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Gore from Household Products PDF Print E-mail
Written by Written by Mike Watt   
Jan 28, 2005 at 02:00 AM
[The following was written for the long-departed magazine, SCAN, published by Draculina Publishing. While some of the references may be outdated, the information is still fairly valid and comes straight from the recommendation of f/x master Bill Homan.]

Okay, you got all the naked lesbian vampires you need for your low-budget epic, now you need some quick, down 'n dirty gore effects. But wait, before you go reaching for that ketchup, let me impart a few secrets that'll add some zing to your thriller (and hey, if none of this is news to you, skip to pages on the site with the women in skimpy outfits).

We've all learned the formula for realistic blood, of course: clear Kayro corn syrup and red food coloring. It's like E=MC2 for filmmakers. But there are additional ingredients you might not know about. For instance: green food coloring. Blood isn't exactly red, as anyone with a microscope can tell you. Yellow plasma is also present, and real blood's a lot darker than your average red coloring. Yellow doesn't show up very well against the red on film, however, and you get kind of an orange look to your arterial flow. Fine if you're remaking Taxi Driver; not so much for anything else. Green will give it that darker tint -- just a few drops, don't go nuts, or you'll end up with brown.

One other thing about blood, as our chief f/x artist, Bill Homan, likes to say: Real blood is perfectly. . . nothing like any other substance. It's clear, yet opaque; watery, yet viscous. Do yourself a favor and add a couple of teaspoons of flour to your mix. This ingredient varies from one artist to the other. Tom Savini uses peanut butter, for instance, then puts the mess in a blender to mix it. But we've found that this concoction tends to separate after a few hours. Flour works well and stays mixed. You can store it reasonably well for a couple of months. Keep it in a capped jar to prevent ants or mold.

Another trick: say you want to show your mad slasher's bloody meat cleaver. You pour your Kayro blood all over the blade, but it just beads up and drips off. It looks terrible! Try a little bit of Tempera poster paint added to your blood. Just enough - again, don't over-do it - will allow the blood to stick and smear, but won't turn it a bright and happy red. Obviously, don't let your vampire lesbians drink from this concoction. Make several types of blood, and use each kind for specific purposes: pure syrup for drinking, spitting, wallowing, smearing over naked bodies; the Tempera for splashing walls, spurting wounds, etc.

Another question that is always asked is: "Dammit! How the hell do I do a few decent gunshot wounds??" Glad you asked. I would highly recommend ordering SCAN MAGAZINE #1 and #4 (available at www.draculina.com) for those secrets. Explosive squibs look great, but more often than not, they tend to misfire in the hands of someone who doesn't know what they're doing. And, of course, if you don't know what you're doing, you could successfully injure the heck out of yourself and/or your actors, passersby (the Hubble Telescope if you pack the charge WAY too high…). I hear these horror stories all the time about low-budget guys who use firecrackers in condoms, strap it to some poor actor, then everybody runs away while the actor waits to see if he'll survive to take two. There's nothing I can say to make you people stop doing this, so would you at least stop telling me about it? You're giving me nightmares.

Other alternatives we've seen in recent extravaganzas include someone being hit by red paintballs fired off camera (which seems to me like it would hurt) and the ever-popular sponge-in-the-hand-held-to-the-chest effect. Both work okay, especially if you cut very quickly.

An idea that comes to mind for us is: using your old friend, aquarium tubing. Go down to your local pet store and buy about 6-8 feet of ¼" - 1/3" of an inch in diameter. You'll want enough to run from the actor to you squatting somewhere off camera. Now see if you can find a large syringe at an art store or out of an effects catalogue. (Failing that, you may have to resort to lung power, son, and blow through it yourself.) The syringe should fit into the end of the tubing, though you might have to do some jerry-rigging with tape, epoxy, etc.

A neat alternative to the "button and fishing line method" requires a little skill as a make-up artist. Run your thinnest tubing up through your actor's hair, clipping it in place with the alligator-style hair-clips, and tape it down to his or her forehead just below the hairline (careful not to tape the end closed). Now, cover the opening with a thin layer of latex, available at any costume store (or, if it's around Halloween, you could probably get a free tube with a tank of gas).

