Throughout February, HorrorGeekLife will be celebrating Women in Horror Month! We’ll be talking to, and about, badass women who help shape the genre we love so much. To kick it all off, we talked to special effects artist Cassandra Baker!
Baker’s work can be seen in the 2016 Volumes of Blood sequel, Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories. As I’ve mentioned numerous times, Horror Stories had amazing gore and was one of the main factors that went into my review rating. I was excited to speak with her about Volumes of Blood, how she got into gore and, of course, horror films!
HorrorGeekLife: Hi Cassandra, thanks for taking the time to speak with me! How did you get into making special effects?
Cassandra Baker: I started in the Halloween industry first. I worked in a haunted house my senior year of high school as an actor and I dabbled in a little bit of haunted house makeup during that time. It was just something fun to do at Halloween and I was basically extra hands.
After that, I worked for a company that made Halloween props for theme parks and haunted houses. Our specialties were fake weapons and life sized zombies and clowns. I worked there on and off for about 5 years seasonally and enjoyed the artistic parts of it.
Shortly after I left that job, a friend asked me to help with a zombie themed car commercial. I was really excited about it but also nervous to be working with a real person because I was used to working with props. I spent 8 hours on set that day and about four of those hours were spent fumbling around with the makeup, costumes and fake blood. The zombie I created that day wasn’t my best work, but it was a proud moment. It was such a great experience and, for the first time, I felt like I was doing something I wanted to do.
HorrorGeekLife: What a great, and FUN, way to get hands-on with effects! Are there any artists or films that helped inspire you?
Cassandra Baker: When I worked for the props shop, we had a lot of influence from Tom Savini. The owner of the shop was a pretty big fan and taught all of the artists about Savini. I personally favor Greg Nicotero and his amazing zombies. I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead. I’m really bad about sitting through a movie and commenting on the effects. Things like, “Oh that was cool! I wonder if I could pull that off.”
When I’ve had a drink or two, I tend to bust out the moulage kit and start painting on the nearest person. My friends made fun of me because they always knew I was feeling tipsy if I’m trying to turn them into zombies! There are so many things that inspire me to want to try hard, test my limits and do more.
HorrorGeekLife: Tipsy zombies…sounds like a perfect night. Obviously the practice paid off because Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories nailed the gore. How did you get involved with the film?
Cassandra Baker: I helped a little with the first film, P.J. (Starks) invited me to help with special effects for the short he directed called Ghastly. I was sort of like a PA for the effects artist, so I didn’t get to work on a lot but it was fun for me to get a sense of what happens behind the scenes of an indie horror film.
I worked on a couple of other projects and, after seeing one of those projects, P.J. reached out and asked me to be a bigger part of Horror Stories. They had already filmed a small portion of the movie, but they still had several deaths left to bring to the screen. I was given a pretty heavy list of effects that they were trying to achieve. They told me that I had about one month to get everything ready for the first short I would be a part of.
I know that P.J., Katrina (Starks) and Eric (Huskisson) were a little concerned when they decided to make me a part of this project. They had every reason to be, there is a lot of pressure that comes with making a sequel and they had also never really worked with me as an FX Supervisor. I was pretty nervous myself. I just made it a goal that I was not going to let anyone down. They were extremely helpful in keeping my goal intact. They were so easy to work with and they have given me such an amazing reaction with compliments and feedback. On top of all of that, I made life long friends.
HorrorGeekLife: Sounds like a great experience, which makes me love the film even more. I have to ask about the segment “Trick or Treat” because it had an incredibly cringe-worthy moment that I loved. Can you take us behind the scenes?
Cassandra Baker: I believe you are referring to our “stomp victim.” Originally, we were going to make a fake head so that we could actually stomp on it but we ran into a few technical issues with scheduling and the location, so we had to come up with a new plan. We decided to put the actress in spfx makeup and used some nifty camera tricks to make it believable.
I spent weeks trying to figure out how I was going to do this makeup, we’ve all seen a pretty gnarly curb stop in at least one film and I’ve always wanted to do one. They gross me out so much and I needed this to be just as gross. I searched so many weird things to try to get some sort of inspiration and I finally just went to my bathroom mirror and started putting crap on my face. I took several photos of me biting down on a countertop in my kitchen and then I would go back to the bathroom and tweak it until I liked it.
I used a combination of latex and scar wax, but ultimately it is the blood and the camera angle mixed with that gross sound that make it cringe-worthy. Without giving away too much, there were a couple of other things that happened to that character, before that effect, that I loved putting together. It was a great weekend for effects makeup and working on the fly. Things don’t always happen the way you want them to, but sometimes that happens so that you have the opportunity to make them better.
HorrorGeekLife: Wow, Cassandra. You have some serious talent in this field. What was your favorite scene within Horror Stories that you worked on?
Cassandra Baker: Everyday on set with this crew was a great day for me. Everyone is so hard working and excited and ready to give it everything they have to make an amazing film. I think I was the most excited about about meeting Moses Moseley during “Blood Bath.” Filming his scenes were intimidating at first because he’s been on set for The Walking Dead. He has experienced, and seen first-hand, how their makeup team operates.
I wanted to be taken seriously and to be seen as a professional and he came in and just blew us all away. He is the nicest person you will ever meet. So talented and out going, and extremely professional. He sat with me in the FX room during some of his down time and was so complimentary of everyone.
His death scene was my favorite. In that weekend, I believe we used something like 15 or 20 gallons of fake blood. I’m usually the only one going home covered in blood, but that weekend everyone got to bask in the glory with me!
HorrorGeekLife: Well, it was definitely called “Blood Bath” for a reason! Great scene and Moses Moseley was fantastic. Do you have any upcoming projects?
Cassandra Baker: I don’t have anything official on the books just yet. I was asked if I would be willing work on another indie film and the answer to that is always, “Hell yes!” Until the ball starts rolling, though, I would like to take some time to get my effects space set up for new projects and I also need to work on my portfolio.
My goal is to put something together and take off to Atlanta or Los Angeles for a couple of weeks. I’m interested to see what sort of FX work is available, I would kill to audition for an FX spot working for The Walking Dead.
HorrorGeekLife: That would be amazing! We wish you the best of luck! Just one last question for fun, what is your favorite horror movie?
Cassandra Baker: There are so many there is no way I could pick a favorite. I think we need sub categories. Horror/comedy, slasher and demon/monster horror.
My favorite horror/comedy would be Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. Hilarious and the effects were really good. Slasher I typically go with The Devils Rejects. It is so messed up, yet I love it! Demon/monster movies with a subject like ghosts or possession freak me out! Going to see The Grudge alone as a teenager probably didn’t help. I tend to watch these movies during the day or when I know I won’t be alone. The Grudge is far from my favorite, but I blame that one for my fear. I really liked Insidious, I wasn’t a fan of the sequels but the first one was pretty weird.
HorrorGeekLife: Tucker and Dale and Insidious are on my top horror lists too! Thank you so much, again, for speaking with me. And I am so glad you kicked off Women in Horror Month for our site. We can’t wait to see what your future in FX has in store!