The Evolution of Horror Movie Makeup and Special Effects

  • Phantom of the Opera

    Phantom of the Opera
    Lon Chaney played the phantom of the opera in 1925. Chaney was an incredibly popular actor back then. Actors created their own special effects back then. He choose to paint his eye sockets black, and use a small wire to pull back his nose. His face was given a skull-like appearance, and he finished off the look with a set of jagged teeth. While shooting the film, the wire caused his nose to bleed almost constantly.
  • The Bride of Frankenstein

    The Bride of Frankenstein
    The Bride of Frankenstein was the sequel to the 1931 Frankenstein Movie. The Bride's makeup involved a large teased "Nefertiti-like" hair, a scar running under her chin from one ear to another, and simple beauty makeup (i.e. lipstick, false eyelashes, foundation).
    By 1935, Universal studios started hiring makeup artists. Jack Pierce designed Frankenstein and Frankenstein's bride.
  • The Creature from the Black Lagoon

    The Creature from the Black Lagoon
    The creature of the Black Lagoon was played by Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning. The total cost of the creature cost around twelve-thousand dollars. The body suit was created from airtight molded sponge rubber, which was designed by Millicent Patrick, a Disney animator. This was the era when special effects artists became popular with every movie.
  • The Exorcist

    The Exorcist
    NBC artist Dick Smith created the posessed Regan for "The Excorcist". , Regan vomits green liquid onto the priest trying to help her. Dick Smith created a device similar to a horses’ bit that forced pea soup to spray from Regan’s mouth whenever she bit down. The rotating head scene was made using an exact replicated dummy of Regan, which took over three weeks to make. Dick Smith is known for his creative ideas to create special effects. This was the era of the first colored movies.
  • Jaws

    Three full-size pneumatically powered prop sharks were used in the production of Jaws. Art director Joe Alves designed the sharks, and they were made at an equipment rental store in California. One of the sharks was a full body prop shark, and the other two were powered electrically, one with it’s left side revealing a series of electrical hoses and wires, and one with the right side revealing the innards' hoses and wires.
  • Alien

    H.R. Giger designed the main character, the alien. The alien’s body was sculpted from plasticine, and also had vertebrates from snakes, and cooling tubes from a Rolls Royce. It was incredibly complex and took over a month to make. H.R. Giger also designed the other alien creatures in the film such as the chest-buster and the face-hugger. The Alien is considered a science-fiction movie but, it was one of the most prominent special effects movie of it’s era.
  • The Poltergeist

    The Poltergeist
    The Poltergeist won the BAFTA award for Best Special Visual Effects and was nominated for an Academy Award for it’s special effects. Most of the special effects were done on a blue screen, the green screen technology had not been invented yet. The Poltergeist was the start of the computerized special effects era, however, many were done in front of the camera. The pool scene where Diane Freeling (The Mom) was surrounded by human bodies was actually real human skeletons.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street

    A Nightmare on Elm Street
    A nightmare on Elm Street’s notorious Freddy Kruger is one of the most famous villains of our time. To construct the 1984 Freddy, David Miller applied over a pound of latex on his face to create the burns.
    The movie used over 500 galloons of fake blood, and the scene where Nancy is attacked by Freddy in the bathtub was one of the most complex of the movie. They used a bottomless bathtub with a swimming pool underneath.
  • Scream

    Scream is an iconic movie directed by Wes Craven. The Scream mask is now nationally recognized and a very common Halloween costume. Developing the Scream mask was one of the biggest struggles of the movie. Wes Craven found a mask by FunWorld (a small costume store) that he loved. It was based off the Scream painting. He had several makeup artists try and design something similar but to no avail. Wes Craven finally just bought all rights to the FunWorld mask.
  • Paranormal Activity

    Paranormal Activity
    Paranormal Activity is very interesting because of it’s success. The movie made two-hundred million dollars, after having a fifteen thousand dollar budget. The movie is iconic in a way because all of the special effects are incredibly simple. In an age of computerized technology that can make anything in movie making possible, Paranormal Activity used very few special effects. It's one of the most succesful horror films ever.