Interview

Interview

Hell’s Designer: Interview with Shane Morton About 'Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell'

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Shane_1Ask any desk jockey or cubicle dweller you know, and they’re likely to tell you that their workplace is, if not Hell incarnate, then a pretty good preview of it. In Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, the new show airing on Adult Swim (Thursdays at midnight EST), the workplace is literally Hell itself. The show centers around Gary (Henry Zebrowski), a low-level demon trying to work his way up the worst corporate ladder imaginable.
 
The show is a hybrid of comedy and horror (think The Office meets Dante’s Inferno by way of Sam Raimi), which is always a difficult proposition to pull off successfully. An integral part of the show’s efforts is set designer/makeup effects guru Shane Morton, an Atlanta-based artist who’s a big part of the Southern city’s thriving horror scene. In addition to his work with Adult Swim, Morton stays busy with projects like the Silver Scream Spookshow and the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse. He worked with Rob Zombie on Halloween II and is shopping around his own bikers-versus-Bigfoot flick, Dear God No! Despite juggling so many projects, Morton took a few moments to give FEARnet.com an idea of what it’s like working in Hell.
 
FEARnet: Tell us a little bit about yourself and tell us how you got involved in makeup effects work.
 
SHANE MORTON: I’ve been a monster fanatic since I first saw King Kong when I was three years old. I’ve since spent my life obsessing over monster movies and haunted houses. I’ve worked in the haunted house industry for a couple of decades now, and I created the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, which is one of the world’s largest haunted attractions. It’s the kind of theater where people actually have heart attacks in there, literally mess their pants every night going through it.
 
That’s a great selling point for that kind of business.
 
Yeah. It’s a real different kind of thing. We don’t even call it a haunted house in any of our advertisements because we wanted to break away from any of the stuff you’ve seen before in haunted houses. It’s been really good for us.
 
I’ve been working in movies for decades also, as a special effects artist and set designer. I’ve actually produced my own film called Dear God No! which has done really great. It’s out overseas. It came out in America last year. It’s shot in Super 16. It’s a bikers versus Bigfoot thing that myself and some of my best friends worked on. 
 
How did you get involved with Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell?
 
They called me initially about doing the makeups because I’m known for being really fast. I showed them I could do a waist-up makeup in under an hour, and they loved that. I came to the meetings and realized they didn’t have a designer for Hell yet, so I said, “Give me a couple of days, I’d really like to design Hell for you guys.” I went home, locked the door and did about 50 drawings, a couple of paintings, shot some miniature footage, and came back in a couple of days with all of this stuff. They were like, “Okay, you’ve got the job.”
 
I had to be the guy that does the first Satanic sitcom. So I really worked hard on it. I took it to heart, because the material really hits all my sweet spots.
 
In doing a show like this where you’re trying to strike that balance between comedy and horror, so much rides on the makeup and the set design.  Was it difficult to find that balance, or did you have it right away?
 
I knew at the first meeting what it could be, and what I would want to do if given the opportunity. I’m in the haunted house business, and in that business you have to work fast. Being in that business taught me how to make stuff big and dramatic and quickly and cheaply.
 
Whenever you turn on this show, there’s something weird going on. There’s never going to be talking heads, or people sitting at a table having a discussion over mashed potatoes. It’s like,  you’re flipping through channels and when this show is on, you’re going to stop and say, “What’s going on with this?” because it’s just so garish. 
 
Everything in Hell has a twist, you know? Even the cell phones are like these little Cthulhu type creatures. The urinals are evil. I’ve had a lot of fun making this. Basically, it’s been “anything goes.” We’ve had a lot of fun with that sort of freedom.
 
You see horror mixed with a variety of genres, like comedy and Westerns and science fiction. What is it about horror that makes it such a versatile genre? 
 
We’re all going to die, we’re all going to feel pain, we’re all going to know people who die horribly or go through terrible things like cancer. There’s horror everywhere. It’s something you have to deal with. I really think horror films, and the horror tropes in general, exist because they actually exist, you know. Only you get to experience it in a different way to take the edge off. I think horror films provide a lot of relief, and I think that’s why horror and comedy work so well, because as you know, in horror you’ve got to have a pressure valve release and let them laugh at something, or they’re going to laugh at something they’re not supposed to laugh at. There has to be a time to let the pressure off and then, okay, now we can get back into the horror.
 
As far as horror-comedy, that was something I was really worried about with Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell, because the scripts were just brutal. The show got a lot funnier as the cast got into their improv. I think this stuff is funny because I’m depraved, but I was like “How are we going to soften this?” That’s why I started pitching these makeup ideas that had kind of a silly edge to them.
 
We shot Satan literally shitting in people’s mouths. It looked so bad and so rotten, but Henry (Zebrowski) was making it funny with what he was saying. If you can make being shit on by Satan funny, you can make just about anything funny.
 
If they market this show right, it could be the next Monsters. Every shot has a monster in it. It’s really intense. The episodes were edited down to 15 minutes from the original half hour we shot, because they said it was not as funny. It became sad because you’re paying more attention to the torture, so they said they had to speed it up. They cut back on some of the stuff because you want to feel sorry for the guy, but you don’t want it to ruin your good time. 
 
Is this something that’s built to be a one-and-done thing, or is it possible to come back if it takes off?
 
I’m putting it out there: I say let this thing be five seasons and a feature film. Everybody on the show feels that way. The New York guys are saying, “Man, I hope we get to move down here and work on this thing constantly,” because everyone was having such a good time with it. So yeah, let’s keep our fingers crossed that this thing gets picked up for more, because I love going to Hell every day.
 
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.
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