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The Secrets of “Faces of Death” Finally Revealed



Faces of Death

Live puppies are a delicacy in some cultures. If you need proof just watch Faces of Death. Younger viewers may not be familiar with the movie, but horror fans of the 80’s know of the controversy behind it. iHorror talks with the man who directed the commentary and featurette for the 30th anniversary DVD, and he reveals some of the secrets to this cult classic

[This article was first published in December 2014]

Faces of Death

Is Faces of Death the most shocking film ever?

Ask any horror movie fan old enough to remember the genre 30 years ago, and he or she will probably tell you about their first experience with Faces of Death, arguably one of the first “found footage” movies ever made. Faces of Death portrayed itself as a film compilation of real suicides, deaths, and autopsies.

Related image

Coming to a Grizzly end (via IMCDb)

The movie includes 105 minutes of, among other things, footage of an autopsy, piranha attacks, a beheading, a Grizzly bear mauling a tourist, a drowning victim, a suicide, and a cannibal orgy. This footage is real and all of the deaths and disembowelments are genuine. Aren’t they?

Try to determine if you think the film delivers what it promises:


Media outlets and politicians alike blamed the film for the delinquency of the period. This fervor created an instant cult classic that eventually would earn it a place in horror history.

Is Faces of Death Real?

The main question on everyone’s mind who watched it was, “Is this real!?” iHorror finally has the answer.

Michael R. Felsher, owner and founder of Red Shirt Pictures, a production company that provides documentaries, director commentary, and bonus content for DVD and Blu-Ray distributors, talks to iHorror about his experiences with Faces of Death and its director, Conan Le Cilaire (not his real name), who provides the commentary for the Blu-Ray edition.

“He has a whole separate career aside from what he did on Faces of Death,” Felsher said, “and he used a pseudonym dating back to when the movie first came out. He’s not ashamed of it, but it’s a situation where he still wants to keep his professional real career separate from what he did on Faces of Death. We talked him into doing commentary, but he didn’t want to go on camera.”

Faces of Death (1978)

Special Edition (via IMDb)

Felsher’s company is behind some of the most recognized bonus feature documentaries on DVD. His company created “Flesh Wounds” for the special edition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre as well as extra content for Creepshow and Night of the Living Dead DVDs.

The Faces of Death Formula

It is no surprise that Felsher’s insight into the secrets of Faces of Death are abundant, “There’s a scene in the movie where a woman jumps, commits suicide from a building, she just jumps and hits the pavement.

Part of that is real—her jumping is real. But then the rushing up to the body lying on the ground is fake. So they would take and augment existing footage to make the creative narrative around it, and also sometimes to enhance the gore and shock aspect of it.”

Faces of Death (1978)

via IMDb

Part of the magic of Faces of Death was its editing and misdirection. The movie incorporated real footage with special effects and make-up to create scenes that trick the viewer into believing what they are seeing.

Although a lot of the film’s footage is real, most of it is fake.

Felsher says that after speaking with some of the film’s crew, he found a new appreciation for the movie, “One of the things that I found really fascinating about the project was talking to both the special effects crew who worked on the movie and also the editor, who had a really interesting task in that he had to blend stuff that existed at the time, and also sometimes create something out of whole cloth.”

The editor’s magic can be seen in the dog fight segment; two pit bulls fight each other to the death in what looks like a glimpse into a dog-fighting ring. But the director told Felsher it’s really something a lot less terrifying,

“It looks really savage and cruel and mean in the movie. But these dogs were the most playful dogs in the world, we just smeared them with jelly, they were just playing around they weren’t doing anything wrong at all, in fact, the footage itself is so laughably cute, we couldn’t believe that anyone would buy this but, you add sinister music and some sound effects and cut it a certain way, and it looks like these dogs are killing each other.”

Despite camera tricks and creative editing, there are some scenes that were not faked. Faces of Death, for all of its trickery, contains some very real graphic footage.

Faces of Death Isn’t All Misdirection

The director told Felsher about one scene in particular:

“We were down on the beach shooting something else, and we got a call that a body had washed up on the beach, and we were the first one on the scene. So what you’re seeing here is a real body that had washed up. It was a guy who had gotten high on LSD or something and had gone swimming out by the pier and drowned and his body had just washed up while they were out there. So that footage is 100% real; there were no effects there was nothing it wasn’t planned, but they were there so that body’s real.”

