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Why Practical Effects Will Never Truly Go Out of Fashion


Many horror fans began their journey into the realm of gore cinema via the classics. We were watching eyeball popping, torso bursting, creature killing, all brought to live via glorious practical FX. When CGI came into play, it was very distinct and lacked the immerisve realism of in-camera effects work. 

I recently chatted with a friend that works in FX. And I was telling him that I’ve always loved make-up and practical creature design. I mentioned that I was even thinking about enrolling in some FX courses. Without so much as blinking an eye, he said, “don’t bother because everything is CGI now”. At first I thought maybe he was being dramatic but he’s been in the industry for a spell and knows what he’s talking about. Since that conversation I’ve paid special attention to the CGI and practical FX in the films I watch. And while I can admit that VFX have their place, there is something undeniably special about practical movie makeup. 

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One standout example that showcases the brilliant efficacy of practical effects is John Carpenter’s The Thing. That film will demonstrates just how impressive conventional movie makeup and latex can be. Even the staunchest defender of CGI must admit that The Thing works so well, in part, because of Rob Bottin’s legendary effects work. The 2011 prequel certainly gave us a great basis for comparison and really proved what a differnce old school effects work has on a picture. 

CGI will never contend with the transformation scene in American Werewolf in London or the carefully sculpted beauty of Pumpkinhead. CGI certainly has its place. And there are feats that can be accomplished digitally that cannot be easily rendered practically. But practical FX are the backbone of the horror genre. And the further we get away from latex monsters and movie makeup, the less magic a movie has. 

It’s nice to see filmmakers raised on the classics bringing practical effects back. Even if it’s more common at the indie level, it’s still so nice to see what can be accomplihsed without the use of modern technology. 

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