Fantastic Flesh (2008)

JANUARY 26, 2009


I wouldn’t mind watching more documentaries for HMAD; it would certainly mix things up a bit, and since I like to learn things, a documentary would probably be much more helpful than whatever I watch today for my ‘legit’ daily entry (editor’s note: BC’s prediction was correct). But they would have to be full length films in order to count, and Fantastic Flesh doesn’t quite make the cut at a scant 58 minutes.

I assume Flesh is from the same producers that gave us Bloodsucking Cinema in 2007, which was an entertaining but flawed look at vampires in cinema. This one takes the same approach, albeit focusing on the role of makeup effects. It’s a much more interesting subject to be sure, but unfortunately it shares some of the same problems. For starters, and this is of no fault to anyone but the rights holders to certain films, we get a lot of talking heads, not enough of the actual final product (or better, showing the actual process). When you’re talking about something purely VISUAL, you want to see the work itself, not Greg Nicotero or Mick Garris commenting on it.

Another odd issue is that a lot of the films seem to be from the year 2005 for whatever reason. I don’t doubt the validity of Chronicles of Narnia (it won KNB an Oscar after all), but The Island? Sin City? Neither of those films are something I would immediately think of when considering the legendary advances in makeup (if I was to make a doc concerning greenscreen and compositing, then Sin City would be top of my list). Granted, the film is produced by Nicotero and thus KNB’s work is bound to be shown more than others, but still. They’ve done other films that are more relevant – Jason Goes To Hell, for example, isn’t even mentioned, despite having some pretty great effects (and was one of the last major horror films to come along before CGI became the standard).

One final, more crippling flaw is the total absence of Stan Winston. The film is even dedicated to him, and while the other big timers get their due (Dick Smith, KNB, Savini), Winston’s work is skipped over entirely, and the man himself is only mentioned once or twice in passing. Even if a rights issue prevented his work from being seen, there’s no excuse to skip over him completely, especially with so many celebrity guests on hand to gush about the other makeup gurus. Stills or behind the scenes footage (which belongs to whoever shot it, not the company who put out the movie it was for) would have sufficed. We get 5 minutes about a fucking Transformer and nothing about Terminator???

Otherwise, it’s a great look back at all of the amazing movie monsters and effects that us horror nerds have enjoyed all of our lives. For all its omissions, there ARE a lot of great movies represented properly: The Exorcist, From Dusk Til Dawn, Dawn of the Dead, etc. Since it aired on Starz and not Monsters HD, it could have very easily just focused entirely on non-horror films like Narnia, so to see Rhodes get torn apart in Day of the Dead in the same piece as a shot of Mr Tumnus running around is pretty great, and further proves how wide reaching the work of “horror” guys like KNB has been over the years. My favorite bit in the entire movie comes when Nicotero talks about Dances With Wolves, how Kevin Costner saw the dead bodies that KNB made for (the comedy) Gross Anatomy and assumed they could make dead buffalo as well. To these guys, it doesn’t matter if you’re Costner or Craven, they will deliver top notch work all the same.

As a purchase though, it’s too general a focus to be of much use to die-hard makeup effects fans, especially since much more in-depth looks at each film (even the non horror ones) can be found on their respective DVDs, which fans probably already own anyway. It’s enjoyable enough, but you’d probably never want to watch it again, and the disc contains no extras whatsoever. Because of this, I would think that the best possible audience for this movie would be parents who find their kids’ interest in gore and makeup to be abhorrent. The kid can show this to his parents and watch their shock to discover that the same guys who made a vagina monster eat a guy’s head off in Dusk til Dawn were the same ones who made all the lovable woodland creatures in Narnia. As Nicotero says, their job is to provide the paint and brushes for the director to create their artwork, and even if you dislike the end product, any film fan should have the highest respect for what these guys do (i.e. if you don’t like a Picasso, you don’t blame whoever made the paint itself). Hopefully someday a more in-depth look at the creators themselves will come along (hell, an entire TV series would be ok by me, each week focusing on a different creator or team), but until then, this is better than nothing.

What say you?


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