Putty In Their Hands: The Experts Speak

Andrew Clement was ten when he implored his father to see "The Exorcist," only to...

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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