Thursday, 28 April 2016

Dead By Dawn 2016: Creature Designers - The Frankenstein Complex (2015)

Creature Designers - The Frankenstein Complex is another documentary about the special people who have made our special effects over the years. But what separates this from the likes of Nightmare Factory and other documentaries covering similar territory? Well, first of all, this one isn't just looking at the KNB EFX Group. Secondly, it's both a more specific look at the designers and how their passion has helped craft so many memorable designs over the years and yet also a wider look at the many departments now working together to design and operate one creature. It may start back in the early days of cinema but it doesn't forget to look forward at the potential still ahead of us. Sometimes that is viewed with optimism and sometimes there's an inevitable tinge of sadness as practical work is overshadowed and/or replaced by computers.

Because there's no real plot to discuss, obviously, and no performances to weigh up, none of the usual movie review stuff, I'll just use this paragraph to reel off a list of names. Some, but not all, of the people appearing onscreen to talk about special effects and creature design are: the Chiodo brothers, Rick Baker, Guillermo del Toro, Joe Dante, John Landis, Phil Tippett, Greg Nicotero, Kevin Smith, Tom Woodruff Jr, Mick Garris, and Matt Winston. It's an impressive selection, no doubt, but the notable omission of Tom Savini (who is only ever namechecked once) makes it feel slightly incomplete. And I'm always a bit miffed, as a huge fan of his work, whenever the mad genius of Screaming Mad George is overlooked.

Directors Gilles Penso and Alexandre Poncet do a very good job of getting the right people to wax lyrically about their perspective on the industry, whether it's Phil Tippett sharing his passion for model work, the Chiodo brothers being shown alongside both Killer Klowns and Critters, or Tom Woodruff Jr admitting that he doesn't remember his work on Mortal Kombat with too much fondness. Dante and Landis are both great talkers, as usual, and Kevin Smith speaks for us all when describing how he views any shark to this day because of Jaws.

There's not much else to say about this documentary. Fans of horror, and fans of special effects, should already know that they want to see it. Others can take or leave it, as they see fit. It's certainly recommended for fans of all kinds of cinema though.

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