What could, and indeed should, have been a fine tribute to the art of practical make up effects and the body of work created by KNB EFX Group is brought down a few notches by one major failing – it instead turns into Greg Nicotero: The Movie. Now I’m not going to say that Greg Nicotero isn’t a big name in the special effects field. He is, arguably, the second-biggest name in the business today (Savini will always be THE man for me) but his biggest contribution to the horror genre, and the field of special effects in general, came in the form of collaborative work at KNB EFX Group. So focusing on Nicotero to the detriment of others is a bit of a shame, especiall when there’s no major effort made to include Bob Kurtzman, who parted ways with the guys a while ago. I’m not laying the blame for that with Nicotero himself. No, I think the blame for the way the final product turned out here lies with writer/director Donna Davies, who had access to a fantastic wealth of material.
Having started with such a major negative, I must hasten to add that this is still an undeniable treat for fans of the horror genre and practical make up effects. A few anecdotes provide a lot of fun (especially one from Mr. Nicotero Sr. regarding an infamous scene in Casino) and everyone seems to enjoy trying to downplay the achievements of others, to amusing effect. Nicotero and Howard Berger try, of course, to keep praising their art (and rightly so) while directors such as John Landis and John Carpenter bemoan the fact that they have to stop shooting for large amounts of time when any make up shots need redone. Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino are, as you would guess, in awe of the men who make the magic while Frank Darabont seems to walk in a sensible middle ground, having worked most closely with KNB EFX Group on The Walking Dead TV show.
The peak of practical make up effects in modern cinema would have to be the 15-20 year period stretching from the mid-70s to the first half of the mid-1990s (you may argue the point but this covers movies as influential and diversive as Star Wars, The Thing, An American Werewolf In London, Society, Dawn Of The Dead, From Dusk Till Dawn, Evil Dead II, A Nightmare On Elm Street, etc, etc) and this documentary mentions, and shows moments from, many of these movies that have long held a place in our dark horror hearts. It also shows the make up artists themselves making the most of this fortuitous time, becoming fully fledged stars in their own right and trying to cover up their horror geek core with a rock star costume. Mullets and short-sleeved t-shirts abound and it’s good to see all those involved able to look back and comment on their dubious fashion/style choices with a roll of the eyes and a smile.
I did enjoy Nightmare Factory, and it does still retain enough material and affection to stand as a love letter to the art of practical horror creations through the years, but I was unable to love it. Perhaps further down the line we will get something better, something more definitive, but this will do until then. I suppose.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: DONNA DAVIES
STARS: GREG NICOTERO, HOWARD BERGER, FRANK DARABONT, ROBERT KIRKMAN, JOHN CARPENTER, JOHN LANDIS, ROBERT RODRIGUEZ, QUENTIN TARANTINO
RUNTIME: 90 MINS APPROX