I met Marcus Koch at the Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas, Texas about two years ago. He was there supporting the film ‘Sweatshop’ a low budget Texas shot slasher set at an all night rave. I was attending a screening packed with fellow horror junkies on a Friday night. Having drifted into the screening from the bar where I had already had one too many, I was drawn to the exibition by the incessant laughter and gutteral moans. Squeezing through the standing room only crowd, I found a space against the wall and proceeded to watch an onslaught of just about every type of gore you can imagine. The specialty of the night however seemed to be crushed body parts, especially heads. You see, the killer in this particular gore fest was a giant in a welders helmet wielding not a sledgehammer but a hammer made from an anvil. Yes, you read that correctly – an ANVIL.
Now, I’m horror fan to the core but have never particularly been a fan of gore for gore’s sake. That said I do have an appreciation for the work that goes into it. In fact the very first occupation I can remember wanting to pursue was not filmmaker, fireman, astronaut or policeman but Special Effects Artist. A fact that reveals a very mis-spent youth devouring whatever sick clamshell treat my local Mom n’ Pop video store could offer up. As a result I have seen my fair share of head trauma and more often than not said head is usually a ridiculously poor imitation of the real thing. The standard by which I judge all fake heads is Chef’s head in Apocalypse Now. The scene where Brando appears out of the rainy night to deposit a special gift to Martin Sheen’s Willard is about as real as it gets. While the heads in ‘Sweatshop’ are not quite that spectacular they are, forgive the pun, head and shoulders above what you typically find in horror films, especially budget challenged productions such as this. They were in fact some of the best heads and gore effects I have seen in a film of this caliber and many films with higher production values.
After the film ended, the lights came up and I found myself standing next to a very jolly Marcus Koch, Special Effects Artist extraordinaire. Most of the Cast and Crew Q&A centered around Marcus’s work, where it was revealed that while typically one would do a head cast of an actor for a decapitation/head squashing this particualr production hadn’t had the budget to bring Marcus aboard soon enough to do casts. What was the solution? The Production sent Marcus photos of the actors and from these photos Marcus sculpted the heads! I realized very quickly that I was standing next to an artist of the caliber we needed working on Moderngrumble especially if we were going show in full Close Up the hatching of a bird from a man’s head.
to be continued . . .