Compton-Raised Mike Elizalde Makes Some of the Movies’ Scariest Monsters

His Glendale-based monster lab is responsible for everything from the Demogorgon in ’Stranger Things’ to the Pale Lady from ’Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark’

Mike Elizalde has been making monsters since he was a 5-year-old kid in Compton. Soon after his family immigrated from Mexico, the ingenious elementary school student was transforming his own face with Elmer’s glue, watercolor paints, and oatmeal. Elizalde’s future design hero, Oscar-winning makeup artist Rick Baker, also taught himself by experimenting with breakfast cereal as a kid growing up in Covina.

After a stint in the Navy where he read books on special effects and taught himself to make prosthetic teeth, Elizalde found work in the practical effects industry, working on horror classics like Tales From the Crypt and A Nightmare on Elm Street. His creatures have been in 80 films, including Men in Black, Total Recall, and Gremlins 2. Elizalde started his own company, Spectral Motion in Glendale, after meeting Guillermo del Toro who was working on Blade II. The pair have teamed up to design creatures in the Hellboy movies, Pacific Rim, and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Del Toro sketches designs in a leather notebook and Elizalde makes them come to life.

The red makeup that actor Ron Perlman wore in Hellboy II took upwards of three-and-a-half hours each day to apply and was a special formula that Elizalde makes himself. Today, the company also produces fine art sculpture and animatronic figures for theme parks, but they are still known for their terrifying monsters, most recently the Demogorgon from Stranger Things.

The artist recently achieved a goal of performing at Hollywood’s Magic Castle, where he also serves on the board of directors. “Monsters and magic were two loves in my life as a kid. They helped me cope with my situation,” he told a LACMA curator in 2016. “Monsters and magic were special and cathartic in my quest for peace and happiness.”

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