Exploring Horror Films with Great SFX MakeupImogen
In the corner’s of cinema’s haunted history, a genre thrives on the instinctive reactions it evokes – horror. For decades, horror films have made us confront our deepest fears and ignited our imaginations. Yet, it’s not just the stories and chilling soundtracks that make these films memorable, it’s the artistry that goes into bringing the monsters and creatures to life. In the realm of horror, a hidden gem exists: the world of special effects makeup (SFX). In this blog post, we explore a handful of horror films with great SFX makeup, where imagination meets craftmanship to create monsters that linger in our memories and inspire our work. From classic cult favourites to modern masterpieces, we’ll explore the artistry that makes these films truly unforgettable.
Disclaimer : While we highlight a few outstanding horror films with great SFX makeup in this post, there are many more deserving of recognition. Our selection is just a glimpse into the world of horror makeup artistry, and we encourage you to explore the broader spectrum of films that contribute to this rich genre. The art of SFX makeup in horror cinema is vast, and this list represents only a fraction of the talent within the industry.
“The Exorcist”, directed by William Friedkin and released in 1973, stands as a classic in the horror genre and a testament to the power of special effects makeup in film. The film tells the story of a young girl, Regan, who becomes possessed by a malevolent demon. Her mother then seeks the help of two priests to try and save her daughter and exorcise the demon within. Special effects makeup artist Dick Smith played a pivotal role in bringing this terrifying tale to life. The exceptional talent and techniques transformed Linda Blair, the actress who portrayed Regan, into a nightmarish vision of demonic possession that is truly unforgettable. The iconic pea soup vomit and the grotesque transformation of Regan’s body were all achieved through the mastery of special effects makeup. “The Exorcist” not only revolutionised the horror genre but also highlighted the potential of special effects makeup to elicit genuine fear and unease in audiences, cementing it’s place in cinematic history.
William A. Farley, Dick Smith, Robert Laden, Marcel Vercoutere, Rick Baker
“The Exorcist” 1973 directed by William Friedkin. Image source thecinemaholic.com
Train To Busan
“Train To Busan” is a South Korean zombie thriller that not only delivers an adrenaline-pumping ride but also showcases the power of special effects makeup in the world of cinema. Directed by Yeon Sang-Ho in 2016, the film follows a group of passengers trapped on a high-speed train during a viral outbreak that turns people into bloodthirsty zombies. What sets “Train To Busan” apart is not only it’s moving story-line, but also its exceptional use of special effects makeup to create truly horrifying and convincing zombie transformations. The special effects makeup artists involved skilfully crafted grotesque wounds, decaying flesh, and hauntingly vacant eyes, enhancing the suspense and terror of the film. This attention to detail immerses viewers in a nightmarish world where the line between the living and the undead blurs seamlessly, making “Train To Busan” a standout example of how special effects makeup can elevate the horror genre to spine-chilling heights.
Hwang Hyo-kyun, Kim Ka-ryoon, Eun-ju Lee, Kwak Tae-yong, Jung Do-ahn, Kyung-soo Park
“Train To Busan” 2016 directed by Yeon Sang-Ho. Image source everyhorrorfilmonnetflix.com
Hellraiser (1987 & 2022)
The original “Hellraiser”, directed by Clive Barker in 1987, and its recent 2022 iteration, directed by David Bruckner, both stand as iconic examples of how special effects makeup has evolved over the years while maintaining its terrifying impact. In the 1987 classic, special effects makeup designer Bob Keen introduced audiences to the unforgettable Cenobites, nightmarish beings from another dimension. The intricacy and innovation in their design, featuring gruesome, mutilated flesh and disturbingly detailed prosthetics, shocked and fascinated viewers, cementing the films’ status as a cult classic. Fast forward to the 2022 remake directed by David Bruckner, where the advancements in special effects makeup and technology are evident. The Cenobites in this version exhibit the use of cutting-edge technology and techniques to not only honour the original film, but showcase a modern portrayal of the extra-dimensional beings. Both films showcase the power of special effects makeup in film and deserve to be appreciated in their own way. Creating visceral and horrifying visual experiences, “Hellraiser” (1987 & 2022) leaves the audiences captivated by the transformations on screen.
Makeup Department 1987
Nigel Booth, Julian Caldow, Paul Catling, Stuart Conran, John Cormican, Dave Elsey, Bob Keen, Dave Keen, William Petty, Geoffrey Portass, Roy Puddefoot, Jason Reed, Ian Rolph, Jim Sandys, Simon Sayce, Aileen Seaton, Sally Sutton, Cliff Wallace, Richard Glass, Dave Chagouri, Floyd Jones Hughes.
