Local special-effects artist Jason Vines is on a mission.
If his mission, like that of the Blues Brothers, is a mission from God … then it's likely some ancient Aztec god like Xochipilli, who requires an annual sacrifice of human blood.
Luckily for us all, Vines' particular mission involves fake blood – approximately 5,000 handsized balloons' worth of it.
That's right: 5,000 blood-filled balloons waiting to be thrown with great force in the brief, mad frenzy that is Bloody Balloon Battle 2012. At which battle all the combatants are encouraged to be dressed in white clothes – and in which battle the general public is invited to participate.
Obvious question, even here in the heart of keep-it-weird Austin:
Why would someone begin a tradition like this in the first place?
"Mainly because it's a hell of a lot of fun," says Vines, grinning. "I did special-effects work on a short film last year, and I had a couple of gallons of fake blood left over. I thought it'd be fun to put it into water balloons, gather a few friends dressed in white, and throw 'em at each other – rather than just pouring it down the drain. So, I posted my idea on Facebook and got so many responses that I quickly realized I didn't have enough fake blood. I got to work making more, and in one week I'd made 1,000 balloons by myself in my living room. Then my friends and I gathered in Adams Park and unleashed hell. The whole thing lasted about a minute and a half. By the end of it, everyone was giggling and covered in blood from head to toe."
And now, due to Vines' wrangling & direction, the crimson spectacle's about to happen again. But maybe even bigger and better than last year?
"There were about 35 or so participants last year," says Vines, "so the 1,000 balloons went pretty quickly. This year, I'll have 5,000 balloons and I'm expecting 100 to 150 participants – so, even with five times the balloons, it still probably won't last more than a few minutes before it's all over. Last year I also had two special "prize" balloons in the mix. One of them was the "Vulcan;" it was filled with green blood. The other was the "Hitchcock," filled with chocolate syrup. The idea was that whoever was struck with one of the those balloons would win a prize. But at the end of the melee, nobody had a trace of green or chocolate on them, so it's likely that the special balloons missed their mark and ended up on the ground. I'm going to do the same thing again this year, and I'm hoping at least one of them will find their target."
And is special effects – are special effects? – is it something that this, ah, sanguinista does for a living?
Vines laughs. "I wish it was my day job!" He nods, chuckling at the thought of it. "It'd be cool as hell to wake up in the morning and make monsters for a living. I'm working towards that, but I've got a long way to go. In the meantime, I'm just having fun learning as much as I can about the craft. I've been dabbling in special-effects work for about six years now, and in that time it's gone from a casual hobby to a semi-professional gig. Lately I've been doing stuff for Blue Goggles Films and Moosestache."
And so here comes the second annual Bloody Balloon Battle, exploding into vivid liquid fury a little past noon on Sunday, November 4th, in Adams Hemphill Park. But this won't be the last one, right? Surely the gung-ho Vines has plans for the future … ?
"Next year, I want to have ten thousand bloody balloons," says Vines. "I want to stage the event on a football field that's entirely covered in white sheets. I want to have it filmed and photographed from every possible angle, and I want an aerial photograph of the blood-splattered ground when the whole thing's done. I'd also love to have next year's event be a charity event for Dell Children's Hospital – and have an actual blood drive, too." He smiles, stretching an empty balloon between stained hands, gazing into some middle distance where fake-blood dreams can come true. "If all goes according to plan," he says, "this event will get larger and larger each year until we finally break the world record for the largest water-balloon fight – only we'll be using blood balloons. The record is currently 175,141 balloons and 8,957 participants."
Vines looks me square in the eye, determined as a masked crusader; I almost expect him to do the Batman Voice.
"If I have my way," he says, "we'll smash that record into a bloody pulp."
Xochipilli would be proud.
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