by David Christopher Bell
Editor’s Note: We’ve spent a while searching for a fitting replacement for Ashe (who we still miss), but we’re elated to welcome David Christopher Bell to our team. He’ll be writing insightful lists for us every Thursday from now until we stop blackmailing him for that thing he did in Florida in 1986. Please give him a warm welcome!
It’s funny. After Anthony Perkins first appeared as Norman Bates there was absolutely no going back from it. No matter what role he was put in after Norman, when audiences looked at him all they could see was the shower-interrupting taxidermologist that they feared so deeply. This proved to be a major hindrance in his career, causing him never to land any major role in the industry afterward. Now if only he had worn a mask.
After all, if horror films have taught us anything it’s that no matter how effective a performance is, if you have a bunch of rubber on your face, mainstream audiences aren’t going to end up learning your name or recognizing your face. So in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, the following are some of those very names and faces that are responsible for some of the greatest movie nightmares of modern horror. People who you could walk right by on the streets and never know that they are to thank for all those times your childhood-spawned neuroses forced you to double-check under your bed.
8 & 7. Dane Farwell & Roger Jackson – Ghostface
Anyone nearing thirty no doubt recalls the first Scream film with only the finest high-school nostalgia, a feeling unfortunately followed by disdain at the lofty amount of tired sequels and formulaic slasher flicks that the film made way for. Nevertheless, one iconic constant of the series has been the frantic but calculated pursuits of the Ghostface character throughout the films.
While a handful of actors have revealed themselves to be the killer in these films, there are two people who we have to thank for the Ghostface performances. The first is Dane Farwell, the stuntman who was physically behind the cloak and mask for the majority of Ghostface’s screen time.
It was Farwell’s imposing stature and frenzied movements that really defined the corporeal aspects of the villain, which he did make sure to change depending on which masked character he was currently standing in for. If you watch the first film, for example, with a keen eye you can actually speculate whether the killer is Stu or Billy in any given scene by judging the level of aggressiveness or awkwardness during the attacks. Take a look at this scene that, despite the later reveal of Billy’s cell phone, seems most likely to be Stu’s dirty work:
But of course, chances are that it’s primarily, if not exclusively, Farwell under there the whole time, mimicking his interpretation of which character is the current killer. His work was continued in the second film, and was unique, so that when he opted out of the third film fans actually noticed a change. Luckily he did return for the fourth and is said to be involved in the upcoming fifth installment as well.
It should also be noted that Ghostface’s signature move of wiping the blood off his knife with his forefinger and thumb was in fact a move created by Farwell himself.
So that’s the body, but what about the voice?
The sinister voice behind the entire series, what is explained to be a voice-changing device in the films, was in fact voice actor Roger Jackson. A man with over 150 credits to his name, including the Martian translator in Mars Attacks, as well as Mojo Jojo in The Powerpuff Girls, he worked directly with the actors on set via telephone as opposed to pre- or post-recording his lines. However, despite being physically on the set, in order to make the performances more authentic director Wes Craven made sure that none of the actors actually interacted with Roger face-to-face to preserve the mysteriousness of the conversations. The same goes for him in real life, as most interviews with him about Scream are done with a shroud of darkness to conceal his face.
What is no doubt both Jackson and Farwell’s best moment in this entire series of films is of course the unforgettable first scene of the first film. It’s this moment when we are first introduced to Jackson’s creepy charm and gradually increasing menace as well as Farwell’s threatening stance and surprise attacks that, much like Billy and Stu, we can instantly see just how deadly of a team these two really are.
6. Roberto Campanella – Red Pyramid
The somewhat underrated movie adaptation of Silent Hill was one of the most visually striking horror films in a good long time, and this is partly due to Roberto Campanella, who not only plays both Red Pyramid and the mangled bathroom janitor Colin, but also served as the film’s choreographer. Take a moment to consider that – think about the movement of those terrifying faceless nurses or the even more horrible armless walking condom dude at the beginning of the film. This was all thanks to Campanella, who worked with all the costume actors of the film.
That aside, his own costume for Red Pyramid was a task in itself. It required a five-piece prosthetic that took three hours to put on, 15-inch-soled boots to make him 7 feet tall, a 12 lb. pyramid mask that completely blinded him, and to top it all off he had to be completely bare-assed the entire time.
Try to imagine what it’s like to hit a mark and pretend that a foam sword is actually made of heavy steel while clopping around a set with your naked ass at chest height with everyone else. In the below behind-the-scenes video, Campanella compares the sensation to being a little kid, which says all sorts of things about his parents.
5. Nick Castle – Michael Myers
To be fair, at least five different people actually portrayed Michael Myers in the original Halloween film – most notably Tony Moran, who was the actual face of Myers when he is unmasked near the end of the movie. However, the person we see the most, the one that walked the walk and talked the uh-…the heavy breathing…is Nick Castle.
