The ever increasing presence of computer generated imagery in horror films may make a bloody blow-out much cheaper, but its overall appeal on the eye cannot hold a candle to the practical effects and man-made monster suits. 2013 was an interesting year for horror, and a lot of its excitement comes from the characters the films produced. This was a year where I saw a lot of Halloween costumes come from movies released in the months previous, which truly showcased the cultural impact of these films to the horror community. To celebrate these creature/monster/character designs, I've compiled a photographic list of my personal favorites. Some of these characters are masked, some are makeup designs, and some are just plan creatures. Again, this isn't an attempt to be a definitive list, these are just the character designs that stuck with me long after the viewing was completed.
15) EVIL DEAD
Deadites are an iconic creature so giving new life to them without blatantly ripping off the original design was going to be a difficult task. Combining the rage infested eyes of modern zombie films and the over the top gore of the original, these new deadites were a perfect fit.
14) JOHN DIES AT THE END
This film had a multitude of different and unique character designs, but I have a thing for weird masks. I found these faces to be very interesting to look at and added to the strange feeling of the overall film.
13) THE CONJURING
Considering the original Annabelle doll was a Raggedy Ann toy and this was a James Wan film, I knew were were going to be given a doll or puppet created of 100% nightmare fuel. The unsung character of the entire film, the Annabelle doll is one of the scariest inanimate objects I've seen in recent memory.
12) YOU'RE NEXT
When this film make it's theatrical debut, you couldn't go to any pre-screenings without seeing these animal masks. A sought after item of memorabilia, the animals have become modern masked horror icons.
11) THE LORDS OF SALEM
God, I couldn't escape this makeup design this year. There are at least five different makeup tutorials on youtube and I saw a handful of people rock this look for Halloween (I'm looking at you, Killer Kalyn). Dia De Los Muertos meets Rob Zombie, this was a look that plastered ads and blogs everywhere.
I've seen plenty of clown makeup designs over the year, but they tend to either attempt to emulate Pennywise the Clown (of Stephen King's IT) or look like some demented clown out of a cheap suburban haunted house. STITCHES has a clown with a combination of low-rent birthday clown (which he is) and decay from years of being buried (which he was). The perfect combination for a killer clown.
09) INSIDIOUS 2
The design of a ghost hasn't really changed much from the earliest days of ghost films, but there was something really special about the abusive mother ghost in this flick. Taking the classic 'pale look, dark features' of traditional ghosts and giving her a haunting beauty a la Joan Crawford, this design made Danielle Bisutti terrifying and unrecognizable.
Makeup in illness films truly become a character of their own. The thing is, illness makeup can look like garbage very, very easily. The makeup design for this film looked definitely ill (instead of possessed or rotting or zombified) but without looking like any specific illness. Emphasizing on the detail of the work instead of a POW! IN YOUR FACE style of design, this mysterious STD gives an intriguing look to the character.
07) AMERICAN MARY
Oh, Beatress. This was a look that could have very easily worn the actress, but Tristan Risk owned this character design and made it her own. I was very impressed with the plastic look of the living Betty Boop, and the attention to detail of making a woman look like an actual cartoon character was on point. In comparison to the "Ruby Real Girl" character, Beatress didn't look like the typical 'overly plastic-Jocelyn Wildenstein' character, she really looked like Betty Boop.
06) EASTER CASKET
Dustin Mills is no stranger to horror puppetry, but his Peter Cottontail design for his blasphemous EASTER CASKET is the right combination of cute and creepy. A bunny puppet with human teeth and weird-ass googly eyes, Mills truly shows that a budget does not dictate creativity.
Astron 6 is infamous for their over-the-top characterizations, but MANBORG may be their strongest flick, yet. Showcasing the impressive skills of Steven Kostanski, there are masks, stop motion, prosthetics, and, amazing costumes a plenty. Every single character, regardless of how secondary they may be, is fun to look at.
04) BAD MILO!LOOK AT HIM! HE'S SO CREEPY AND CUTE AND I LOVE HIM SO MUCH AND I WANT ONE LIKE I WANT A MOGWAI AND OMG. That's my analysis. You're welcome.
03) FRANKENSTEIN'S ARMY
Resembling the nightmares of a gothic, steam-punk mad scientist, the creatures of this film are absolutely breathtaking. Regardless of how loose the actual story may be, these monsters are mindblowing. The fx team deserves all of the awards imaginable, because these creatures look like something that could only exist on paper...and they gave them life.
02) BIO-COPFaux trailer, shmo trailer. Astron 6 made a character in a short film so memorable, it now has its own action figure. The immortal melting cop of biological waste has an incredible look and gave me one of the best first-watch experiences of my life.
01) UNDER THE BED
The monster under the bed has been a creature haunting humanity for generations. Steven C. Miller's film finally gave that monster a face outside of eyes glowing or an outstretched arm, and gave us a reason to want mom and dad to check under the bed before sleep. When the monster finally showed its face, it caught me off guard how terrifying it actually is. I was immediately shot back to the nights of my childhood where I watched one too many horror movies (that I probably shouldn't have seen before bedtime) and resorted to hiding under my covers in the hopes that the monster wouldn't be able to see me. Gross skin, huge stature, creepy eyes, mutated facial features, and a mouth that could eat us alive...the creature in UNDER THE BED took all of the traditional childhood fears of a monster and gave us the epitome of our collective nightmares.