Set photos that'll change the way you see horror movies

Horror movies have been freaking out audiences at least since 1896's Le manoir du diable, using lighting, mood, and special effects to try to incite terror, suspense, and dread among their viewers. Additionally, master makeup artists and costume designers work together to create iconic nightmare fodder like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, Freddy Krueger, or even the leprechaun from Leprechaun if that's what freaks your bean.

It turns out, however, that once you take away the spooky lighting, ominous music, and scary masks and makeup, a terrifying spectacle can easily become nothing more than just a bunch of people at work, having fun (sometimes) hanging out with the rest of the cast and crew, who are all in on the joke of their soundstage spookshow made by actors in tights covered in colored corn syrup. Few things can shatter the illusion of a spooky flick like behind-the-scenes photos that show actors out of character, out of context, and out of costume. Here are some amusingly disillusioning set photos that will keep you from looking at iconic horror movies the same way ever again.

Night of the Living Color

George A. Romero's 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead is one of the most influential horror movies of all time, completely reinventing the popular conception of zombies from their origin as mind-controlled slaves of a voodoo master to the shambling hordes of the undead that still show up on The Walking Dead sometimes. Furthermore, the movie would go on to inspire literally dozens of sequels of various levels of legitimacy, from Romero's own Dawn of the Dead and follow-ups to the comedic Return of the Living Dead series to the Italian Zombi series to numerous remakes. It's so complicated you literally need a flowchart to follow it.

One of the key elements to the tone of the film is its stark black and white photography, which was partially due to budgetary issues but also because Romero thought black and white made the blood feel more real. That's why it was so shocking to see a collection of behind-the-scenes photos from NotLD in full color. The scenes of cast members chilling on picnic blankets or of Barbra and Johnny in the graveyard seem way cheerier and less ominous in full color. "They're coming to get you, Barbra … to take you to the mall for an Orange Julius!"

Frankenstein breaks for tea

In the 1930s and 1940s, the undisputed leader in the field of horror cinema was Universal Studios, which kicked off the entire trend of American horror with 1931's Dracula and then only grew its brand with such franchises as Frankenstein, The Mummy, and The Invisible Man, all of which have more sequels than you would probably guess unless you're a classic horror buff. In many ways, the Frankenstein franchise was the tentpole for Universal — at least until 1941's The Wolf Man pushed Lon Chaney, Jr.'s Larry Talbot to the forefront — and the film generally (and rightly) regarded as the best one in the whole Universal Monsters stable is 1935's Bride of Frankenstein.

Key to the success of the film, and indeed of the franchise as a whole, are the iconic creature makeup effects by Jack Pierce, including that of the Frankenstein monster as portrayed by Boris Karloff and the titular bride, played by Elsa Lanchester. Although the second film in the series spends much of its runtime humanizing the monster, teaching him to appreciate friendship, music, and a good cigar, the shrieking disapproval of the monster's mate causes him to conclude that "we belong dead." As such, there's some humor in seeing this gallery of shots that show Karloff in his monster face enjoying a cup of tea or a smoke, or Lanchester skillfully applying her own makeup. Or, if you'd rather, check out this set photo from Son of Frankenstein with Karloff's monster enjoying not only tea, but a slice of toast as well.

Literally anyone smiling on the set of The Shining

Stanley Kubrick's 1980 adaptation of The Shining is another film that constantly rates on "best of horror" lists, thanks to Kubrick's meticulous direction, instantly memorable images and dialogue, and powerful performances from the cast, perhaps most notably Jack Nicholson, as well as that truly eye-popping poster in Scatman Crothers' room.

However, as this article and gallery from the Mind Circle relates, filming The Shining was no easy feat for most of its cast and crew. Kubrick's perfectionism meant constant last-minute script changes, long working days, and harsh treatment of his cast, most notably Shelly Duvall, who became so stressed from her frequent arguments with Kubrick that she became physically ill, with her hair reportedly starting to fall out from stress.

So between the grim subject matter of the film and the tense and wearying atmosphere on the set, it's hard to imagine anyone taking a moment to smile over what they were doing. And yet, smiles are visible all over the photos from the set, like this crew member with an ax in his chest, Kubrick and Nicholson reviewing some footage, and even Kubrick and Duvall smiling together, though her smile is probably fake. But perhaps the strangest of all is the above shot of Lisa and Louise Burns as the Grady sisters, smiling in a totally normal way that little girls do, and not at all implying that they would definitely murder you and then maybe also each other.

