On April 15, with the final chapter of the eighth season of AMC's "The Walking Dead," the zombie-apocalypse series will have aired 115 episodes, capturing millions of viewers with their mix of suspense and violence on their screens spun from the companion series "Fear the Walking Dead".
"Dead" has not only become a cultural touchstone, but has also emerged as a showcase for television craftsmen who still use old-school techniques – including sculptors, painters and designers, and other artists who are award-winning Make-up and its effects are responsible.
"What I'm most proud of is that it gives us the opportunity to highlight practical makeup effects and the people who create them," says Greg Nicotero, a longtime executive producer and director of the series , "In a world where people are so excited about digital effects, it's amazing to have artists who are able to make these effects practical and tangible."
Nicotero is an old hand at this kind of work. The veteran make-up specialist began his collaboration with George A. Romero and the legendary Tom Savini on "Day of the Dead" and for decades was a major pillar of horror, working with John Carpenter and Wes Craven. This expertise has made him ideal for watching a show full of effects over gnarled, hard-disintegrating zombies.
"The Walking Dead" has come a long way since its modest start as a series of six episodes. "The big challenge at the beginning was that we shot in Georgia in the summer," recalls Nicotero. "We could not use many overhead masks because we did not want the actors to overheat." Instead, the team relied more on 3D transfers and later moved into more elaborate prosthetic seasons.
Nicotero and the innovations of his team are bold and the results are often disconcerting. "We started getting full dentures made from dentures," he says. "The denture hides the true performer's lips, so we can simulate tightness around the lips and simulate gums and teeth for a skull-like look." The goal, he adds, is "do not look like a person Let's not forget makeup that wears a person's shell. "19659002] For Nicotero and the company, each new series of episodes is an opportunity to broaden the boundaries of practical make-up effects. "Every season, we think about what we've achieved," he says. "My team and I are investigating what worked and what did not work." The vision is an "emaciated and disintegrated" look and "every year we are developing new ways to emphasize this." From the extension of the forehead and jaw to bald bald caps and prosthetic ears, there's no end to the gimmicks that busy the show.
As the seasons progress, many of the zombies appear aggravated. "The longer the show lasts, the more we are dealing with the fact that some of these creatures have been running around for years," says Nicotero. "The leathery skin, the emaciated look, the pronounced bone structure – we try to connect the passage of time with the decay of these zombies."
Nicotero attributes his background in medicine to the accuracy of gruesome effects. At school he studied biology, and that knowledge, on the show, translates to a shocking degree of horror realism. "We try to make it look as real as possible," he explains. "If you pull the skin back on some of these zombies, you'll see different layers of things underneath." Bones,
Tendons, muscles, arteries, veins: There is no part of a real body that Nicotero does not consider when it comes to its effects on the screen.
The final season of the series reveals one of the team's proudest creations: a zombie catches his foot in a steel fence, tips over, and lands on his belly, twisting his head up the path. It looks remarkably authentic – a fact that Nicotero enjoys. "We made a complete denture to the performer, then dug a hole in the floor and buried his face, then put an animatronic head on his head so we could turn everything around," he explains. "We want to let the audience guess how it's done."
But as important as the make-up effects for the success of "Walking Dead" are, they must serve the story, warns Nicotero. He remembers the scene in "An American Werewolf in London," in which Griffin Dunne transforms into a monster. "A werewolf conversion would not be effective unless you worry about the guy changing," he explains. "We can not lose the story in favor of an interesting effect, and the implications must be inherent in your story."
Viewers can look forward to further deterioration. The producers are working hard on Season 9.