10 Greatest Use Of Practical SFX In Horror Movies

The pick of the finest pre-CGI movies, from a culturally rich decade of horror filmmaking.

American Werewolf in London
Universal Pictures

The horror genre is one of the oldest and most revisited in cinema history, and has undergone many a transformation over the years, with different eras featuring instantly recognisable characteristics that are indicative of the time period they were created.

Since the nineties, the use of CGI has transformed and enhanced the filmmaking experience, opening a black hole of endless digital possibilities of how effects can be transferred to the screen. But in the decades before the CGI revolution, filmmakers had to rely on the use of practical effects to convey the ideas outlined in a script.

By the time the artform had developed in the eighties, the level of sophistication in what was possible, and the quality of the people executing the magic, was on another level, creating a rich and deeply textured style that is synonymous with that decade. Some of the greatest horror movies ever created came before CGI, and some of the ground-breaking practical effects used to create notorious scenes that have stood the test of time, can be found in the following movies.

10. Videodrome (1983)

American Werewolf in London

Videdrome (1983) was one of the early David Cronenberg films to gain him recognition as the master of body horror. Part sci-fi with distinct undertones of psychological horror, it tells the story of TV executive Max Renn’s (James Woods) descent into madness, as he becomes obsessed with a mysterious program called Videodrome. Very quickly the lines of reality become blurred for both Max and the viewer, as hypnotic signals from Videodrome start to cause severe hallucinations for the character, allowing Cronenberg’s practical effects come to life.

As Max watches a transmission in one scene, a scar on his stomach begins itching. He scratches with a gun in his hand before the scar opens up and Max pushes his handgun inside the wound. He later reaches into his stomach and pulls out the gun which attaches itself to his hand with metal wires and screws, in a grizzly-shot sequence as the weapon becomes one with his body. This is Cronenberg at his best, as the film takes a dark and bizarre turn from here.

Later, a character attempts to push a pulsating videotape into Max’s stomach, but his body devourers the hand, leaving a bloody stump. At the film's climax, Max murders the head of Videodrome, and in a ghastly shot, the character's insides ooze out of his body. Finally, in the memorably-shot final scene, Max watches as he shoots himself in the head on TV with his conjoined hand weapon, before the TV explodes with brains and body matter flying out of the screen.


Connoisseur of Alternative Music & Cult Movies. Freelance writer covering the Rock & Metal music scenes, and the Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy Film & Tv genres.