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What These Netflix Monsters Look Like Without Special Effects

This content was paid for by Netflix and created by Looper.

When it comes to creating the scariest movie monsters, great visual effects make all the difference. If a film is truly going to transport its audience into a fantastic new world and bring those thrills home, even the strangest and most original creatures need to seamlessly blend into the landscapes and feel like they're fully interacting with the other characters in the story. It doesn't matter if it's a gritty horror film, a science fiction adventure, or a fantasy romp. If the monsters don't deliver, the whole thing falls apart.

In the era of digital effects, the bulk of the work on Tinseltown terrors usually happens long after the live-action portions of a movie have already been shot, which means that audiences might be surprised to find out just how different their favorite movie monsters looked during filming. Here's what some of your favorite movie monsters looked like before all of those stunning visual effects came into play.

Army of the Dead

Zack Snyder's "Army of the Dead" is full of scary shamblers and toothy alpha zombies, but as intimidating as zombie king Zeus and his army of walkers are, the most terrifying character in the movie has to be the zombie tiger. This big, decaying cat used to be a Las Vegas show star called Valentine, but once the undead took over Sin City, the animal became one of the most ferocious biters in the bunch.

Of course, bringing Valentine to life on screen was no easy feat for the "Army of the Dead" crew. First, Snyder and his team had to do quite a bit of heavy lifting on the production side. With the help of some wire work, a stunt actor in a green suit, and a green prop head that was terrifying in its own right, the director placed the creature in the live-action shots so that the special effects team knew where the creature should be. Actor Garret Dillahunt also deserves some praise: He had to utilize his formidable acting skills to pull off an epic fight with a scene partner who was far less menacing in real life.

From there, visual effects supervisor Marcus Taormina used Snyder's concept art and a real-life tiger to determine Valentine's size and overall look. Next, the VFX team meticulously crafted Valentine's zombified features. From the cat's mangy, blood-soaked fur to its desiccated sides, each and every inch of the tiger's body is reflective of its gory history. It was hard work, but it ultimately paid off, bringing one of the most memorable movie monsters of all time to life — or, at least, after-life — in "Army of the Dead."

Love and Monsters

Whether they make you laugh, cry, or lose your lunch, the sci-fi adventure film "Love and Monsters" is full of memorable critters. The movie takes audiences into a future in which all of the world's cold-blooded creatures have become super-sized and super deadly, thanks to some radioactive fallout following mankind's tussle with a threatening meteor. A hungry toad the size of a truck. A giant centipede with an appetite for mammal flesh. A snail so big it's mistaken for a mountain. "Love and Monsters" is bursting with creepy crawlies that will slither into your nightmares.

One of the gnarliest gnashers in "Love and Monsters" is the hell crab, which a group of pirates have shocked into submission in order to power their yacht. Near the end of "Love and Monsters," the heroes have to confront this clawed creature on a beach, and the fight is so stunning and realistic that it's hard to believe that there isn't an actual mega crab skulking around the oceans right now.

In reality, however, the only crab that the actors had to work with was an oversized, inflatable one. Otherwise, lead actor Dylan O'Brien had to rely on his imagination, a series of practical effects, daring cable stunts, a big blue crane claw, and some well-timed choreography to pull off his amazing showdown with the oversized sea creature. Once the physical shoot was complete, visual effects supervisor Matt Sloan brought his vision for the killer crustacean to life, equipping the crab with tons of tiny, grimy details and, of course, those tellingly tender eyes.


Before Bong Joon Ho stunned the world with his Oscar-winning feature "Parasite," he was turning heads with visionary work in films like "Barking Dogs Never Bite," "Snowpiercer," and his highly original 2017 action-adventure film "Okja." Before "Okja," the writer-director had some experience making movie monster magic thanks to his satirical kaiju film "The Host," but in "Okja," the beast at the center of the action isn't meant to inspire fear, but sympathy. Over the course of the movie, the titular "super pig" becomes best friends with a little farm girl named Mija, and their bond ends up being the core of the film.

Actress Ahn Seo-hyun had to dig deep to create an emotional connection with the creature, given that she was actually working on set with a puppeteer equipped with large pieces of foam that Bong Joon Ho refers to as "stuffies." After she and the rest of the cast filmed all of their scenes with these oversized inanimate objects, it was up to visual effects guru Erik-Jan de Boer and his team to give Okja its unique visual characteristics, including its scaly grey skin and its signature floppy ears. The result is an adorable movie monster with a heart that's even bigger than its body, and which more than carries its half of this heartwarming little love story.

The Ritual

"The Ritual," a movie about a group of friends' deadly and delirious trip to a remote forest, is full of striking visual moments that make it a truly memorable horror yarn. Rafe Spall's Luke, for example, finds himself repeatedly reliving his worst memory, which means the woods become home to all kinds of unusual sights as his friends are picked off by a mysterious creature. The real kicker comes, though, when Luke discovers exactly what he is up against: the fabled Jötunn, which offers villagers immortality in exchange for human sacrifices.

The Jötunn is an ancient and evil entity from Norse mythology and Scandanavian folklore that is usually described as giant and either beautiful or hideous. So, bringing this creature to the screen in "The Ritual" required serious imagination. Director David Bruckner drew on Adam Nevill's novel, upon which the film is based, hundreds of years worth of folk stories, and the work of concept artist Keith Thompson to conceptualize the creature as a shape-shifter with human-like qualities, including a pair of terrifying hands as tusks, and an elk-like body. 

By the time that visual effects supervisor Ben White came into the picture, the director already had a plan to use a practical body, head, and wires during production, and to add digital effects afterwards to make the Jötunn extra eerie. Of course, that meant the actors in the film had to pretend to be petrified of a fake stag. Once the visual effects team filled in the finer details, though, the Jötunn became truly frightening to behold.

Project Power

From start to finish, the visual effects in "Project Power" are nothing short of spectacular. Since the story follows the investigation of a new drug that gives its users temporary superpowers, the movie is full of jaw-dropping transformations, giving the visual effects team a lot of room to run wild while crafting the film's characters. At one point, a bank robber blends into every background he passes using his super-camouflage abilities. At another, a woman morphs into a human icicle. Even the pharmaceutical's creator gets in on the action, growing into a hideously gooey giant.

But while many of the power pill users still resemble their normal selves when their powers take effect, one character turns him into a full-on movie monster. Colson Baker, aka Machine Gun Kelly, appears in "Project Power" as Newt, a dealer who has a fiery reaction whenever he takes the new drug. Unfortunately, his body isn't immune to the side effects, and Newt sports some pretty gnarly burn scars after his flame-throwing adventures. 

To achieve this grisly effect, Baker was outfitted with special-effects makeup, while visual effects supervisor Ivan Moran hid small panels of LED lights in Baker's prosthetics to help create the illusion of embers embedded in his skin. Then, a few layers of computer-generated flames were added to heat up Newt's scenes even more, creating a look that is truly smoldering.