Gross-out practical FX are, for many, a highlight when it comes to genre fare. The oozier, the better! From the fountains of blood in 30 Days of Night to the face-ripping baby in Dead Alive, practical FX have made horror fans giddy for generations.
Today, two of my favorite people are here to celebrate practical FX gruesomeness as it specifically relates to mutated monsters. Please welcome Deathcember co-directors Zach Shildwachter and BJ Colangelo of Sickening Pictures as they walk you through 10 of their favorite mutated monster movies!
The duo have created the short “They Used To Laugh and Call Him Names” for the upcoming Christmas anthology horror, which has been picked up for world sales rights by Epic Pictures Group.
The film features stars such as Barbara Crampton, Barbara Magnolfi, AJ Bowen, Brianna Barnes, Sean Bridgers, Johnny Vivash, and many more.
The full list of directors includes Dominic Saxl, Michael Varrati, Lazar Bodroža, Florian Frerichs, Isaac Ezban, Sonia Escolano, Bob Pipe, Steve De Roover, Jürgen Kling, Ama Lea, Sadrac González-Perellón, Julian Richards, Lee Sang-woo, Vivienne Vaughn, Ruggero Deodato, Sam Wineman, Andreas Marschall, Lucky McKee, Milan Todorović, Pollyanna McIntosh, Rémi Fréchette, Jason A. Rostovsky, John Cook Lynch, Trent Haaga, Annika Marx, BJ Colangelo, Zach Shildwachter and Alyosha Saari.
Zach Shildwachter’s Choices:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II – The Secret of the Ooze
Part one nests warmly in the nostalgia center of all our hearts, but it was the sequel that introduced us to Tokka and Rahzar, and of course – Super Shredder! The whole pizza chomping gang is back in action along with a bit more exposition of the green signature slime that created this haphazard brood. It is quite a tickle for anyone that grew up to watch Re-Animator later in life and wonder if perhaps that was where the ooze came from and what would happen if maybe Dr. West tangoed with the Turtles. As the cartoon universe grew with otherworldly characters, inter-dimensional travelers, and subterranean foes, it was always the mutants that drew the most love and were sadly lacking the same pizzazz in the later film sequels. But then again not many can fill the spotlight like Vanilla Ice. Don’t go, Ninja, don’t go, Ninja, don’t go.
“Killer Bugs” are an acquired sub-genre of taste on the plate of Horror cinema but this flick packs the flavor! Them!, Slugs, The Nest, and others have come close but none have Carlton Banks and Scott Evil (Alfonso Ribeiro and Seth Green) battling mutated ticks that will drink you dry. Backwoods pot farmers abuse Mother Nature with highly questionable fertilizer to cultivate the dankest of buds, unknowingly fostering the growth of our titular bloodsuckers that serve to punish all for their botanical transgressions. Just ask Clint Howard, the crown jewel of this production and honestly, any production he’s starring in. This movie is a gem to watch, rewind, and watch again.
Tokyo Gore Police
This film honestly takes body horror to a whole other level. A safe wager is the fake blood was half the film’s budget. From start to finish it’s an overpowering ocular endurance test that will benchmark your level of comfort with Asian Extreme Cinema. Equally gross, funny, disturbing, brutal, and cerebral, Tokyo Gore Police is a bloody buffet of zany battles featuring dismembered body parts sprouting weaponized replacements, back-dropped against a police procedural whodunit. Each mutation is more ludicrous and deadlier than the last. Think of Society meets The Punisher but with more arterial spray and you’re sorta on the right track that we went off the rails of already. Repeat viewings are the only way to properly ingest the nuanced humor layered throughout as the visuals tend to grab hold of first-time viewers and punch you in the face with a bloody stump. Meatball Machine and Machine Girl may serve as proper primers for the uninitiated for tone and style, but neither, nor anything else, will ready you for the absurd wonder of this red-dyed Karo syrup-soaked movie.
The Return of Swamp Thing
With all due respect to Wes Craven’s original, it’s remembering the sequel to Swamp Thing that excited us for James Wan’s television series. It’s okay to admit. This feature ushered in the Saturday morning cartoon, and subsequently it was from there that even more liberties were taken if anyone ever tried to make sense of their toy line. There’s a giant Leech Man battle in the film’s opening that immediately sucks you in and no, I won’t apologize for the pun because it’ll only make you bug out later when you see the Cockroach Man in Arcane’s laboratory alongside all his other failed experiments and test subjects. Did it again with no remorse. Heather Locklear glides through the movie all like it’s a music video where she’s perpetually waiting for the music to start. The Return of Swamp Thing is rubber monster suit greatness in the veins of Toho productions but born right here on the American bayou. Here’s hoping there’s another film to be cultivated from this wetland to turn it into the trilogy we deserve.