Pennywise and the Losers

2017 saw the release of the hugely successful theatrical adaptation of Stephen King's It, but '90s kids will remember the 1990 mini-series starring Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown, as well as a host of actors we swear were famous in the '80s, like John Ritter, Harry Anderson, and Jonathan Brandis. Also Seth Green was in it, playing the same character Finn Wolfhard played in the 2017 version, just in case you want to break your brain imagining those two as the same person. For kids in the '90s, this televised event was all the buzz at school as they talked in hushed tones about the child-eating sewer clown and spraying imaginary battery acid in his face, even though someone watching it now would probably find it less scary than an episode of Little Clowns of Happytown.

The premise, of course, is that an ancient evil takes the form of a clown who is opposed by a group of '50s nerd kids called the Losers Club, who are the only ones in town who truly understand the depth of evil lurking under their town. Given how much time the clown and kids spend trying to eat and kill each other respectively, it's pretty unnerving to see Pennywise and the Losers chilling with sincere smiles and an issue of MAD Magazine, just like it's kind of weird and sad to see Tim Curry in full clown regalia taking a smoke break in the rain.

Headless xenomorph

Ridley Scott's 1979 masterpiece Alien is basically a heart-stopping haunted house flick, but the house is a spaceship and the ghost is a glistening black sex monster in a bondage suit whose head is a giant ding-a-ling with another, smaller ding-a-ling poking out its throat. As Alien went on to spawn a franchise, the erotically charged titular aliens — designed by H.R. Giger and known (somewhat erroneously) by fans as xenomorphs — have naturally become a centerpiece of the franchise, spraying acid blood and drooling K-Y Jelly all over Sigourney Weaver or Winona Ryder or whoever.

That's why it's a weird mix of unsettling and reassuring to see the actors playing the alien without their masks on, as in this gallery of behind-the-scenes snaps and production stills from the original movie. In Alien, the titular creature was played by Nigerian design student Bolaji Bodejo, whose 6' 10" frame was thought to bear arms and legs so long and slender that they seemed inhuman. In this picture, however, he just kind of looks like a guy who is really uncomfortable and actually kind of bored in the incredibly expensive Halloween costume his friends made him wear.

Alternatively, stuntman Eddie Powell, seen above wearing the suit without the headpiece, looks totally chill and not at all like an otherworldly beast that wants to lay eggs in your chest via your throat. To be fair, it's hard to know what's going on in his head at that moment, though.

Maskless Michael Myers

Although the subgenre has its roots in 1960s psychological thrillers like Psycho and Peeping Tom and Italian gialli like Twitch of the Death Nerve, the golden age of the slasher film was definitely the late '70s and early '80s. And while movies like Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Black Christmas preceded it by a few years, the movie that really kicked off the slasher craze was 1978's Halloween.

While nearly every element of Halloween's production has led to its enduring popularity, from John Carpenter's direction to his screenplay (co-written with Debra Hill) to his iconic score, the key to a successful slasher franchise is always going to revolve around the killer, and Halloween's Michael Myers set the standard that many later franchises would try to reach.

The most recognizable aspect of Michael Myers is his well-known mask, which was famously made by altering a Captain Kirk mask, and which Myers is almost never seen without in the course of the franchise. The Shape, as Myers is called in the film's credits, is played by Nick Castle, a friend of Carpenter's who would go on to direct such films as The Last Starfighter. Despite Myers' constant menacing presence in the film, this gallery of behind-the-scene shots from the Halloween franchise shows that apparently Castle had a lot of fun making goofs with his famous mask, including the above shot of ol' Mikey Myers enjoying the 23 famous flavors of a Dr Pepper.

Regan smiles

1973's The Exorcist is almost invariably placed near the top of any "best horror movies ever" list, and not without good reason. It was nominated for ten Academy Awards and was the first horror film ever nominated for best picture. Although it would lose best picture to The Sting, it would win best sound mixing and best adapted screenplay, a relatively rare achievement for a horror film.

At the heart of both William Peter Blatty's novel that served as the basis for the film and his own screenplay adaptation of the book is the anxiety surrounding a little girl in danger, as she becomes literally unrecognizable through demonic possession, or puberty, or both. Much of the horror comes from the juxtaposition of the innocent-looking Regan, famously played by Linda Blair, and the horrible things coming out of her mouth (whether terrible cusses or pea soup) as she spins her head around, levitates her bed, and pees at an astronaut.

