Those of us old enough to remember a time when film wasn’t clogged with computer generated special effects love to harp on the glory days of practical work. Those times were dramatically different. The special effects stood as an element of cinema with major intrigue, and true talents like Jack Pierce, Dick Smith, Giannetto De Rossi, Rick Baker, Rob Bottin, and Tom Savini – to name just a few – had audiences on the edge of their seats, anticipating the aesthetic horrors in wait.
In 2015 we know exactly what’s headed our way when the trailer for the next big blockbuster rolls for the very first time. And that’s not to imply that all CGI makes for miserable visuals, as that’s certainly not the case. It’s just that the top notch work offered forth from pictures like Jurassic Park, District 9, Terminator 2 and the Hellboy flicks (for example) is a very, very rare thing. At the end of the day, computers generally fail to give us the tangibility that practical special effects produce.
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But practical work hasn’t disappeared entirely… yet. There are still pictures being produced that feature some stunning craftsmanship and awe inspiring makeup. In fact, there are a number of fairly recent pieces that boast jaw-dropping artistry created without extensive computer use. You want a few recommendations? We’ve got 10 for you!
The Evil Dead: The sheer brutality of this surprisingly gratifying remake borders on astonishing. Especially when you consider the fact that film was treated to a respectable theatrical release. Some of the muliation scenes are quite jarring, and while there are obviously some digital splashes in the film, the abundance of practical work commands respect. Especially for us older timers.
Late Phases: The werewolf designs featured in Adrián García Bogliano’s Late Phases hasn’t been universally cherished, but they’re damn solid all the same. The attention to detail in the faces – and odd but cool distinction between male and female monsters – is really impressive, as Robert Kurtzman and his crew at Creature Corps turn in some fine work. For a film with fairly controlled effects, Late Phases still manages to leave an impression.
30 Days of Night: 30 Days of Night boasts an awesome blend of practical and digital effects. In fact, if you’re going to utilize visual effects to enhance practical, this is just about the perfect example of how to get it done. The scenery looks stunning, as do numerous high octane sequences. But the beauty lies in the more depressing moments, like the two flabbergastingly awesome decapitation scenes, and the graphic destruction unleashed by Barrow’s invading vampires.