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The Gnarliest Moments From Tom Savini's Effects And Makeup Career

March 20, 2020 479 votes 65 voters 3.4k views18 items

List RulesVote up the moments that grossed you out the most.

In a career spanning decades, Tom Savini has worked with some of the biggest names in the horror genre. He has created special effects for the likes of George Romero, Dario Argento, and Bob Clark; brought to life the creations of the king of horror himself, Stephen King; and knocked off actors like Kevin Bacon, David Warner, and Adrienne Barbeau.

Savini was hand-picked by Romero to direct the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, and he helped to create the zombies for both Dawn and Day of the Dead, not to mention composing jaw-dropping gore effects in movies like ManiacThe Prowler, and the original Friday the 13th, to name just a few.

Savini has operated his own school of makeup and special effects, written several books, directed a handful of features, and acted in more than 70 films and TV shows. Whatever his other accomplishments, however, he will always be remembered for his pioneering special effects work, bringing our most gruesome nightmares to life on the big and small screens. Here are a few of the grisliest moments from his unbelievable career.

  • With frequent TV horror anthology director Michael Gornick taking over for George Romero, the lower-budget 1987 follow-up to Creepshow is generally considered a lesser feature than its elder sibling. But there are still some memorable sequences, especially with Savini once more consulting on the grotesque effects. Nowhere is that more notable than in "The Raft," a segment that features a group of teens caught on a raft in the middle of a small pond, surrounded by an oozing, oil-slick-like monster that gruesomely melts them when they come into contact with it.

    This is demonstrated a few times before all is said and done, including one particularly grisly scene in which one of the swimmers is pulled down through the boards of the raft. Probably the gooiest effect, though, is saved for near last, when one young woman who has fainted from exhaustion awakens to find the ooze on half her face, eventually pulling her into the water completely.

    • Actors: Stephen King, George Kennedy, Dorothy Lamour, Lois Chiles, Tom Savini
    • Released: 1987
    • Directed by: Michael Gornick
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  • Savini has called the art of creating a believable special effect "a magic trick," arguing that part of getting it right is "misdirection." That's certainly true when a very young Kevin Bacon bites the dust in the original Friday the 13th.

    Smoking in bed (already a no-no), Bacon's character feels a drop of blood strike his forehead. The audience is now expecting a scare to come from above, when, instead, an arm reaches up from beneath the bed to hold his head down. Then the point of an arrow comes up through the mattress - and the character's throat - accompanied by plenty of red stuff, courtesy of Mr. Savini.

    • Actors: Kevin Bacon, Tom Savini, Betsy Palmer, Irwin Keyes, Laurie Bartram
    • Released: 1980
    • Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham
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  • How many people get to blow their own head off and live to tell the tale? That's exactly what Savini does in one of the most shocking scenes in William Lustig's infamous slasher. Savini has said that he played the role of the "Disco Boy" who falls prey to Joe Spinell's eponymous maniac because he had already made a mask of himself that could be used for the scene.

    "I took the mask and did a plaster lining and we filled it with all the food from the craft service table," Savini recalled. "There was four cameras on the shot and then, kablam. It was gorgeous." He also recollected, "We stole that shot. You’re not allowed to fire a gun in New York. There was nobody there 60 seconds after we did that effect." Apparently, they did the take and then immediately vacated the premises.

    • Actors: Caroline Munro, Tom Savini, Sharon Mitchell, Joe Spinell, Frank Pesce
    • Released: 1980
    • Directed by: William Lustig
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  • If you've seen even a few of George Romero's zombie movies, you know that people in them tend to come apart like monkey bread. Perhaps the most memorable example is the demise of the villainous Captain Rhodes in Romero's Day of the Dead. 

    After being taken down by the zombie Bub, Rhodes is torn apart by a horde of zombies that he encounters while trying to escape. As he watches his lower half being dragged away down the hall to be gnawed on by the living dead, his lasts words are "Choke on 'em!"

    • Actors: Sherman Howard, Jarlath Conroy, Terry Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Richard Liberty
    • Released: 1985
    • Directed by: George A. Romero
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