When the shot is ready, pour a small amount of blood into the syringe (or gulp a mouthful) and slowly blow the blood up to the other end hidden by the hair and latex. I must stress this: slowly! Don't cause an air-bubble or you'll tear the latex and ruin the effect. The trick is to get the blood to the end of the tube without rupturing the latex layer. You might want to practice this on yourself a few times in order to get your timing right.

When it's time for the actor to react to "the bullet" - co-ordinate your action with the actor and director - hit your syringe hard. This will cause the blood to spray outwards through the latex in a giant misty blossom. If you cut to a shot of the actor lying "dead" with a gaping prosthetic wound in his forehead, the audience will mentally bridge the gap in their minds, and you'll have created an impressive effect. Remember: editing is your best friend when it comes to effects.

Blood tubing can be used for all sorts of things. Hide it under an actor's collar to simulate the spray from a slit throat, or under the shirt near his stomach, placed just above a fake knife, then let the blood run down the hilt of the blade. Bill did one effect where he built a head-gash out of wax around a tube, then let the blood fill the wound before running down the actor's face. At one point, we got creative, taping the tube to the "away from camera" side of an actor's face, sealed the end and punched small holes down the length of the tube, which made for a great horizontal "Samurai" spray. Have fun with it.

Now, onto your ever-important zombie feast. We've found that chipped ham works best for thin layers of skin. On one particular shoot, we had a shot call for a zombie to rip out a chunk of an actress' throat. This had to be done quick and fast. The trick we used was to have our "main zombie", Charlie Fleming, hold a piece of ham in his mouth, then take a swig from the blood jug (and yes, it tastes as good as it sounds!). All the had to do was lean in, let the ham hang from his mouth, letting the bloody "flesh" drip onto the actress' neck, then jerk his face toward the camera in a "ripping" motion, which gave the impression he just took a bite out of her. Yeah, cheesy, but it worked with a rapid edit.

As for "chunks", shredded bologna stuffed into a tear in the costume and covered in blood makes for a really nasty looking wound. Ground meat, browned and soaked in Kayro, works for "stump" wounds.

I've heard of people using anything from oatmeal to actual calf brains for grey matter, but I like chocolate cake the best. Grind some up into a bowl of - say it with me now - Kayro blood and you have a dark, viscous matter. Add hair and toss it against the wall for the result of an "exit wound to the head".

For burns, scars and bruises, we'd been experimenting with mortician's wax, but found that it tends to peel up with the actor's facial expressions, so smoothing it out and re-applying the make-up became a real hassle. Bill (and co-producer/co-star/additional make-up) Amy have had much better luck with plain Knox gelatin. Mix one package with a tablespoon of hot water - you only have about a minute to work with it, so you better know what you want. Once it sets, paint it with greasepaint for wounds and bruises - it's especially good for swelling and bruising. Plus it's flexible and resistant to tearing (unless you snag it on something - watch out for those light stands!)

Rotting flesh is easy: stick some torn up cotton balls or tissue paper to the actor's face with latex, then paint. It's tough to work with once you get latex over your hands, but the effect is quick, effective and inexpensive. Torn flesh is easier: two or three layers of latex, then tear away, leaving a hanging strip, then paint "blood" underneath with greasepaint. Nothing to it. Good, creative make-up works wonders here, so practice.

The cardinal rule is: no matter how good the make-up or effects, the longer the audience has a chance to look at something, the easier it becomes to "see through" the effect, and all your hard work will become cheesy. Remember, the effect is there to serve the story, not the other way around. You're telling a story, not making a sample reel. Besides, a nasty wound becomes nastier and more painful to the mind's eye if it's only glimpsed for a second. Psychology, man. Illusions.

So, there you go. Be creative and have fun at the grocery store. Remember, these are just jumping-off points, so feel free to experiment (as long as you check the label, eliminating things like "battery acid" from your shopping list). And remember: there's no make-up job so terrible that it can't be hidden by more blood.

For more information about the upcoming The Resurrection Game, check out: http://www.happycloudpictures.com

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