When I was a kid I used to love to play with Knox Gelatin (aka Instant Flesh), Alginate, Plaster Bandages, Foam Rubber, you name it. Rick Baker was my hero, Dick Smith was a God, and CGI was Pong. So I was predisposed to love Face Off anyways, what came as a total surprise to me was how quickly my kids became obsessed with the week to week creative trials of Syfy’s reality competition that pits a diverse group of special effects make-up artists against one another in pursuit of a prize that could mean fame, fortune, and recognition. It’s not so much of a surprise anymore, CGI may have taken the lead when it comes to creature effects on the screen, but there is still nothing more fascinating then watching the creative process that goes into creating something not of this world, and right now Face Off is the only act in town.
(Dear Syfy channel: I interrupt this review to ask that you bring back Monster Man, another series that celebrates the creativity and ingenuity of practical effects, and inspires youngsters to keep a shrinking craft alive.)
Face Off season 3 shows a real maturity in the construction of the contest and cast from previous seasons. It’s as if the producers have begun to learn more about the raw material they have to work with. Season 1 was pretty much a solid mix of old school practical effects artists with Plastesine, Silicon, and Latex running through veins, with a fair mix of glamour artists mixed in. Season 2 featured a cross section of body painting experts. Season 3 brings fabricators into the mix, along with a decent selection of previous sub-disciplines.
The challenges have seemingly become larger scale in terms of real world tie ins. Spoiler: in the premiere the contestants are tasked with creating an alien that could have been a part of the original Star Wars cantina scene. Yes, that Star Wars. I’m guessing that since they are kicking off with something as huge and legendary as the Star Wars brand that there will be many more commercially connected challenges to come this season.
Of course it is the contestants themselves that seal the deal, and in this respect Season 3 of Face Off truly raises the bar. I’m not saying this cast is composed of ‘better people’ than previous seasons, in fact it’s a little awkward in general to compare the seasons casts since we are talking about real people here, but the one thing none of them can control is the chemistry. Where it takes weeks to get a sense of who is who in Face Off, there were, imho, several personalities that stood out immediately. Alana Rose Schiro, the youngest Face Off cast member so far, seems impulsive and inexperienced at times, but surprises with an ability to think on her feet that transcends her age. Twins Eric and Derek Garcia share formidable gifts, but their egos are surprisingly soft—no doubt tempered by years of brotherly rivalry. Roy Wooley’s Earthy confidence is surpassed only by the fact that he really does seem like he can fabricate anything.
There are other stand outs, for sure, but for just being the first episode I felt more comfortable and in tune with the cast. For those of you who love drama, there is a dose of it in the premiere that will have your head spinning.
Face Off Season 3 premieres tonight on Syfy at 9PM ET.