By and large, we think practical effects in movies are superior to ones made with CGI. The horror community especially feels a strong reverence for handmade effects. As ideal as it is to feature homespun visuals in a scary movie, it's not always feasible. A film sometimes resorts to using CGI because of time constraints or other on-set problems. It can be painstaking to go fully practical.
Moreover, the special effects in some horror movies are CGI-based in spite of looking practical. It doesn't happen frequently, yet it's not impossible either. Let's look at ten movies that challenge the odds.
10 Pan's Labyrinth: The Pale Man & Pan
In Guillermo del Toro's fantasy-horror Pan's Labyrinth, digital effects were necessary to bring two of the film's most memorable characters to life. The horrifying Pale Man's signature eyes-in-hand aspect has fooled many into thinking those are prosthetic peepers in his palms. Not at all.
As for the legs on both the Pale Man and Pan, they augmented what was already there. Pale Man's legs were real, but they needed some help to make them look thin and gnarled, so greenscreen sheets were wrapped around Pan's suit actor's limbs so they could create a pair of faun legs from behind.
9 Final Destination 2: The Logs
The basic plot for every entry in the Final Destination pentalogy has someone randomly experiencing a premonition that tells them how they and others around them will die. The seer must then prevent the vision from coming true.
The Final Destination franchise is famous for its imaginative kills. It's also well known these splatter films depend on computer imagery. Otherwise, so many of the over-the-top death sequences wouldn't be possible. Something not well-known about Final Destination 2's indelible highway pile-up is the logs are enhanced. In post, they used digital means to make the logs bounce better during the collision.
8 The Skeleton Key: The Swamp
Kate Hudson's The Skeleton Key concerns a hospice worker who thinks her newest patient is under some kind of dark spell—and breaking it will come at a cost.
This Southern Gothic mystery was shot at the Felicity Plantation in Vacherie, St. Joseph Parish, Louisiana. The house was exactly what the director wanted, but it lacked a crucial amenity: there was no swamp. The property was only surrounded by fields. So, the crew built a swamp in the backyard. They dug trenches and piped in plenty of water first, then used CGI later to give it a more swampy look.
7 Friday the 13th (2009): The Weapons
The Friday the 13th remake incurred the wrath of angry fans during its initial release. They were divided and unimpressed at first, but they later realized the movie's a "greatest hits" collection of sorts. It updated Jason Voorhees without taking him out of his natural habitat. He was as vicious and unrelenting as ever.
The remake did one thing well, and that was serving up the kills. Something viewers may not have noticed, however, was some of the weapons were computer-generated for safety reasons. This made the remake the first entry in the franchise to ever do such a thing.
6 Mama: The Hair
Director Andrés Muschietti astounded the horror community with his debut feature, Mama, before he helmed the new adaptation of Stephen King's IT.
The film was based on his short film of the same name. In the 2013 movie starring Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, two fostered children's imaginary friend turns out to be real—and frightening. Viewers usually think the titular monster in the movie is completely digital. That's not the case, though. Double-jointed actor Javier Botet portrays the gangly creature in the film. The only element that is achieved through CGI is Mama's hair, which was added in post-production.
5 The Shallows: The Shark
Killer shark movies have one job—deliver a shark that makes us scared of going back in the water. Most modern fin flicks can't even do that.
The problem is these films use poorly designed and rendered sharks. As a result, the man-eating fish ends up looking too fake to be taken seriously. Of course, at the time, CGI was out of the question for Jaws. The stunning Great white in The Shallows had viewers scratching their heads, though. As it turns out, Important-Looking Pirates' shark is a combination of practical and digital, with an emphasis on the latter.
4 Scream 4: The Knives
Wes Craven's Scream is a marriage of golden age era slasher sensibilities and contemporary cynicism. And, like the majority of older slashers, the deaths in Scream and its sequels are largely executed through hands-on work.
The first three Scream films in the quadrilogy had the masked killed Ghostface typically brandishing a Buck 120 Hunting Knife, which has been discontinued since 1992. The knives in those films are all collapsible props; safety was important when filming. For the fourth installment, Wes Craven wanted to abandon physical knife props. This meant going the digital route for the knives and some "gore enhancement."
3 The Hills Have Eyes (2006): The Mutant Children
The general consensus is that remakes are inferior when compared to their predecessors. Alexandre Aja's 2006 update of The Hills Have Eyes goes against the grain and then some.
While this new version didn't stray much from the original's plot—a family vacation is under siege by a clan of mutant killers—it exponentially changed the threat level. To great effect, the film blended practical and digital near seamlessly. For instance, prosthetics were applied to the actors playing the fully deformed adult mutants. As for the mutant children with only partially deformed faces, the movie resorted to digital manipulation.
2 Dawn of the Dead (2004): The Baby
Thanks to his Dawn of the Dead remake, Zach Snyder changed the rules of the game for zombies. The undead were no longer restricted to ungainly strolls as they pursued their prey. No, Snyder's zombies ran after their food.
People back then resisted Snyder's reshaping of zombie lore as seen in cinema; they wanted zombies to remain walkers and lethargic. Nonetheless, other filmmakers adapted the same modification. One of the most distinguished moments in the remake involved a baby. Considering the little one's fate, it's no wonder they didn't use a real tyke. Instead, the zombie baby is wholly digital.
1 Halloween H20 — 20 Years Later: The CGI Mask
When Halloween H20: 20 Years Later needed to reshoot a specific scene—the character of Charlie is about to meet his maker in the kitchen—they didn't use the film's real Michael Myers mask for some reason or another.
So, director Steve Miner approved the use of a digital mask in post. To this day, Halloween fans harp about this strange directorial decision. In all honesty, no one thought this mask was legit. It looked absolutely off, but viewers didn't realize why as the infamous scene happens so quickly. Yet, once you do see it, you will never un-see it.