Horror movies wouldn’t be anything without the make-up artists behind the scenes bringing the characters to life. Much like the writers who create the fantastic imagery that scare your pants off during a good book, make-up artists are the masters who create the gruesome nature of the beasts and monsters that make the film what it is. Today I’m going to talk about the artists whose artistry dubbed them as the Masters of Horror from the silent era to the now.
First and foremost, Lon Chaney.
Most horror fans know him as “The Man of a Thousand Faces.” Lon Chaney is one of the few actors, if not the only, back in the silent era that did his own monster make-up. The Phantom of the Opera, Hunchback of Notre Dame, London After Midnight, and Shadows are a few titles in the long list of work that display the magic he created with his own techniques. He broke the mold and changed the way people viewed monsters. As hideous as they were, his goal was to show the audience that all creatures deserved to be loved, despite their deformities. He paved the way for other artists to go above and beyond, attempting to top the master of disguises himself. Though make-up has come a long way since then, no one will ever forget the creatures Lon Chaney brought into the world. His Phantom make-up is one of the most famous creations out there. And rightfully so.
The above photo speaks for itself. Jack Pierce is known for one of the most famous monsters of all time: Frankenstein’s Monster. Boris Karloff endured four hours each day in the make-up chair as Jack applied the prosthetics that would make The Creature one of the most unforgettable monsters to ever grace the silver screen. Back then four hours was an excruciating amount of time. Jack Pierce is known for some of the main Universal Monsters that I, personally, have loved since I was a kid. He’s the reason I became obsessed with Universal films. From The Wolf Man (starring Lon Chaney’s son, Lon Chaney Jr.), Dracula, The Mummy, and The Bride of Frankenstein. These films put Universal on the map when it came to monster films. And, let’s be honest, what would they be without Jack Pierce’s make-up skills? Most people know Frankenstein’s Monster, but not many know of his creator. But now you do.
A moment of silence, please.
Okay. When I heard about the death of Stan Winston (back in 2008), I was heart broken. I mean, this guy made me laugh, cry, scream, all of the above with the characters he created when I was a kid. Edward Scissorhands was the modern day Frankenstein’s Monster. That movie gutted me. Not just because Johnny Depp’s portrayal was spot on, and it was, but because Stan Winston’s creation of Edward made you feel ALL THE THINGS. From his scars, to his scissor hands, and the way he went from terrifying to sad all at once. Not to mention, his other project back in in the day, The Monster Squad, was one of my all time favorites as a kid. Seriously. How awesome were those monsters?
The Thing, Aliens, and The Terminator, to name a few, were some of the most badass films to date. The quality of effects used in those films were mind blowing. And it was all because the mind of Stan Winston and his outrageous talent for creation. Stan was/is the reason so many big artists today do what they do.
This is by no means a full list of Masters. Tom Savini, Dick Smith, and Rick Baker are definitely on this list. But for me, these three really made a difference in the industry, changing the way people viewed make-up/special effects. All three come from completely different time periods that made horror films what they are today. So now when you see a horror film you know and love, remember the guys (and ladies) behind the scenes that made you scream.
Categories: Classic Horror, Miscellanea, Movies, Television