2 Sep 2020

Tom Savini - The Sultan of Splatter

From Afternoons, 3:10 pm on 2 September 2020

When he's watching TV or a movie, Tom Savini can't stand seeing red blood at a crime scene – unless it's supposed to be fresh: "The blood would be brown, dark brown. It's 24 hours until blood turns dark brown".

You may not know Savini's name but his work has likely in your nightmares. He's the legendary special effects make-up artist behind movies like the original Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th and Texas Chain Saw Massacre 2.

The original 1931 Frankenstein was the first movie that scared Savini as a child, he tells Jesse Mulligan.

As an adult, the two films so scary they made him forget about the art of filmmaking were The Exorcist and Alien, especially Alien: "I was totally involved and it just scared the hell out of me."

But although the magic that lured Savini into filmmaking is lost after years in the business, it's been replaced by a new magic, he says, the magic of creativity.

Savini is a a stickler for realism after seeing his share of real human carnage while serving in the Vietnam War.

The fake blood in Dawn of the Dead, for example, was way off, he says.

Although it looked great on the bottle and on the skin but on film ended up looking like a strawberry-pink melted crayon, he says.

Later, Dick Smith – "the greatest make-up artist that ever lived" – shared his blood formula with Savini (which is basically corn syrup, red and yellow food colouring, a photographic chemical and a preservative).

Savini has been enjoying quarantine this year, he says, and making things in his studio: "I've always wanted a bust of Vincent Price in House of Wax. I had time, I created it."

He's also been making horror face masks – which are "selling like crazy" – and lifting weights in his home gym.

"I'm a spiritual thing riding this body that has teeth that have to be repaired. I want there to be good housing for whatever I am so yeah, I work out a lot."

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