When Things Were Messy
(A Tribute To Make-Up Artists)
When I was establishing my love of the horror genre, it was a time of blood and guts. It was also a time of monsters and aliens. To me nothing looked more realistic than the creatures bestowing the screen and the various methods of death that icons like Jason, Michael, and Freddy utilized. I remember eagerly anticipating the latest issue of Fangoria so that I could gain some insight as to how in the world these crazy special effects were created.
As a result, the real stars of many of my favorite horror movies were the effects artists who both came up with these creatures and then figured out how to pull them off. These were the days before computers somehow made it acceptable for monsters and gore to look fake, back in the day they had to look as realistic as possible to sell the movie. The greatest thing about all of these guys was that many of them felt like one of us: a pal who happened to be living his or her dream and making monsters for a living.
Here are the ten effects artists that I grew up admiring the most:
1 - Rick Baker - The first FX artist I really took an interest in. The transformation scene in An American Werewolf In London still amazes me all these years later.
2 - Rob Bottin - If you ever forget how awesome this guy is, go and watch The Thing again.
3 - KNB - The team of Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, and Howard Berger probably has the most impressive resume on this list. Everything from Army Of Darkness to Kill Bill.
4 - Tom Savini - This guy was like a rock star when I was growing up. While he seems to have lost interest in his art lately, you can't take away the work he did while working with George A. Romero on Dawn Of The Dead, Day Of The Dead, and Creepshow among others.
5 - Stan Winston - He created effects for The Terminator, Predator, and the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. Three of the most popular sci-fi franchises and he was right in there.
6 - Jack Pierce - Arguably the most influential effects artist there was. Some may argue that Lon Chaney was the founding father but I say that anyone that created the classic Universal monsters of The Mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula, and The Wolf Man his got to be the true granddaddy of make-up effects.
7 - Giannetto De Rossi - The classic Fulci zombies of The Beyond and Zombie would not have been possible without this man. Recently did the gore in Haute Tension.
8 - Steve Johnson - One of the top guys from the 80's and 90's, Johnson worked on Night Of The Demons, Innocent Blood, and Species among other things.
9 - Sergio Stivaletti - Another great FX artist from Italy. Demons and Dellamorte Dellamore (aka: Cemetery Man) are standouts as well as a number of films with Dario Argento.
10 - Jennifer Aspinall - Although she is the only female on the list, her work in Street Trash and The Toxic Avenger were some of the coolest things to come out of the 80's.
In today's day and age where practical effects are slowly going extinct, I look back with a smile on the heyday of the 80's and early 90's where the red stuff was splattering across the screen with glee and where you never know what weird and creepy creature was lurking in the next movie you watched. I don't know what it is but perhaps the humanity of someone actually touching these things make them look more real to me that the result of someone typing on a computer keyboard.
While I understand the economics and logistics of computers making images that would have been impossible in the past possible, I think that the limitations that existed in the past pushed these guys to create things that blew our minds. Ultimately, however, it was up to us to make these things real. This was done by using our imaginations. I would like to say thanks to the above-mentioned artists and their peers for helping me learn how to use mine. -Josh Pasnak, 1/6/06