Connect with us


The 10 Best Practical Effects In Horror Films

The 10 Best Practical Effects In Horror Films

If there’s one thing a horror film can do to withstand the test of time it’s the choice of employing practical effects over CGI-laden special effects. There’s a reason we fondly recall the classics from the ‘80s, a golden era of practical effects, over films from CGI-laden horror films of the late ‘90s onward. Because it’s often cheaper and quicker, CGI tends to be the favored go-to these days. Which is why we get really excited when a new horror film opts to take the harder route and employ visceral, tactile creatures and gore. Such is the case with Primal Rage – Bigfoot Reborn, a practical effects heavy take on the Bigfoot legend. The trailer hints at brutal kills courtesy of special effects master Patrick Magee (Spider-Man, AVP: Alien vs Predator), and our review from Cinepocalypse further teases the gore that awaits.

Luckily, we won’t have long to discover just what’s in store, as Fathom Events and Blue Fox Entertainment are bringing Primal Rage – Bigfoot Reborn to theaters nationwide this Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00p.m. local time. While we wait, though, we look back at our 10 favorite practical effects in horror:

Society: The Shunting

Frequent Brian Yuzna collaborator Screaming Mad George already made an impressive name for himself with his work on notable films like Big Trouble Little China, Predator, and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warrior, but it was his work on Society that solidified his reputation for surreal gore effects. Of all the horror in existence, there’s nothing quite like the visual spectacle of the slimy, gooey feeding frenzy featured in the climax. Inspired by Yuzna’s own nightmares and Salvador Dali’s painting, The Great Masturbator, the melty puddles of flesh and goo is handled in a way only someone like Screaming Mad George could deliver. When the opening credits the artist with “Surrealist Make-up Effects,” you’d be wise to pay attention.

Dawn of the Dead: Biker lunch

While special effects master Tom Savini has countless credits under his name that could be used as an excellent example of some of horror’s best practical effects, it feels appropriate to cite a major pillar in the zombie sub-genre, with groundbreaking special effects work.  Borrowing from his experience as a combat photographer during the Vietnam War, Dawn of the Dead boasts some of the gnarliest gore on screen. The helicopter decapitation and machete to zombie skull are fantastic, but it’s the scene that sees one of the bikers get eaten alive that really homes in on the realistic gore that Savini is known for, down to every excruciating, painful detail.

A Nightmare On Elm Street: Tina’s Death

A mere 13 minutes in, Freddy Krueger makes a serious statement with his ruthless slaying of Tina Gray (Amanda Wyss). While being attacked in her dream, all Tina’s boyfriend sees is her body flailing about, getting sliced open as she’s dragged across the walls and ceiling by an unseen assailant. Wes Craven was inspired by a Fred Astaire dance number from Royal Wedding, and special effects wizard Jim Doyle brought Craven’s vision to life by creating this giant rotating room on axles, literally spinning poor Wyss around while scene partner was strapped down. The first take even gave her Vertigo. Between Doyle’s artistry and Craven’s vision, the first bold death of the franchise is an all-timer.

The Blob: Bad first date

Though only initially hired to handle a few small effects, special effects master Tony Gardner ended up running a crew of 33 to handle this special effects-heavy remake. The movie is all the better for it, as the eponymous creature holds up decades later. While there are numerous scenes worth highlighting, the most memorable is the early sequence that demonstrates just how gross the Blob’s eating habits could be. An awkward first date for final girl Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) ends in horror when her date Paul (Donovan Leitch) finds himself a second meal. She finds Paul being devoured and digested whole, with only his acid severed arm as a memento. Harsh.

Hellraiser: Frank reborn

Special makeup effects designer Bob Keen and his team had a talent for making excellent effects for very little, especially when it came to this Clive Barker classic. With little time and a minuscule budget, the creativity on display is a marvel; the beating heart beneath the floorboards is comprised of glue, tubing, a condom, and other bits and pieces cobbled together. But it’s the gruesome resurrection of Frank Cotton that steals the film, a slow assembly of sinew, muscle, viscera, and so much blood. How Julia could overcome her horror of finding the monstrous Frank in the attic and renew her lust for him, we’ll never know.

