'Evil' John Mays
After posting my review of Savage Spirit in July 2006, I tracked down ‘Evil’ John Mays who kindly agreed to an e-mail mini-interview about the great special effects which he provided for that movie.
How did you get started in movie special effects?
“A friend of mine, Lance Pope, got me started. He owned a haunted amusement park/creature-and-props factory. I worked under his guidance for several years. He schooled me in the building of props, effects, costumes - and what actually scares people.”
How did you become involved with Savage Spirit?
“I got lucky. The production company was attending a convention where I was working as the prop builder/stage manager. They had already made one horror movie, They Feed, and planned to do another. On the next movie they wanted to pull out all the stops for the gore effects. I showed Connie Biskamp some photos of my work and they decided to give me a shot.”
What sort of constraints of time/money did you have on this production?
“Cory Turner is a good director and runs a tight ship. I needed to turn out the effects right on the first try if at all possible. The blood splat in the bathroom in the first five minutes of the movie, the axe in the chest in the kitchen, and the death by garage door were all done on the first take. The hand and facial wound make-up effects took about an hour each day to do, so I tried to plan ahead so as to not hold up production. The only thing that dries slower than paint is make-up which is needed ASAP to be on camera. As we all know, wasted time is wasted money.”
To what extent did your effects skills determine the story and the different types of death therein?
“They already knew what they wanted, and except for one effect that just did not look right on camera, nothing changed. Originally, Cory had discussed keeping the movie gore in the PG-13 category. That was before the first death scene we filmed (hand + garbage disposal + axe). We were able to pump so much violence and gore into that one scene that we all knew we had an R rated horror movie on our hands.”
What was the most complex/difficult effect to achieve on this film?
That would be the ‘death by garage door’ effect, and also my personal favourite. I had an idea of how it would look and we did one dry run to make sure all the pieces were in the right places. Originally, the head was to be caught under the door, causing it to stop moving down. As we started shooting, the weight and force of the garage door pushed the prop head to the inside of the garage instead. I fired the blood cannon just as I noticed the change in its position. We, inside the garage, were now coated in goo, and I was afraid the shot was a disaster. That was before I heard the cheering of the crew outside the garage.”
What other movies have you worked on recently, or do you have lined up?
“Quite a few projects have wrapped since then. I have been involved in three features: Razor Room (horror), In the Plan (a cop drama), Red Victoria (a horror comedy) and Damn U Bone (another cop drama soon to be in production). I have been asked for my effects in several other projects later this year: Dementia, The Tenth Axis and a few others that I am not at liberty to discuss.”
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