Saturday, October 1, 2011

31 Days of '81 Horror: Tom Savini, the Guru of Gore

I will be splitting 31 Days of ’81 Horror into seven categories, the first of which, is a four day celebration of highly influential special effects/make-up artist Tom Savini, featuring reviews of the three films which he worked directly on in 1981, and one for which he was merely a consultant, though you wouldn’t know it by the way that film’s poster advertises its association with him.

Savini, who was a combat photographer in Vietnam, an experience which informed the gruesome verisimilitude of his work, started out his career on George A. Romero’s Martin, an off-kilter vampire story which took a realistic approach to the folklore of the immortal bloodsucker. Over the course of the two men’s career, Romero and Savini would frequently collaborate, including Romero’s follow-up to Martin, 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. For that film, which included heads being destroyed by shotgun blasts, skin ripped off by hands and the pulling of intestines out of bodies, the gore effects were ramped up to heretofore unseen levels. His work on the highly successful Friday the 13th in 1980 brought gore to the mainstream. A pretty standard (though decently made) slasher film that heavily borrowed elements from the Italian giallo genre and John Carpenter’s Halloween, Friday the 13th’s multiple memorable kill scenes: spear through the neck, decapitation, etc, lead the movie to become a word of mouth success. Eventually, and as we will see through many of 1981’s film, the MPAA took umbrage to the fact that many underage kids were catching the Paramount Pictures distributed horror film, and became less lenient in what it let major studios get away with in their horror productions.

Still, 1981 was a great year for practical effects, and you had such talents as Stan Winston, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, even an up-and-comer named Jim Cameron, plying their trade. But Savini’s influence and large output during the year makes him the perfect candidate to kick start a month of reviews of horror films released in 1981.


Cinema Du Meep said...

Such a mad genius. I love his stuff.

Wings1295 said...

I think, in Halloween, the lack of gore or such adds to the level of suspense. What we think is going on scares us more.

But in Friday the 13th, we needed the gore. It's what makes it different from Halloween, but classic all in its own right. And we owe that to Savini.

Great post!

Colonel Mortimer said...

Yes, he was a master, too bad the likes of his have been pushed aside in our digital age.

I completely agree on your take of the tactics used in Halloween vs Friday the 13th, Joe. Thanks for reading and commenting.

le0pard13 said...

Fine post for an extraordinary craftsman. And let me say this, today's digital blood spurts is the equivalent to colorizing classic B&W film. It just shouldn't be done.

Thanks, Colonel.

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