dark force her own spinoff in 2018. The features of the nun give her a proud look, and the actress behind the role — Bonnie Aarons — would reprise her role in the spinoff.
Before her hellish role, she played characters in much lighter settings, such as The Baroness who tries to steal the crown in The Princess Diaries.
22Pale Man From Pan’s Labyrinth
If you needed a dose of nightmare, then the surreal sequence from Pan’s Labyrinth would do the trick. Always one to shy from CGI, Director Guillermo Del Toro worked his practical effects magic, transforming actor Doug Jones (of Hellboy fame) into a skulking mass of lanky skin with its eyes in its hands.
It would take five hours to complete the get-up, and the only way that Jones could see was through the nostril slits of the headpiece.
21Dren From Splice
This odd horror gem played out like an intimate character piece, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality thanks to the effects of the makeup team and the insistence curiosity of Dren, the genetically modified creature, brought to life by Delphine Chanéac.
Even though Dren sports a tail, inverted legs, and wings, her subtle human features are brought to life by Delphine, giving her element of beauty in her look and movements.
20The Silver Surfer From Fantastic Four
Doug Jones has quite a resume when it comes to creature effects, and he strikes again as the Silver Surfer. Known in Guillermo Del Toro films for his thin frame, in the Silver Surfer he plays a muscle packed character.
Although it was his tall and lanky physique that won him the role, his voice would be substituted by the dominating boom of Lawrence Fishburne’s.
19Freddy Krueger From A Nightmare on Elm Street
Freddy’s gruesome visage has haunted our nightmares much as he did for his hapless teenage victims. Good news for us, he is a fictional character. When the franchise got injected with new life in 2010, a new actor would don the mask, and Jackie Earle Haley became the nightmarish ghoul.
Out of all of the slasher villains of the ’80s, Freddy arguably had the most character, so you could not just be a walking stiff. Thankfully Haley was already an Academy Award-nominated actor, but he was not too sure about the hours of makeup. In the end, he fell in love with the process.
18Gill-Man From The Creature From The Black Lagoon
Watch your classic ’50s movies, and you will see the origin of the creature feature, such as The Thing and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. While lacking in the glean and shine of today’s effects, these genre films paved the way with advanced makeup and prosthetics.
The Handsome actor behind the suit was Ben Chapman, and unfortunately, the actor faded away into obscurity after his role.
17Pennywise From It(1990)
The iconic Stephen King villain was brought to life in the 1990’s miniseries, and Tim Curry’s portrayal of the shapeshifting terror still holds up really well to this day.
Curry’s non-verbal movements, oversized forehead, and makeup terrorized children and adults alike. Around the same time, he was hailing fame from his role in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
16Pennywise From IT(2017)
Shedding the initial innocent image of Curry’s portrayal, Bill Skarsgard’s Pennywise went for a fiendish look of immediate horror and murderous intent. All of the distinguishable features of the character are there, including that high forehead, but tweaks to the makeup, dentures, and outfit twist this Pennywise into an even more perverted form of terror.
See Bill Skarsgard walking down the street, however, and good luck recognizing him; he looks like any good upstanding lad ready to walk your grandma across the street.
15The Robot From Lost In Space
Covered from head to toe, Brain Steel’s portrayal of The Robot in the Netflix reboot required serious emotion through gestures, which is no small feat.
Slowed down by the sheer weight of the suit, he remarked that it was difficult to get used to having a colorful screen for a face. But, he got used to it.
14Leatherface From The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
The dry human skin hanging off of the emotionless killer from the class franchise has been an icon of the slasher genre for decades and will continue to be. For the 2003 remake, the director simply wanted the biggest guy in the casting room.
Enter Andrew Bryniarski. All he had to do was put on the mask and walk around like the massive figure he was. Bryniarski would later admit to fans that he feels like he was “born to wear the mask!”
13Lurch From The Addams Family
A Frankenstein-ish character required an actor who could fill those massive shoes, and Ted Cassidy was talented, dashing, and tall. He landed the role because of his 6-foot 9-inch height.
Modern horror material might have roles in which the characters are twisted and deformed, but Ted’s good looks did not hurt the creepy vibes of the butler, and he would go on to land many prominent roles in big films for his looks.
