Morbidly Beautiful

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In his captivating doc, Jason Baker takes us on an incredible journey to remind us Tom Savini is more than just “The Godfather of Gore”.

Tom Savini is a magician who has mastered a life of illusion and wisdom, on and off the screen, and the recently wide-released documentary Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini gives us an unforgettable inside look into the life and legacy of one of horror’s most revered SFX legends.

I remember back in 2011 when Baker, a graduate of Savini’s Special Make-Up Effects Program, was filming and editing this documentary. Eight years later, the sweet results of his tireless efforts found a home on Shudder.

It may have been a long road to get it here, but the results were worth the wait.

As an SFX artist himself, Baker has an impeccable eye for interweaving the aspects of Savini’s public and private life. Moving through each decade steadily, the documentary celebrates what we’ve come to love of Savini: the actor, stuntman, director, author, Special Makeup Effects Artist, and teacher.

Baker pulls in and introduces us to the warmth facets of Savini as friend, husband, father, and grandfather.


Picture from Tom’s Twitter Account @THETomSavini

From his upbringing in Pittsburgh, the horrific experiences of Vietnam, his lifelong love of Lon Chaney, and the cathartic life the theater provided; we explore the profound experiences that gave Savini the clay and canvas from which to create.

We discover how he became the magician that would change the world of Horror forever.

I’m reminded once more how Dawn of the Dead and Friday the 13th could not exist to the magnitude they do without him. There wouldn’t be a KNB EFX Group, or a large special effects industry, which is the catalyst for our beloved conventions, culture, and cinema.

Among many to sit down with Baker, we hear from other legends like Robert Rodriguez, Greg Nicotero, Alice Cooper, Taso Stavrakis, the late George A Romero, and even Tom’s daughter, Lia. Each of them offers a deep and personal perspective of Savini’s legacy.

While many documentaries detract from their narratives through excessive use of animated flashbacks, I can appreciate how Baker cautiously utilizes this device to hold the significance of a life-changing moment.

Smoke and Mirrors does not bore; rather, it held my undivided attention.


Tom Savini and Jason (Ari Lehman)

It was as if I was in the room with Savini as the listener, learning from the progression of his timelines via an intimate peek at his precious family photos, his creations, and film reels.

Perhaps it’s not just Savini’s distinguished talent to scare us in latex and illusion that makes him such a legend, but rather it’s his ability to inspire us to see past the smoke and mirrors of the cinematic experience we hold dear.

In his interview segments and pictures of him at his craft, he holds a stillness, a sense of peace and joy well earned. Within every fabric of his work and rising against all limitations, the magician and maestro, Tom Savini, shows us the importance of life – to live in the moment.

That philosophy gave us a permanent foundation and continues to give to us, our beloved Horror Genre.

With the maestro, Savini, having recently turned seventy-five, Smoke and Mirrors is well-deserving of a wider audience and hopefully a future Blu-ray release.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 5


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