Scary Contact Lens Special Effects from Pop Culture

Simple Contacts

For as long as wearable contacts have existed, makeup designers and special effects artists have been using them to conjure movie magic. Whether they are being used to black out the eye altogether for ghoulish effect or meticulously painted to replicate the unique characteristics of a vicious animal or monster, creative eyewear has a long and impressive history in film, television and music videos—especially when it comes to genres like sci-fi and horror.

Here are some of our favorite looks.

Who can forget the visual for Michael Jackson’s Thriller, one of the most well known—if not the most well known–music videos of all time. The video finds Jackson being transformed into a werewolf while on a drive-in movie date and after the pop singer chases his date around for a while (and, of course, dances with some zombies), it’s all revealed to be nothing but a nightmare—or is it? The final shot shows Jackson looking directly at the camera with a pair of iconic yellow and black contact lenses, calling everything into question...

American Horror Story: Asylum
It’s amazing how far special effects in television have improved in recent years, and the makeup and creature effects in American Horror Story are no exception. Viewers of the show may have noticed lots of horrific monsters sporting unusual pupils throughout its multiple seasons, but the Raspers—featured in the second season—deserve singling out for their incredibly eerie lenses.

Game of Thrones
In the fan favorite TV show Game of Thrones, the White Walkers are among the most visually stunning characters to cross the screen. While their ice-like skin and eerie silence is enough to make you hold your breath, their piercing blue eyes elevate them to the level of terrifying. Although the eyes are further enhanced via special effects, the costumes start with vibrant colored contact lenses that allow the post production crew to work their magic.

Not the popular HBO show, but the original movie it’s based on from 1973—where the steely gaze of a murderous robotic cowboy played by Yul Brenner was enhanced using contacts with a silver tint. Fun fact: during filming, debris from a blank cartridge flew into Brenner’s eye, but the actor decided to soldier on anyway. In an event familiar to anyone who’s gone forward with wearing contacts even when they're super uncomfortable (don’t do that by the way!), Brenner’s irritated eye reacted poorly to the lens, turning bright red and tearing up in the process.

While some of these looks can prove pretty tempting when it comes time to whip up a Halloween costume, we’d be remiss not to mention that these products can be wildly unregulated and pose a serious danger to anyone who wears them if not acquired correctly and safely. Leave the wild costume contacts to the professionals and consult your eye doctor before trying them out for yourself.