A very large part of a horror film, the part that makes the most impact on a film is without a doubt the makeup. In early horror cinema, long before CGI, film makers had to rely on props and makeup to strike fear into their viewers. With makeup competition shows such as syfy’s FACEOFF popping up, there is more light being shinned onto the world of movie makeup magic.
When I think horror makeup, I think Tom Savini. Savini has brought pure magic to the screen in movies like Friday the 13th, Dawn of the Dead and many other horror masterpieces. His works greatly impacted any film that he worked on. He made Jason Voorhees a character that we could almost sympathize with when he brought the image of a young Jason to Friday the 13th.
Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street series brought us the terrifying image of Freddy Krueger. The makeup job on Robert Englund has struck fear into the hearts, minds and sleeping patterns teenagers since 1984. The image of Krueger is one of the most iconic images in the horror genre, everyone knows his face. Without the makeup, the impact of Freddy would not have been as frightening.
Even when your slasher is wearing a mask, it is still important to think about what that character should look like under the mask. Makeup helps to add depth to your character and helps to tell your character’s back story. Bringing back the idea of Jason Voorhees, even though he wore a mask or some other covering on his face for 97% of the films, he still had a face beneath it. He drowned as a child and spent much of his time at the bottom of Crystal Lake, so to help get that across and to help bring Jason to life, he needed a face. A face that looked like he had spent a lot of time in the water and that he had been dead for quite some time.
Another movie that comes to mind when I think great makeup is 1993’s Leprechaun. Warwick Davis is no question, a very convincing actor, but what is convincing if you don’t look the part?
This brings me to makeup today. As I said earlier, today’s film makers rely so heavily on the impact of CGI that the makeup and look of their slasher/monster gets pushed to the background. However, that is not true in every case. One of my favorite movie makeups of this past decade would have to be that of Victor Crowley, played by Kane Hodder, from Adam Green‘s Hatchet series. The idea of a revenge bent ghost wondering around a swamp in Louisiana is pretty disturbing in its own right, but when you add a face as terrifying as Crowley’s to your film, it’s going to get attention. It is obvious that a lot of thought went into what Victor should look like and the makeup department definitely hit the nail on the head.
Next time you watch a horror movie, think to yourself, what would this film be if the slasher/killer/monster did not look the way he/she/it does? No matter what team you root for, makeup or CGI, there is no question that the image of the slasher is one of the most important things in the film. If the face doesn’t fit the story, what kind of impact is really going to be made?