Thursday, January 27, 2011

Some longwinded thoughts on SyFy's Face Off


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!


  1. I was very happy, not with some of the contestants, but the level of talent the show will bring. Of course there are a few contestants that are WAY out of their league, but I was really impressed with some of the final designs.

    This is pretty much the only reality show I will watch the entire season of.

  2. I found it most interesting how well (or not so well) some of the contestants worked as a team. A lot of them were very self-centered, using words like "me" or "my" at the end competition there instead of "we" or "our."

    I'm definitely excited at seeing what future challenges have in store!

  3. My only beef is that I think the grand prize should also include some industry work. This is art, and we all know artists are either broke or really lucky and it would be great to see the winner get a gateway gig. While I was watching I was hoping you were because I remembered how much you love creature creations. I had been anxiously waiting to see this show and I'm looking forward to the season.

    And I'm totally catching that movie on the rerun! So bad they're good...

  4. Chris: Yeah, the work itself was mostly incredible, especially that rose design that was done by the guy who won immunity. I really look forward to what these artists will come up with throughout the season, and I hope it keeps the focus on the makeup as much as possible.

    SK: The team that won the main challenge had some ego problems, specifically the smaller guy who did nothing but complain. Pretty annoying, but it's him that looks like the moron at the end of the day.

    Ashlee: I agree, a two or three picture deal with some mid-level studio that specifies in genre film would have been great, but all of that makeup and money can go a long way too, I suppose.

    And seriously, seeing the trailers for Mega Python vs. Gateroid made my day, only to have Ginson and Tiffany show up to make my month! IN-CRED-IBlE!

  5. Well, I'm happy (and not surprised) to report that both Dylan and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
    But we both loved Project Runway. I know there are a ton of shows that use the PR formula, but I haven't seen em, so it's still fresh(enough).
    I liked it a lot. I will be catching up weekly on hulu. And at some point, someone, anyone, better say "make it work."

  6. That's so awesome that it's on Hulu. I know that SyFy's website is playing the episodes after they air, too. Glad to hear you guys both dug it, and since you bring up "make it work," the show is missing that sort of on-hand pro that plays the guidance role for the contestants, which is unfortunate because I usually like those types of people.

  7. its such a good show!

    1. It sure is! The last few episodes of the first season provided some incredible pieces, and the second season has shown the potential for even more great work. I hope it continues to be successful!


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