When it comes to horror and science fiction movies, a good monster can make or break it. Nowadays, every monster is CGI heavy, but before we could rely on technology, there were actual people wearing heavy costumes and pounds of prosthetics to deliver us the creepiest characters.
These are the real-life—and pretty darn good looking—faces behind the creepiest, most horrifying monsters in movie history. You’ll never guess which Princess Diaries actress played The Nun.
The Bride In Black From Insidious: Chapter 2
We got a reference to the Bride in Black in the first Insidious film, but it wasn’t until the sequel that we got to see the character in all its terrifying glory. The person playing the creepy bride isn’t actually a woman, it’s a man!
The character is played by Tom Fitzpatrick and he admitted that when he signed up for the film, he had no idea he’d end up in the costume.
The Amphibian Man From The Shape Of Water
The Shape of Water made waves in 2018 for being one of the strangest love stories audiences had seen in a while. It was all thanks to the giant, scaly amphibian that was played by actor Doug Jones.
The costume for the Amphibian Man was a giant one-piece suit that Jones said made him feel like “a nursing home patient.” Why? Well, because once he was in the suit he couldn’t use the bathroom, so he had to be sure not to have any accidents.
The Night King From Game Of Thrones
The makeup and mask used to transform Vladimír Furdík into the Night Knight is as magnificent as it is terrifying. Furdík has said it takes a whopping six hours in the makeup chair to achieve the look, so at least it’s worth it.
The actor who plays the Night King started out as a stuntman. Even though he plays the Night King, he says fans rarely recognize him because his face is always behind the mask.
The Predator In Predator
Much of the first half of Predator was spent imagining what the invisible, heat-tracking, killing-machine could look like. Then when the audience got a glimpse of the alien, it was downright terrifying. The film came out in 1987 so Predator is entirely made of prosthetics and heavy makeup.
The actor who was hunting Arnold Schwarzenegger was Kevin Peter Hall. Luckily, he was used to wearing a heavy costume because he also starred as Harry in Harry and the Hendersons.
The Creeper From Jeepers Creepers
The main horror monster from the three Jeepers Creepers films evolves to be even scarier with every film. From just your run-of-the-mill horror baddie to a flesh-eating flying monster, he definitely gives us the creeps. Luckily, the man behind the mask is the exact opposite of creepy.
Jonathan Breck is as normal looking as you can get and is a talented enough actor to land other roles (without a mask) on shows like JAG.
The Addiction Demon From American Horror Story: Hotel
The actor who embodied the beyond-creepy Addiction Demon in the fifth season of American Horror Story is a seasoned monster pro. Ward has made a name for himself in Hollywood for turning himself into the scariest characters on television.
The character actor has also appeared covered in masks and makeup in series’ like Westworld, Sleepy Hollow, and Teen Wolf. His role as the Addiction Demon takes the cake though because even the show’s producers called it “the most disturbing scene we’ve ever done.”
The Nun From The Conjuring 2
Even though The Nun only appears a few times in The Conjuring 2, she’s one of the scariest characters in the film. She even got her own spinoff in 2018 thanks to her terrifying stare. Both films hired Bonnie Aarons thanks to her distinguishing features.
When she’s not wearing the habit, Aarons has starred in much less creepy roles like as the Baroness from The Princess Diaries that tries to steal the crown.
Pale Man From Pan’s Labyrinth
Doug Jones strikes again with one of the original terrifying monsters. The Guillermo Del Toro movie was ahead of its time for the use of CGI, but the Pale Man was all thanks to complex makeup.
Jones said it took about five hours each day to get him into character, and that the iconic horns weighed ten pounds and left him exhausted. Oh, and his only way of seeing was through the characters’ nostrils.
Dren From Splice
The idea behind Splice was always about having creepy, genetically modified characters, but Dren ends up looking beautiful (in a weird way). It’s probably thanks to the actress, Delphine Chanéac, who plays the character.
Even though Dren is a weird humanoid with a tail, wings, and triple-jointed legs, the actress managed to turn her into the prettiest movie monster we’ve seen. The director even admitted that they felt doing small changes to a human figure was much more jarring than a full-body mask or suit.
The Silver Surfer From Fantastic Four
Up until now, it might have been easy to assume that the Silver Surfer was entirely CGI. Nope, it was just our old friend Doug Jones. The same guy who played the Amphibian Man is also the super-jacked guy who looked like he was covered in shiny metal.
