Hell of Fame Inductee: Rob Bottin

 

Rob Bottin

as inducted by Phil Fasso

from the far side of Outpost 31

 

 

 

 

 

Rob Bottin’s piranha victim… Rob Bottin

 

 

Rob Bottin has been shaping my nightmares since I was a kid.

 

I must’ve been around 11 when I saw THE THING and THE HOWLING for the first time, and they had a great effect on me.  In THE HOWLING I watched a man turn into a wolf;  in THE THING, I watched men turn into much worse.  The Big Bad Wolf was running wild, and an alien was hiding inside of men, ready to explode out of its hiding place.  As I beheld them, these monsters had a dual effect on me.  On the one end, they had me in a sense of wonder.  These were things that clearly didn’t exist in the world, but they did on my television, and that was cool.  On the other end, they frightened the Hell out of me.  I could put myself in Outpost 31, or the Colony, where these monsters not only looked real, but were.  That was not cool.  That was scary.

 

‘s deadly defibrillator

 

At the time, I didn’t bother to think that someone was behind the scenes, creating these monsters, only that they existed on the screen.  I hadn’t pondered that there was some incredibly talented man creating these nightmares, toiling over latex and prosthetics and sharing his dark art with me.  When I found out, years later, that one man had been responsible for crafting some of my favorite monsters, my first thought was:  Rob Bottin is a genius.

 

Only a genius could pull off the werewolf  transformation in THE HOWLING.  It’s the film’s centerpiece, a wonder of popping bones, growing hair and extending jaw full of fangs.  It’s the greatest werewolf transformation I’ve ever seen.  Bottin would take transformations to new, gory heights in THE THING.  Let me be clear about this:  his special effects in THE THING are the greatest ever put to film.  No one before or since has topped them, and no one ever will.  Dogs explode into alien tongues and tentacles.  A heart attack victim’s chest rips into teeth, and that’s before he’s torched and his separated head grows a set of spider legs, becoming a whole new monster.  A blood test turns into a chaotic sea of violence.

 

Lord Darkness in all his glory

 

Bottin could do great work without transformations.  Monsters such as Meg Mucklebones and Blix parade around in the dark fantasy LEGEND, which boasts my favorite monster of all, Lord Darkness.  Bottin took tiny Tim Curry and made him into a ten-foot tall, goat legged, horned version of the Devil.  The illusion is amazing.  I love Darkness so much that every time I watch LEGEND, I root for Darkness and his forces to win, even though I know the outcome.  That’s a credit to Bottin’s genius.  With a lesser makeup effects creator, there would’ve been lesser effects, and a cheaper experience.  With Bottin behind the scenes, it’s magic.

 

Which is why Rob Bottin enters the Hell of Fame today.  Bad effects can ruin a horror film.  They take the audience out of the experience, and remind us it’s only a movie.  Great effects can elevate a subpar horror movie, and keep us engaged where we may lose interest.  The real magic is that great effects can make an already great movie greater.  Rob Bottin operates on a higher plane than the rest of his field.  Paired with Joe Dante, John Carpenter and Ridley Scott, Bottin created some of the greatest nightmares of all time.

 

 

Nighmares, as I said earlier, that have shaped my own.  THE THING and THE HOWLING are two of my six favorite horror films more than thirty years later.  Where decades old special makeup effects start to look dated in many films, Bottin’s work only gets better with each viewing.  They’re as beautiful to watch as ever.  And damned if I don’t get that same sense of both wonderment and fright every time I sit down to watch those films to this day.

 

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