How Special Effects Makeup Can Make Or Break A Production
Special effects makeup has come a long way from the days of grease paint and putty used in Frankenstein and Dracula. Due to the exponential increase in quality needed for productions, only the best will do for a modern audience. A mix of digital effects and special effects is usually utilised in most productions to enhance the work of makeup artists by hiding imperfections.
The work of pioneering special effects artists in the 1980s built the foundation upon which the artists of today build. They created realistic and sometimes repulsive looks using only practical effects, such as makeup and prosthetics.
The movie “The Thing” is particularly fun to watch knowing that all the gory and gritty elements of the movie were made with practical effects. The special effects artist Rob Bottin took practical effects to a level that cinema hadn’t seen before. With mouths made from body parts and creatures from organs, this movie is like a playground for special effects artists.
Although produced at a time when digital and practical effects were beginning to overlap and combine, “Beetlejuice” is notable because it is done with only practical effects and puppetry. This gives the movie an authentic feel as if it’s both going forward and staying in the past.
Michael Jackson: Thriller
Having some of the best zombie makeup in any production, it would be an insult to the industry to not include Thriller in this article. With practical effects makeup spearheaded by the renowned Rick Baker, known for his work on An American Werewolf in London. It was the most expensive video made to date and the crowning jewel of Michael Jackson’s career.
Practical Effects Gone Wrong
Although when done right, prosthetics and makeup can turn a movie into a masterpiece, there is still plenty of room for error when it comes to practical effects, especially in movies of the past as digital effects could have avoided any mistakes. This is shown in the 1991 film, “Nothing but Trouble,” where poorly made fat suits and questionable prosthetics were used, losing any sense of realism that might have been there.
Special Effects in The Modern Age
Death Becomes Her
In the modern age, “Death Becomes Her” is a prominent film in the bridge between practical and digital effects. Made in 1992, this movie used groundbreaking CGI to complement masterfully made practical effects to create effects that looked incredibly realistic for the time. CGI was used to twist Meryl Streep’s neck and put a hole in Goldie Hawn’s torso. Practical effects covered everything that was too complex for computers of the time, like ageing makeup and a realistic fat suit. This blend created a complimenting system for effects artists to reference for years to come.
“The Revenant,” although a more recent movie, still shows a skilful mix of practical and digital effects, which allow for a wider range of actions using CGI whilst keeping the realism and reality that practical effects offer. The bear attack and wounds after that are a benchmark for the best special effects artists today. It also utilised encapsulated silicone, which is now an industry standard.
Lord of the Rings
The success of The Lord of the Rings movies lies not only in the fact that they were early pioneers in the use of CGI but also in their careful balance between practical effects and digital effects. The filmmakers understood that it was not enough to rely solely on one or the other, but rather to create a synergy between the two that would transport viewers to another world.
One of the standout scenes in the movie is the Chamber of Mazarbul. The CGI cave troll looks realistic and interacts with its environment convincingly, with a blend of digital and practical effects. This scene showcases how the use of special effects can elevate a movie to another level, immersing viewers in a fantastical world beyond their imagination.
Bad Examples of Modern Special Effects
However, not all movies manage to hit the mark with their special effects. A prime example is the 2010 remake of the iconic horror movie, Nightmare on Elm Street. The filmmakers aimed to create a grittier, more realistic version of the cult classic killer, Freddy Krueger. After makeup artists studied burn photos and made Jackie Earle Haley spend hours in a makeup chair every day, retouching scenes with CGI, they produced something that can only be described as lacklustre and the epitome of trying too hard.
Written by Mark Murphy