SOUTH SOUND SIDEKICK: Creating movie gore using common household items

By Volcano Staff on February 1, 2013

South Sound Sidekick series offers advice from experts living in the, well, South Sound. It posts every Friday. Today, local filmmaker Matt Jaissle has advice on how to make awesome film special effects on a low budget. Jaissle knows. He is the director of Back from Hell, The Necro Files, Legion of the Night (aka Dead City), 300 Killers and the upcoming Revolution 666.

Matt Jaissle writes,

Here are a few tips aimed at aspiring film/video makers. You know who you are. Just about anyone who's bought a video camera at Best Buy in the last five years has probably tossed around the idea of shooting a zombie movie with their buddies. Why not? Everyone is doing it. Horror seems like the obvious choice, too. It can be done cheap.  Well, I've done it cheaper than most. Even though I had to shoot my first couple of pictures on 16mm; they were still dirt-cheap.

One of the production areas I've had the privilege to explore with great detail is special makeup effects.  Part of the youthful appeal of low-budget horror is all that splashy blood and gore. Makeup is one of the few departments where quantity is just as good as quality. If you can't afford Tom Savini, you can still channel his essence.

Rule No. 1: Blood, blood and more blood! Fake blood is la filmmaker's whiteout. You can cover up your mistakes with it. Does that rubber arm look like crap?  Pour a pint of fake blood over it. Is that facial prosthetic the wrong flesh tone? Pour a gallon of fake blood over it. You get the picture.

Plus, fake blood looks cool, and easy to make. My recipe is one ounce of red food color to one-quart karo syrup. If you want to get fancy, you can add a few drops of blue and a couple teaspoons of instant coffee grinds to make it darker (dissolve the coffee grinds in a small amount of hot water first).

Underneath the river of blood you can use all kinds of things in your refrigerator to simulate guts and brains. For my film 300 Killers, I had a scene where a guy gets shot point blank in the face. I originally had no effect for the scene. Then, one night I was cutting open a frozen burrito that I'd microwaved way too long. I looked disgusting. See an opportunity, I quickly drew a pupil and retina on a ping-pong ball, stuck it in the middle, covered the whole thing with barbecue sauce (fake blood wasn't even in the budget that night), filmed a close-up of the whole mess and the shot's in the movie.

For my first film, Back from Hell, I had an effects guy who created somewhat elaborate latex wounds for our zombie actors. We even real pig guts, which can be purchase from any local slaughterhouse. They sell them in five gallon buckets.  The drawbacks are the guts are expensive, they stink to high heaven and the stomach acids will burn the hell out of your hands. I shit you not.

For my new picture, Revolution 666, I have no budget at all.  Instead of using latex appliances, I decided to make a zombie mask out of paper maché. I simply applied the dipped newspaper strips to a head-sized balloon, popped the balloon after the mask dried, then spray-painted the whole thing. For guts, I went to my local grocery store and asked the butcher if I could buy trim from his bone barrel. I eventually got what I needed for free, took it home and mixed it up with fake blood (natch). I also threw in some leftovers my mom gave me and BAM! Tom Savini would be proud.

There you go. You're ready to make picture. Head to Best Buy for equipment and get to it. Good lighting, camerawork and editing don't cost anything if you learn how to do it yourself. Your picture can even look like an effects showcase! Only you, me, and your grocer will know.

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