Alien: Covenant. The Conjuring 2. Mama. [REC]. Each of these horror films of the past decade are incredibly varied, but they share a common creative kinship in their captivating boogeymen/women. Sporting elongated limbs and the silent grace of a predator, these creatures contort themselves into positions eerily unnatural or jarringly uncanny. It’s time to shine a spotlight on the flesh-and-blood man who has made a living under all three of those digitally-enhanced movie monsters, and more: one Javier Botet.
Horror fans have seen Botet before, though it’s often under heavy prosthetics and detailed makeup. The 6’7” actor from Cuidad Real, Spain has creeped his way into our collective nightmares for just over a decade. His nearly 120-pound skeletal frame and imposing stature is the product of a genetic condition known as Marfan Syndrome. The condition affects his body’s connective tissue, presenting him with elongated limbs, noticeable height, and extreme flexibility, which comes in handy in the horror realm. Though Botet has an impressive resume sporting many projects spanning multiple mediums, it’s his work in the fantastical and the macabre that is the most interesting.
His first big genre contribution was in the 2007 Spanish horror film [REC], in a quick but chilling scene as Nina Medeiros. Found-footage films have become something of a punchline among film critics, but [REC] remains one of the most frightening millennial horror films, due in no small part to Botet’s hair-raising movements in-camera, and onscreen. He has since worked his way into two more [REC] sequels.
With 2013 came a new gruesome effort by Javier Botet, this time as a different kind of walking dead. Andres Muschietti’s Mama is a surreal fairy tale with a supernatural bent, featuring Botet as the title character. Sporting a threadbare gown, he creeps and crawls with such a spectral quality that audiences mistakenly bemoaned the film for relying on a CGI monster, unaware that there was a real person delivering the scares.
Botet’s work caught the eye of Guillermo Del Toro, who hired Oscar-winning effects shop DDT Efectos Especiales (Hellboy, Mama) to shape the vivid creature effects for his 2015 Gothic masterpiece Crimson Peak. The film’s horror sequences hinge upon visions of a handful of ghoulish figures, played by cinema creature mainstay Doug Jones, and Javier Botet. As the ghosts of Margaret McDermott, Pamela Upton and Enola Sciotti, Botet crawls, glides, and lunges with an unstoppable fervor that holds the viewer as captive as the characters onscreen.
In a Fangoria interview, GDT reveals his thoughts on Botet: “What’s great about Javier is that next to him, Doug Jones is like John Candy! Javier is super-thin, and not only that, he can dislocate his arms, so there’s a shot in the movie where a ghost does that in the far silhouette from the bathroom. That movement is very disturbing.”
The Conjuring 2 (2016) trotted out Botet in yet another role that fans swore was entirely digital. Botet has heavy competition alongside Valak The Demon Nun for the honor of most terrifying antagonist in the film, but he holds his own as the staggering manifestation of the children’s song. As always, his fluid physicality is enough to raise the eyebrows of even the most jaded horror enthusiasts.
Fans who want to see Javier Botet work his magic sans makeup need look no further than his work in 2017’s Two Pigeons, a dark comedy putting Botet on display front-and-center as Orlan, an illegal tenant from Hell who is hellbent on revenge. Despite having only a handful of spoken lines in the film, Botet delivers a performance that is both compelling and off-putting, depending on the particular scene in question.
Most recently, the actor has squeezed into the neon-green motion capture suit once again for Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant as what could arguably be called the star of the show, the xenomorph alien itself. It is his menacing execution that we see as the creature wreaks havoc on the colonists of the Covenant, and that’s him headbutting windshields and freaking Danny McBride out. Botet’s lean musculature lends itself well to the xenomorph, issuing forth a satisfying baddie for the latest Alien franchise entry.
Horror fans will be happy to know that Botet will return in two other highly-anticipated films this year. First up is The Mummy, which will be in theaters June 9th. Botet’s role is that of Set, an ancient Egyptian god of storms and disorder. In the ancient mythology, Set has been both hailed as a hero and demonized as a murderer, and it’s anyone’s guess as to which version of the deity we’ll see in Alex Kurtzman’s Universal Monsters reboot.
Just two months later, audiences will get a chance to see Botet again in the adaptation of Stephen King’s It. Constant Readers are well aware that It manifests in many forms; in addition to Pennywise, the young members of The Losers Club flee from a gigantic spider, various b-movie monsters, and a leper hiding under an abandoned house, among other terrors. Early images from the set look promising as Botet’s now-recognizable physique stalks the grounds of 29 Neibolt Street, a key setting in the story. It hits theaters on September 8th.
Javier Botet’s gift for silent-but-dynamic acting makes him a solid addition to any horror film, with or without prosthetics. His screen presence shines through any mask he wears, and his name is deservedly becoming synonymous with that of Doug Jones among modern cinephiles. Perhaps Stephen King and the Universal Monsters can get him there.