Since so much of the film centers on Regan's possession and torment, the most memorable images from the movie tend to include her demonically grinning face and not much in the way of her smiling with genuine happiness. That's why it's strange to look at behind-the-scenes photos and footage and see young Linda Blair smiling with co-stars, makeup artists, and director William Friedkin. Sure, she's all smiles now, but you wouldn't believe what she says about their mothers behind their backs.

Hannibal Lecter getting his fry on

As murder movies go, it's pretty hard to beat 1991's The Silence of the Lambs in terms of critical acclaim. It was only the third film ever to take home the Academy Awards' five top prizes — best picture, best director, best actor, best actress, and best screenplay — and as of this writing, it's the only horror film ever to win best picture.

Of course the breakout character from the film is suave serial killer Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter. Lecter had previously appeared in the 1986 film Manhunter, played by Brian Cox, but it was Silence of the Lambs that turned him into a franchise player, leading to 2001's Hannibal, 2002's Red Dragon, 2006's Hannibal Rising, and the 2013-2015 gourmet cooking show also called Hannibal. (He made people into really luxurious people meals.)

But while Lambs famously had Lecter bragging about eating a human liver with fava beans and a nice chianti, this collection of set photos indicates that maybe liver and beans couldn't easily slide through Anthony Hopkins's now-iconic man-muzzle if he got hungry while filming. As such, it was apparently necessary for director Jonathan Demme to feed him French fries through the tiny mouth bars on his mask, an act that apparently cracked Demme up. (This would be a really good place for a lamb fries joke, but it only works if you know that lamb fries are lamb testicles. Anyway. Lamb fries are lamb testicles.)

Also notable is this picture of a smiling Brooke Smith, who played kidnapping victim Catherine Martin, just chilling in Buffalo Bill's basement pit with a plainly fake dog.

Kissing Godzilla

Although the Godzilla film franchise stars a monster — indeed, the King of the Monsters – and focuses on themes of postwar anxiety about man's hubris and the overreach of science in the wake of the atomic bomb, they're not really horror films per se. They're monster movies, but not quite in the sense that, say, Frankenstein is. They're more about spectacle and boss monster fights than atmosphere and creeping terror. Still, Godzilla is one of the most iconic monsters there is, and thanks to the long-running success of the character in both Japan and America, there is no shortage of cool, sweet, and downright weird behind-the-scenes photos.

For example, this really great gallery features Godzilla actor Haruo Nakajima half out of costume drinking tea, Godzilla delivering Christmas gifts, Godzilla seemingly passed out on a giant wheelbarrow, and Godzilla dancing in space or something? More importantly, it also features a series of photos that seem to indicate evidence of a Dateable Godzilla. Here's someone (probably Haruo Nakajima?) kissing the King square on the lips, here he is immediately after the classic "yawn and stretch" move, here he is busting out "Wonderwall" for a hula dancer, here's a little photo booth action from his date at the mall, and most importantly, the photo above where he's politely escorting another date home with a parasol.

Then again, this picture seems to show Baragon putting the moves on some bikini ladies, so maybe big G has some competition for King of All Players.

The original shape of water

The Shape of Water won the best picture Oscar for 2017, among a host of other awards, including many best director trophies for Guillermo del Toro. The film is an examination of the way a repressive society can affect and shape marginalized groups like people with disabilities, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community (meaning that your doubtlessly very good "the shape of water is just the shape of its container!" joke shows that you didn't quite understand the movie and its title). That said, at its heart, this critically acclaimed and beloved film is still just fan fiction for The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Creature was a latter-era horror flick from Universal, which by 1954 had primarily moved on to more science-fiction-tinged horror films like It Came from Outer Space and This Island Earth. The Creature from the Black Lagoon, however, was successful enough to spawn two sequels, Revenge of the Creature and The Creature Walks Among Us (a very baller title). One of the key elements in the success of the Creature films is the creature's costume designs, which were done by Disney animator Milicent Patrick. Her designs were so good, they made Guillermo del Toro make a film answering the question, "What if the lady got to do the Creature, though?"

The above set photo from this gallery shows he wasn't the only one thinking about kissing the fishman. Even better, though, the gallery features several pictures of Milicent Patrick at work.