Thursday, 18 October 2018

FX show is a scream

The Hollywood Special Effects Show did exactly what it said on the tin

Spoiler alert: The Hollywood Special Effects Show did exactly what it said on the tin. Starting with a bang and several whimpers via a cowboy shoot-em-up, this extravaganza of pyrotechnics was brought to us by a feisty American girl, a Bond-geek scientist in a white lab coat and a hapless helper who also served as a guinea-pig.

With the audience comprising lots of kids and even more big kids such as myself, we were on the edge of our seats with anticipation and were repeatedly rewarded. Taking us on an educational journey from the first recorded photograph in history via lots of interesting film facts, the show used well-chosen movie clips to illustrate some of the illusions and tricks behind some of those great motion-picture moments.

While my film-buff husband had heard of the Wilhelm scream, I was fascinated to hear how a scream originally used in a Fifties cowboy movie had taken on its own momentum to be recycled many times over the years, even appearing in Star Wars and Toy Story.

Breaking the show down into segments on among other things fight-scene squibs and explosions, animatronics and how to harness the power of sound, it was also interactive as a handful of children in the audience (and a couple of grown-ups) got the chance to go up on stage and help out. We had a memorable creation of stage snow and a lovely attempt at birdsong, 'clip-clop' horses' feet and some more "tweet-tweet"-ing, with some excellent comedy moments.

With a good pace and amusing but informative banter between the presenters, we were taken through the benefits of CGI (and equally the effects achieved in sometimes limiting its use) and Andy Serkis was used as a great example of how Hollywood films can combine character acting and motion capture footage. There was a brilliant use of smoke, light and noise to show how sometimes animation and models could be just as powerful as computer effects, if not more so. A Jurassic Park-inspired creation just before the interval led to one woman's comment in the bar: "Ooh, I'm having a glass of wine after that fright!"

Next up we were reminded of just how powerful sound alone can be, as we were presented with a radio broadcasting the War of the Worlds. This worked really well and grabbed us, more so than the motion capture suit which didn't suspend our disbelief in quite the same way. The section on gory horror make-up could have perhaps been expanded too. However we were entranced throughout the show and the grown-ups whooped as much as the children. It was very enjoyable, from sugar-glass bottles being smashed on heads to experiments with gunpowder, propane gas and blanks.

While the kids in the audience greatly enjoyed themselves, I'd add a caveat that it might not be suitable for more sensitive children (or overly squeamish adults) as there's a little horror here and there. This high-octane production was a rip-roaring success and having been fortunate enough to experience the likes of Universal Studios, I have to say this was an excellent remake.

Review: Natalie Aldred

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