31 Days of Dreadtober: CGI VS Practical Effects In Horror

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Day 3

Computer generated imagery has long been a staple of blockbuster film releases. From its inception in the 1960’s, the art has continuously evolved. Now and days, CGI is being utilized for a diverse range of films across all genres, having both positive and negative effects in the film industry.

 Despite the revolutionary strides in technology that has allowed filmmakers to take audiences on these cinematic journeys through other worlds, there’s a certain quality and look to practical effects that CGI cannot replace. Most movie-goers can tell when they are looking at a computer generated image.  Fooling audiences into thinking a computer-generated effect is, in fact, a practical effect, is an arduous task. However, it should be taken as a compliment when such a masterful deception is achieved.

More and more often I’m hearing people say they couldn’t tell something was a digital effect. Once such a reaction is the norm for your average moviegoer, then maybe CGI will have overtaken practical effects, but until then practical effects reign supreme.

In terms of the horror genre, practical effects are an integral part of setting up the perfect scare. Its there on the screen, the truth of it undeniable. When you know something is digital, it makes the situation less menacing.

Video by studioADI

However, I do think CGI as a tool adds a lot of value to horror movies when used sparingly and in conjunction with practical effects. Probably one of the worst cases of overuse of CGI in horror is with 2011’s The Thing. There were actually quite a few practical effects done on the set of the film, however many of those shots were replaced with CGI versions in post-production. It felt especially wrong as John Carpenter’s The Thing has been exalted for its stellar and creative use of practical effects. The Mama character played by Javier Botet in the 2013 film of the same name may have been a total bust with a total CG antagonist, but the human component of Botet’s acting sent the effect into a nightmarish uncanny valley.

How do you guys feel about the use of CGI and practical effects in modern horror? Let me know in the comments below!

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