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What These Movie Monsters Look Like Without Makeup

We all vaguely recall the existential dread that comes with lying awake at night as kids, uncertain if at any given moment, a monster plans on rushing out of the closet and devouring us whole. Years later, we discover that closet monsters do not exist. And while there are plenty of wildly uncool metaphorical monsters in the real world, in the grand scheme of things, ghouls made famous in horror films are basically the good guys. 

Who does more legitimate damage: Dracula, or that guy from the second floor who never breaks down any of his boxes when he puts them in the big recycling container the whole building has to share? The correct answer is that guy from the second floor, because Dracula never causes any damage at all. He isn't real. He is simply an abstract idea that provides escapist thrills. 

Meanwhile, what about the actors who portray the monsters? As people, most of them are probably as more-or-less morally neutral as the rest of us. But in the absence of movie magic, do they still look scary? Obviously this question doesn't apply to monsters that are basically puppets, or to Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers, whose features are obscured by masks. But monsters mostly made of face flesh and makeup, well, maybe that's worth looking into...

What the heck do those actors look like, anyway? 

Boris Karloff -- Frankenstein (1931)

Sometimes, mankind is a little too quick to pat itself on the back for innovations of the modern era. Not that there's anything wrong with special effects — be they CG or of the practical variety — but it's not as if makeup artists have been incapable of creating genuinely chilling figures since at least the early 1930s. Seriously, who would you rather run into in a dark alley if they're equally likely to kill you? Boris Karloff's blunt, brooding, Frankenstein's monster, or Bill Skarsgård's all-singing, all-dancing Pennywise The Clown

In fact, it's to the credit of makeup and special effects artists of the 1930s that we, here in 2021, still talk about Boris Karloff. With all due respect to his legendary acting career and many accomplishments unrelated to Frankenstein, plenty of equally luminous actors of his era do not appear on T-shirts or holiday-themed decorations in contemporary times. Makeup and special effects artists don't ever turn into household names, but you could argue that the makeup artists listed by IMDB, Pauline Eells and Jack P. Pierce, plus wardrobe assistant Mae Bruce, should split some of the credit with Karloff for the classic idea of Frankenstein.   

Robert Englund -- A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Whenever someone finally gets around to carving the Mount Rushmore of slasher movie villains, the monument must include Jason Voorhees' hockey mask, Michael Myers, Ghostface from Scream (1996) to fill the instantly-dated Teddy Roosevelt spot, and Freddy Krueger.

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) elevated its entire subgenre by adding a sense of surrealism and unpredictability to the routine of cutting up teenagers played by sexy twentysomethings. The series undoubtedly owes actor Robert Englund for its longevity. Writer-director Wes Craven didn't return to the franchise until New Nightmare (1994), and costar Heather Langenkamp only appears in two of the seven sequels. Meanwhile, Englund plays Freddy Krueger in all eight of the movies featuring Freddy released before the 2010 reboot.     

Krueger's a shadowy, ambiguous presence for much of the first film; Englund arguably doesn't become the unholy homicidal prankster we think of as Freddy Krueger until A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987). Without Englund's elastic control over his own facial expressions, this progression never would have been possible. 

Also, he's the reason why Mark Hamill auditioned for Luke Skywalker, so technically, the Nightmare franchise is the second most important thing that happened because of Robert Englund's career.  

Ray Park -- Star Wars - Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Anyone who acts surprised by the highly-polarized reactions to the most recent trio of Star Wars movies obviously wasn't paying attention in 1999. The discourse surrounding Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (1999) at the time grew almost as heated as a modern-day presidential election (we should stress the "almost" part of that sentence, of course). On the other hand, Jake Lloyd still lives in a psychiatric facility, so we can't say angry Star Wars nerds never ruined anyone's life.

But there is one thing everyone who saw The Phantom Menace when it came out could agree on; Darth Maul, played by martial artist and actor Ray Park, kicks all kinds of ass. Though he hardly speaks or emotes, Darth Maul saves that whole movie with his double-bladed lightsaber and battle with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The very next year, Park portrayed Toad, Magneto's original lackey, in the first of what went on to be 13 films in 20th Century Fox's X-Men series. So within two years, Park helped relaunch an old blockbuster franchise and kicked off a new one. 

In his best-known films, he looks like either a Kabuki warrior/Sith Lord hybrid, or an evil mutant. But in real life, Ray Park looks pretty normal.

