Monster Maker: Rick Baker

For any horror movie fan worth his (or her) weight in body parts, the name Rick Baker instills a kind of child-like wonderment the likes of which could easily be compared to a youthful Forrest J. Ackerman (the monster man himself) first laying eyes on the work of Ray Harryhausen, and deservedly so. With some 40 years in the "movie magic" industry (better known as special fx), Baker has been responsible for some of film's most memorable movie monsters.

In an exciting interview with B-D (see above), Baker took the time to explain a little about what went into the new Wolfman and how he feels CG and practical effects can be more harmoniously used in film. Its not surprising to see how the quality of Baker's prosthetic artistry or confidence has grown since his days on the set of An American Werewolf in London (see left for his test makeup for The Wolfman) and, while his statements on the convergence of CG and prosthetics may throw some, he makes some valid suggestions on how they could be better used given the right eye behind the camera.

Personally, I've always held a soft spot in my heart for what many call "practical" effects, those that are created in real, 3D space (i.e. corn syrup blood, prosthetic transformations, puppets, etc). Rick Baker, among others (Jim Henson, WETA) have proved for years that these effects can be scary and more importantly authentic. There has, more recently though been a few select films that prove a relationship between CG and prosthetics can exist, among them being SLiTHER and Drag Me to Hell.

From what I've seen of the film, which is only teases, and heard I'm most definitely willing to give Baker and The Wolfman the benefit of the doubt. Who knows, perhaps this will be the beginning of a new era for special effects... at least in my book.


  1. Let us not forget the almost enjoyable Tobe Hooper film, Mortuary, my friend. I mean, seriously, what a promising movie! All of the ingredients found in a straight-to-the-chest horror film were there: decent prosthetics and delectable latex, viscous corn syrup for faux blood, and really suspense driven moments. Fast foward to the end where we see a heavily pixelated, shitty computer generated, What-The-Fuck-Kind-Of-Creature-Am-I emerge from the depths of a well in the catacombs of a graveyard. As I type this to you I can't help but just shake my head and call it a day. I agree that Computer Generated Imagery has its place on screen. Avatar, Lord of the Rings and the Pixar films are wonderful examples of WHEN you should use it. Even The Orphanage utilized it well. I just personally feel that if you're going to make a Horror movie there needs to be some creative brainstorming going on. Or this new concept of CG and prosthetics merging in some new and improved way. Cronenberg's Shivers is an excellent example of how-to-do-it-right. I love the hell out of Sliver man but if creating an homage to Night of the Creeps and said Cronenberg flick was the goal Sliver failed miserably. To truly capture the essence of both of those movies they should have taken it down a notch with the CG. Now, I thought the slugs looked great in Sliver but that selfish part of me wanted to see them tied to thin wire and pulled across the floor like we so often see in Shivers and Night of the Creeps. The point I'm making is that CGI, in my humble opinion, creates an overly glossy picture. There's no dust or age or raw development. Watching the transformation scene in The Howling is most enjoyable I think because we're not really giving a shit that Eddie is changing into a damn werewolf we're MORE in AWE at how the special FX crew made it HAPPEN. Rob Bottin is one of the most brilliant artists on the planet in my opinion. You can't watch THE THING and disagree with me and his work on The Howling was TRULY amazing. And I realize that now-a-days we live in a microwave society where we need everything done "NOW" and "THIS VERY INSTANT!" so I understand that spending 8 hours applying makeup to an actors head and then starting another 8 hours on his body might be a little excessive and time consuming, but THAT'S where the 'brainstorming' comes in.
    I agree with you though my brotha, I'm also willing to give Baker and The Wolfman the benefit of the doubt. I'm just really saddened to see that the transformation scene already employs too much CG for my taste. I shall hold my breath until we finish the movie though. Hopefully I won't die. Can't wait to see you tomorrow man!!!

  1. They just keep on comin don't they? Found this today while I should have been working ha ha. Thought I'd share with ya!

  1. Strange Kid said...:

    Wow, that's quite a retort Mr. Bojangles. You're right though, I did exclude Mortuary and Mother of Tears as they both exhibit an incoherence between the two mediums (CG and prosthetics). Much like the offensively malignant tumor that is The Rage by Kurtzman, these directors should have known better given their track record.

    But perhaps they just weren't ready. Of course I whole heartily agree with you in regards to Bottin's work on The Thing. He proved hands down how superior prosthetics can be to CG with the creature. I think most directors today, unfortunately, see CG as the more cost effective and "modern" way to produce Micheal Bay-esque effects.

    It would seem the Hollywood has a tendency to resurrect its skeletons with a fresh coat of glossy CG. Perhaps when this ends we'll finally see a return to form of practical movie magic. In the meantime, we'll just have to root for the indie flicks that are keeping the artistry alive.

  1. Agreed. It's just something my old cranky ass has gotta get used to I guess. I can't help but complain though ha ha. It's in my nature I suppose. Speaking of MOVIE MAGIC, I certainly do miss that series.
    While you're bored check this out:

  1. Strange Kid said...:

    I most certainly will and hey, be careful tomorrow. We're supposed to get a little snow our way (WTF, right?). No blizzard or anything like that, but nonetheless keep yo eyes open for Yetis.

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