The Legacy of the Horror Genre’s “Man in the Monster Suit”

Behind almost every great scary movie is an extremely tall actor running around in a rubber mask.

Friday The Th
New Line Cinema

When it comes to horror movies, almost everyone can name their favorite monster or killer in the genre. Oftentimes we even pick a favorite scary movie entirely based on its iconic villain. For this reason, the original Halloween will always be my personal go-to, because the sinister and relentless presence of Michael Myers, or “The Shape,” most haunted me out of all the films I’d seen. But what about when it comes to naming the actors behind these notorious bad guys?

Outside of maybe regular Guillermo del Toro collaborator Doug Jones, there is an unfortunate lack of notoriety when it comes to the faces and names inside the masks or costumes we’ve become so familiar with. The “man in the monster suit,” or “the man in the mask” has evolved over the years from simply a really tall guy who knows how to move in a rubber costume, to trained creature and character actors. They give life and shape to the supernatural characters of horror movie legend, and they deserve a great deal of praise for it.

The now charmingly comical performances of films like Creature from the Black Lagoon (said creature played by Ben Chapman on land and Ricou Browning underwater) have evolved into a brand new kind of acting. The modern artists of creature feature performance know how to move and posture in the most unnerving ways possible, truly making it a gift to be a good “man in a monster suit.”

As for the past “really tall guys in a costume,” one thing these actors still share besides being relatively unknown by name is an imposing stature. The horror genre’s penchant for menacingly tall villains means that, of course, the actors that play them must also be unusually tall. This has led to the nickname “giants of horror” when referring to movie monster actors.

The modern-day actors still greatly utilize their distinct height to haunt some of the biggest films in the genre and continue to earn the nickname “giant.” One of the most notable of these giants from the past few decades who straddled the line between prop-wielder and artist is Nick Castle. As the creeping and inexpressive Michael Myers, Castle was much less the type of giant we see in more recent films, yet he also gave the original Halloween an invaluable portrayal of the villain echoed in the later films. He is one of the most iconic men in a mask, and there’s a reason the team behind 2018’s Halloween made sure to bring Castle back to reclaim the iconic William Shatner mask (sharing the role with stuntman James Jude Courtney).

The need for imposing men in masks or suits has not gone away since the first Halloween. In recent news, according to Splash Report, the upcoming DC Universe series Swamp Thing is reportedly scoping out the Friday the 13th and Predators “giant” Derek Mears for their own big green protagonist. The 6′ 5″ actor would follow in the green shoes of the 6′ 5½” Dick Durock, who portrayed the comic book character for more than a decade, first in a couple movies in the ’80s and then a TV series in the ’90s.

Mears slashed his way through the 2009 re-imagining as Jason Voorhees (following such famous Jason portrayers as Richard Brooker and Kane Hodder) and would definitely make for an imposing (post-transformation) Swamp Thing. It’s not confirmed yet whether or not Mears will lend his talents as a towering creature and/or monster actor to the environmentally-conscious brute. The tortured comic book character would certainly be a fun change of pace for the actor, as well.

Nowadays, these “giants of horror” come with a few more tricks up their sleeves. Actor Javier Botet, in particular, has a wildly impressive filmography, with his complete catalog of scary movie creatures being almost too long to list. It’s arguably a given that if you’ve seen a horror movie in the last 10 years, you’ve unknowingly seen Botet at his best.

Some of his most iconic Hollywood monsters include Eddie’s fear, “The Hobo,” in It, the Crooked Man of The Conjuring 2, three different ghostly horrors in Crimson Peak, Slenderman himself in Slenderman, Mama in Mama, and the primary antagonist Niña Medeiros/ Tristana Medeiros in the REC franchise — and that’s just to name a few. Seriously, check out the guy’s IMDb, it’s incredible.

Botet definitely benefits as an actor in such roles by being over 6’6’’ tall, but it’s true that he also brings an altogether unique performance to each film. His ability to move his body in ways others can’t makes him stand out as the nightmarish characters he portrays, and he has obviously become the industry’s go-to guy for a “man in a monster suit”.

All of these actors, past and present, have an essential function in their films and franchises. They have a special talent for breathing life into the creatures of our nightmares and can’t be ignored when discussing some of the best horror films of the past few decades. Hopefully, this rundown of some of the talent behind the mask helps show the sort of legacy these kinds of actors help build.

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Kendall is a recent graduate and San Diego native who is passionate about the environment, writing, and above all else Keanu Reeves.