It’s notable that Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer used Jones because they just wanted his tall and lanky physique. It was Laurence Fishburne who proved the character’s voice.
Freddy Kreuger From A Nightmare On Elm Street
Freddy Kreuger has been one of the most iconic movie monsters in history and he’s also been played by a couple of different people. When the franchise got rebooted in 2010, Jackie Earle Haley took on the role of the janitor-turned-villain.
Haley was already an Academy Award-nominated actor when he accepted the role and wasn’t too sure about it. He hated horror films and sitting in makeup chairs for a long time, but after becoming Krueger he fell in love with how fun it was.
Gill Man From The Creature From The Black Lagoon
Long before there was Amphibian Man from The Shape of Water, there was Gill Man. One of the original “creature features” was filmed way back in 1954 and had some seriously advanced prosthetics and makeup. The man behind the gills was an actor by the name of Ben Chapman.
Chapman was tall, dark, and handsome, but didn’t land many roles after The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Instead, he and his good looks faded into oblivion.
Pennywise From It (1990)
Tim Curry brought Steven King’s killer clown to life in 1990 when he played the character in the miniseries. The oversized forehead, terrifying makeup, and strange outfit was a nightmare for children. At the time Curry was cast in the role, he was best known for The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Despite playing the creepy clown, after the miniseries debuted, Curry landed a series of very normal roles that actually showed him in a different light.
Pennywise From IT (2017)
When you see the photo of actor Bill Skarsgård without the creepy clown makeup, it’s hard to imagine how he landed the role. Aside from his sunken eyes, what sadistic features did producers see in the charming young model?
We’ll never know, but we do know that it worked. Skarsgård got the chance of a lifetime when he was cast as Pennywise in the 2017 adaptation of the novel. He’s managed to simultaneously creep us out and turn us on. Bravo.
The Robot From Lost In Space
The Robot from the Netflix reboot of the memorable TV series is covered head to toe in a suit, so it could honestly be anyone behind there and we’d believe it. But the real actor behind the creepy, glowing face is Brian Steele.
Steele has to wear a heavy suit for the character that slows his movements. And that colorful changing screen for a face? He says it can be distracting, but that over time, you get used to it.
Leatherface From The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Andrew Bryniarski can thank his intimidating physical size for why he landed the role of Leatherface in the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Apparently, the director simply wanted to hire the biggest guy who auditioned.
All Bryniarski had to do was put on the Leatherface mask and walk around as slow as possible. Bryniarski later told fans online that he feels he was “born to wear the mask!”
Lurch From The Addams Family
One of the original creepy monsters in Hollywood was Lurch from The Addams Family. The butler was played by Ted Cassidy, who had never acted before the show but landed the role just because of his 6-foot 9-inch height.
Cassidy might have had some staggering height but he wasn’t anywhere near as creepy or monotone as the character. In real life, he was quite dashing and even landed roles in other big films for his good looks.
Michael Myers From Halloween
The first man to wear the unforgettable Michael Myers mask was a man named Tony Moran. Moran only played the character with the mask on, and Will Sandwin played Myers as a child. The best-known version of the masked Myers was Nick Castle.
Castle played the character for nearly every movie until the 2018 Halloween film, where James Jude Courtney took over. As a kind gesture, they made sure to have Castle appear in the 2018 film as a cameo.
Jason Voorhees From Friday The 13th
Another classic movie villain was chosen yet again for their size and stature. Kane Hodder got cast in the first Friday the 13th film and he’s been the title character in every film or spinoff since.
Hodder is so connected to the machete and hockey mask that they used him for motion capture to create a Friday the 13th video game. Who knew being tall and walking slow was such a marketable skill in Hollywood?
Pinhead From Hellraiser
Doug Bradley is the head behind Pinhead in Hellraiser and he held that title for eight straight movies. The role was Bradley’s first job in Hollywood and he became an expert at it. Over the course of eight films, he even got so good at putting on the makeup and taking it off that he was credited as an assistant makeup artist.
When he stopped playing Pinhead, Bradley moved on to other scary roles like voicing the Sith Emperor in multiple Star Wars video games.
