Just the FX, Ma'am
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.
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.
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
In any piece
of FX makeup like Alfie the zombie, the usual route to go involves
making separate 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
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.
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').
on Alfie was slightly different from my visualization, but still wonderfully
and totally 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
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.
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.