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Putty In Their Hands: The Experts Speak

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10302008_theexorcist.jpgAndrew Clement was ten when he implored his father to see “The Exorcist,” only to have his dad come back from seeing the William Friedkin horror classic and tell him, “You are not seeing that film!” These days, Clement is partners with Dick Smith, the man who was responsible for Linda Blair’s spinning head and the pea soup, and takes pride in carrying on Smith’s proud tradition — “We did [a dummy] for the end of ‘Cloverfield,’ which was in the final frames of the film,” said Clement. “And people are having this emotional reaction to this character dying and it’s just a piece of my rubber.”

Such rubber is the stuff ten-year-old’s nightmares are made of, and as part of our weeklong celebration of the ingenious makeup magicians and creature creators like Clement that are precise in their scares and liberal with the red-tinged corn syrup, we asked some of the best in the business to pick their favorite horror creations. Here are their picks:

“I’m partners with Dick [Smith], so clearly one of the things that I wanted to talk about was ‘The Exorcist.’ I think that it’s such a seminal moment in what we do. It’s really the film that’s pointed to as the birth of makeup effects, because Dick invented so many techniques that led the way for so many other developments [in the medium] — the raising letters on the stomach, the dummy with the head turning around backwards, a rig that goes inside somebody’s mouth to let them vomit pea soup. So many things that before that were just never handled by a makeup artist — Dick just took it upon himself to start coming up with all of these gizmos and tricks to make these horrific things happen on screen.

10302008_alien.jpg“The other film, roughly around the same time frame, was the Ridley Scott ‘Alien’ — that was incredible. Everybody takes [H.R.] Giger’s design [now], it was a design that had never been seen before. Nobody had thought in this direction and it influenced so many people. The design aesthetic has woven its way through so many films and other things, this biomechanical thing. The beauty of that film is this creature is not in your face all the time. [Those little glimpses] really give you a sense of being with these characters in this environment.”

–Andrew Clement, makeup artist of “Zombie Nightmare,” and the upcoming “Carriers” and “Repossession Mambo.”

“There are so many great horror makeups that have gone into my mental blender over the years. I have to say that the one that resonates most with me is Jack Pierce’s original Frankenstein monster. There’s something antiquated and yet timeless about it. Its ‘flaws’ only deepen the psychologically disturbing concept of a man stitched together from various corpse-parts. The design accentuates the young Karloff’s awkward gauntness to a point that one wonders whether Karloff could have possibly created that brilliant performance without his partnership with Jack Pierce. The only makeup which could possibly top it is the Karloff/Pierce re-teaming for ‘Bride of Frankenstein.’ “

–Alec Gillis, Oscar-nominated FX artist of “Monster Squad,” “Tremors,” “Hollow Man” and “Alien Vs. Predator.”

10302008_thething.jpg“It’s impossible [to name a favorite horror makeup moment], it’s like trying to think of your favorite movie. The head with the spider legs in [artist] Rob Bottin’s work on the ‘The Thing’ came to my mind first, and I was thinking just what the character was thinking when he said ‘You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.’ “

–Tom Savini, legendary artist on such films as “Dawn of the Dead,” “Killing Zoe” and “Friday the 13th.” He will next appear as an actor in “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”

“I would start with ‘Nosferatu,’ the old black and white movie. To me, it’s the ultimate vampire. It’s the non-sexy creature, which I thought was fantastic. The Max Schreck makeup, I always thought it was stunning. Then if you go for makeup [a few years later], ‘Creature from the Black Lagoon’ for the design of the Creature and also how much technology was involved, for the time — being able to swim underwater with the kind of material they had at the time. And in general, there’s one guy that made me want to come to America when I started makeup — Rob Bottin. Rob Bottin’s work in general has been so influential to me [and] my favorite is the stuff he did for ‘The Howling.’ I just did ‘Underworld 3,’ a bunch of werewolves and things, and his werewolf to me is still the ultimate werewolf. That doesn’t take anything away from what Rick Baker did [on ‘An American Werewolf in London’], but the werewolf from ‘The Howling’ was, to me, one of the best things I’ve ever seen.”

–Patrick Tatopoulos, director of the upcoming “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans,” and creature designer of “Silent Hill,” “I Am Legend,” “Cursed” and “The Ruins.”

10302008_frankenstein.jpg“The most influential and important makeup in cinematic history to me is the Frankenstein’s monster of Boris Karloff executed by Jack Pierce in Universal’s original ‘Frankenstein.’ It may seem cliché to choose this, but it truly fascinated me at a very young age and made me wonder how such a character was created. To me, it’s the perfect blend of imagination and artistry with the actor’s terrific face to make a seamless, believable character. It doesn’t look like an overexaggerated attempt to create a scary monster, but rather a natural, disturbing personality. Even without considering it was created so long ago, it’s one of the most iconic characters of all time, recognized worldwide by almost everyone on the planet and stands the test of time as one of the finest makeup creations ever.”

–Wayne Toth, the makeup artist behind “The Devil’s Rejects,” “Jason Goes to Hell” and “From Dusk Till Dawn.”

The experts have spoken, but how about you? Do you have a particular favorite piece of gory makeup in a movie? Tell us in the comments below.

[Photos: “The Exorcist,” Warner Bros. Pictures, 1973; “Alien,” Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation, 1979; “The Thing,” Universal Pictures, 1982; “Frankenstein,” Universal Pictures, 1931]

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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