The Bad Movie Report

Making A Bad Movie:
My Personal Nightmare



Just the FX, Ma'am

Outside of nailing some of the props for the production, I was not physically involved too much in the pre-production - Roger had people working on locations, costumes and the like, and there was no money to pay me for any extra labor I might do (I may be foolish, but I'm not a masochist), so I spent a goodly portion of the weeks prior to shooting with the fun people - the FX crew. Hey, once a geeky fanboy, always a geeky fanboy.

The crew head was J.C. Matalon, who, at the time, was running a mail-order makeup business called Nightmares International. Look in back issues of Fangoria at the appropriate time strata, and you'll find J.C.'s ads in the back. In the following years, I would help J.C. during his Halloween rush by trimming latex and the like (stuff a multi-thumbed character like myself could manage), and even modeled for his last catalog.

To assist, J.C. brought in a fellow he'd been corresponding with for some time - Jim Eikner, from Memphis, Tennessee, who had been running Dr. Ike's Creature Clinic. Jim's become a good friend, still operates StormFront Productions, and has been working tirelessly for years to get another of my scripts produced.

The FX studio was in J.C.'s apartment, a loft-type affair which was over a sculptor's studio. A lot of the sculptor's work seemed to involve decapitated heads. Something of a theme developing here.... Anyway, he was already set up for the manufacture of latex parts, so the space was ready-made.

In any piece of FX makeup like Alfie the zombie, the usual route to go involves making separate "Look, I'm very tired.  Could I just have a beer and a bucket of guts, please?"latex pieces... say, two cheeks, the brow, the chin... and gluing those all together on the actor's face. This requires time and money, and we didn't have a whole lot of either. J.C.'s main innovation was to discard that concept and use, instead, a sort of Halloween approach: after sculpting Alfie over lifecasts of Kent's head and hands, each was then molding out as one-piece affairs: Alfie's head was like a glorified Don Post mask, and the hands were custom-fitted rubber gloves. The rest of Kent's face, around the eyes and mouth were made up, dentures and contact lenses inserted, and the costume - which had its own bits of makeup built in - put on, and a makeup job that normally would have taken anywhere from 4 to 6 hours took less than two.

It's a tribute to J.C.'s and Jim's artistry that Roger wanted to shooting a lengthy exterior sequence involving Alfie in broad daylight ("It's scarier that way!") and the makeup still looks great.

The picture, however, involved much more than just a zombie, so two more FX guys were brought in, each in charge of one specific gag. Martin Miglioretti was in charge of realizing the Burnt Alfie, and another guy whose name completely escapes me realized the Demon baby. If you haven't seen Forever Evil, you can't possibly know what I'm talking about, but hang around. You'll find out. J.C. and Jim shouldered the rest of the burden, involving slashed throats, dismembered hands, eyeballs, gunshot wounds, broken legs, a disembowelment, a few gallons of blood and some nifty stuff called Ultra-Slime™, which, if you didn't know, is what zombies bleed (hell, I just referred to it in the script as 'black gunk').

J.C.'s take on Alfie was slightly different from my visualization, but still wonderfully and totally Creepy! (literally)valid. I had been carrying an image from a comic strip I had read while very young, as I recall, from the late and very much lamented Castle of Frankenstein magazine. The strip was done by an equally young Bernie Wrightson and was populated by early examples of Mr. Wrightson's marvelous gothic monstrosities, in this case, a house full of zombies. J.C. took Alfie in a more Uncle Creepy-inspired direction, which worked for me.

So our two FX guys worked like Trojans, mixing latex, injecting it, grunting heavy molds into the oven, snatching burning hot molds out, trimming the latex, painting it, over and over and over again, all the while stepping over J.C.'s pet ferret, Wallaby. Me. I was in a corner, trying to stay out of the way, drinking Diet Coke and shouting words of encouragement. It was a dreadfully short pre-prod period for J.C. - he had needed eight weeks, asked for six, and got four. Which is the way things go in low-budget land.

Zombies and starlets: normally this means trouble.I never got my shot of the worms squirming around in Alfie's guts. There was a lot I wasn't going to get - which is another example of how things go in Low Budget Land. Presumably the best sort of educations are those that are quick, brutal, and leave a mark - see the infamous "College of Hard Knocks" or any martial arts training - and we were about to enter one of the meanest classrooms of all - production of a low, low-budget film. So let's just leave our heroes where they are, squirting latex, painting rubber, drinking Diet Coke, and reeking (in the case of the ferret)... and pretend that everything is going to be happy-happy, joy, joy. Ha! Hahahaha! Digging ditches was easier.


Tales From the Set begins.