After five seasons, American Horror Story has become the industry standard for thoughtful, disturbing, violent, sadistic, sexy horror on television, and this look behind the scenes gave us even more reasons to love it.
Head of Makeup Department Erin Mekash provided a lot of interesting background on the effects and characters of the show, and she brought along Mike Mekash (prosthetics), Alex Ward (actor, Addiction Demon and Man in Mattress), Kim Ayers and Sylvie Knight (makeup artists) to help her out.
One of the most fascinating things I learned from this panel was that the majority of the throat-slashing-blood-fountain gags in AHS: Hotel were done in real time, practical effects (no CGI) and in one take. One and done. That’s it.
The actors could be a little too enthusiastic in their bloodletting sometimes. They told of Lady Gaga wearing a beautiful, expensive green dress for a particularly bloody shot (they only had the one dress and needed it later). When told by the director to do the slice and then step back out of the way of the blood, she just said, “F*** it,” and stepped up to bathe in the spurting gore.
Erin showed off one of the “book bibles” she makes for each season that includes pictures of fake and real injuries, thematic oddities that reflect and enhance that year’s characters and themes, as a reference. “This is the way I want Sally’s injuries to look, and that’s how the children should be.” It’s important for everybody in the department to be on the same page.
To research the “Devil’s Night” episode, they had to watch a lot of serial killer movies and documentaries to try to get the looks exactly right. After all, they were attempting to recreate real people this time instead of original new characters.
One of the most controversial characters was Alex Ward’s Addiction Demon, a creature with a smooth featureless face, wearing a sharp metal…er…”manhood” that he uses very inappropriately (or appropriately, depending on your outlook). When she first saw him as the character Sarah Paulson (Sally) walked over and asked, “Can I hold onto it? Alex: “Yes.” She did. After a long silence she just muttered, “This is weird.”
Alex mentioned it took nearly five hours for that makeup to be applied. Quite an endurance test.
They estimated that if you compared the number of practical effects to CGI, it would probably be around 95% practical, 5% CGI. They like doing effects in the scene and on the soundstage right there. Sometimes creator Ryan Murphy will embellish or tone things down in post-production, but for the most part what you see is exactly what they did. Including the five neck slashes they had to do in just one day.
As for season 6? All Erin would say is that some “fun stuff” is coming up on August 15th. Keep your eyes wide open, kiddies!