Image result for faces of death movie 1978

Unfortunate accident (via HorrorCultFilms)

Understanding Faces of Death and the time period in which it was released, with no internet or YouTube to explore, one can appreciate the curiosity it induced. It was taboo at the time which only increased its popularity among children and college students,

“It’s an amazing example of the power of word of mouth,”

Felsher said, “a legend spread amongst people, almost like an urban legend. There have been so many rumors attributed to it, so many supposed truths about it over the years.”

Felsher also explains how the United States government got involved, “The F.B.I was even fooled by it; they thought the cult footage was real. They had gotten hold of like a fifth-generation [duplicate] of it that looked so crappy, they couldn’t make it out very well, but it actually looked real to them. So they thought the footage was real.”

Faces of Death was a phenomenon of its time. Public officials, critics, and social groups attacked its integrity and even went so far as to blame it for heinous criminal behaviors.

Whether you watch it and roll your eyes at some scenes or cover them for others, there’s no denying that it is a prototype for the more visceral materials that would become available online to everybody a few years later.

A scene from the movie (warning graphic) NSFW:

The secret: from “The Death Makers” featured on the DVD & Blu-Ray of The Original Faces of Death from Gorgon Video.

Felsher says how he felt going into the project changed once he was done with it, “I came away with an amazing appreciation for the artistry and the talent that went into it, even if it wasn’t something that I would necessarily want to watch on my own, but as a document of a certain film making technique, that was one of my favorite experiences on a project.

I learned as much as people watching it learned; I was learning as I was going along and over the course of that commentary in particular. By the time it was over, it was like my world has been expanded on certain things I didn’t even think about. And I have now an actual appreciation for “Faces of Death” of all things.”

Although there are some cleverly edited depictions of gruesome scenarios, Faces of Death still contains real footage of real death. Viewers today can watch the film and try to determine what is real and what is not.

Whatever your thoughts on the film, Felsher sums up its composition the best:

“The movie’s about, I would say, 30% real and 70% bullshit.”

Image result for faces of death movie 1978

via IMDb

Although we have revealed some secrets of Faces of Death, are you brave enough to explore the rest of the movie for yourself and come up with your own conclusions about what is real and what is not? Just remember, live puppies are a delicacy in some cultures. Can your stomach withstand the full 105 minutes of the infamous Faces of Death?

To learn more about Faces of Death, you can check out the official website here.

You can purchase your own special 30th-anniversary Blu-Ray edition of Faces of Death at Amazon today.

If you decide to watch Faces of Death, Tell iHorror what you think.

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Evil Tech Might Be Behind an Online Predator Ruse in ‘The Artifice Girl’



An evil A.I. program appears to be behind the fake abduction of a young girl in XYZ’s forthcoming thriller The Artifice Girl.

This movie was originally a festival contender where it garnered the Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award at SXSW, and won Best International Feature at last year’s Fantasia Film Festival.

The teaser trailer is below (a full one will be released soon), and it feels like a twisted take on the cult fave Megan is Missing. Although, unlike Megan, The Artifice Girl isn’t a found footage film it employs third-person computer tech in its narrative.

The Artifice Girl is the directorial feature film debut of Franklin Ritch. The film stars Tatum Matthews (The Waltons: Homecoming), David Girard (short “Teardrop Goodbye with Mandatory Directorial Commentary by Remy Von Trout”), Sinda Nichols (That Abandoned Place, “Bubblegum Crisis”), Franklin Ritch and Lance Henriksen (Aliens, The Quick and the Dead)

XYZ Films will release The Artifice Girl in Theaters, On Digital, and On Demand on April 27, 2023.

The More:

A team of special agents discovers a revolutionary new computer program to bait and trap online predators. After teaming up with the program’s troubled developer, they soon find that the AI is rapidly advancing beyond its original purpose. 

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Latest Shark Movie ‘The Black Demon’ Swims Into Spring



The latest shark movie The Black Demon is preemptively striking audiences who are used to these types of films during the summer by heading to theaters this spring on April 28.

Billed as an “edge-of-your-seat action thriller,” which is what we hope for in a Jaws ripoff, er…oceanic creature feature. But it does have one thing going for it, director Adrian Grunberg whose overly-bloody Rambo: Last Blood wasn’t the worst in that series.

The combo here is Jaws meets Deepwater Horizon. The trailer looks pretty entertaining, but I don’t know about the VFX. Let us know what you think. Oh, and the animal in peril is a black and white Chihuahua.

