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Prosthetics vs. CGI:
The great horror film debate

Guest Horrorshow Blogger (Home)
by Adrian Rawlings Nov 21, 2013

What do mutating aliens, zombie flash mobs, and a Samuel L. Jackson shark attack have in common? Two things: special effects and awesomeness. All kidding aside, most fans agree that gore scenes and special effects are the most appealing parts of horror movies. But it's how those scenes are produced that creates a divide amongst super fans. Today, computer generated imagery (CGI) runs rampant in Hollywood films, including horror. But that doesn't mean the use of prosthetics hasn't been slashed from the screen forever.
It's a classic age-old debate between movie fanatics, but whether you prefer the use of prosthetics or CGI for scare scenes, you have to admit that both have their merit – and for different reasons.

Prosthetics, including makeup and faux blood, score high on the shock factor scale. It's a common technique used in most of the classics and in a number of foreign horror films. Sure, the effects may not be the most realistic– sometimes even to the point of being a bit laughable. But that's what entertainment is all about!
Remember The Thing? If you're thinking of the 2011 remake, think again. Take it all the way back to the 1982 remake (the gore-less original came out in 1951), and return to the promised land of true prosthetic paradise (and a much younger version of Kurt Russell).  Exploding chests, popping eyeballs, and mutating humans attacking non-mutated humans: it's nothing short of magic. The combination of prosthetics, animatronics and stunts make it one of the most talked about films in the horror niche.

While prosthetics may be a bit more gruesome, CGI can be just as scary. The 2011 prequel to The Thing relies much more heavily on CGI, debated by some to be less effective than prosthetics for gloom and gore, but it’s entertaining nevertheless. It's CGI that produces this scene, featuring an octopus-resembling alien that erupts violently into a wall of flames. It's scary, looks pretty real, and, thankfully, no sea creatures or extra-terrestrials were harmed during the making of this film.

CGI is also arguably more convenient and cost effective, making it a good tool for mass production. It's easy to apply makeup to a handful of zombies, but when you need 5,000, it's time to call in the computers.  For example, Jerusalem might not be the first place you would guess to encounter zombies, right? But that's exactly where you'll find a horde of CGI-produced zombies scaling the walls of the city in the 2013’s World War Z. The CGI was produced using photo stills of the city, and the zombies’ motion was modeled on contortionists and performers scaling a real-life wall. The result is this terrifyingly stunning zombie pyramid scene.

So, how does the score settle out in the prosthetics vs. CGI competition? You decide - it's really up to personal preference. No matter which side of the fence you lean towards, there's usually always something chilling on the other side: dead or un-dead, real or not real.

AUTHOR: Adrian Rawlings; @adrianrawlings2

BIO: Adrian Rawlings is a TV and horror blogger. Look to him for the scoop on hit movies and TV shows, horror films, tech reviews, how-to guides, and more.

 

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