zombie makeup

Fear is a very personal thing. So choosing a “scary” costume this Halloween can mean many things to many people. But for me, the most unsettling things are always the ones that change the way I see the world.

While movie-style slashers and madmen cause mayhem, they do so within the confines of our accepted reality. You can escape from a crazed maniac wielding a butcher’s knife. But extra-natural phenomena, like zombies, faceless creatures, and the other fantastical horrors you can create below, take the rules of reality and rip them out from under us. It’s not just the monster that’s scary, but the heretofore unknown reality that allows that monster to exist. You may escape the monster, but you can’t escape your new understanding of how the world works, and what may lurk in the shadows.

So in the spirit of unknown terror, here are eight costumes to put the fear back into Halloween.

What are your favorite DIY costumes that give you the willies? Let us know in the comments below!

Zombies

There’s a good reason zombies have had the spotlight for years: they’re relentless in their base desire to chew your face off. And their hunger is contagious. Freakmo’s tutorial captures the gruesome carnage using liquid latex to create the ripped-skin effect and fake acrylic nails as teeth. For more ideas, also check out tips from the master makeup artists from The Walking Dead below.

Masquerade Flesh Mask

As with many of the best costumes, this one is enhanced by the story you can create around it. Is the mask made of your skin, or is it someone else’s? Bonnie Corban SFX made the ragged flesh effect with liquid latex, tissue paper, and various makeups, while the mask is made using a plastic mask covered in scar wax and more liquid latex. Check out the face makeup tutorial above, and the mask tutorial below.

Terrible Teeth Mask

terrible teeth mask
From the leviathans of Supernatural to the Sugarplum Fairy in Cabin in the Woods, there’s a primal fear in facing down a face full of teeth, especially those lacking any discernible intelligence or drive other than to eat everything. Using polymer clay for the teeth, black see-through mesh, and a painted plastic mask, you can scare the bejesus out of your friends (and me) for about $20.

Titan from Attack on Titan

In the popular anime, the titans are huge monstrosities standing between 20 to 30 feet tall. They look like naked empty-headed Ken dolls and have a zombie-like obsession with devouring every human in their path. Ellimacs SFX created this look with mostly makeup and a gelatin/glycerin mixture for the teeth, but to really sell this costume you need empty eyes and a big grin, because unlike zombies, titans smile when they eat you.

Haunted Wooden Doll

If you ever had to cover up the faces of your toys when you went to bed, then this is the costume for you. Use these makeup tips from Unlimited Elizabeth to transform yourself into a vacant-eyed caricature of humanity and creep people out at parties by staring quietly at them from the corner.

Shadow People

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Sure, the kids in this photo look cute, but now imagine them jumping out from a dark corner in the dead of night. One of the easiest costumes on this list, all you need is a black morph suit and a black wardrobe. And as a bonus, you’ll be able to spot Nickelodeon watchers of a certain age as they freak out. What are you waiting for? Scare small children with this tutorial.

“The Stag” from Hannibal

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From one of the best shows no longer on TV, the Stag is Hannibal main character Will Graham’s recurring hallucination that comes to represent his subconscious understanding of his friend Hannibal Lector’s dark nature. You can create a similar look with a few sets of fake antlers, a bald cap, a few kinds of black paint. But even without the context, seeing a person covered in black body paint with magnificent antlers erupting from their head should unnerve just about anyone. This tutorial pairs well with a fine Chianti.

Killer Snail

Seriously, just go with me on this one. The teeth and eye stalks are made using polymorph plastic, which becomes pliable after soaking in warm water. Not only does it incorporate the terrifying giant-mouth-for-a-face imagery mentioned earlier, but the presumed snail shell that would complete this costume evokes Japanese horror author Junji Ito and the hypnotically deadly power of “spirals.” This is the stuff of my nightmares.