Mortician’s Wax, Latex and Blood: An Insider’s Look At The Top 5 Special Fx Artists Of All Time

I consider myself to be one of the most fortunate people in the industry. Not only do I get to write about my passion of horror films and what their place is in today’s society, but I have been lucky enough to actually be an FX artist in actual films. Before we get started, I DO NOT consider myself to be one of the top end FX artists in the industry, but I am proud of my work in films such as The Forever Dead (2007, Dir. Christine Parker), Z13: The Zombie Within (2007-8, Dir. Voltron Jones), The Evil Woods (2009, Dir. Aaron Harvey), Mental Scars (2009, Dir. Mischa  Perez) and Heredity (2010, Dir. Kevin Newton). As someone who did not receive any kind of formal training in the industry, my teachers were the fantastic FX artist that I am going to list below and without having watched the incredible work that did throughout their careers, I do not think I would be where I am today…

Before I begin, I feel like there are some things that need to be said. I grew up in an era where the stars of the genre were not the directors and the hard working actors and actresses, but the Special FX Artists. There was a point in time where names like Tom Savini, Rick Baker, Screaming Mad George, Giannetto Di Rossi, Stan Winston, Jack Pierce, Ray Harryhausen, Rob Bottin, Greg Nicotero and Lon Chaney, Sr. were enough to get a film made by itself. There was something magical about seeing what they would bring to the screen and you never had to worry about the lazy way being taken with a transformation scene or a decapitation. The ability to suspend your disbelief is very powerful in film and means even more when you are watching a horror film. Films today rely too much on digital effects as an easy means to an end, but these guys sold the vision and the dream that made you open your wallets for movie tickets as well as Laserdiscs, VHS and DVD. Without further ado, let's look at the top 5 FX artists of all time…

5. Lon Chaney, Sr.

Lon Channey









There are very few many who can be considered the actual foundation of the industry, but if there is one in the horror genre, Lon Chaney, Sr. is that man. Know as “the man with a thousand faces”, few can argue that he may be not only the most famous horror actor of all time, but the greatest FX artist of all time. While actually only be credited (actually uncredited) with 4 FX roles, he set the standard for the industry with titles such as The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923), The Phantom of the Opera (1925), London After Midnight (1927) and The Unholy Three (1930). Many FX artists will nod to him as their inspiration for getting into the industry, and his brilliance is seen in the work carried on by his son Lon Chaney, Jr. .


4. Dick Smith

Dick Smith








This is a name that EVERYONE should know without question (after all, he is know as the Godfather of Make-Up), with titles such as The Alligator People (1959), Dark Shadows (1967, TV Series), The Exorcist (1973), Ghost Story (1981), Scanners (1981), Monsters (1988-91, TV Series), and House on Haunted Hill (1999) just to name a few. Always willing to share his knowledge with up and coming FX artists in the field, he is certainly considered to be on one of the all time greats. He even passed up an opportunity at doing the make-up for The Terminator (1984) and recommended Rick Baker because he thought Rick was more qualified for the job. What made him even more amazing is the fact that he only had 4 fingers on his left hand (due to an infection and amputation)!

3. Rick Baker

Rick Baker Terror Time Horror Movies







As the man who won the very first Oscar for Best Make-Up FX for his work in An American Werewolf In London (1981), Rick Baker is an all time icon for horror. With titles that include It’s Alive (1974), Squirm (1976), The Howling (1981), The Funhouse (1981), Werewolf (1987-88, TV Series), The Ring (2002, U.S. remake) and The Wolfman (2010), very few people can argue that when it comes to werewolves and transformation sequences, Rick set the bar higher than anyone could have expected and even fewer have been able to achieve. He also holds the record for most Academy wins (7) and nominations (12) and recently retired from the industry…

2. Giannetto Di Rossi

Giannetto Di Rossi Terror Time Horror Movies Speccial EFX






All ready have a successful career before horror films, Di Rossi began his genre work with Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (1974) and never looked back. With such great genre titles like Zombie (1979), Cannibal Apocalypse (1980), The Beyond (1981), The House By The Cemetery (1981), Conan The Destroyer (1984), Dune (1984) and High Tension (2003), very few people can argue the realistic look and feel of his work. It can even be argued that he elevated Lucio Fulci’s films to a level or greatness that may not have been achieved without his makeup prowess. Whether it was a big time studio film or something that lurked on the outskirts of mainstream cinema, very few people could ever replicate the realism of Di Rossi’s work…

1. Tom Savini

Tom Savini Terror Time








Whether as an FX Artist or an actor, there cannot and will never be a replacement for Tom Savini. To list his amazing work in films is futile, but you should at least know his work in such genre favorites as Martin (1977), Maniac (1980), Friday the 13th (1980), The Burning (1981), The Prowler (1981), Creepshow (1982), Day of the Dead (1985), Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) and Two Evil Eyes (1990), there are VERY few people who can argue his prowess for realism. Having again his knowledge from being a combat photographer in Vietnam, he managed to turn the real life horrors he saw into a career scaring the piss out of fans for many years. It is a true crime that this man has never won an Academy Award for Special FX…