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'Face Off' Recap: Fast And Furry

Zombies vs. werewolves is nothing compared to backstage fights
Richard Whittaker, 1:00am, Tue. Mar. 5, 2013
No "Thriller" jokes, please. The massed hordes for the biggest "Face Off" challenge yet.
Image courtesy of SyFy

Aroooo werewolves of Neptune. And Saturn. And Mars. And Jupiter.

It's question that has plagued every horror fan: When will someone build the perfect werewolf? Last week's episode of SyFy's makeup effects Face Off added a new transformation: What would the ideal werewolf be for an alien world?

Talking to twins of evil and Bernie Wrightson at Staple! this weekend, and the comic-creating duo agreed that shapeshifters should be the next monster to be given a media resurrection, just like zombies got with the surprisingly worthwhile 2004 revamp of Dawn of the Dead. However, cinema history has rarely been kind to the lycanthrope. Werewolves are hard. Count the number that have actually work in cinema on the claws of one paw. Yes, the transformation in An American Werewolf in London is stunning, but the actual werewolf stumbles and shambles. Generally, the most successful transformations have been into wolfmen, because then you don't have to completely redesign the human skull to make a jaw that snarls and tears the right way.

Are this season's Face Off cast the ones to put fur on the moth-eaten, mangy beast? Maybe, but this hasn't been the most impressive bunch. And, not to rag on the hometown talent but, let's face it, it'll take a couple of back-to-back miracles for Eric Z., the sole surviving member of #Team512, to even make the finals. Same goes for Meagan, whose moth last week would have blown 'em away on the original Star Trek. But then again, exactly how Autumn has survived this long is a mystery to everyone. Not that good, and mean while she's hurtling to mediocrity.

First, we have a foundation challenge, and the appearance of The Walking Dead producer Gale Ann Hurd signals that this is a zombie makeup gig. And not just one zombie. A whole horde. Cue nice reference to Hershel's farm by having around 80 models erupt from the barn, all of whom have to be camera ready in one morning.

Now this I like: This isn't about hero make-up, this is about the background characters. Considering most of the contestants will initially be dealing with either low-budget productions with a handful of creatures, or they'll be part of the production line, it's more representative of their career post-show. That means these are collaborative challenges, and those call for fewer generals, more foot soldiers. Eric Z. and House (a former Halloween haunt guy) get the speed and quality, and still keep to the same design ethos and color scheme. Kris' winning streak looks to be derailed by Autumn's short temper (someone do a "where's my sponge?" shirt right now) and they forget to work on the backs (who knew zombieism was progressive?). Eric F. and my dark horse contender, Wayne, are solid and paid attention to each other. Meanwhile former front runner Anthony and Meagan are cohesive and, winning moment for Meagan, she gunks and bloods up their revenants' backs. And that's why they're the top look and that's why she wins immunity. It's a great rebound, and she and Anthony (still the lead when his head's in the zone) needed the confidence boost.

But will it be enough for the spotlight challenge? It's a partner do-si-do before heading back into the lab, with the spinning cylinder of fate containing one live silver bullet: Who gets stuck with Autumn this time? Crap, it's Eric Z.

Top Looks

Kris and Wayne's frozen fuzzball, and Meagan and House's lycanthropic astronaut
Image courtesy of SyFy

Kris and Wayne: Neptune's beyond icy temperatures are reflected in the color scheme, but the extended neck and head seem a little flimsy. There's nothing horribly wrong, but little obviously right. However, that's more than enough to excel this week, and there are some really nice details in bringing the piece cohesion.

House and Meagan: Someone read Werewolf by Night as a child. Their Martian lycanthrope is of terrestrial origins, an astronaut with a moon problem. Their problem is major miscommunication. Meagan lets House take the lead, because she has immunity and doesn't need to impress. House thinks she's just slacking, and he spends so much time complaining about how little she's doing that the head – his head – doesn't fit. But it's red and bloody and craggy in all the right ways – even if it does look a little like Mechanical Animals-era Marilyn Manson.

Bottom Looks

Eric F. and Anthony learn their teeth are bigger than their creative stomachs, while Autumn and Eric F. just leave the judges with stomach ache
Image courtesy of SyFy

Eric Z and Autumn: Poor Eric, I suspect he'd rather actually be on Jupiter than have to work with the perpetual griper on their Jovian wolfman. She get's all bent out of shape when he notes that she's making more of a pig than a wolf (to quote her directly, "Grumble whine Wile. E. #%&^$ing Coyote") "The make-up came together in one sense," he said. "It is a piece. A piece of what, I don't know." When it shambles to the stage, he's even more critical ("shaved chihuahua"), a sentiment echoed by judge Neville Page, who calls it "terrier-esque."

Eric F and Anthony: The two most ambitious designers take advantage of Saturn's high winds by adding wings. You can definitely feel Eric's influence because no-one breaks up a silhouette like the F-ster (also, I will concede, the Fifth Elment hair is bugging me less this week.) They're both crazy ambitious, and try to pull together what is basically a full-body costume in three days, That's impressive, but as Glenn Hetrick says, "Is that the right decision?" Probably not: creating a full look with wings where the actor has to walk backwards as a massive workload, and if either man has been victim of a problem this season, it's been scheduling. It also doesn't allow for fixing problems, like the whole back blowing apart.

Now this may be the roughest final judging. When Autumn and Eric work hard to throw each other under the bus. Unfortunately for Autumn, everyone knows that she's just cannot play well with others. No shocker to anyone (except possibly Autumn) that she's sent back to Pittsburgh.

Wayne and Kris take the win, with Kris winning overall again, putting him definitely in the lead position.

But again, was I overly-impressed? Nope. Kris is solid, and that's good enough, but nothing has sparkled yet. And there were so many lost opportunities this week to really do something impressive, based on the science of the planets. Anthony and Eric F. were on the right track with their winged werewolf, even if the wings looked like plastic bags. But did Eric Z. and Autumn not for a moment think, "Huh, Jupiter is a gas giant. How the hell did a werewolf get here?" and come up with some awesome, innovative solution to the design conundrum. House and Meagan did well because you could see the story in their design. Maybe everyone else needs to remember that in future. Or, like Kris, maybe they just have to avoid screwing up.

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