All posts for the day August 13th, 2014

Face Off Season 7 Episode 4: Woe Is Trees!

Published August 13, 2014 by vfdpixie

This week, the gang talked about Stella’s win and Jason’s desire to show his talent.  The 12 artists left met with McKenzie and models dressed as superheroes.  For the Foundation Challenge and immunity, they were to choose a model and create a hero inspired by their costumes.  Their guest judge was makeup artist Mike Elizalde, who worked on Fantastic Four, X-Men Last Stand, and got an Oscar nomination for Hellboy.  He wanted them to integrate the costume into the makeup so that the character told a story.  They all had some interesting ideas, and all of them did great jobs.  The standouts for Mike were Vince’s chameleon type superhero with a great layered paint job and Rachael’s elegant alien assassin with her choice of colours, beautiful contouring, seductive look and lashes.  Mike chose Rachael as the winner.  She was relieved for the immunity.

For the Spotlight Challenge, they gathered in the lab where McKenzie stood with a giant tree.  Films like LOTR, and Evil Dead had trees with human-like traits and intelligence.  They had to work in teams of 2 to create a tree character with traits of a specific species of tree AND, since the trees from the aforementioned films were either evil or angry, they had to incorporate a common tree malady to create a darker character.

Stella and Sasha teamed up to create a White Birch with burls.  They came up with a sacred Native American tree that was upset that it’s people were driven away, so he had eyes all over to watch the land.  When Mr. Westmore checked out their progress, he warned them that the design should be a personification of the tree, not a person in the tree.  Stella used L 200 to create a paper-like birch bark, and Sasha created hands that didn’t quite work out, so she made them out of foam.  Stella used a dry brush of white paint to create a birch bark look and in last looks, she realized how much she hated the hands but loved the character overall.  It turned out great and the judges loved this character too.  They thought was well rendered and a full head to toe coverage.  They thought it was clear that it was a birch, loved the gorgeous paint job, and Lois loved the “crumply knees”.  Because of the paint job and malady driven character, they were in top looks.

Jason and Doc got together to create a Bristlecone Pine struck by lightning.  The character was a guardian of the desert.  Mr. Westmore felt they hadn’t done enough to convey the character.  They took his advice, but both were nervous.  Doc was concerned because so far, he had been in the bottom for every challenge, and Jason because this was the biggest sculpt and mold he had done and was worried about their time.  Doc encountered disaster as his arm molds broke in several places.  He had to scrap that idea, and was discouraged by this.  In last looks, they figured out a way to work out the arms.  Their character came out really well.  I loved the tree bark texture.  Glenn thought “the form language was exquisite and awe-inspiring”.  Lois loved all the small details like the knees and feet, and although the malady was not defined, Neville thought there was finesse in the cheek area.  For a duo that started off in trouble, they were also in the top looks.

George and Keaghlan picked the Silk Floss and choking vines.  They came up with an environmentalist that fell when the tree was cut down and became a warrior.  Mr. Westmore told them to take out the human features.  They worked well with their time, with George creating a gang mold for a large and quickly done piece, leaving them of day two for fabrication and a little dance break!  George thought there could have been more variation of colour, but it was complete.  On the reveal stage, I thought it looked a touch too human, and the judges acknowledged all the work they put into it.  They didn’t like the vine aspect, calling it an afterthought, but they ended up safe.

Vince and Damien got the Sequoia and tree rot.  They decided on a zombie tree.  When it came time to create a colour scheme, they were at odds.  Damien wanted more red, but Vince wanted to go with a more grey tone to convey the zombie aspect.  Their second skin on the latex was ripped but they worked with it since it looked like the tree was rotting.  In last looks, Vince changed the paint.  I didn’t mind the look, but Glenn thought it was great if they were going to an office Halloween party.  Ouch!  They thought it was limiting with the tree stump on head and it was not cohesive.  Neville thought the hands were well sculpted but the left eye was crippling to the whole look.  They were in the bottom.

Rachael and Dina chose the Banyan and fungus.  They wanted to go for a really twisted tree look.  Dina was nervous right off the bat because Rachael had immunity.  Mr. Westmore thought their design didn’t look like a twisted banyan at all, but like vines or fire.  They girls had to start over with their design.  In the end, Dina didn’t like the final character.  The judges didn’t think it read tree bark, and Neville thought that “fungus wasn’t the only malady” the design suffered from.  Yikes!  Rachael was really worried because she had immunity and would be devastated if Dina went home, but they were safe.