Castle, who was John Carpenter’s long-time friend from the University of Southern California and an aspiring filmmaker himself, took on the role for a mere 25 bucks a day and then proceeded to completely define the multimillion-dollar franchise psychopath with his patient and precise body language. Michael Myers is indeed a man who takes his time, almost aware that he is in a horror movie and therefore has no need to rush things, his movements are slow and somewhat dull up until the final moments when he decides to pin you to a wall with a knife and then go see what your girlfriend is up to.
After owning the role, Castle made the jump from aspiring filmmaker to actual filmmaker, directing several films, including the CGI pioneer The Last Starfighter, as well as co-writing Escape From New York with his buddy John.
4. Gunnar Hansen – Leatherface
What makes Leatherface so incredibly terrifying is the childlike naiveté he has towards the gruesome acts that he commits. He kills in a dog-like manner, either out of obedience or protection. This was no mistake in the performance, as Hansen himself has described him as being “afraid of his own family.”
It’s hard to tell from all that beard, but that is the face of the man who brought the squealing out-of-control behemoth Leatherface to life. After playing football in high school and then later working as a bouncer while making it through graduate school, Hansen decided to try out for the role of Leatherface. After receiving the part, he celebrated by spending four straight weeks running around on camera wielding a chainsaw over his head for 12-hour-a-day shoots. He was then handed $800 and then pretty much stopped acting for a decade. Hard to imagine why he found acting so unfavorable, right?
At one point during the shoot, he was supposed to use a rigged knife to pretend to cut actress Marilyn Burns’s finger – after several unsuccessful takes using the rig, Hansen decided the more efficient technique of removing said rig and actually cutting the actress would prove to get better results – he was correct.
3. Bolaji Badejo – Alien
The story of the 7-foot-tall, Somalia-born, North London graphic designer who was picked up at a bar to play the star villain in Ridley Scott’s Alien before completely vanishing off the face of the earth is a weird story indeed.
In fact it’s so weird that you no doubt had to read that last sentence more than once.
One day, one of the films casting directors noticed the extremely lean 6’ 10” Bolaji at a local pub – aware that the film has yet to find anyone tall and slender enough to correctly portray the alien of the film, he was brought to director Scott, who asked the young man if he wanted to be in the film. According to Scott himself, Bolaji’s answer was “Sure.” And, just like that, he spent the next ten months of his life becoming a monster movie legend.
He trained with movement coordinators and used various rigs to get the unnatural look that they wanted for the creature, and was kept away from the other cast in order to create a feeling of unfamiliarity in the performances.
And then after the film was complete and on it’s way to becoming the hit that it now is, Bolaji just sort of…vanished. There have been various hoax pictures of him in his older years, but the producers and fans were never able to officially track him down for later interviews. Sadly the most popular rumor, which has yet to be confirmed, is that Bolaji committed suicide not long after the film was shot – but if that were the case then surely there would have been some kind of evidence of it. Perhaps, for the sake of irony, he was simply abducted by aliens.
2. Billy Bryan – Stay Puft Marshmallow Man
Anyone who is surprised to see Stay Puft on a list of costumed terrors is either a sociopath or a professional clown or most likely both. In what could be called the most loved film of its generation, Ghostbusters also featured one of the most dread-inducing monsters since Godzilla (who, by the way, is only absent from this list because he fell more into the sci-fi/monster genre than the horror genre). With his blank eyes and plastic smile, the marshmallow man killed hundreds upon hundreds as he made his delicious yet deadly-looking rampage down the streets of New York City. While the character was portrayed at times through stop-motion and model work, most of the work was done by special effects master Billy Bryan – who not only performed as Stay Puft, but created the costume as well!
Because Bryan was creating something that he himself intended to wear, the process naturally resulted in a rather comfortable and well-ventilated suit. Bryan had no troubles portraying the iconic mallow, and has since felt only pride about having the credit. After all, wouldn’t you?
Also – it should be noted that this isn’t the only iconic horror character Bill Bryan has played:
That’s right – he was also the pit monster in Army Of Darkness. Even if those were the only two things he did, he would still have the best resume ever.
1. Kevin Peter Hall – Predator
Kevin Peter Hall is without a doubt the best person who ever lived. Better than Gandhi. He was able to take a totally silent, mostly faceless, and often completely invisible character and make it the most physically intimidating presence of a film that starred Jesse Ventura, Carl Weathers, and freaking Arnold Schwarzenegger.
At 7’ 2” he towered over his co-stars, but his size wasn’t what did it – it was the way he moved, his hunter stance and walk that just made you want to run for your life. Mannerisms that, after his unfortunate death, were mimicked in every Predator film to follow the sequel.
The kicker is that he also happened to be as sweet as a newborn bunny rabbit – according to producer John Davis he was “big and tall and soft and sweet inside.” Which absolutely has to be the weirdest performance review by a boss ever, that is until you actually watch him on the set:
Who knew the Predator was so damn huggable? And for anyone who happened to notice from his face, he does make a cameo in the film as the helicopter pilot who rescues Dutch.
And finally, if after all of that you still need a reason to love Kevin Peter Hall, here it is:
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Related Topics: Aliens