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Filmmaking Guide: Horror movie makeup

Horror movie makeup plays a vital role in making a character look convincingly mysterious, scared, terrifying, or shocking on screen.

The horror movie look adds that element of cinematic belief of the actor being “in character.” The type of movie makeup for it is also typically combined with prosthetic effects, often involving techniques in sculpting, molding, or casting to create more complicated facial and body effects a character requires.

Character Makeup

Character makeup done by professional makeup artists can range from simple cosmetic makeup to enhance or hide certain features or elements on the face to scary or horrifying makeup to showcase a convincingly creepy or monstrous character. For instance, a victim of an evil force in an exorcism movie requires movie makeup that progresses in look from the time he or she is in a normal state to the time he or she gets possessed. In a werewolf movie, the physical changes that happen to a character also involve crucial changes in makeup and prosthetic effects.

A horror movie makeup typically provides a scared or stressed out look to a character by putting wrinkles, eye bags, pale face and lips, bruises, wounds, any many other traumatic or worn out signs on the face and body. Blood effects are also often included in scenes where the character encounters physical distress and injury. For characters such as significantly aged persons, zombies, mutated humans, and otherworldly creatures, actors wear prosthetic effects to make them look credibly old, eerie, monstrous, or sinister. The materials used for them should be safe for actors to use on their bodies.

Makeup and Film Lighting

Movie makeup should register well on camera. It should look best with the actual lighting and type of shot used when filming the character. This means priority is given to how the camera makes the movie makeup look compelling on screen, which doesn’t necessarily mean that the said makeup looks convincing in real life. Usually, the production conducts test shoots prior to the scheduled filming to ensure that the makeup and prosthetic effects look good on camera.

Makeup Continuity

Aside from making the horror movie makeup look authentic on screen, its continuity is also crucial in any project. Since filming usually requires a number of days or even weeks, months, or years to finish, the makeup used for a particular character should always look consistent. Most of the time, the character’s makeup needs progression or time-related changes throughout a scene or throughout the film’s entirety. This should be taken as a primary concern when any makeup or additional effect gets applied on the actor’s face and other parts of the body.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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