Favorite All-Time Horror Film Makeup Effect

Hello IHSFF Fans. We have a great guest today. We all know how much makeup effects play a role in the genre films we love. Jamie Kelman is one of the talented artists who make those visions come to stunning life through the magic of makeup effects. Jamie has extensive experience in the film industry, recently working on GOOSEBUMPS the Movie and taking over as Makeup Department Head for AMC's THE WALKING DEAD. Check out his absolutely fascinating list of influences. – Monte Yazzie, IHSFF Festival Director  

JamieKelmanName: Jamie Kelman


Title: Makeup Artist & Character/Prosthetic Makeup Designer

Organization/Outlet: KELMAN STUDIO in Los Angeles, CA.



When I was about 13 or 14 years old, my friends and I turned on the cable television to see a scene from THE THING (1982). I saw a man’s head stretched off of his neck, dragging itself across the room by it’s own tongue, then sprouting spider legs and crawling away - all while his chest had opened up releasing a hideous tentacled monster into the terrorized room; my teenage pals and I were screaming with delight, and my reeling brain was forever altered - Rob Bottin’s makeup-effects artistry pulled me into a vortex from which I’ve never returned. Forever after that day, realms of the amazing, the weird, and the fantastic constantly beckoned for my attention, a craving only satiated by certain artistic entertainment in the form of movies with creatures and monsters and altered humans. These diversions took center stage in my life, and with all of my time and efforts, I’ve devoted my life to learning the fine-art craft of Special Makeup Effects.

From 1968 with PLANET OF THE APES and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, global fantasy culture experienced a twenty year peak boom time for imaginative and inspiring makeup FX based imagery ranging from the nightmarish to sublime. The crescendo happened in the 1980’s, a double whammy in the early 80’s with aliens (The Empire Strikes Back, E.T., The THING), and Werewolves (The HOWLING and An AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON). Then a second peak happened in 1986 - 1987 (HELLRAISER, PREDATOR, EVIL DEAD 2, LOST BOYS, NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST. 3, FROM BEYOND, ROBOCOP, THE FLY, and the best devil ever put on screen in LEGEND), and trust me there’s more - all in just those two years!

While many lament that today things aren’t the same in our current digital era, we must remember that we are lucky that reality ever presented us with these analog gifts at all. They are incredibly difficult and expensive to build and to choreograph. It takes way too much time (and time equals money) for filmmakers to do these things ‘practically’ (i.e. tangibly, physically extant) anymore. But these 20th  century gems remain with us, waiting to be watched and experienced and re-watched - gifts from the finest artists of modern times, thankfully sharing their dreams and visions with us.

If you want to see more, here are eight guys whose work, to me, is the 1980’s equivalent of the enduring artwork of the impressionists from 100 years earlier in the 1880’s. Seek out the movies with makeup effects, puppetry and illusions provided by: Dick Smith, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, Stan Winston, Stuart Freeborn, Chris Walas, Tom Savini and Jim Henson. Chances are that you will be massively entertained, while viewing magic from a modern era’s master artists.

So where does that leave me? Well I know that I walk in the footsteps of giants. And every day in every way, I try to honor the craft that they discovered and shaped into a unique way to live a life and earn a living. I reach further and further to try and become one of their kind. Regardless of whether or not I ever achieve what they have, I journey onward, as there are amazing adventures to be found along that path.


  1. TheThingJohn Carpenter’s THE THING (1982):

Rob Bottin’s masterpiece of monster makeup, mayhem and transformation FX. Pure imagination turned into tangible, twisting flesh.


  1. John Landis’s AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981):

See a man actually turn into a wolf, bone by twisting, crunching bone, with makeup FX by Rick AmericanWerewolfBaker. And see his mutilated friend continually deteriorate while haunting him as a most gory ghost.


  1. William Freidkin’s THE EXORCIST:

TheExorcistUtterly terrifying for playing on our collective greatest religious fears, backed up by a relentless realism thanks to Dick Smith’s tip-top notch makeup artistry.


  1. George Romero & Stephen King’s CREEPSHOW (1982):

Tom Savini is the master of gore and more, as you meet long suppressed monsters in crates or fromCreepshow ghouls from watery graves. This is a Halloween-funtime classic in my book.


  1. (TIE) THE FLY (1986) and PUMPKINHEAD (1988):

TheFlyDavid Cronenberg gives us cerebral goop with an emotional heart as Jeff Goldblum has his career peak becoming a Brundle-Fly. Up next, Stan Winston directs both the movie and the monster with a perennial autumn fix in my home, where a witch grants a grievously wronged man vengeance, in the form of a demon called Pumpkinhead. Another true Halloween delight!Pumpkinhead



Regarding my work, it is on the big screen now in GOOSEBUMPS the Movie. Prior to working on this film, I never had the chance before to create so many monsters for one movie. The creatures that I personally sculpted/painted include the Jack-O-Lantern monster, the Scarecrow, both the Haunted Mask Victim and the prop Haunted Mask, a Graveyard Ghoul, and a Nosferatu style Vampire. I was one of three main guys building monsters, and my two main co-workers also delivered the boogity goods. So go check it out. And I’m currently working as the Makeup Department Head for an AMC television show called THE WALKING DEAD.

KelmanStudio.com is my online portfolio website (though imdb.com is always more current), and I’m on Facebook and I plan to join Instagram as soon as I can find the time which is fortunately scarce thanks to work keeping me extremely busy. Thank goodness for airplane rides forcing me to have enough downtime to at least write and share these thoughts about my supercool industry of Special Makeup Effects. Thanks for inviting me to do so, Monte! I hope your festival ROCKS!!!

Beast Wishes, Jamie Kelman