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DesignFeature

The 13 best movie monster designs

Join us as we celebrate the twisted imaginations of the painters, illustrators, comic artists and VFX technicians behind horror's best movie monster designs.

WARNING: This post contains scenes of extreme gore that might make you lose your lunch. Consider yourself WARNED!

Movie production has always been a hotbed of creativity, and none more so than when it’s dealing in the hinterlands of fantasy and horror.

Films that require the audience be shown something unique and unsettling, bizarre and bewildering, have to call upon the talents of painters, illustrators, comic artists and VFX technicians, many of whom remain the unsung heroes of the industry.

In our list of top movie monster designs, we celebrate the twisted imaginations of these artisans, and provide some insight into their inspirations and influences.

01. Merman

  • Movie: Cabin in the Woods (2011, Lionsgate)
  • Designer info: Hiroshi Katagiri (Sculptor) David LeRoy Anderson (Makeup FX Designer)
movie monsters
Gone fishing for face

Warning: major spoiler alerts ahead! If you haven't seen this movie, rent it now and skip to number 12 on our list...

At the time of release, Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods was met with a mixture of awe, praise and confusion. The man made famous by vampire slayers and a very successful summer blockbuster, finally turned his hand to a tongue-in-cheek horror offering along with director and fellow writer Drew Goddard.

You could say there are far too many monsters to choose from in Cabin in the Woods but after much consideration, it just had to be the Merman. Played by Richard Cetrone - who also portrays the Werewolf - the Merman was put in an entire body cast and had to be glued in entirely from head to toe.

He was in this cast for up to 12 hours at a time, unable to move and having to wait eight hours before the filming even started. Makeup FX designer David LeRoy Anderson claims that there are even pictures of Richard asleep on a stretcher on set in his full costume.

Watch this (Major spoiler alert!)

(More spoilers ahead...) One of the film's most anticipated moments is the actual reveal of the Merman. The character of Bradley is upset at the beginning of the story, complaining that he'll never get to see a Merman. Ironically at the end of the film, Bradley is killed by the one monster he so desperately wanted to see. A hilarious and trademark Joss Whedon moment.

Watch this! (Major spoiler alert!)

(More spoilers ahead...) Want to see more monsters from the movie? Take a look at the clip above to witness the absolute carnage witnessed towards the end of the film.

02. Pennywise

  • Movie: Stephen King's It (1990, Warner Bros Television)
  • Designer info: Tommy Lee Wallace (director), Fantasy II (special visual effects)
There's nothing quite like a... no, wait

The TV movie version of Stephen King's novel It received mixed reviews, and it would be a stretch to even say that it has cult status, however Tim Curry's performance as Pennywise the dancing clown received universal critical acclaim for capturing the novel's interpretation of the character - and scaring the life out of everyone.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show actor's portrayal of the sadistic clown also caused many a nightmare amongst those who sneakily watched it on VHS as a kid.

Watch this! The original trailer for Stephen King's It:

The story of It is in two parts, both surrounding seven friends who are tormented and driven to insanity by an evil force they call 'It'. The first part tells the story of how the children first vanquish It in 1960, and the second half fast-forwards to 1990 when they are forced to take It on once more as adults. Both halves contain some comically scary and genuinely disturbing moments… Clowns are unsettling enough without them actually being monstrous too!

Watch this! The bit in the library with the balloons:

03. The Triffid

  • Movie: The Day of the Triffids, 1962
  • Designer info: Wally Veever (VFX), Hugh Skillen (special effects) 
Triffids are a stark warning about the dangers of Miracle-Gro

Director Steve Sekely’s adaptation of John Wyndham’s post-apolcalyptic novel about aggressive plants taking over the world, presented a terrifying poisonous plant-form known as the triffid. Most disturbing about these monsters was their ability to become mobile by uprooting themselves.  

Well known visual effects artist Wally Veever worked on the design for the triffids, alongside special effects technician Hugh Skillen, who designed an articulated motor-driven model of the monster. The fact that the models were sometimes unreliable and had limited movements simply added to the creepy, sinister nature of the venomous plants.

WATCH THIS! Man eating plants!

04. ‘Clover’

  • Movie: Cloverfield, 2008, Paramount Pictures
  • Designer info: Neville Page (concept designer and teacher)
Movie monster - Clover
I'm in ur city. Eatin' ur peeps.

After seeing rows of Godzilla toys in a Japanese store, J. J. Abrams decided America needed it’s own city-destroying monster. Codenamed ‘Clover’, the giant quadrupedal beast was designed by concept artist Neville Page, whose clients include Mattel, BMW, Toyota, and movies such as Avatar and Tron 2.

According to Page, although 25 storeys tall, the creature is immature, a baby, and its actions are the clumsy result of fear and confusion.

“There’s nothing scarier than something huge that’s spooked,” said Page, comparing it to a rampaging elephant. “It also needed to be huge, have a head full of teeth, arms and legs, and, because of it coming out of the water, I felt it needed a tail to justify an aquatic potential origin or existence.”

WATCH THIS! Bombing the monster!

There are more movie monsters on the following page...

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