Kurt Barlow From Salem’s Lot
Yet another Stephen King monster got the feature film treatment in 1975. Cast to play the title baddie was Reggie Nalder. Nalder was practically made for the role. He was nicknamed “The Face That Launched A Thousand Trips” because his features and haunting demeanor made him a perfect villain.
Aside from playing the extra-creepy Kurt Barlow, Nalder was also best known for playing the assassin in the Hitchcock film, The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Frankenstein’s Monster From Frankenstein
Boris Karloff was the bonafide king of Hollywood horror in the 1930s and 1940s. The first film he managed to blow our minds with was Frankenstein. Karloff was a seasoned actor at the time and had already been in 80 movies, but said Frankenstein was one of the most difficult thanks to the costuming.
He had to wear a huge, bulky suit to make him look like a monster, and four-inch platform shoes that weighed 11 pounds each.
The Werewolf From An American Werewolf In London
Werewolves have a long history in folklore and film, but the one portrayed by David Naughton set the tone for Hollywood werewolves. The transformation from human to wolf was beyond its time thanks to hours in makeup.
Naughton said that when he met the film’s head of special effects and told him he’d be playing the werewolf, he said: “I feel sorry for you.” That was probably thanks to the pounds of plastic molds that went all over Naughton’s body, that was best described as “suffocating.”
The Xenomorph From Alien
Bolaki Badejo was a Nigerian born artist who specialized in making the creepy costumes in Hollywood. He became an unlikely star when he was drafted to play the Xenomorph in Ridley Scott’s 1979 film, Alien. Part of why he was chosen was because of his towering height—Badejo was 6-foot 10-inches tall.
It also helped that he knew how to create and maneuver the heavy and intricate Alien costume. Despite the success, Badejo never actually reprised the monster role for the Alien sequels.
Grant Monster From Slither
The creepiest part of the Grant monster from Slither is that it looks like the kitchen sink of creepy creatures. The actor behind the costume, Michael Rooker, is clearly shown, but the hair, teeth, antlers, and blobs of extra flesh make him a grotesque character.
The heavy prosthetics and makeup was nothing new for Rooker. You might recognize his other movie costumes such as Yondu from the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise.
Godzilla From Gojira
Long before there was a CGI version of Godzilla terrorizing cities, there was just a man in a large costume stomping around a miniature set. Haruo Nakajima was a Japanese actor who played the terrifying nuclear monster in twelve consecutive Godzilla films.
He’s considered by many to be one of the best “suit actors” in Japan, which is close to what Americans call stunt actors. Nakajima became so synonymous with the Godzilla costume that the special effects director refused to work with anyone else.
Brundlefly From The Fly
The original concept art for the movie monster from The Fly was actually based around the handsome actor who played it, Jeff Goldblum. Once Goldblum was cast as the main character, Seth Brundle, they began to design the grotesque and gooey facial transformations.
One of the hardest parts of The Fly to film was when Goldblum sheds all his prosthetics on camera and a fly “breaks” out of his body. How did they make it work? A lot of fake flesh and blood to cover it all up.
Pumpkinhead From Pumpkinhead
The debut monster for special effects mastermind Stan Winston was Pumpkinhead. The monster has everything the gives a person nightmares—multi-jointed legs, an oversized and misshapen head, and creepy spindly claws.
The man who played Pumpkinhead, Lance Henriksen, got his start in Hollywood playing roles in science fiction and horror films, so the character was a perfect fit. Henriksen was even supposed to play the Terminator before the role ultimately went to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Janitor From Silent Hill
Silent Hill featured a lot of creepy characters, but the tied up janitor in the bathtub definitely got our attention. Even more so, the attractive dancer Roberto Campanella, who played the character, got even more of our attention.
It’s hard to believe such a good looking dancer could be so grotesque and obscene. He’s clearly got some acting chops that are still able to shine through the barbed wire cutting into his eyes.
Pyramid Head From Silent Hill 2
While The Janitor is entirely creepy, the main mon-STAR of the Silent Hill franchise is Pyramid Head. The character is also played by Roberto Campanella, but you wouldn’t know it since his face is always covered.
The heavy pyramid-shaped mask made it hard for Campanella to act in. According to him, it was even harder than having barbed-wire cutting off your eyes. It paid off though and many critics praised Pyramid Head as “the most striking bogeyman.”