Review: Scream Greats Vol. 1: Tom Savini

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Directed by: Damon Santostefano
Category: Documentaries

If your a huge horror fan, especially 80's slasher horror, then this will probably be one of the best documentaries you will ever see.
Tom Savini is a legend in the horror effects world having played a huge part in some of the best horror films to come out of the 1980's. Detailing Savini's work in films like Maniac, The Prowler, Dawn and Day of the Dead, Friday the 13th part 1 & 5, Creepshow, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and numerous other horror and non-horror films, this fascinating documentary shows what goes into making these classic slasher and horror films that we so fondly remember.

The guy's been working in the industry since way back in '77 with George Romero's Martin, which landed him the job of Special Effects, Make-up Effects and stunts on almost all other George Romero projects from then on, yes even on Knightriders. You also get tons of interviews with zombie god George A. Romero and current top make-up effects master Greg Nicotero, looking super young and skinny in the documentary. Hilariously, they misspell his last name during his interviews.

For a guy like me, it's almost depressing to watch this. Here, you see the talent and hard work that went into creating realistic and practical effects back in the heyday of horror films. Tom Savini is a legend and a genius in this field. This was a true art form and not everybody could do it the way these guys did it back then. It's truly a dying art now. Now everything is done digital, even fucking gunshot wounds. Somehow, they find it much easier to put all that stuff in afterwards even if it looks fake from a mile away. But back in the day, they actually went through the trouble of making blood filled squibs or using real pig intestines to simulate human intestines when a zombie is ripping your body to shreds. It makes you long for the days of old school hard work filmmaking.

For Tom Savini, Lon Chaney Sr. and Dick Smith were a huge influence on him. Watching Chaney Sr. transform himself into so many different characters from film to film inspired him to use the images he saw as a photographer in the Vietnam War and make as realistic as possible horror make-up effects.
You get such a treat when watching this because it's full of behind the scenes footage of some of your favorite horror films of all time, as well as some you've probably never even heard of. I myself had never heard of The Prowler or Martin until I saw this way back in 1986 when it hit VHS during my Fangoria days. And that's really the main attraction here, the behind the scenes stuff. It's so weird seeing Jason from Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (my personal fav of the series, remember it had Corey Feldman, Crispin Glover and that chick from Weird Science) just hanging out and laughing in full on Jason Voorhees makeup. Or watching Tom Savini and protege Greg Nicotero try to apply makeup on 300 zombie extras for Day of the Dead. Truly awesome stuff to see. Watching Scream Greats leaves no doubt that Tom Savini pretty much defined the splatter genre with his work in Dawn of the Dead and then Friday the 13th. The effects produced in those 2 films had honestly never been done before and when Savini showed what could be done in a horror film, it literally just took off from there. When you see the work that was done on the sub-par Day of the Dead, you realize that even by today's standards, it's probably the best makeup and horror effects work ever done on film. Wait, check that. I just thought of Rob Bottin's amazing work on The Thing. So i'll just say that it rivals Bottin's work on The Thing because now i'm torn between the two.

One thing that didn't make it into the documentary unfortunately is his experience directing the remake of Night of the Living Dead (1990), a truly underrated gem in the zombie genre. This documentary was only made in 1986 and he hadn't yet made that film, not until 1990. It's a shame, because he did such an incredible job directing that and it's a travesty that it's not considered a classic or even recognized for his amazing work as s feature film director. But that's another story.

This is a truly great documentary about a man who defined the splatter film genre and created some of the most amazing, revolutionary, realistic, disturbing and genre defining film effects in horror film history. I still remember seeing this when it hit VHS back in 1986. I must have been 10 or 11 with my brother, a year younger, watching this thing religiously over and over again, seriously wearing out our VHS tape. We were die hard horror fans (even at 10) and avid Fangoria Magazine readers. Thanks mom!

To my knowledge Starlog Video only made 2 of these documentaries. The second I believe was called Scream Greats Vol. 2: Satanism and Witchcraft, also released in 1986.
And of course, this has never been officially released on DVD. I still own my VHS copy though, which I tracked down on eBay some years back. However, if you're ever lucky enough to hit a Horror Convention, Tom Savini is sure to be there. And if he is there, then he will most likely be selling this documentary in DVD form as I have my own autographed copy of one that my buddy Renning picked up for me at a past Fangoriafest convention. Thanks man!

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