Warwick Davis -- Leprechaun (1993)

When it comes time for historians to write the chapter on Warwick Davis, they'll more than likely focus on his work with George Lucas in Return of the Jedi (1983) and Willow (1988). That'll be a good decision on their part, because figuring out quite what to make of the Leprechaun franchise is, perhaps, not worth the trouble. In general, movie buffs dismiss the eight-film series as schlocky and redundant, even by slasher movie standards. 

However, without Leprechaun (1993), Leprechaun 5: In Tha Hood (2000) never gets made. And without that film, we all live in a world without a movie scene in which the guy who played Wicket the Ewok gets high with Ice-T. Maybe that's not good enough for the history books, but we'll be darned if it isn't worth something.  

(Also, how is it possible the Leprechaun went to space in his fourth movie, and then went to tha hood in the fifth one? In our experience, tha hood is the second or third place you go. Outer space is something like the 11th or 12th.) 

Without any makeup, the titular leprechaun usually looks like Warwick Davis — unless we're talking about Leprechaun: Origins (2014) or Leprechaun Returns (2018), in which case he looks like Hornswoggle from WWE or actor Linden Porco.  

Doug Jones -- The Shape Of Water (2017)

Perhaps the most successful and prolific actor to hardly ever get recognized on the street, Doug Jones has played oodles of characters who were not technically people. He portrays both Fauno and Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth (2006)the Amphibian (above) in The Shape of Water (2017), Abe Sapien in both of Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy movies (2004, 2008) and one of the nefarious Gentlemen in the Buffy The Vampire Slayer episode "Hush." He's currently Commander Saru on Star Trek: Discovery, and he wore a giant crescent moon on his head in a series of McDonald's commercials from the 1980s. The character Jones plays in the McDonald's commercials was unfortunately co-opted by online Nazis, but Jones himself can hardly be blamed for that highly unfortunate state of affairs.   

Because of his reputation for being good with costumes, Jones's human face is obscured in all of the aforementioned roles. This might be for the best, as far as horror films go. Doug Jones's real world appearance is certainly distinct; He's very tall and very thin. But without any makeup or special effects, one might describe Doug Jones as having, shall we say, less-than-intimidating facial features. To attempt to coin a term, Doug Jones has resting nice face. He does not look scary, and would make a terrible monster if left totally to his own devices. 

Ron Perlman -- Hellboy (2004/2008)

In retrospect, the '00s were a vital but uneven period for superhero movies. X-Men (2000) Spider-Man (2002), Batman Begins (2005), and especially The Dark Knight (2008) established the genre as commercially and creatively fertile before the Marvel Cinematic Universe came into its current state of cultural dominance. While the Guillermo del Toro-directed Hellboy (2004) doesn't belong on the list of the decade's many superhero misfires, it plays like a Tim Burton movie with better action sequences, and therefore, very, very much like a mid-'00s Blockbuster rental. Hellboy (2004) feels very much of its place and time, shall we say.

Which is not to take anything away from Ron Perlman's performance in the 2004 movie, or Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008). The actor swiftly dodges the pit of hacky tough-yet-vulnerable clichés in front of him, and succeeds in creating a character who inspires both fear and empathy. Considering the absolutely ludicrous outfit he must wear throughout the film, this is no minor task. 

David Harbour -- Hellboy (2019)

Comic book superheroes have pretty much kept Hollywood afloat for the better part of two decades. But strangely enough, Hellboy's still the only non-Marvel or DC character who's been played by more than one actor (that is until Todd McFarlane finishes his announced Spawn reboot starring Jamie Fox, anyway). 

By now, it's well-established that the 2019 Hellboy starring sometimes Stranger Things sheriff David Harbour didn't exactly ignite the imaginations of audiences quite the way Ron Perlman's pair of movies from 2004 and 2008 managed. Perlman famously declined to partake in any Hellboy endeavor that did not involve director Guillermo del Toro. But the 2019 film drove off the metaphorical cliff and burst into metaphorical flames to such a spectacular extent that blaming its failure on the absence or presence of any single actor feels like a stretch. 

It might have helped if the masterminds behind the Hellboy of 2019 learned from one of the mistakes of The Crow franchise. Casting twentysomething white dudes to play the avenging hero in all four films made Vincent Perez, Eric Mabius, and Edward Furlong all come off as Brandon Lee imitators. Considering Harbour's a square-jawed irreverent dude, just like Perlman, he was doomed to resonate as a lesser version of the Hellboy who came before.

