special effects

3 Basic Special Effects and Props for Low Budget Horror Films

A film art department has a body of extensive knowledge when it comes to producing quantities of certain visual elements. Fake blood and spray-on cobwebs can be costly to purchase in bulk from prop houses and studios. However, low budget horror films can still achieve the desired high production values without resorting to expensive products.

Fake Blood

Fake blood is, by far, the easiest special effect to create. Mix the following ingredients together and stir thoroughly:

1 part warm water
3 parts golden syrup or caramel sauce
4 drops of red food colouring
1 drop of green good colouring

Extra water can be added, depending upon the desired thickness. This blood is edible however it will stain clothing, carpet , lino and walls. Dissolve It or a similar stain removal product along with soapy water and a brush will remove any remaining residue. Alternatively, the art director can cover lino and tile flooring with a transparent matte cellophane before dressing in the blood product.

Fake Cobwebs

An industrial glue gun with an air compressor and a dust and spray nozzle is the best alternative to costly cobweb spray paint. Simply fit the nozzle and add silicon glue sticks to the gun. Wait five minutes for the device to heat and when ready, point and spray in the set area.

Fake Dust

Fly ash is a by-product of coal combustion and it is a safe alternative to Fuller’s Earth. The art director can use a light synthetic brush and flick the ash residue onto surfaces and furniture. Fly ash can also age wood surfaces, props, signs and furniture if these dressing elements appear too new and shiny on camera. The following recipe will quickly dirty up an area of the set.

1/2 cup of fly ash
1/2 wallpaper paste
7 liters of water

Mix the cup of fly ash into the water, stirring constantly before adding the wallpaper paste. It is important to continue mixing otherwise the ash will settle at the bottom of the bucket. Place a piece of pantyhose or a similar mesh fabric over the lip of a squirt bottle and strain the liquid. Spray immediately onto the desired surface and leave to dry.

The success of a movie is dependent upon its production values. Yet production values need not be reliant upon the budget. The task of the art department is to fake reality and the means to do so is often very inexpensive.