Interview with a horror special effects artist

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Sally Superville of Screamin’ Demon F/X did the gross, gory, dare we say glorious practical effects for Biters & Bleeders. She is a talented special effects artist and we are so happy to have her on the team. Here, we sit down with her and pick her brain about her work as a horror special effects artist. Content warning for fake blood and wounds in the images.

I specialize in sculpting prosthetics and appliances and am always ready to supply wet works for projects. It all started when my Father took me to see Star Wars. The moment Luke walked into the Cantina, I was delighted by all the aliens and creatures and wished I could join them. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to create the fantastic. I currently live on the outskirts of Charlotte, NC with my husband David and our fur babies. 

The world of horror films rests on the shoulders of fake blood, guts, skin, and in this case bugs! What drew you to the world of special effects makeup?

My mom worked in theatre as early as I remember. I have always been involved with it in some make, shape, or form. In small productions, you always wound up doing your own makeup or building your costumes. I always like making my projects look life-like and real.

I  imagine if you’re someone who gets a kick out of the grotesque, you had to be excited to see this script. For lack of a better word, it gets…”icky.” What were your first thoughts when you heard about the project? 

Calamine lotion!!! Actually, I thought it was a cool script. It looked like it would be fun to do.

Your job is so exciting to an outsider, but movies like this really live or die on the quality of the effects. Were there any you were nervous about pulling off for this film? 

Some of the things with the bugs were super challenging. However, I love to problem-solve and come up with creative solutions.

Were you more excited for the blood or the bugs?

 I enjoyed it all. There is something about set life. For a short period of time, you become family. We all get messy together and we all create together. It is more than just blood and bugs, it is how I can make this story real and believable.

I’ve seen the stills, and I’ve heard you were all the talk on set. Everything looks phenomenal and your effects really sell this piece. How does it feel to see people’s faces when they see your work? Sometimes they’re excited, sometimes they’re grossed out, is it fun to see the reactions? 

First off, thank you. Did not realize I was the talk on set. When people see my work and get excited about it I know I have done my job. I strive to help make it a believable story. We had talented actors on set that made my work even more believable.

Which effect in Biters and Bleeders was the most fun for you? 

I would have to say the stabbed throat effect. I will never forget Missy the director’s squeal of joy when we did the water test. It was fantastic!

What was your experience like working on this project? (Alternative question: do you have any hopes for this project?) 

It was all around a great project. We had an incredible crew of talented artists all around. I would love to see it made into a feature. I think it could be a memorable classic.

Without trying to give too much away, I’ve seen the stills of Raven after her character, Penelope, gets seriously burned, and it’s devastating looking. She told me lots of people on set were really concerned for her when they first saw her, because your effects looked so real they thought she actually got burned. Does that happen to you a lot after you’ve done effects? Have you ever had any really crazy effects people thought were real? 

Yes, it does. I do a lot of reference work to make the effects look very real. My browser history on my computer can be quite scary.  As an answer to your second question, yes I am currently banned from the Belmont Chick-fil-a because I walked in there with my throat looking like it was ripped out.

Do you have any secret tips for ensuring things read well on camera? Any tips for a makeup artist who is just starting out, who wants to try their hand at this kind of thing? 

It really isn’t a secret, more like common sense. Ask the DP to see what it looks like on camera. The lighting and the camera lenses can change how anything looks. Practice, practice, practice!

Hypothetically, if you got to do any effect for this movie, anything you wanted, what would it have been? 

Turn Chris into a giant Bed Bug! He was such a champ through this. It would have been cool turning him into a bug though.

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Molly Stein-Seroussi

Author

Molly is an author, screenwriter, blogger, and brand manager for New 32 Productions. They are passionate about sharing content that helps filmmakers live a more productive, informed, and well-balanced life. They live in North Carolina with their spouse and way too many dogs.

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