Saturday, June 2, 2012

THE HORROR HOTEL: SPECIAL FX CHECKING IN FROM GD EFFECTS & ZACH SHILDWACHTER

As a born and raised Midwesterner, I'm often looked down upon by my comrades on the east and west coasts for living in a cultural wasteland.  Here's the deal, though.  The Midwest isn't nearly as lame as once thought.  Thanks to Horror Society, Chicago hosts some of the most incredible events throughout the year, and it would appear that Ohio is slowly but surely growing some major chops.  I know, the state whose nick-namesake comes from a TREE has some rad stuff going down.  I was under the impression that the only thing horror related Ohio had going for it was Cinema Wasteland and an over abundance of serial killers, but I recently was proven wrong and am going to exploit my ignorance to support some incredible artists out of the Midwest.  May 19th I was busy emceeing a beauty pageant, and the horror fanatics of the Buckeye state were headed to The Horror Hotel: a convention with guests, lectures, scream queen/special fx/film/film scoring competitions, and indie film screenings.  Now, I was obviously unable to attend, but I was so impressed with the two winners of the Haunted Rooms competition (judged by Alan Tuskes) that I had to get in touch with both of them to find out more about them.  I present to you, GD Effects & DotW friend and favorite, Zach Shildwachter.  First prize? A paid gig doing the special effects for the upcoming indie film Lady Dragon.

Horror Hotel favorites and well known Ohio FX company, GD Effects is composed of Daniel Blain Click and Greg Lanning.  The duo have been doing special effects for local productions since March 8th of 2011 with their first effect, an eye gouge for the film Chill. Since that first eye-gouge effect, their second movie was Night of the Cannibals, followed by Kandie Land.  The three films are all currently in post production, but the boys of GD Effects aren't solely stuck on films.

Last September they grouped up with Dan Mizicko of Stuck In Ohio and shot a commercial for the Y-town Zombie Crawl. The duo have worked on The Vampire Biker's Ball, Zombie crawls, festivals, proms, and even some of the more iconic FX for a local production of Evil Dead: The Musical with Greg nabbing the coveted role of Ash.  Following the show, they competed at the Horror Hotel along with their extended crew of Jim Danko and Tony Sperry whom they met on the set of "NOTC", Dan's girlfriend Diane Smolak, and also Dan Carroll who Jim and Tony brought on. Chris Brady who gave them a studio to work out of, some of the materials, lights, and a fog machine. It all paid off because the boys won the contest along with Zach Shildwachter.

The room generated for the competition resembled an Altar of the Church of Satan complete with a demonic priest looking somewhat inspired by a cross between a horned toad and the classic red demons of storybooks.  Adding to the mix was a half-faced nun and a blue demon with large horns and a demon guard with oozing wounds.  

The next project for GD Effects will be a web series called "Zombiemom", and work on their partner Jim Danko's movie Hatchet Man Road. You can view more of their work on their Official Facebook Page.

The next artist is no stranger to Day of the Woman and I hope you're not sick of my praises for his work. A child of the 80's, Zach Shildwachter was raised in the glory and evil of the fight between VHS and Betamax.  After seeing the future come and go with laser discs and contemplating making the switch of his collection of films no one has ever heard of over to blu-ray, he realized that he is unequivocally, a whore for the silver screen.  Willing to trade, barter, borrow, and steal in order to fulfill the itch that only B-Movies can scratch, Zach is a true product of his environment.  Blood, gore, unnecessary violence, gratuitous nudity, and general depravity have all aided into warping his fragile little mind into what it is today...and it shows in his work.

Creating a cross between something that looks like the love child of David Lynch, David Bowie, and David Cronenberg, Zach's piece was something that the judges at The Horror Hotel weren't exactly sure how to classify.  What Zach lacks in professional props and expensive products, he more than makes up in with his passions.  Largely self taught, he is an artist acting as a disciple of trial and error, working predominately with materials cheaply at his disposal.  His room was themed as "biomechanical body horror" an attempt at revisiting the late 80s/early 90s VHS horror as a look within itself.  An exploitation of all his visits at those Mom & Pop video stores that refused to rent him the blood soaked box covers that would stare back at him from his youth, his goal was to be flashy, trashy, and make the viewer feel sleezy.  His work is an aim to remind the audience of a time when entertainment was dangerous, risque, and filled with undesirable elements.  If you're asking me, I believe that in this effort, Zach Shildwachter was incredibly successful.

Those familiar with Day of the Woman know that Zach has a remarkable grasp for creating grotesquely beautiful works of art using just simple man-made prosthetic and make-up, but it was enlightening to see what else he had up his sleeve.  Inspired largely by Akira, The Beyond, John Carpenter's The Thing, and Tokyo Shock, Cronenberg, and Frank Henenlotter, Shildwachter created a room that was less "haunted house" and more "unsettling".  It reminded me much of what the play (turned film) BUG would have been like if Tracy Letts had taken acid and sat through some J-Horror before writing it.  His actors for the weekend were folks behind the up and coming short film I AM ALIVE, and even melted the director Justin Buckner into the overstuffed chair.  Although it's hard to see in the photos, one of Zach's main selling points was his aptitude for lighting and mechanical creations.  As bummed as I am to have missed the show, I'm still mighty impressed with what he created.  As always, you can view more of his work at Awkward Creations.

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