Makeup Department 2022
Jaremy Aiello, Andy Arrasmith, Caitlyn Brisbin, Kenneth Calhoun, Jennifer Corona, Ali Gordon, David Grasso, Aleksandra Kaltak, Natasa Krstic, Kristina Marjanac, Jessica Nelson, Melissa Popsel, Dragan Radic, Vesna Rajic, Mike Rotella, Josh Russell, Sierra Russell, Galaxy San Juan, Emma Siate, Jeremy Spence, Lauren Spencer, Mario Torres Jr, Damien Zimmerman, György Albitz, Viktor Albitz, Béla Buzgó, Furedi Csaba, Nick DeRosa, Brandon Engstrom, Bence Füredi, Gabor Kiszelly, Géza Kocsis, Kosta Kolaric, Miroslav Lakobrija, Filip Nikolic, Norbert Orosz, Erzsébet Pongrácz, Mike Rotella, Zsolt Schweigert, Sava Svilenkovic, Attila Vásári.
Evil Dead Rise (2023)
“Evil Dead Rise”, released in 2023, continues the legacy of the “Evil Dead” franchise by pushing the boundaries of special effects makeup in the horror genre (let’s not discuss the cheese grater scene). Directed by Lee Cronin, this instalment ventures into the world of supernatural terror once again. Following the story of two estranged sisters whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, throwing them into a battle for survival as they face the most terrifying version of family. The large team of talented special effects makeup artists played a vital role in bringing the horror to life in Cronin’s “Evil Dead Rise”. Featuring gruesome and demonic transformations and horrifyingly realistic wounds. The artistry and attention to detail in the special effects department elevate the terror to a new level, immersing viewers in a nightmarish world of blood-soaked horrors. “Evil Dead Rise” demonstrates how special effects makeup continues to evolve, offering audiences an immersive experience that keeps the horror genre alive and well in contemporary cinema.
Jason Docherty, Kim Docherty, Taylor Docherty, Mitzi Doney, Verity Griffiths, Lara Hawker, Vanessa Hurley, Adam Johansen, Shay Lawrence, Tristan Lucas, Jose Noriega, Darcy O’Brien, Luke Polti, Levonne Scott, Nora Stewart, Paula Taylor, Hannah Wilson, Simon Bevington, Brinsley Compton, Brooklyn Dineen, Barrie Ewens, Callum Goubitz, Adam Johansen, Damian Martin, Danielle Turton, Colin Ware, Steve Yardley.
“Evil Dead Rise” 2023 directed by Lee Cronin. Image source tvguide.com
Luca Guadagnino’s 2018 remake of “Suspiria” is a visually stunning and unsettling masterpiece that exemplifies the subtle yet powerful artistry of special effects makeup in modern cinema. Set in a prestigious dance academy with dark and mysterious secrets, the film delves deep into the world of witchcraft and psychological horror. Prosthetic makeup designer Mark Coulier played an important role in bringing the macabre and surreal elements of the story to life, as well as the team of talented special effects makeup artists, hair stylists and mould makers. From grotesque but beautiful dance sequences to body transformations and rituals, their work is visually haunting and stunning. The film’s special effects makeup adds layers of intensity, unease, and aesthetic brilliance, making “Suspiria” a compelling example of how this craft can greatly contribute to the cinematic experience, creating an unforgettable blend of beauty and horror.
Tamar Aviv, Franca Bellisari, Morgane Bernhard, Sabine Bolognini, Donatella Borghesi, Simona Castaldi, Federica Castelli, Sonia Cedrone, Agnese Colotti, Mark Coulier, Lara Crisci, Paola Cristofaroni, Lizzy Dawson, Lydia De Martin, Rebecca Elley, Andrea Eusebi, Veronica Falabella, Beatrice Farroni, Elisabetta Flotta, Xander Forterie, Rachel Freire, Manolo García, Amélie Gebhard, Julia Grieshaber, Joe Hopker, Dorit Jur, James Kernot, Anna Kießer, Lizzi Lawson, Andrea Leanza, Sebastian Lochmann, Chris Lyons, Colum Mangan, Rhiannon Morrell, Stephen Murphy, Ruth Parry, Roberto Pastore, Fernanda Perez, Robin Pritchard, Pascale Sophia Profe-Bracht, Tim Quinton, Ines Ransch, Erica Reato, Romina Ronzani, Inga Ross, Giulia Scati, Annett Schulze, Paula Shanahan, Giorgia Storsillo, Lorenzo Tamburini, Katharina Thieme, Valentina Visintin, Alessandra Vita, Simon Webber, Sarah Welsman, Josh Weston.
