For this Ni­a­gara Falls res­i­dent, gore, hor­ror is all in a day’s work

Spe­cial ef­fects artist’s grue­some work seen in new thriller ‘Becky’

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINM­ENT - JOHN LAW

Kar­lee Morse’s job isn’t done un­til you feel a lit­tle sick.

Whether it’s a gouged eye­ball, a ruler through the neck or death by lawn mower, the for­mer Ni­a­gara Falls res­i­dent keeps the gore com­ing in the new thriller “Becky.” As the film’s spe­cial makeup ef­fects artist, she’s re­spon­si­ble for sev­eral of the movie’s most ex­treme shocks.

Which is sur­pris­ing, even for her. She was hardly a hor­ror fa­natic grow­ing up.

“A lot of my friends who do this are big hor­ror movie buffs,” she says. “I don’t dis­like hor­ror movies, but it’s not my favourite genre. I think ro­man­tic come­dies might be my favourite!”

“Becky,” cur­rently avail­able on video-on-de­mand and screen­ing at se­lect drive-ins, is a grue­some flick about a teenage girl (Lulu Wil­son) who must de­fend her home against a group of es­caped con­victs led by a white su­prem­a­cist (Kevin James) search­ing for a mys­te­ri­ous key hid­den in­side a tin box.

Morse has been sin­gled out in re­views for her gar­ish gore ef­fects, es­pe­cially an eye­ball scene that even had the crew cring­ing.

“The di­rec­tors (Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion) wanted these to be su­per re­al­is­tic and wanted them to make peo­ple feel sick,” she says. “When peo­ple feel bad look­ing at it, that means I’ve done it prop­erly. On ‘Becky’ in par­tic­u­lar, they wanted a lot of insert shots — hy­per close-ups of the dif­fer­ent gore ef­fects — and there’s one in par­tic­u­lar that when I brought it to set, ev­ery­one was just cring­ing.

“They couldn’t look at it and ev­ery­one was just gath­ered around the mon­i­tor kind of gag­ging. It was re­ally ex­cit­ing!”

Morse, 31, orig­i­nally had her sights set on video game de­sign, tak­ing vis­ual arts at Brock Univer­sity. But she soon re­al­ized “I hated sit­ting in front of a com­puter all day, which is what video game de­sign is.”

But she still loved cre­at­ing in a stu­dio, so she took a post­grad course on spe­cial ef­fects makeup at Sheri­dan Col­lege.

“I ap­plied not re­ally know­ing what that en­tailed. I just thought, ‘This sounds like stu­dio work so I’ll do this.’

“As soon as I started, it just clicked. It was that ‘a-ha’ mo­ment.”

In Morse’s new line of work, makeup artists like Tom Savini (“Fri­day the 13th,” “Dawn of the Dead”) and Rob Bot­tin (“The Thing,” “To­tal Re­call”) are hor­ror leg­ends. She “back­tracked” and gorged on their work, re­al­iz­ing that the tech­niques they used 30 or 40 years ago still work to­day.

If any­thing, old-school makeup ef­fects stand out more in the era of CGI.

“Rick Baker (known for ‘Planet of the Apes’) and those other artists, I’m still learn­ing from them,” she says. “A lot of di­rec­tors pre­fer to work with prac­ti­cal ef­fects be­cause noth­ing works the same way. You can re­ally see some­thing that’s CGI … oh, I hate CGI blood when I see that in movies.

“All the blood gags are the same ones that were be­ing used 40 years ago.”

“Becky,” which Morse de­scribes as “‘Home Alone’ meets ‘Kill Bill,’ ” isn’t just get­ting buzz for its gore; it also fea­tures a scary per­for­mance from fun­ny­man James. The “King of Queens” and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” star was charm­ing when he wasn’t be­ing a killer on­screen.

“He would be re­ally sweet, re­ally funny with us and then he would im­me­di­ately go on set and be ter­ri­fy­ing,” says Morse.

The break in film projects brought on by COVID-19 was ac­tu­ally a re­lief for Morse, who was start­ing to feel burnout from the long hours on her last project.

She re­turned to work this week and on Thurs­day got news of her first Day­time Emmy nom­i­na­tion for her work on the chil­dren’s show “Dino Dana.”

“Be­cause we love what we do so much, we pull these crazy hours,” she says. “Last year I was on a show and we would pull 18-hour days. It was ab­so­lutely in­sane and bad for our health. Men­tally, it was aw­ful.

“This time off has been a time to re-eval­u­ate that. When I go back into ev­ery­thing — and I’m real ex­cited to — I’m go­ing to pace my­self a bit more. Take care of my­self more.”

SPE­CIAL TO TORSTAR

Spe­cial ef­fects makeup artist Kar­lee Morse on the set of “Becky” with one of her gory cre­ations.

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