ByChristopher Moonlight, writer at
Film Maker - Host of The Practical People Practical FX Podcast Show - Typo Lord - Be inspired.
Christopher Moonlight

"Cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated. Because the very earliest people who made film were magicians."

– Francis Ford Coppola

This October, as you sit down like many of us to your favorite movies, you might ask yourself, "How the hell did they do those amazing special effects?" Now, thanks to a fun new video from Rocket Jump Film School, you can go behind the scenes of some of the techniques that are known appropriately as .

From reverse film photography, puppets, mirror gags, editing and other camera tricks, these methods are how filmmakers get you to marvel at the extraordinary things we see painted in silver light on the screen before us.

Warning: It gets gory.

Fun stuff, right? It's no wonder that, despite the advent of , there are still droves of fans and filmmakers who have stayed true to their love for practical effects. Let's take a look at some of amazing moments featured in this video.

An American Werewolf In London Transformation

Legendary effects master Rick Baker is known for some of Hollywood's most iconic effects, from King Kong and Men in Black, to Harry and the Hendersons. However, none is more instantly recognizable than the transformation scene from An American Werewolf In London.

Using makeup, sets with holes in the floor, reverse film photography, and liberal doses of editing, audiences went wild as they witnessed limbs stretch, hair grow, and a body transform into one of cinema's most unforgettable monsters, right before their eyes.

The Facehugger In Aliens

In James Cameron's masterful sequel to the 1979 classic Alien, the image of an escaped facehugger scurrying toward Ripley is an unforgettable moment of suspense. The fact that it seemed to come to life and move on its own in the pre-CGI era of filmmaking makes it even more impressive. Using several different versions of the creature that would either be pulled on strings or could be puppeteered using , reverse photography and fast-paced editing moved the action along so quickly that a moment of epic terror was created.

Fright Night Pencil Stab Through The Hand

While not as momentous a moment in horror movie history, showing a vampire stab a pencil through his hand and then pull it out, all in one shot, is pretty impressive. Video effects master Steve Johnson explains how he was inspired by another effect he saw from the movie Excalibur.

The Inception Hallway Fight

If you can't flip your actors upside down, then why not flip the room and the cameraman? It's as simple as that.

It's a trick nearly as old as Hollywood, but never stops being awesome.

Fred Astaire. 'Nuff said.
Fred Astaire. 'Nuff said.

There are so many more of these wonderful old effects that we could cover, and today's directors are constantly striving to find ways to make them new again. They can all be found for our Halloween viewing pleasure in a film catalog that spans all of cinema history. Here's hoping we'll see these practical effects trotted out in the future films we see as well.


What's your favorite moment of movie magic from this video?


Latest from our Creators