I have a strong dislike for reality television shows in general. It is very rare for me to find a reality series that I actually can get into. However, the SyFy Channel had my number with its Face Off TV series. The show pits FX makeup artists against each other in competitions that showcase their talents. I can't get excited about singing or dancing competitions, but show me a group of people trying to beat the clock to create foam or silicon appliances to make actors look like monsters and apparently I'm on the edge of my seat. It's rejuvenated my interest in makeup FX. The show reminds me of reading about young up-and-coming FX artists like Steve Johnson, Screaming Mad George and Greg Nicotero in the pages of Fangoria magazine back in the 1980s when I was a teenager with dreams of one day becoming the next Tom Savini (I wound up going a different route, but have still dabbled with doing makeup for the occasional film short or micro-budget production).
One of my favorite artists featured on SyFy's Face Off is Tom Devlin from 1313FX. Unfortunately, he was eliminated from the show this week in a move that seemed more motivated by reality show politics than by judgment of talent. Fortunately, Devlin was shrewd enough to create and star in his own reality series American Nightmare which he premiered on YouTube the very next night following his elimination on Face Off. While Face Off follows an American Idol-type model as a reality show approach to makeup FX artistry, American Nightmare is closer in spirit to shows like Pawn Stars or LA Ink. Devlin's new series chronicles the exploits of him and his team at the 1313FX studio in Alhambra, California.
The first episode, Meet the Family, introduces viewers to the people who work for Devlin in the 1313FX shop: Cary, a former member of the rock band Pretty Boy Floyd; Andrea, who I can forsee more than a few horror fans developing crushes over her subdued makeup-geek charm; and Roger, Tom's dad who has taken enough of an interest in what his son does to come work for him. The opening credits also feature a woman named Jaime, but the show has yet to properly introduce her. After the initial introductions, the first episode focuses on the father/son work relationship between Roger and Tom. Roger seems to be something of a fish-out-of-water in dealing with his new work environment as he scratch-builds a machine to make vacuform molds. There is some tension within this son-as-employer dynamic, but it is easy to pick up on the pride Roger has in his son's accomplishments and feels for himself when the machine finally works as intended. The other thing that comes across strongly in the first episode is the satisfaction the 1313FX crew finds in their work. When many folks out there find themselves working jobs primarily to earn a paycheck, it can be inspiring to see a workplace in which the employees truly enjoy what they are doing for a living.
At less than 9 minutes in length, the show could easily be expanded into a full-length reality series for television with more of an in-depth explanation of the devices being used. It caused me to look up how-to guides for building vacuform machines online. I can see American Nightmare generating interest in the art of makeup FX among a new crop of fans.
[Edit: The first episode of American Nightmare is no longer available to the public on YouTube. Let's hope this is for a happy reason, such as the show getting a television deal. The promo for American Nightmare is still online and is now what is embedded below.>
On January 14, Ohio television personality Barry Hobart passed away at the age of 68. Hobart served as the host of channel WKEF's Shock Theatre (also called Science Shock Theatre and Saturday Night Dead at various points during its run) from 1972 through 1985 under the name "Dr. Creep." If you were a kid growing up (or just a fan of horror movies) in the Dayton, Ohio area during the '70s or early '80s, you are likely to have heard Dr. Creep's signature "Hoo Ha Ha Ha Ha!" laugh as he hosted whatever horror movie was being featured that week. Dr. Creep was also a regular on WKEF's children's show Clubhouse 22.
Shock Theatre intro from the late '70s:
Hobart's show was resurrected in 1999 as The New Shock Theatre and aired on Ohio Public Access Television until 2005. It was during this time that I met Dr. Creep at a horror convention (hosted by another Ohio horror host A. Ghastlee Ghoul) in Ohio in 2004. He and his manager Rick Martin introduced themselves to me following the presentation of my short Lovecraftian martial arts comedy film Enter the Dagon. We hit it off and I spent a good deal of time at the Shock Theatre table, discussing horror history with them. When I left to head back home to New York, I had a DVD of The Best of Shock Theatre in my luggage. I am watching it as I write this and enjoying the silly antics of Hobart and his co-stars (some of which were puppets). It makes me wish there had been a host for the horror and sci-fi movies I watched in the Rochester, NY area as a kid during that era.
A variety of clips from the first decade of Shock Theatre:
I was pleased to read that despite his failing health and limited mobility, Dr. Creep was able to attend the HorrorHound Weekend convention this past November as the guest of honor. A classy move on the part of the convention. Hobart is remembered also as a mentor to a younger generation of horror hosts and the co-founder of the Project Smiles charity. Project Smiles, which collects toys for Dayton area children in need during the Christmas season continues to this day.
Prolific horror author Stephen King turns 62-years-old today. In honor of his birthday today's Dark Destination is the Stanley Hotel. The hotel was part of the inspiration for Stephen King's 1977 horror novel, The Shining. King was inspired after staying at the hotel with his wife on October 30, 1974. It was the night before the hotel closed down for the season and the author and his wife were the only guests. The empty halls and ballroom along with ghost stories about the place caused King to resurrect a story he'd never finished and change the setting from a carnival to a hotel called The Overlook.
Over two decades later, the hotel became the primary shooting location for the television mini-series adaption of the novel, directed by Mick Garris. Dark Destination's own Casey Hopkins was actually on set during part of that shoot, and had the chance to chat with King and others after being invited by the director following an interview for the site. Perhaps he'll share his story with all of you sometime. The mini-series followed King's novel closer than Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film adaption, leading to fans being polarized in opinion over the two adaptions. It is rare to find a fan who enjoys both adaptions equally.