Are you still a little afraid of the dark because your parents let you watch too many horror movies as a kid? I am. And thanks to Hollywood running out of ideas, there are tons of these iconic and terrifying horror characters from my childhood still popping up in movies today and scaring the heck out of me.
That’s it! I’m going to rip off the masks, wipe off the face paint, and peel back these prosthetics so we can see who’s underneath it all. Hopefully, this will make them a bit less scary.
Key word: hopefully.
I’m channeling my girl Velma Dinkley and revealing who’s behind 13 iconic horror movie characters so we don’t have to hide under the covers anymore.
“The Shape,” aka Michael Myers, scared the pants off families and latch-key kids everywhere.
Mask off! In the original 1978 film Halloween, Michael Myers is portrayed by Nick Castle, a famous writer, and director of movies like The Last Starfighter and Major Payne.
Since Castle’s involvement after the original film was limited, Michael Meyers has mostly been portrayed by James Jude Courtney.
And here’s Castle & Courtney as Michael Myers and Castle & Courtney “unmasked.”
The first time Jason Voorhees appeared in Friday the 13th Part II, he wore a silly bag over his head. Once he switched into a hockey mask, the haunting image of the giant man with a machete was burned into our brains forever.
Many actors and stuntpeople played Jason over the decades, but the most prominent (and my personal favorite) was Kane Hodder. Hodder is a well-known stuntman with connections to multiple franchises, including The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hatchet.
Here’s Kane as Jason Voorhees and Kane “unmasked.”
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre featured an entire family of cannibalistic freaks to give us nightmares, but it was the violently silent Leatherface who remained a horror genre staple for decades.
Underneath that grotesque mask of human skin is a handsome man named Gunnar Hansen — an Icelandic author who remained close to his iconic role, sharing his experiences behind the scenes and within the horror film community.
Here’s Hansen as Leatherface and Hansen without the skin mask.
Like many scary ass characters in this list, Pennywise from Stephen King’s It was brought to life more than once to ensure that every generation could share the same irrational fear of child-eating clowns.
The first actor underneath the Pennywise face paint was the legendary Tim Curry, famous for his roles as Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and Wadsworth in Clue (1985).
In the 2017 remake, Pennywise is played by Bill Skarsgård, the younger brother of Alexander Skarsgård (The Northman, True Blood), and the son of veteran actor Stellan Skarsgård (Dune, Thor).
Here’s Curry as Pennywise and Curry without the freaky face paint.
Here’s Skarsgård as Pennywise and Skarsgård without the freaky face paint.
Chucky, the sadistic children’s toy, is a doll possessed by a serial killer named Charles Lee Ray in the slasher horror franchise that started with Child’s Play (1988).
Charles Lee Ray and the unforgettable voice of Chucky is played by actor Brad Dourif. He’s had a long career in Hollywood, from starring in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002).
Here’s Dourif as Chucky and Dourif without the creepy doll body.
In the Hellraiser franchise, the torturous leader of the Cenobites, eventually known as Pinhead, is a supernatural being that enters our world and inflicts unimaginable pain and suffering upon its victims.
The face behind the grotesque villain is Doug Bradley, an actor and writer best known for portraying the Lead Cenobite with a bone-chilling voice, ominous stare, and terrible acupuncture job.
Here’s Bradley as Pinhead and Bradley without the spiky noggin.
Just the thought of this disgusting monster gives me the heebie-jeebies, and rightfully so, because he’s “the Creeper” from Jeepers Creepers (2001) — a movie about an ancient demon who eats human body parts to replace his own. Ew.
Fortunately, the demonic serial killer isn’t real. It’s actor Jonathan Breck underneath a ton of very convincing makeup and prosthetics. He portrayed “the Creeper” for all three Jeepers Creepers films.
Here’s Breck as “the Creeper” and Breck as a normal guy.
Despite everyone (mostly me) calling her “that one girl from The Ring (2002) that crawls through the TV,” the evil ghost is named Samara Morgan — a deadly child spirit that murders anyone who watches a cursed videotape.
Underneath all that swampy hair and decaying skin is Daveigh Chase, an actor with a familiar voice to Disney fans as the rambunctious Lilo Pelekai from the Lilo & Stitch movies and Chihiro from the English dubbed version of Spirited Away.
Here’s Chase as Samara Morgan and Chase as a human being.
In Leprechaun (1993), a malevolent leprechaun named Lubdan Buttowski is so protective of his gold that he murders anyone and everyone who comes close to his coin.
That terrifying leprechaun gave me nightmares for years, but it helps to remember it’s just the famous actor Warwick Davis, who is also known for his role in Willow as the titular hero. He’s also Griphook, a goblin from the Harry Potter franchise, and Wicket from the Star Wars franchise.
Here’s Davis as the Leprechaun and Davis without the scary hair and makeup.
The thought of an alien assassin arriving on Earth to hunt humans for sport is my third biggest nightmare. In Predator (1987), the huge, masked hunter uses advanced technology like energy weapons and camouflage to sneak up on its prey.
In the franchise’s first two films (and the movies that traumatized me the most), the “Predator” is Kevin Peter Hall, an actor who also played roles like Harry the bigfoot in Harry and the Hendersons (1987) and Warren on the 1989 TV show 227.
And here’s Hall as the “Predator” and Hall “unmasked.”
Gillman from Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) is a real blast from the past — one of the original, classic monsters of the horror film genre.
Underneath that fishy skin suit is this adorable man, Ben Chapman. He was a Marine Corps vet chosen for the role because he was 6’5″. For the underwater scenes, the Gillman was played by Ricou Browning, a stunt man and director for a few James Bond films.
Here’s Chapman as the Gillman and Chapman without his gills.
“The Pale Man” only appears for a few minutes in Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, but those minutes remain one of the scariest moments in cinema as the child-eating monster wakes up to chase down an 11-year-old girl.
The unsettling performance is the brilliant work of Doug Jones, who earned a name for himself playing major movie creatures like Abe Sapien in Hellboy (2004) and the Amphibian Man in The Shape of Water (2017).
Here’s Jones as “The Pale Man” and Jones as an everyday man.
One of the most memorable horror characters in the genre is Freddy Krueger, who first appeared in teenagers’ dreams in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Krueger brought the perfect blend of humor and terror and set a new standard for horror movie villains.
Freddy is played by seasoned actor Robert Englund, who portrayed the horror villain for eight consecutive films and earned a place as one of the most well-known horror genre actors.
And lastly, here’s Englund as Freddy Krueger and Englund as a happy camper.
Did finding out who’s behind these horror movie icons make them any less terrifying? For me, not really. Which characters still scare the shit out of you? I’ll go first. All of them.