21st Oct2021

‘Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini’ Review

by Alain Elliott

I do have a small confession to make when it comes to Tom Savini. I’ve always had a slightly irrational dislike for him after I met him at a convention. And in fairness to him it wasn’t like he was really horrible to me, it was just that he didn’t seem interested at all. I handed him his book to sign, he barely looked at me, signed it and handed it back without saying a word. I clearly met him on a bad day because as this documentary (and many other pieces I have read or watched) suggests, he’s a super nice guy. Smoke and Mirrors covers not just Savini’s career but is whole life inside the ninety minutes.

After the introduction to Tom Savini the actor, stuntman, director and of course legendary make-up and effects artist, we learn about his family and life growing up, including four brothers and a sister. Quickly moving to details about Savini in the army as a photographer and how all of this influenced his future work, especially in make-up and special effects. It then of course moves on to his work in theatre, TV and film and covers as much as possible in the relatively short run time.

There is a lot to cover and Smoke and Mirrors has the perfect guy to talk about it all in Tom Savini himself, occasionally talking about things he explains he has not talked about before. He’s not the only talking head though, and although we don’t get lengthy chats from anyone we do hear from Danny Trejo, Tom Atkins, Danny McBride, Sid Haig, Tony Todd and more horror legends. They all have nothing but good things to say about Savini and his work.

There’s only one real issue with Smoke and Mirrors and that’s if you’re a Tom Savini fan or even just a horror fan, then you have seen or heard about this all before. You will know about his army photography work, you will know about his acting and directing and will have seen his make-up effects work countless times.

That said, it never really gets old seeing those effects, they are as fantastic now, after I have seen many of them numerous times, as they were the first time I saw them. The film-makers here clearly wanted to show some new things if possible too, and There were clips of his theatre work and from conventions that I had never seen.

Fans of Tom Savini will obviously love this but if you are maybe a young horror fan not so familiar with his work, you will likely get even more from the documentary. I loved watching the clips from the many great horror movies he has been involved in and the brilliant head-exploding, skin-ripping, blood-splattering, gore fests that he has created the make-up and special effects for. There’s no doubt Tom Savini is a horror legend and if you didn’t know already, Smoke and Mirrors will show you exactly why.

*** 3/5

Smoke and Mirrors: The Story of Tom Savini is out now on Digital in the US; with a special edition Blu-ray slated for 2022

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