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MastersFX On Creating An Undead Army for New SyFy Series, “Day of the Dead”

Wednesday, October 6, 2021 | Exclusives

The creative forces behind SYFY’s upcoming DAY OF THE DEAD have turned to Emmy Award-winning makeup FX artist Todd Masters and his company MASTERSFX (MFX) to create all of the special zombie makeup FX for the show. In addition, DAY OF THE DEAD marks the first time that Masters will serve as an Executive Producer, for a TV series.

In the 10-episode series, a normal day for the small town of Manihawken, Pennsylvania, takes a horrifying turn when the dead begin to rise – walking, chewing and tearing through anything in their wake. Masters and his Vancouver based character factory, MASTERSFX were tasked with filling each episode with dozens of shriveled and desiccated makeups and gooey FX.

“We started meeting and designing our makeup FX work for this project while we were still under Covid and government lockdown,” says Masters. “Literally, the moment we were allowed to re-open our shop, we did, and we hit the ground really rocking and rolling. We had a small army of our amazing artists start immediately throwing themselves into this huge project… there were zombies everywhere! At that time, due to the ongoing Covid situation, we still had no idea how we were going to safely work with the cast and other crew. We ended up devising several new techniques, like making monster dentures digitally, and, in some cases, integrating touchless scanning as opposed to face casting, to make actors’ head and facial impressions.”

The MFX team — hot off their third Emmy Award win for another project Masters helped produce, Aliens Stole My Body — were primed for the task. “I must say, I was a bit leery of the idea of doing dozens of prosthetics – that can only be applied to actors in close-contact – during Covid,” Masters explains. “But our team was professional and flawless. We handled crowds of zombie make-ups, all without incident of any kind. Nearly every day of our work on this six-month odyssey was filled with multiple dead things,” Masters recalls. “There were numerous zombie prosthetics, rotten teeth, decayed torsos, hands and arms, along with dozens of FX, like hatches into heads, bullet wounds, cuts, gashes, etc. We also had armies of background zombies wearing slip-on masks, as well.”

Masters’ monumental assignment was made a bit easier by the fact that one of his co-workers – make-up FX artist Steve Kostanski, based in the MASTERSFX/Toronto studio – was onboard to direct four episodes, and also executive produce. Kostanski started with Masters on the 2009 film, The Haunting in Connecticut when he was just 21. Today, he is now a well-experienced director (Leprechaun, Psycho Goreman, The Void ).

Steve Kostanski makes a cameo appearance as a zombie

Says Kostanski, “The new DAY OF THE DEAD series was an appealing project to me not just as a director but also as a horror fan, because it puts a fresh spin on the zombie subgenre, while remaining true to the spirit of the source material. I had a great experience collaborating with Todd Masters and the talented team at MastersFX on this bold reimagining of Romero’s classic film, which is packed with enough gore to satisfy even the most jaded splatter nut.”

On October 15th starting at 9:30pm Eastern Time/6:30pm Pacific Time, join Todd Masters, MFX artist Steve Kostanski, and fellow DAY OF THE DEAD executive producers Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas for an Instagram Live discussion on the making of the series before the premiere. Fans can tune into Todd’s official Instagram account to watch.

Then, during the premiere of the show itself at 10pm Eastern/7pm Pacific on SYFY, Masters, Kostanski, Elinoff and Thomas will live-tweet during the episode to discuss how they developed the new series and created the amazing new zombies. To join the conversation, fans can tweet along using #DayoftheDead.

DAY OF THE DEAD is set to premiere on October 15th at 10pm on SYFY and on CTV Sci-Fi in Canada.

Rocco T. Thompson
Rue Morgue's Online Managing Editor, Rocco is a Rondo-nominated writer, critic, film journalist, and avid devotee of all things weird and outrageous. He penned the cover story for Rue Morgue's landmark July/Aug 2019 "Queer Fear" Special Issue, and is a regular contributor to Screen Rant, Slant Magazine, and other cinema-centric publications.