Documentary Week: Smoke and Mirrors – The Story of Tom Savini (2015)

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The story of one of the greatest FX masters in horror film history is finally revealed in this excellent documentary.

Tom Savini is hailed as one of the greatest special effects masters of our generation. His work has been seen in some of the great horror classics such as Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th, The Burning, Maniac, and countless others. But how exactly did he become of the great masters of the genre in terms of bringing such realistic effects? The answer is finally revealed.

Savini was heavily influenced by the legendary Lon Chaney Sr. and as a kid would start living a dream and create small make-up effects. However, he was also into acting and had found his calling in both genres while in college. However, it was his career as a war combat photographer during the Vietnam War that would become influential in what would become his greatest claim to fame. Combining his experience in the war as well as finding an influence in FX master Dick Smith, Savini would begin working with George A. Romero as an FX master on some of his films. The rest as they say is history.

This riveting documentary is more about Savini’s work as both an FX artist and even actor, appearing in films like Maniac (where he has the titular character blow his head off!) and From Dusk til Dawn to name a few. Savini even directed a film, a remake of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. However, we get to see the human side of Savini, as we get to learn about his family life, which includes interviews with daughter Lia and son Lon. Some of the stories involving Savini’s family life are a bit on the heartbreaking side and it is clear that in the case of directing, it did affect some of that work. However, it is clear Savini has a strength in him that stands out.

Savini’s passion is in both acting and his work in SFX. One of the best things about him is that in an industry where people can change due to life in Hollywood, Savini still considers Pittsburgh home to this day. He has always loved his hometown and calls it home to this day. We get to see how he runs a FX school these days as well as seeing him as a grandfather, having family fun with his grandson. This gives us an intimate look at the softer side of a genre master.

Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini is both an intimate and amazing look at one of horror movie’s greatest special effects masters as we get to see his life both on and off-screen, his influences, and his life as a family man as well. Some heartbreaking moments in terms of his off-screen life, but Savini is truly a wonderful artist, actor, and man overall.

WFG RATING: A

An Allegheny Image Factory production in association with Cyfuno Ventures. Director: Jason Baker. Producers: Andy Westfall and Jason Baker. Cinematography: Mitch Cleaver. Editing: Jason Baker and Mitch Cleaver.

Cast: Tom Savini, Lia Savini, George A. Romero, Taso Stavrakis, Danny Trejo, Ted White, Caroline Williams, Bill Moseley, Robert Rodriguez, Alice Cooper, Danny McBride, Sid Haig, Bill Cardille, Debbie Rochon, Corey Feldman, Tom Atkins, Howard Berger, Doug Bradley.

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