The More

Oilman Paul Sturges’ idyllic family vacation turns into a nightmare when they encounter a ferocious megalodon shark that will stop at nothing to protect its territory. Stranded and under constant attack, Paul and his family must somehow find a way to get his family back to shore alive before it strikes again in this epic battle between humans and nature.’

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‘Scream VII’ Greenlit, But Should the Franchise Take a Decade-Long Rest Instead?



Bam! Bam! Bam! No that’s not a shotgun inside the bodega in Scream VI, it’s the sound of producer’s fists rapidly hitting the green light button to further franchise favorites (i.e. Scream VII).

With Scream VI barely out of the gate, and a sequel reportedly filming this year, it seems horror fans are the ultimate target audience to get ticket sales back at the box office and away from “press play” streaming culture. But maybe it’s too much too soon.

If we haven’t learned our lesson already, banging out cheap horror movies in quick succession isn’t exactly a fool-proof strategy to get butts in theater seats. Let’s pause in a moment of silence to remember the recent Halloween reboot/retcon. Although the news of David Gordon Green blowing off the gossamer and resurrecting the franchise in three installments was great news in 2018, his final chapter did nothing but put the tarnish back on the horror classic.

Universal Pictures

Possibly drunk on the moderate success of his first two films, Green advanced to a third one very quickly but failed to provide fan service. Criticisms of Halloween Ends mainly hinged on the lack of screen time given to both Michael Myers and Laurie Strode and instead on a new character that didn’t have anything to do with the first two films.

“Honestly, we never once considered making a Laurie and Michael movie,” the director told Moviemaker. “The concept that it should be a final showdown-type brawl never even crossed our minds.”

How’s that again?

Although this critic enjoyed the last film, many found it off-course and perhaps a stand-alone that should have never been connected to the redeveloped canon. Remember Halloween came out in 2018 with Kills releasing in 2021 (thanks to COVID) and finally Ends in 2022. As we know, the Blumhouse engine is fueled by brevity from script to screen, and although it can’t be proven, hammering out the last two films so quickly might have been integral to its critical undoing.

Which brings us to the Scream franchise. Will Scream VII get underbaked purely because Paramount wants to reduce its cooking time? Also, too much of a good thing can make you sick. Remember, everything in moderation. The first movie was released in 1996 with the next almost exactly a year later, then the third three years after that. The latter is considered the weaker of the franchise, but still solid.

Then we enter the decade release timeline. Scream 4 released in 2011, Scream (2022) 10 years after that. Some may say, “well hey, the difference in release times between the first two Scream movies was exactly that of the reboot.” And that is correct, but consider that Scream (’96) was a film that changed horror movies forever. It was an original recipe and ripe for back-to-back chapters, but we are now five sequels deep. Thankfully Wes Craven kept things sharp and entertaining even through all the parodies.

Conversely, that same recipe also survived because it took a decade-long hiatus, giving new trends time to develop before Craven attacked the newer tropes in another installment. Remember in Scream 3, they still used fax machines and flip phones. Fan theory, social media and online celebrity were developing fetuses at that time. Those trends would be incorporated into Craven’s fourth movie.

Fast-forward another eleven years and we get Radio Silence’s reboot (?) which made fun of the new terms “requel” and “legacy characters.” Scream was back and fresher than ever. Which leads us to Scream VI and a change of venue. No spoilers here, but this episode seemed oddly reminiscent of re-hashed past storylines, which may have been a satire in and of itself.

Now, it’s been announced that Scream VII is a go, but it leaves us to wonder how such a short hiatus is going to fare with nothing in the horror zeitgeist to channel. In all of this race to get the big bucks, some are saying Scream VII could only top its predecessor by bringing back Stu? Really? That, in my opinion, would be a cheap effort. Some also say, that sequels often bring in a supernatural element, but that would be out of place for Scream.

Could this franchise do with a 5-7 year hiatus before it ruins itself on principle? That break would allow time and new tropes to develop — the franchise’s life’s blood — and mostly the power behind its success. Or is Scream heading into the “thriller” category, where the characters are just going to face another killer(s) in a mask without the irony?

Perhaps that is what the new generation of horror fans want. It could work of course, but the spirit of the canon would be lost. True fans of the series will spot a bad apple if Radio Silence does anything uninspired with Scream VII. That’s a lot of pressure. Green took a chance in Halloween Ends and that didn’t pay off.

All that being said, Scream, if anything, is a masterclass at building hype. But hopefully, these movies don’t turn into the campy iterations they make fun of in Stab. There is still some life left in these films even if Ghostface doesn’t have time to catnap. But as they say, New York never sleeps.

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