12Michael Myers From Halloween
What began with a little child murdering his sister, became a massive franchise with over ten films, officially launching the slasher film into popularity. The methodical way in which Michael Myers killed his victims was brought to life by only a few actors, and the first was Tony Moran, later to be replaced by the long-running Nick Castle.
11Jason Voorhees From Friday The 13th
Much like Micheal Myers, Josan Voorhees would not become famous for any actor playing him, but for the infamous mask. But the mountainous physique of Jason and his silent gestures were key to his character, with the first, and only Jason being Kane Hodder. He has played the role ever since.
His stature is so pinned to the iconic role that he was used for motion capture during the creation of the Friday the 13th video game.
10Pinhead From Hellraiser
Much like Freddy, a Hellraiser performance requires more than physique and makeup. Doug Bradley first role in Hollywood was playing Pinhead, and he would keep that role for eight films.
He would become an expert at not only the role but the applying and removal of the makeup, so much so that he would be credited as an assistant makeup artist.
9Kurt Barlow From Salem’s Lot
Given the nickname “The Face The Launched A Thousand Trips” sue to his sunken and haunting features, this Stephen King monster was played by Reggie Nalder, who was famously known for his assassin role in the Hitchcock film, The Man Who Knew Too Much.
8Frankenstein’s Monster From Frankenstein
The blind pursuit of Dr. Frankenstein has become a tragic story that is still read by schools today and 1930’s “Hollywood King Of Horror” Boris Karloff brought this classic tale to the big screen with his portrayal of The Monster.
Not an easy role, as the bulky suit and massive 11-pound shoes made moving around on set taxing.
The Werewolf From An American Werewolf In London
Setting the tone for future werewolf films, David Naughton’s transformation was vivid, and the makeup required for the transformation was vividly uncomfortably for Mr. Naughton.
Getting apologies from the Head of Special Effects, he described the pounds of plastic mold as “suffocating”.
7The Xenomorph From Alien
He not only created the instantly recognizable xenomorph, but 6-foot 10-inch Nigerian born artist Bolaki Badejo also acted in the suit that he created for the Ridley Scott space terror.
With the CGI heavy sequels, he would not reprise his role.
6Grant Monster From Slither
A rotting pile of flesh and horns is a way to describe the putrid creature played by Michael Rooker of Guardians of the Galaxy fame. But with his roles, which were often prosthetic heavy, Rooker was every bit prepared for the role.
5Godzilla From Gojira
Fame for stomping around miniature sets, Godzilla became a mainstay cautionary tale about the effects the humans have on the environment, and for twelve consecutive films, it was actor Haruo Nakajima who would operate the lumbering suit.
A famed “suit actor”, Nakajima became so much associated with the towering beast that the SFX Director refused to work with anyone else.
4Brundlefly from The Fly
The gooey gobs of flesh oozing from this monster initiate a gagging reflex in most hardy souls, and the makeup was based around the actor who played the role — Jeff Goldblum. Once cast, they began to design the transformations.
And how did they pull off Goldblum finally shedding off his prosthetics and a fly emerges from his body? A lot of fake flesh and blood.
3Pumpkinhead From Pumpkinhead
SFX mastermind Stan Winston got his debut with the ghoulish visage of Pumpkinhead, played by Lance Henriksen. The spindly legs and elongated claws were made for nightmares, and Mr. Hendrickson was perfectly attuned for such a role due to his experience in sci-fi and horror.
He was on the list to play the cyborg in Terminator, but Arnold beat him to the punch.
2The Janitor From Silent Hill
Silent Hill is notable for its twisted versions of humanity, and the Janitor tied up in the bathtub definitely qualifies as twisted. Actor Roberto Campanella brings the unsightly image to life, and the barbed wire ripping through his eyes paint a picture of agony that he acts out beautifully.
1Pyramid Head From Silent Hill 2
The titular villain from the Silent Hill Franchise is also played by Roberto Campanella, who played our janitor friend in the bathtub.
The top-heavy pyramid headpiece made it hard for Campanella to act in, especially given the barbed wire cutting off the eyes, but his portrayal was praised by critics as “the most striking boogeyman”.