When I talk about Face Off, most people immediately think I’m referring to the old Nicolas Cage movie about face transplants. But I’m actually talking about the crazy-cool special-effects makeup show on Syfy that is starting its seventh season Tuesday, July 22, at 9 p.m.
It’s the best competition show you’re not watching. Here are the seven reasons why you should totally catch the new season of Face Off and thank me later.
1. The contestants are nice—no, really. We all know the reality/competition show mantra: “I’m not here to make friends.” Well on Face Off, the contestants are totally open to winning and friendship. People on Face Off help each other, despite being busy with their own projects. Back in season 5, one contestant’s 300-pound mold fell onto his hand. He had to leave the studio for three hours to get stitches. Several remaining contestants left their own projects so they could clean out the guy’s mold and start running it, so he didn’t lose the time that he was at the hospital. That’s not the only example. When someone has a heavy mold, other contestants help carry it. If a mold gets stuck, people rush over to help open it. (Clearly molds cause much of the drama on this show.) Kindness isn’t an exception on Face Off; it’s a rule.
2. It’s like going behind the scenes. Before I started watching Face Off, I rarely thought about the time and work that went into special-effects makeup. It was just a thing that was there. You didn’t question how that character transformed into a werewolf or a zombie, or how they gave that actress such a realistic-looking scar or burn. But watching how those things happen is incredible, and it gives me an entirely new appreciation for makeup artists and the work that they do. Plus, I’ve learned a lot of the lingo.
3. The judges are awesome. There are three regular judges on Face Off, and their resumes are insane. Glenn Hetrick has worked on The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Prestige. Plus, he designs a lot of Lady Gaga’s costumes. Ve Neill has done makeup for Beetlejuice, Mrs. Doubtfire and the Pirates of the Caribbean and Hunger Games franchises. Neville Page was involved with Avatar as well as The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Planet of the Apes. And then, of course, you have Michael Westmore, who serves as a mentor (and father of host McKenzie Westmore) and who has been nominated for 42 Emmys (winning nine) and four Oscars (winning one). This is a panel of extremely talented people who definitely know what they’re talking about.
4. The creatures are crazy. No matter what the challenge is—scary, funny, gory, creepy, abstract—these people are going to make some amazing creatures. Sometimes someone misses the mark and you come away scratching your head—what were they going for here?—but most of the time, I sit there in awe. What’s even better about this is seeing the transition from model to creature. During the big reveals to the judges, we get to see a super-cool morph of the model’s face from before makeup to after makeup. Face Off is worth tuning in for the 10 minutes of reveals alone. It’s one thing to watch the makeup created and applied, but it’s another thing entirely to watch everything come together in under five seconds.
5. Speaking of the models … Obviously the makeups these contestants are creating would not be nearly as effective without the models underneath it all. As mentioned above, it’s so neat to watch a beautiful woman or a huge, muscle-y guy transform into a regal elf queen or a half-robot/half-human steampunk police officer. But the models are key to these transformations. They are so patient and cooperative, but they’re also really excited to become these creatures. And the makeup can look great as a concept, but it really takes the life and personality that the models infuse into their characters to make them come to life.
6. With every character comes a backstory. The concept for each creature on Face Off is just as important to the overall character as the makeup that the designer creates. Sure, your elf queen looks great, but how did she rise to power? Whom does she rule over? Do her subjects like her, or is she more of a Machiavellian ruler? And what about your steampunk cop—how did he get his robot bits? What motivates him? What kind of world is he living in? The designers are coming up with entire worlds and backgrounds for their creations, not just a model with some prosthetics.
7. There’s nothing like it on TV. For all of these reasons and more, Face Off is one of the most creative shows on TV right now. It takes the stakes and drama of a competition show and adds elements of fantasy and horror and sci-fi. It’s art and makeup and serial killers and aliens. One week they could be creating Seussical characters or half-animal creatures, and the next week could be scary movie villains or murderous aliens. There are really no limits on this show, and I hope people realize how cool it is. I’d love for you to join me as I recap this season, and find out for yourself how great Face Off is.
Face Off airs Tuesdays at 9/8C on Syfy.