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Insane Career Paths: Sleep Stealers

freddy krueger

Beyond the mundane world of cubicle farms and 9 to 5 schedules lies a horrifying blood-drenched world…well fake blood drenched. These men and women have dedicated their lives to jump-scares, intense gore and stomach turning simulated viscera. From artists to special effects and makeup artists, these are the people that stole your sleep one movie and comic at a time.

See Also: Insane Career Path: Vampire Hunter

Dick Smith

This man has made more people sleep with a bible under their pillow and a cross over their bed than the pope. But not because he was a preaching religious zealot. No, because he was the man that took a cute little girl and made her a terrifying demonically possessed...well, little girl. Dick Smith carved out a deep throbbing gash in our collective memory as the creator of arguably the horror genre’s most recognizable scenes including the infamous head spinning and projectile vomiting scene’s from The Exorcist movie. Smith was a prolific, pioneering make-up artist rewarded with an Academy Award for his work on the movie Dad, where he aged a 60-year-old Jack Lemmon into an octogenarian. He was even awarded a second Honorary Academy Award for his life’s work, the first make-up artist to be honored with the award.

H.R. Giger

In Space No One Can Hear You Scream…if you know where that tagline is from then here’s a virtual high-five, if you don’t it’s from the horror opus Alien. The man that created the extremely recognizable futuristic gothic, bio-mechanic style of the both the set and the actual titular alien was none other than the Swiss Surrealist artist H.R. Giger. When he was hired as the designer for a different film Dune, and showed writer Dan O’Bannon his work, O’Bannon said that it was equally disturbing, horrifying and beautiful. When Alien was green-lighted after Dune was suspended he immediately contacted Giger to design the xenomorph (the alien), the egg they hatch out of and the infamous chest-burster. Of course, later on he designed many other visual elements of the franchise.

Clive Barker

Much like the artist above this writer/director/producer found that combining sex (or more appropriately deviant sex) and horror, results in a terrifying and disturbing concoction. He wrote and produced the Hellraiser series which is chalked full of S&M imagery (including the main character’s leather suit that features nipple cutouts, which is definitely worth a mention) and otherwise binary notions such as earth and hell, horror and pleasure. Although, Pinhead is the most recognizable of his sadomasochistic monsters that engage in extreme sexual experiments, every single one of them is equally sleep stealing nightmare fodder, with their mangled characteristics and sheet-white skin. Barker was also the disturbed mind behind the Candyman series although admittedly campy by today’s standards it claimed its fair share of blood-drenched nightmares.

Stephen King

Arguably the most prolific writer of our era, King has penned some of the most chilling tales dedicated to both paper and celluloid. He has sold over 350 million copies of his books that include collections of chilling short stories and 54 novels. King’s first novel Carrie, where a bullied teenage girl with psychic powers snaps (after being dowsed with pigs blood at the prom) and burns the auditorium to the ground with everyone in it, was almost never finished as King discouraged by his progress threw the manuscript in the trash. However, his wife retrieved it and encouraged him to finish it.

Since then we have been terrified by demonic toddlers (Pet Cemetery), hobbling Cathy Bates’ (Misery), manic axe-wielding Jack Nicholsons and Red Rum uttering psychic kids (The Shining) and finally terrifying shark-toothed clowns/Tim Currys (IT). I made the mistake of watching the IT scene…so excuse me as I go watch some kitty videos to get rid of heebie-jeebies.

Tom Savini

You probably know Savini more for his role in the camptastic B-Horror-Movie homage From Dusk Till Dawn and his phallic-ily shaped “crotch gun.” You can see the clip here, but fair warning it’s NSFW-ish. Savini is a prolific make-up/prosthetic makeup artist most famously having worked on another Romero movie Dawn of the Dead, after previously working with the director on Martin in which he created a highly realistic wrist cutting effect. He worked on Friday the 13th and is credited with the pre-credit jump-scare of a disfigured Jason Voorhees jumping out of lake…OK, you asked for it, this is scene below.

Vincent Price

If there is one man that could be considered the “voice” of horror, it would be none other than the deep-voiced, pencil-mustachioed Vincent Price. His slicked back hair, and single raised eyebrow became a trademark of the B&W horror era. He became the default reference for evil yet charming geniuses seen in movies and even video games.

His career spanned many decades, jumping between genres and mediums. Although he was a Yale educated, art collector, stage actor and academic, he never shied away from voicing cartoons, playing in B-Movie Horror films and even lending his voice multiple times to Alice Cooper and Michael Jackson…the creepy monologue during and laugh at the end of Thriller? That’s Price. His name is also the first one that appears at the very beginning of the video at the top of the movie theatre’s marquee.


Boris Karloff


Another man from the Universal monsters golden era Karloff embodied the famous green skinned heavily browed Frankenstein and the extended armed Imhotep in The Mummy. His booming baritone voice was also lent to the now classic animated Christmas movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Lon Chaney

Much like Karloff Chaney also embodied multiple iconic monsters of the golden age and appropriately so considering his nickname was: the man of a thousand faces. It wasn’t for his multiple roles that he achieved this moniker but for his make-up artistry. Both his acting and make-up prowess was displayed in the films The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Although his famous roles have Chaney donning grotesque visages, his critics said that he brought profound humanism and sympathy to the character portrayals. Chaney’s son, Lon Chaney Jr. also embodied a classic Universal monster The Wolfman, but his career was overshadowed by his overly accomplished father.

Bela Lugosi

If Vincent Price is the voice of horror, Bela Lugosi would be the face of Dracula…the man that established every single vampire trope from the heavily accented “I want to suck your blood!” (which he never said, yet is always spoken in his characteristic accent), to the slicked back hair, deep widow’s peak and claw like hand gestures. Although his notoriety for the role was wide reaching, well beyond his life, it typecast him for the rest of his life. Even though in his native Hungary he was a well revered and respected stage actor after he exhausted all the roles he could, he was relegated to B-Movies under his Universal Studios contract, in which he was given only small roles just for the wide appeal of his name. During this period, he also became heavily addicted to opiate pain killers due to multiple injuries he received while fighting during WWI. He died in relative obscurity at the age of 73. In a final twist of irony, the man that played Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood, Martin Landau, was awarded an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, an honor that Lugosi would never have experienced in his lifetime.

See Also: Insane Career Paths: Is Exorcism Really a Job?

Did I miss any other great people that chilled us to the bone? Let me know in the comment section below.    

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