Horror Behind the Scenes: Talking blood and guts with the incredible SFX artist Michele Mulkey
To coincide with the release of my horror crime novel Slasher, I went behind the scenes with some of the awesome people that help make slasher movies such a joy to watch. Naturally, I went straight to Michele Mulkey, the talented special effects artist who has worked on some incredible films, including Constantine, Venom, Black Rock and Seed of Chucky, as well as TV shows such as Charmed and CSI Miami. I was lucky enough to have Michelle answer some questions for me on what it’s like to be behind the scenes of horror!
WD: Okay first off, what drew you to the world of special effects makeup to begin with, and how did you start out?
MM: I first got into special effects makeup in college. I was studying Performing Arts/Theatre and I got to do all the SFX makeup for “Of Mice and Men” my first semester. I fell in LOVE with it! So after getting my degree, I moved to Los Angeles and went to a professional makeup school where I learned all the basics of makeup. After graduating, I jumped right in to my first film and it just snow balled from there.
WD: You’re resume is impressive to say the least, and there’s a lot of horror in there - what about the horror industry appeals to you? And is it all blood and guts?
MM: I think the aspect of horror that draws me to those films is the challenge of making all the “blood and guts” look as real as possible. I have always had a fascination with human anatomy and the fact that we are these complex living beings, yet we are very fragile as well. I live for the challenge of making my SFX makeup look as realistic as possible. Adding in little details like fatty tissue into a huge cut or making sure that if a large artery is cut open, it bleeds the way it would in real life. Horror always gives me that challenge because you know that someone’s going to get thrashed in a horror film and I love the challenge of portraying injuries as “true to life” as I can.
WD: You’ve worked on one of the most iconic horror slasher characters ever, Chucky. What was it like to find yourself working on such a legendary franchise?
MM: I felt very honoured to be able to work on such an iconic horror character. I watched those movies growing up so it was kind of surreal to be sitting there actually working on one of the films.
WD: You worked on new slasher, Christmas Slay. Is there more to slasher special effects than just buckets of blood and chopped off limbs? And is the set always covered in red?
MM: Yes, I made some of the special effects and prosthetics for that film and it was a blast working on them. And I think it depends on what kind of horror film it is. Sometimes the SFX are almost downplayed as to make the audiences minds freak out imagining what is going on. Other times, you actually do have a set pretty much covered in blood to the point that you have to wipe off your feet before leaving the main set so you’re not tracking blood all over the studio or location site.
WD: It must be quite expensive to fabricate items. How much planning goes into making prosthetics and props to make sure they work and the director gets the shots they need?
MM: It is a very involved process. A lot of people really have no idea what goes into making something as simple as a small cut. It can be days of work just for that one prosthetic, so SFX do tend to be costly. And the materials needed to create SFX makeup and props are not cheap, so the material cost is a major factor in price as well. It takes so much planning when doing SFX, especially a movie. Usually the pre-production for SFX in a feature length film starts months before the first scene is shot. There are lots of meetings between myself and the production team to make sure that as the pre-production progresses and we get close to the filming date, everything is exactly as they want it to be. That way there are no surprises on set.
WD: What do you think of the show Face/Off? It must have brought a lot more attention to the industry.
MM: It is a “reality" TV show, so you have to keep that in mind but I do believe that it gives the audience a fairly reasonable idea of how complicated and involved SFX makeups can be. I know that since that show has come out, a lot of my friends and family would comment to me about how they had no idea how intense my job was.
WD: Lastly, a two parter! First, what job have you been most proud of, and second, if you could work on a horror film/franchise of your choice, what would it be?
MM: That first one is a tough question. I think that just about every film or TV show I’ve worked on has something that I loved doing or cast/crew I loved working with. I don’t know if I can truly pick a favourite…LOL! And as far as a horror film/franchise I would have to go with The Evil Dead series. I think that those films would have been so much fun to work on and they starred the man himself, Bruce Campbell! You just can’t top that!
A huge thank you to Michele, and don't forget horror fans, you can grab a copy of my newest book Slasher right now, available in paperback and on Kindle.