Make-up artists and special effect teams are crucial to the horror world. They’re the guys that really make the nightmares come true. They’re the guys that make the monsters. Even with all the great work that directors, writers, actors and cinematographers do, these are the guys that make it all real. But working in it after awhile, a lot of these people want to branch out into other areas of horror filmmaking, often directing. From people who are already such visually creative storytellers, the results are usually pretty good.
The results weren’t as great on this one, though. But oh, what could have been. Hellraiser: Bloodline had a great concept that was the most ambitious in the franchise to date, but it suffered from a studio that did not understand the material and had very specific schedules to meet. This was the same studio with the same issues in the same year as Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers. Which makes perfect sense, really. But there was so much ambitious material in the film, spanning three generations of the bloodline of the man who created the original puzzle box. Kevin Yagher, the brilliant makeup/FX artist behind the creation of Chucky and the Crypt Keeper, as well as the Freddy Krueger makeup in Nightmare 2-4, does not have a credit on the final film. The film is credited to Alan Smithee, a legendary moniker when the director wants nothing to do with the project. Much of Yagher’s work was taken out on reshoots (which were directed by Curse of Michael Myers’ Joe Chappelle) but what material does show through still has some quality to it. As much of a mess as the finished film is, the potential in the story can still be seen.
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VII: THE NEW BLOOD
Production of Friday the 13th Part VII went relatively smoothly for a Friday the 13th film. The story was a bit cheesy, with Jason now doing battle against a telekinetic girl who has come to the lake to try and cope with the death of her father, but it wasn’t all bad. Makeup artist John Carl Buechler simply brought with him some of that Empire Pictures charm. Buechler had previously directed Troll and Cellar Dweller and had done the effects for those as well as Ghoulies and many more. He’s a great creature creator and thus put together one of the most visually powerful Jason designs out of any of the films. Buechler went back and studied every single wound that Jason had taken over the course of the previous movies and put that into the design for the costume. It’s a fantastic design, and it also helps that this would be the first time Kane Hodder stepped into the Jason suit. Hodder is still the only actor to play Jason more than once, and he wound up playing the character in four consecutive films.
Whether or not it should have, Wishmaster launched a franchise. But the first film at least has some integrity to it and some inventiveness, mostly due to the script by Peter Atkins. It was the directorial debut of Robert Kurtzman, the “K” in KNB. It created a new horror villain while featuring cameos by many current ones. Robert “Freddy” Englund, Kane “Jason” Hodder and Tony “Candyman” Todd all make appearances and are all actually taken out by the Wishmaster himself over the course of the movie. Once again, having a makeup artist at the helm leads to great creature design, and the performance Andrew Divoff brought to the monster is just as creepy. Especially that voice.
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1990)
Tom Savini revolutionized the genre his work on gore and zombie makeup with his work on Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, but he missed out on the film that kicked off that whole trilogy. When the notion of remaking Night of the Living Dead came up, he just seemed like the perfect choice for the project. He proceeded with George Romero’s blessing, and Romero even wrote the script for the new film. There were some smart new changes to keep the story fresh, including the endings of both Ben and Cooper, as well as turning Barbara from a frantic damsel into a badass horror heroine. On top of that, some of the most haunting and realistic zombie makeup ever. The makeup crew researched this stuff meticulously and the zombies in this film simply look dead. There’s no other way to put it. It’s one of the most underrated horror remakes of all time, and definitely worth checking out.
A legendary makeup artist with multiple academy awards under his belt, and Stan Winston gave us one of the greatest, grimmest monster movies ever. In addition to simply having a great, stunning creature, Pumpkinhead tells a very serious and emotional story. This is true Southern Gothic. This is a movie that plays like a deep south version of a Grimm fairy tale. A father named Ed Harley (played by Lance Henriksen) discovers that his son has been run down by a group of city kids. It was an accident, but that doesn’t change the rage inside of him. So he goes to an old witch, a sort of local legend, and she calls upon a demon that can exact revenge in Harley’s name. That demon is Pumpkinhead. Each time the monster kills, Harley feels it as it’s happening. He also feels pain when the creature is hurt. They are not entirely separate entities. The movie is very symbolic, with outstanding effects and moody atmosphere. It’s incredibly well done and the number one success story of horror FX artists who turned to directing.