Scanners: The Exploding Head

There’s a good chance that even if you’ve never seen this David Cronenberg classic, you’re still familiar with the infamous head explosion. Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) became an iconic villain during the scene where he uses his telekinetic abilities to explode the head of an anchor on camera. It’s an impressive effect that proves how uncanny special effects artists are in their ability to adapt. Makeup artist Dick Smith and special effects supervisor Gary Zeller intended for this effect to work very differently, with the use of explosives. When the explosives didn’t work, Zeller sent everyone to the safety of their cars and then crouched down behind the gore stuffed dummy and blew its head off with a shotgun. Simple, yet so iconic and effective.

Alien: Chestburster

Ridley Scott’s manipulation of his cast during the filming of this iconic scene are legendary; John Hurt was pitched to the cast as being the hero and none of them knew quite what to expect when his character fell sick during a scene set over breakfast. But the cast did have some inkling that they were being set up for one of the biggest scares in horror. The real organs purchased from the butcher that were to be used in Kane’s cavity once the little alien emerged from his chest had started to stink up the set. That the crew was wearing plastic shields was another tip-off. Even still, none of that prepared the cast for the sudden appearance of the creature and the 3-foot spray of fake blood that gushed forth. Between Scotts mischievous handling of his cast, H.R. Giger’s otherworldly design, and Carlo Rambaldi’s alien puppet creations, not much tops the chest-bursting sequence.

The Fly: Brundlefly metamorphosis

David Cronenberg’s magnum opus remains just as terrifying now as it was upon release thanks to makeup artist Chris Walas. Seth Brundle’s slow transformation into an insect hybrid is superbly gross, with boundary-pushing makeup and effects that meant Brundle’s deterioration was heavy on the decomposition, gross body fluids, and gore. The entire transformation deserves a lot of credit, as Walas spent months designing 7 stages of Brundle’s metamorphosis from human into full-blown “Brundlething.” The puppetry employed for this final stage, with an asymmetrical inside out-flesh and insect features was the perfect culmination of Walas and his team’s most repulsive transition on screen.

The Thing: Kennel Scene

When you think of practical effects in horror, John Carpenter’s The Thing comes up in every single conversation, and for good reason. The tense creature feature boasts some of the best practical effects from beginning to end, with a large budget dedicated to the creature effects for its time. What’s even more impressive is that it was special makeup effects designer Rob Bottin that convinced Carpenter to make the creature more visible to the audience when the director wanted to keep it concealed. Oh, and Bottin was only 23 at the time. While there are many memorable creature sequences throughout, none pack quite the punch as the horrific introduction to the Thing in the sled dogs’ kennel. The absorption of the dogs and mutating attempts to imitate them not only terrifies the Americans research team, but the viewer as well.

An American Werewolf in London: Transformation

Still to this day, no other werewolf transformation sequence can match the wizardry of Rick Baker’s impressive work on this classic. The Oscar-winning make-up effects are pure genius; director John Landis and Baker established early on that their werewolf wouldn’t sit nice and still for his transformation but would undergo a painful transition of pure agony. David Naughton spent six 10-hour days in prosthetics for the transformation sequence alone, and Landis added a new layer of complication by insisting that none of this transformation could be hidden in darkness or shadows. The result is one of the most unparalleled practical effects of not just horror, but of all time.

If you thought you knew the Bigfoot legend, think again as Fathom Events and Blue Fox Entertainment are set to bring Primal Rage – Bigfoot Reborn to movie theaters nationwide on Tuesday, February 27 at 7:00pm local time. Here’s the trailer for the film directed by special effects master Patrick Magee (Men in Black 3, Spider-Man, AVP: Alien vs. Predator).

“The movie follows a newly reunited young couple as their drive through the Pacific Northwest turns into a hellish nightmare.”

After viewing the bloodcurdling feature, moviegoers will be treated to an exclusive Q&A and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film with Magee and producer Angela Lee, hosted by a special guest. Additionally, attendees will receive a free commemorative mini-poster (while supplies last).

Tickets for Primal Rage – Bigfoot Reborn can be purchased online by visiting or at participating theater box offices. Fans throughout the U.S. will be able to enjoy the event in nearly 350 select movie theaters. A complete list of theater locations is available on the Fathom Events website (theaters and participants are subject to change).

Primal Rage follows Ashley (Casey Gagliardi) and Max Carr (Andrew Joseph Montgomery) as they, lost deep in the forest, are stalked by a terrifying creature that just might be Bigfoot. Soon, they find themselves embroiled in a strange land of Native American myth and legend turned all too real. Hopelessly trying to survive, with a handful of unsavory locals, they must fight against the monster in a desperate battle of life or death.



Click to comment

More in Editorials