Bill Skarsgård -- It (2017)/ It Chapter Two (2019)

What makes Pennywise unique amongst the pantheon of supernatural cinematic murderers is the disarming nature of his approach. All the horror icons of the 1980s and 1990s — Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, etc. — all come at their victims directly and immediately with an explicit intent to rip them to pieces. But in the opening scene of It (2017), Pennywise introduces himself to little Georgie as a harmless, jovial, typical dancing clown, and lulls Georgie into a state of comfort before biting his arm off and dragging him to a watery grave.

Maybe we're venturing into blasphemous territory here, but Bill Skarsgård's take on Pennywise establishes the harlequin of harm's non-threatening façade much more effectively than Tim Curry's made-for-TV tenure as the monster from 1990. Just look at Skarsgård's sweet, gentle face. Would that face kill you? Of course not. Not even if you dipped it in clown makeup. Now, if someone went and added CG shark teeth, that might be a different story...

Dick Durock -- Swamp Thing (1982)

You might think Ray Wise plays Dr. Alec Holland, a.k.a. Swamp Thing, in the unfortunate 1982 eponymous cult film. If you're a fan of Alan Moore and David Lynch, like some of us here at Looper, then maybe that thought makes you happy. 

Well, we hate to bum you out, but Wise only plays Holland before his transformation into the Defender of the Green. The actor doing most of the heavy lifting in both Swamp Thing movies and the original TV series would be Dick Durock. Despite his awesome-sounding, alliterative name, Durock is not a porn star or a Stan Lee character. 

Outside of Swamp Thing-related matters, Durock spent much of his career as a relative unknown. However, he got to play the love interest of two 1980s sex symbols, Adrienne Barbeau in Swamp Thing and Heather Locklear in 1989's Return Of The Swamp Thing. And in Stand By Me, Lardass Hogan projectile vomits blueberry pie directly into Durock's face in the infamous pie eating contest. Durock shuffled off this mortal coil in 2009, but at least he spent some of his time on this ridiculous space rock contributing to wacky 1980s film culture. 

Derek Mears -- Swamp Thing (2019)

Whereas Dick Durock's resume would feel a little light had it not been for his work as Swamp Thing, Derek Mears has dipped his presumably proportionately large toe into the lake of multiple sci-fi/fantasy franchises. Best known as Jason Voorhees from the 2009 Friday The 13th reboot, he's also the in-universe action hero Kickpuncher on Community. Perhaps most pertinently to this list, Derek Mears portrays a character who loses an arm wrestling contest to Mr. C in Twin Peaks: The Return (2017), completing the circle that starts with Ray Wise as Alec Holland in the 1982 Swamp Thing. While it might be easy to assume Derek Mears mostly functions as a stuntman — rather than what we think of as a "real" actor — he does a remarkable job convincing us that Kyle MacLachlan could more than hold his own against him in a test of strength. 

We here at Looper would never disparage the good name of Kyle MacLachlan, but let's be realistic here; Cooper was in his mid-to-late 50s at the time of filming Twin Peaks: The Return. MacLachlan seems like the casually athletic sort, but Mears looks like the sort who rips old phone books in half for fun. 

Jonathan Breck -- Jeepers Creepers (2001)

If the self-aware horror movie trend of the '90s went into a thrashing spasm before it broke its own neck and died, then that spasm should be named "the Jeepers Creepers franchise." Sure, the three films are derivative, silly, and so instantly dated that they would never exist if Scream (1996), I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), and Final Destination (2000) hadn't been hits of varying degrees.  All that said, if we were to take the script from the first Jeepers Creepers – in which a supernatural murder monster menaces a brother and sister on a road trip — rewrite it, change a few details, and hire a better director, then suddenly it's basically The Babadook and everybody loves it.  

Known principally for his role as The Creeper in all three films, Jonathan Breck certainly won't be remembered as his era's De Niro, or even his era's Robert Englund. However, he does play a small part in Oliver Stone's W. (2008), and another role in Spy Kids 4-D: All The Time In The World (2011). So when his grandkids ask about his acting days, he can tell them he worked with Oliver Stone and Robert Rodriguez, and only mention Jeepers Creepers if he feels like it.