Last evening the SyFy channel premiered the new original series, Face Off, a reality competition show where 12 professional makeup effects artists compete for a grand prize of $100,000, a year's supply of makeup and, most importantly, bragging rights. I had the chance to check out the premier episode after hearing about it - from the lady that tolerates me - only a few hours before its 10:00 PM air time. I had heard the title of the show a few times before, but I wasn't aware of its content up until that point. More so, if it didn't star Cage and Travolta, how was I supposed to care, right? Either way, being a horror fan that grew up in a time when makeup FX artists where hailed, I was very excited so see how Face Off would play out.
Much like nearly every reality competition TV show out there, from Top Chef and Project Runway, to my favorite, Scream Queens, Face Off's contestants are asked to face-off (I know) against one another in a sort of quick-fire challenge, where they have to create something on the fly and under the gun (not Tim Gunn), with the hopes that either one of them can win immunity from being sent home at the show's end. This is followed by a main challenge, which is much larger in scale and, at least in the first episode, teams up two artists, both of whom have to bring their A-game, or worry about being sent home by a panel of surprisingly noteworthy judges. As I said, it's just like every other show on the market, but what sets it apart is, of course, the subject matter.
As I mentioned (more than once), I grew up in a time when Savini was a god, KNB was to be reckoned with and Steve Johnson was banging Linnea Quigley. Special effects artist were like rock stars for the horror community and, with the advent of CGI, that has deteriorated quite a bit over the years. It looks like the contestants will be challenged in all aspects of the form, including CGI, at one point or another, but the core of this show is creating art using foam-rubber, latex and paint. Highlighting this aspect of filmmaking is a wonderful idea, and this reality competition format plays perfectly to the form.
It may be far from original, but many shows that follow this same formula are very successful, and a big part of that is people like to see others create. Creativity and adaptability are key, and it's fun to watch people do those things in a competitive fashion and either succeed by making something amazing, or fail miserably when they create something completely awful. An art form such as practical makeup effects fits like O.J.'s glove couldn't, and I believe a show like this does great things by shining the spotlight on this style of artistry, as well as serving a hearty meal for us horror fiends to chew on every week. And based off the first episode, which showcased some mighty fine creature work, there will be some incredible things to look forward to.
I'll give credit to SyFy, mostly because they get shit-on a lot for some of their better-known attributes, namely SyFy movies, but those have obviously proven to be successful for the channel, so how can you really blame them. Even if it's not breaking down any walls of originality, at least SyFy tries to put out entertainment that caters to people like us that, in turn, translates to ratings. They often seem to have trouble getting the formula down right, it seems. I think Face Off might just have the right mixture of what we want, well, at least me, as a horror audience, as well as something that could grab the more casual viewer who is simply curious as to what so-and-so will create next.
On a slightly related side note, doesn't Mega Python vs. Gateroid look awesome?! Finally, Tiffany and Debs in a picture together!