Cig and Drew got the Weeping Willow and insect infestation. Mr, Westmore suggested they make the holes for their emerging insects obvious.  They had plans for large branches to convey the willow aspect and arms to grab victims to feed these insects.  Drew decided to attach the branches at last looks which was risky because they were the defining feature of the character.  To their shock and dismay, the model came out sans branches because they were way too heavy for her to function.  The judges felt there were missed opportunities, and that the colour was too uniform.  The bugs didn’t work and although there was some definition, it got muddy in some areas.  Drew took full responsibility for the branch issue, which the judges admired.  They were in last looks.

Among the top looks, the judges were impressed by Doc and Jason’s elegant flowing lines and paint job, and Sasha and Stella’s colour and malady driven character.  They picked Jason as the winner because of the amount of detail in the tree.  What a great feat for him since he was hoping to impress the judges!

They judges felt that they couldn’t judge something that wasn’t there, i.e. the branches, with Cig and Drew’s Weeping Willow, although they did like Drew’s face sculpt.  Vince and Damien’s design suffered because of the prevalent crippling concept.  Vince was the artist going home due the makeup’s head and cowl issues.  Boooooo!!!  Boooooo, I say!!!  I liked him and was sad to see him go.   He was really chilled out and talented, but I know with his experience, he will go far.

Book Review: BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman

Published August 13, 2014 by vfdpixie

bird box

BIRD BOX by Josh Malerman (Ecco/HarperCollins 2014, 272 pages hardcover)


It’s been a while since I’ve written a book review, but I think I’ve been waiting to be consumed by something I couldn’t put down.  BIRD BOX did that for me.  With a creeping certainty, this debut novel by Josh Malerman (who is also the lead singer of the band The High Strung), presents an unfathomable situation that denies us the cherished sense of sight in a neat, horror wrapped package.

Malorie is afraid most of the time.  Five years after the world literally goes mad from seeing unnamed creatures, she must find a safe house, give birth, raise and train two children to live without their sense of sight, and attempt to survive in this new environment, all while blindfolded against these things and the madness they bring.  This story takes us from Malorie’s first fears as the world goes crazy around her, to the dull ache of inevitable doom that lurks beyond a locked door and covered windows.

What really stands out for me is Malerman’s use of language.  I like writing that gets to the point and is descriptive without mincing words.  He creates a survival based story with stark but far from basic prose, hitting hard with short, staccato sentences that imprints a clear image without the frills.  His use of flashbacks reveals the story at a pace that leaves you wanting more, creating a sustainable suspense that carries right through to last page.

I was also impressed by his female protagonist. Most men who write from a female perspective can be called out by something that doesn’t ring true, like a silly turn of phrase or situations that a woman knows would never happen.  This is especially true for male horror writers who use the realm to depict women in a one-dimensional way, for instance, immediately choosing hysteria for women once a crisis appears.  Most of them also throw in gratuitous sex that follows the typical horror book formula:  man + woman+ post-apocalyptic world/horror crisis=ridiculous sexual interlude.  Malerman doesn’t do that here which is so refreshing.  While a lot of horror fiction focuses on the almighty penis enduring in a post apocalyptic world, raping and pillaging as a new society is built, his is a quieter, more tense representation of such a world.  Malorie is strong but shows her weaknesses without exploiting her sexuality.  In fact, each character is preoccupied with the dangers at hand, not the next place where they can have at it in a bunker.

The voice he creates for Malorie is honest and very believable, from her skepticism to the blossoming of her maternal instinct and growing terror, to her reactions to other survivors she encounters.  I admired how he skillfully builds the panic that Malorie feels as her situation worsens, keeping the reader alongside the character and the foreshadowing to a minimum.

BIRD BOX has been compared to Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, which is fitting, but I immediately thought of Kate Bush’s 1986 song Experiment IV about a sound that could kill.  In both instances, the loss or corruption of these basic senses makes for a real sense of terror and dread.  Comparisons aside, I think Malerman has made a place for himself in the horror genre, and I can’t wait for his next book.

My only criticism?  That the story ends.  I actually felt like shaking the book to see if more words would fall out.  I would love to read a sequel, however I am praying to the literary gods that they don’t make a movie out of this book.  Maybe I lack vision (no pun intended), but this story should live in the reader’s head instead of the big screen since it deals with internal struggles and unseen threats.  If you enjoy survival horror fiction as much as I do, read this book.  Malerman has given us horror that messes with your head, things we take for granted, our basic human nature and the will to survive.

*BIRD BOX has been nominated for the 2014 Kirkus Prize.

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