"Meat cleaver in shoulder" effect

Ouch! Don’t you just hate it when somebody comes up to you and sticks a meat cleaver in your shoulder? What’s the world coming to?

Obviously this is one of Midnight Pictures’ special effects, courtesy of Andrew Harrison. I’ve decided to start blogging about the tips & tricks of filmmaking-on-the-cheap that Andrew and I have learned in our many years of experience as low-budget filmmakers.

We’ve borrowed this one from the master, Tom Savini. First, you need a suitable implement such as a cleaver or axe – something with a reasonably wide blade. Then you need someone who has the kind of equipment that can cut through the blade. You get them to cut an oval shape out of it. Then all you have to do is press the gap against a suitable part of your body, and with the help of a little stage blood, presto! For our effect, we also drilled a couple of small holes in the cleaver, one on each side of the gap, allowing us to tie on some elastic and feed it under my armpit to prevent the cleaver from falling off.

A more elaborate variation on this effect can be seen on Dawn of the Dead (1970s version), where one of the bikers slams the blade of his machete into a zombie’s forehead. Here’s how to make the motion convincing: start the shot with the blade already embedded in the forehead, then have the actor pull it away very quickly. The editor then plays the shot in reverse, and it looks as if the machete cuts right into the zombie’s head. The final touch is to quickly move on to another shot before you need to show the blood spurting.

Zombie Genocide fans will be confused about what the above photograph relates to, because “Doc” (i.e. me) is clearly a lot older than he was in that film. Well, a couple of years ago, Andrew and I recorded a trailer for an as-yet-unmade film entitled Shadow of the Dead. We’ve kept fairly quiet about this project. There are no firm plans to make it, but it’s the one Andrew and I keep talking about.

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