What even is a movie without special effects? Special effects date back to the late 1800s with the film, The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, by Alfred Clarke in 1895 and these effects were, specifically, stage illusions. But today we’re talking about the spookiest, scariest, and grossest special effects in our favorite horror films and the science behind them.
First up, let’s talk about all of those spoOooOoky scenes that start with a foggy street or foggy mountain-scape. What’s the secret behind creating the perfect layer of fog? Smoke machines are available in spades these days, but to create the perfect fog, mist, or smoke, you need dry ice. Once you’ve acquired dry ice, all you have to do is add it to hot water in an insulated container, then keep doing so to maintain the effect. Something cool to note about dry ice is that it’s the solid form of carbon dioxide, going from solid to gas, skipping the liquid phase, so no melting! Keep this in mind for your next spOoOoOky get-together.
Next, a personal favorite, fake blood. (What can we say? We’re suckers for a gruesome murder scene.) But take comfort in knowing that in most cases fake blood is made from some basic pantry staples such as syrup, food coloring, and water. Fake blood has been used in theatrics since the early 1900s, then in the 1940s, a thickening agent was used to give it a more realistic consistency. In the 1960s Alfred Hitchcock used chocolate syrup in his film, Psycho, then fast-forward to the present-day when makeup artist Dick Smith combined light corn syrup and food coloring to create the standard fake blood still used today.
Are you afraid of the dark? Because we weren’t until we watched way too many scary movies. Darkness in movies is used to create drama and suspense by distorting reality. The way lighting is used in scary movies doesn’t aim to hide anything, but it does create a gap in understanding, building tension for the audience.
Ahh, last but not least, computer-generated imagery, or CGI. Now, if you consider yourself more of a purist, then you probably prefer dry ice fog, fake blood, and lighting techniques to bring the drama and you probably prefer a good 80s slasher film or Stephen King original as opposed to the horror flicks of today. CGI is often used in conjunction with other effects such as costumes to create yucky textures and horrifying movements.