Love Letters Written in Blood: The Renaissance of Practical Effects

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The practical special effects artistry of creatives such as Rob Bottin, Tom Savini and Rick Baker fell out of favour somewhat in the late 1990s and 2000s, as filmmakers embraced digital technology and its seemingly endless possibilities. However, in the past decade, the puppetry, make-up effects, and gore of texts such as Evil Dead (2013), The Void (2016), and the Terrifier series (2016 - ) recall and centralise the tactile quality of the 1980s heyday of practical effects.

Reviews by both critics and viewers often note these texts’ “love letter” status to
horror films of the 1980s, and this is framed primarily through their use of gore and other explicit imagery. This newfound reverence has allowed a new generation of special effects artists, such as Dan Martin, Damien Leone, and Ashley K. Thomas to thrive and engage with horror fans and audiences and they have themselves noted their debt to their 1980s counterparts, acknowledging the influence of their craft.

This paper will argue that the use of practical effects evokes a longing for a horror
decade past and its attendant material qualities, while uncovering how this also represents an intriguing intersection between process and practice. This paper will demonstrate that films such as those noted above are part of a broader analogue approach within the contemporary genre, where the accoutrements of previous eras are recovered and made central once more. Overarchingly, I will present these texts as “love letters” to past horror eras: ones that reinsert materiality as part of their appeal to genre fans, and as part of a process of homage.


ConferenceDead Media: Contemporary Horror and the Analogue
OtherThe symposium explores the reappropriation of analogue formats and styles within the contemporary horror genre across various media platforms. The event is intended to connect media scholars working in this area and highlight current research across relevant topics, with a view to future collaboration.
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  • Practical effects
  • Special effects
  • Horror Film


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