The “Saw” film franchise, launched in 2004, has left an indelible mark on the horror genre, partly thanks to its expert use of special effects makeup and props. These films, created by James Wan and Leigh Whannell, are known for their intricate, gruesome traps and the life-altering transformations that the characters undergo. The special effects makeup artists played a crucial role in crafting these horrifying scenarios, bringing to life the nightmarish visions that have become synonymous with the “Saw” franchise. From intricately designed facial mutilations to elaborately constructed death traps, the franchise’s success hinges on the ability of makeup artists to create chilling and realistic effects that both shock and captivate the audience. The “Saw” franchise highlights the importance of special effects makeup in delivering realistic and visceral appearances to the audience.
Kashka Banjoko, Scott H. Eddo, Michelle Rene Elam, Ellise Elsey, Rocky Faulkner, Richard Redlefsen, Eleanor Sabaduquia, Charles Belardinelli, Thomas L. Bellissimo, Brad Hardin, Mike Tristano.
“Saw I” 2004 directed by James Wan. Image source bloody-disgusting.com
“Poltergeist”, directed by Tobe Hooper and produced by Steven Spielberg in 1982, remains a timeless classic in the horror genre that underscores the power of special effects makeup. This supernatural tale of a suburban family plagued by malevolent spirits relies heavily on the visual impact of its otherworldly phenomena. The film’s eerie apparitions, ghostly manifestations, and spectral transformations were brought to life through the talents of special effects makeup artists, who skilfully crafted ethereal and nightmarish visages. The use of practical effects and makeup not only enhances the film’s atmosphere but also demonstrates the ability of this art form to blur the lines between the natural and the supernatural.
Dorothy J. Pearl, Craig Reardon, Toni-Ann Walker, Jeff Jarvis, Michael Wood, Mike Berro, Robert Cole, Thaine Morris, Cristi Janaki Rathod, Jill Rockow.
“Poltergeist” 1982 directed by Tobe Hooper. Image source vanityfair.com
Guillermo del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” is a masterful cinematic blend of fantasy and horror, where special effects makeup takes centre stage in bringing mesmerising creatures and its darkly enchanting world to life. With Oscar-winner David Marti at the forefront of this creative endeavour, along with the team of talented makeup artists, this Spanish film weaves a haunting tale set against the backdrop of post-Civil War Spain. The film’s most striking feature lies in its fantastical creatures, most notably the Faun and the Pale Man. Doug Jones, renowned for his expertise in physical performance, portrayed both of these eerie characters. The meticulous craftsmanship of special effects makeup in “Pan’s Labyrinth” is nothing short of astonishing, with prosthetic transformations that are both beautiful and grotesque, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. The film serves as an example of how great artistry can transport audiences to otherworldly realms, making “Pans Labyrinth” a timeless masterpiece that continues to captivate viewers to this day.
Elvira Guijarro, David Martí, Martha Marín, Mar Paradela, Carmen Picazo, José Quetglás, Blanca Sánchez, Lorenzo Tamburini, Sandra Tejedor, Aleix Torrecillas, Arjen Tuiten, Daniel Vidal, Laura Bernice Watson, César Abades, Reyes Abades, Óscar Abades, Javier Aliaga, Ángel Alonso, Arturo Balseiro, Xavi Bastida, Nelly Guimaras, Raquel Guirro, Andy Lee, Pau Loewe, José M. Meneses, Carlos Ortega, Pablo Perona, Montse Ribé, José Manuel Rodrigo, Sergio Sandoval, Juan Serrano, Aleix Torrecillas, Joaquín Vergara, Daniel Vidal.
“Pan’s Labyrinth” 2006 directed by Guillermo del Toro. Image source screenrant.com
In the world of cinema, special effects makeup stands as a testament to the creativity, skill, and artistry that can bring fantastical and horrifying visions to life. From classics like “The Exorcist” to modern gems like “Evil Dead Rise”, we’ve seen how this craft has evolved over the years, pushing boundaries of what’s possible on screen. Whether it’s transforming actors into grotesque creatures, enhancing the terror of a horror film, or immersing viewers in otherworldly realms, special effects makeup plays an important role in crafting memorable and chilling cinematic experiences. As we continue to explore new frontiers in storytelling and technology, one thing remains constant: the power of special effects makeup to transport us to places both wondrous and terrifying. It’s an art form that reminds us that even in the digital age, the magic of cinema often begins with the skilled hands of makeup artists, creating visuals that haunt our dreams and stay with us after the credits roll.