Largely, live-action adaptations of manga series can be hit or miss as video game adaptations, but The Guyver delivers and then some. There’s plenty of monster suit goodness and martial arts madness that plays out across a game of cat and mouse. Mutant alien henchmen are dispensed to recover the Guyver unit, a bio booster suit of armor, that has attached itself to a plucky upstart with a penchant for wanting to punch Jimmie Walker and Michael Berryman in the face. It makes more sense when you watch it, especially after enduring J.J. rap. The sequence that demands your hard-earned dollar is with Mark Hamill himself, and it’s not just for seeing him in a mustache that would make Magnum P.I. jealous. There is a slightly lackluster sequel worth tracking down for the masochist in us all that thrives on completion and wonders why this story isn’t a film trilogy as well.
BJ Colangelo’s Choices:
In terms of filmmaking style, James Gunn has always managed to speak directly to the inappropriate humor and monster kid gross-out horror deep within my heart. In his directorial debut (if you don’t count his associate gig on Tromeo & Juliet) Gunn delivers a love letter to the B-Movies of yesteryear while making a wholly unique and wildly fun body horror extravaganza. Michael Rooker somehow manages to deliver a tour de force performance while mutating into an unrecognizable creature throughout the course of the film, and it’s impossible to forget the giant blob of Brenda, begging for food in a barn before exploding into a fireworks display of mutant slugs looking for a home. The movie was a box-office flop, (likely because it came out during the center of the torture porn craze and way too many unnecessary remakes to count) but Slither remains to be one of Gunn’s best and one of the strongest horror films of the aughts.
Eight Legged Freaks
2002 was a weird year for America. 9/11 had shaken everyone to their core and the idea of going out to see a horror comedy felt in bad taste for many who were still processing and healing. Looking back, however, Eight Legged Freaks is a masterclass for both horror comedies and homages to the old-school mutant monster films of the past. The joy we feel from watching these giant, mutated spiders is in part due to their horrific creature design, but mainly how these monsters interact with the world around them. I usually treat pet deaths in horror as a big no-no, but watching a giant ass spider pull a cat through a hole in the wall makes me laugh every time.
Given how many horror movies I’ve seen in my lifetime, it takes a lot to legitimately gross me out, but Society is a film that successfully did exactly that. Brian Yuzna made something really special with his ultra-gory shunt fest. I totally buy into the theory that the rich elite are secretly a disgusting cult, and I don’t think anyone put it better than the LA Times’ critic who described the film as a “gory assault on privilege.” The FX in Society were provided by the legendary Screaming Mad George, the same man who directed The Guyver and gave us the FX in films like Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and 4, Freaked, and the latter two Re-Animator films. The final scene in Society has to be seen to be believed, if only to admire George’s viscerally disgusting work.
I told myself that for this list I wouldn’t include both The Fly and The Thing and would instead force myself to pick between the two. I love my Cronenberg, but I couldn’t in good faith forego John Carpenter’s masterpiece. What makes The Thing such an impactful mutant film is not only the untouchable and iconic work of Rob Botin, but how quickly all of the characters suspend their disbelief in order to survive. The mutations of the titular “thing” are unique to each host, and if you ask a room full of people to choose their favorite monster, everyone would have a different answer and they’d all be right.
As our segment in Deathcember will show you, Zach and I come from the shoe-string budget school of filmmaking. Money doesn’t guarantee a good film, and no one has been able to shine bright with less than the folx over at Troma. Thanks to the oversaturation of the market, The Toxic Avenger could have never been created as cheaply as it was and found success to the level it has. What it did do, however, was inspire future generations of filmmakers to create for the love of creation, and to believe that their wacky ideas set to film can exist beyond just screening for their friends and family. A micro-budget superhero horror film from some dudes in New York City spawned a franchise and changed the world of filmmaking forever. I’m eternally indebted for the folx at Troma legitimizing micro-budget cinema with The Toxic Avenger, and the mutant Toxie is the permanent symbol for aspiring independent horror creators everywhere.