Face Off Season Five Premier
Face Off is back for a fifth season! This time around, the competitors tasked with creating grotesque and amazing make-up effects on insane deadlines are joined by ten returning veterans from past seasons.
The veterans are quite a mix. Some made it to the finals of their respective seasons, while others were early flameouts. Some of my all-time favorite contestants (Roy, Laura, Alana, RJ) are back, which already has my interest in this season dialed up. And the newbies? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. There’s a lot of inexperience there, but a few old hands, and tons of talent in any case.
Because aesthetics are a huge part of Face Off, I don’t feel out of line pointing out a few interesting visuals this week. Laney’s boots and leggings were pretty fearless and eye-catching. Tate’s sunburned face looked painful. Did you catch that brief shot of RJ in a white lab coat and the best mad scientist goggles I’ve ever seen? McKenzie’s gold and black dress when she emerged from the theater stage was classic. I’m really digging Laura’s sleek new hair, too.
The foundation was fairly straightforward: make a cool character. The difference between the freshmen and the seniors was immediately clear. The seniors know how much they can get done within a given time limit, so they could go big with appliances and elaborate paint with some idea of how to manage their time. The newbs were a lot more timid, some of them barely doing any prosthetic work, just sticking with body paint.
There was some great work here, including Laura’s majestic empress with elaborate hair and paint. I’m really happy to see Laura return. Tate, who won immunity, created a cool concept by burying a spiky heart necklace into the model’s chest. But Roy’s piece blew me away, pulling the “pencil sketch” motif of his model’s suit into his face, making the entire guy look like a living sketch. I’ve never seen anything like that before. It was a genius idea that Roy executed perfectly. But Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight) picked Tate.
The main challenge was where things really got interesting. It was a freshmen versus seniors team challenge, and a fairly open-ended one: each team has to create five fantasy creatures from the same “hyper-stylized” fantasy world. McKenzie said “hyper-stylized” so many times I think this episode was written around SEO marketing strategies. Bill Corso, who has done everything in make-up and FX including winning an Oscar, gave some terse advice.
Both teams had pretty cool ideas to unify their creatures. One was a council all bearing glowing crystals in their chests, except Lyma lost hers and didn’t even bother coming up with a backstory to explain it. “Uh, she lost her crystal and hunts in the night seeking the human who stole it.” The other team had minions of a blind witch, each of them with weird eyes poking out of unusual places, the better for the witch to see you with.
The team dynamic was excellent, giving Face Off much more of a “real FX shop” feel. People divided up on various projects, but at times someone would be sculpting while others were running molds or helping out wherever needed.
Even though the episode was an hour and a half, the judges gave short shrift to many of the designs. We only saw four or five of the ten. I was especially bummed to not get a closer look at Tate’s severely creepy insectile troll. We just don’t see enough dead fetuses on Face Off these days. None of the ogres came out very well, but the freshmen ogre looked like a deleted scene from a Fraggle Rock porn parody. Tolin got the boot and it’s hard to argue with the judges’ choice.
While Laura’s witch, with erupting fingers and no eyes, looked terrifying, the paint job was indeed a bit sub-par. I was really impressed by Roy’s faun, and Rick and Laney created a pretty convincing deer/woman hybrid. Alana and Miranda created the most elegant and evil pixie I’ve ever seen. There’s an art to blending beauty with horror, and they did it so perfectly. Miranda got the win and a confidence boost I’m sure will help her on the long run.
But let’s talk about Alana. She’s always been a favorite of mine just for being such a ball of energy and goofy fun, and for being hilariously injury prone. In her original season she was crippled by self-doubt. You could see it taking hold of her as the season progressed, and it was eventually her undoing. This week it felt like a whole new Alana. Confident. Calm. Still a loony, to be sure, but a wiser, more experienced loony. And I really want that to stick, but from the scenes of coming episodes, it seems maybe it won’t. And I think that’s the most compelling storyline early in this season.