Last week we talked to makeup effects specialist/designer/horror attraction mastermind Shane Morton about his work on the new Adult Swim show Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell (and if you haven’t caught this little slice of depravity, which airs at midnight on Thursdays, what are you waiting for?). Our conversation roamed far beyond Hell, though. So, here’s a bit more with Morton, who talks about his role in building up the Southern horror scene, monster wrestling, and his time on the set of Rob Zombie’s Halloween II.
FEARnet: You seem to have either found or created a lot of opportunities to work in the effects industry while remaining in Atlanta, Georgia. Has that been difficult?
SHANE: Not at all. Atlanta is the horror capital of the country. People ask me that all the time. The Silver Scream Spookshow (a live, horror-centric variety show) has lines around the building. It’s Atlanta – people love this stuff. I put on a rock-and-roll monster bash at a local drive-in with rock bands and monster movies, and we sell thousands of tickets.
I think a lot of people around here grew up with this Ted Turner programming, where you’re getting ready for school and you’re watching Ultraman. You got Godzilla weekends where TNT would show every Godzilla movie available to them nonstop. We were raised with this stuff and it got its claws in. So many people gravitate to Atlanta to work on this stuff. You’ve got great haunted houses like Netherworld. The guys from Chambers of Horror are here. They do a show called Splatter Cinema here in town and there are lines around the building for their stuff.
It’s always been like this. There’s always been a huge scene for this stuff. We’ve just gotten better and better, so it’s gotten bigger and bigger.
Being in Georgia helped you land the opportunity to work on Rob Zombie’s Halloween II. What was your experience on that set like?
Rob had me working on the “Phantom Jam” sequence, and he said “I want you to imagine that Slayer is putting on the most Satanic Halloween party ever, and design that.” I said, “So I can paint murals of naked women being ripped apart by devils?” and he was like, “Please, do all of that.”
Of course, none of it made it into the movie. We had all this great stuff that didn’t make it into the movie. It wasn’t Rob’s fault. I think a lot of it was the second unit not picking up the right stuff. We had all these naked girls as bartenders, they were all in head-to-toe Creature from the Black Lagoon makeups. Rob gave me a lot of control, I even cast that sequence, but because I’m not in the union I didn’t get any credit for it.
You often hear that Halloween II was a grueling shoot in a lot of different ways, and that there was a lot of interference and difficulties with budget and time constraints.
Yeah, it’s gone down in history as one of the most plagued horror film shoots ever. Somebody should write a book about what was going on. It wasn’t Rob. He had this great vision, and the movie could have been awesome, you know, but when you get involved with a machine like that, there’s not a lot that you can do. You can’t make art by committee. It was a real fight for him.
We really hit it off. I ended up doing a lot of work for him. He even changed one of the characters into an artist for the movie, and I did like 70 paintings. I had 270 makeups that my team did for the “Phantom Jam,” some really great stuff. Once again, a lot of it didn’t end up onscreen, and I don’t think that’s Rob’s fault. He had all these great hallucination sequences, and we shot a lot of it, but it’s not there either.
When it was all over, I told him, “I really hope that one day you can make your own movie and not have to deal with all these money people and non-artists telling you how to do your job.” I saw Lords of Salem and I thought it was amazing, I thought it was his best movie, and he made that one under the radar.
Halloween II was such a divisive movie among fans. There’s a lot of stuff in it that I like, and I can’t help but think that if this wasn’t a Halloween movie, and wasn’t trying to be a Michael Myers story, which people have certain expectations of, maybe it would have been received better.
I’m not interested in Michael Myers. I’m not interested in slasher films in general, which might sound funny coming from a guy who’s been making horror movies for years. To me, Mario Bava did everything you can do with the black-gloved killer movies in the late 1960s. I like old stuff better. So when people talk about slasher films, and how terrifying they are, I go, “Well, go watch Peeping Tom.” There’s a slasher film that affected me, and still affects me.
Among your many projects is something called “Monstrosity Championship Wrestling.” Please elaborate.
Yeah, as if I needed another project. This is awesome, though. I love Santo movies. I’ve gone to Mexico City and seen matches in Arena Mexico. I love the stuff so much. I used to be a big wrestling fan and I just can’t watch it anymore. I was like, “What can I do to make wrestling fun for me again?” Of course – add monsters to it. It’s not an original idea, really. But our thing is different. It’s not just wrestling. It’s got comedy to it.
We’re taking over the Batman stunt show at Six Flags and putting MCW on in October. We’ve only done three shows, but people are freaking out over it. We’re working on better costumes. We’re winging it right now. We haven’t really had time to get a lot of production value in it. But in a couple more months we’ll have things tightened up.
Every month has a theme. We have this one character that raises dead wrestlers every month to fight for him. Some wrestling organizations have contacted us and said we are very tasteless and shouldn’t be doing this, but I think it’s funny so we’re still doing it.
Yeah, I don’t think a wrestling company calling anyone tasteless is something to be worried about, and I’m an old-school wrestling fan so I feel okay saying that.
We’ve had people say that we’re being disrespectful and that we’re a blight on the history of professional wrestling. And what my wrestlers say to that is, “What makes your fake fighting better than our fake fighting?” That kind of shuts them up.
But people want to get involved. We’ve got (TNA wrestler) Luke Gallows coming out for the next show. He’s not working it, but he’s going to be there checking things out. We’re getting these guys coming out because they’ve heard how much fun it is and they want to check it out.
When this stuff goes over at Six Flags, we’ll have pyro and stuff. They say, “Ah, it’s going to look like WrestleMania!” And I say, “No, it’s going to look like Wrestle-Vania!” Everything’s got that monster twist, and we love it.
We do irreverent stuff, but we’ve got matches with really good workers. Wrestling fans come up to me and say, “you guys are really putting on a good wrestling show.” The workers really care. We’re trying to find that good balance. We just need to put a little more money and time into it and we’ll be ready for television. That’s the goal. I’d like to take on Vince McMahon, show him how to put on a really good show.