Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Stay on the road. Keep clear of the moors."

One thing Fantastic Fest is known for is not only screening new films, but just films that the programmers and audience love, no matter how old they may be. This year in particular was special, as it marked the 30th anniversary of John Landis' landmark film, An American Werewolf in London. Mondo Tees, a local cinema art boutique partnered with the Alamo Drafthouse, wanted to do something special for the occasion, so founder Justin Ishamel contacted one of his star artists, Olly Moss, and asked him to create a brand new poster for the film. In addition, the screening was bookended by a Q&A session with none other than legendary makeup effects maestro, Rick Baker.

The film itself holds up as well as ever, being a definitive film of the 80s and also a classic of the genre. And it's heritage lives on. The film started the horror-comedy movement, and the ripples of that are still felt today in with films like Shaun of the Dead, Attack the Block, and others. The audience was treated to a gorgeous 35mm print of the film, and played like gangbusters for the crowd. To me, it remains Landis' most tightly directed and edited film, walking the tightrope of balancing the terror and comedy perfectly (I still laugh hysterically every time I see David run through the zoo naked, and get shivers down my spine during the werewolf attacks). But everyone knows the real star of the film is the groundbreaking makeup effects by Rick Baker, and the now iconic transformation scene.

If there were ever anyone with stories to tell, it's Rick Baker. He's worked with so many influential figures in the industry, won 7 Oscars and been nominated 12 times, and yet remains one of the most humble people you'll ever meet. He refuses to take credit for his work being the reason the Academy created the Best Makeup category, and still gets nervous every time he attends the Oscars.

During the Q&A, Baker talked extensively about what attracted him to the project, how he looks at the film and even cringes at how crude the work he did in it looks compared to the things he can do now, 30 years later. He told funny stories about how when he was doing the gory makeup for Griffin Dunne, Griffin got really depressed when looking at himself in the mirror, so Baker let him control the corpse puppet at the end of the film and speak the dialogue on set; how he once had to dress up his then two year old daughter as Eddie Munster because there weren't three girls in the Munster family to fit the Halloween theme. He later migrated over the to Mondo shop inside the Drafthouse, with a herd of fans following him like a shepherd leading sheep, where he proceeded to autograph the exclusive poster audience members were given and take photos. I only wish I had the chance to sit down with him, however briefly, and do a real one-on-one interview.

The screening was a great success, and one can only hope Fantastic Fest programmers do something like this every year. And now, for your viewing pleasure, a high-res picture of the poster, courtesy of Mondo Tees, Fantastic Fest, and artist Olly Moss.


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