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"Face" Up to the Challenge

"Face" Up to the Challenge

Boston Herald

January 26, 2011

If Freddy Krueger took over “Project Runway,” it might look something like “Face Off.”

In Syfy’s new series, 12 film and TV special effects artists compete to create the most bizarre looks.

“Face Off” hews so much to the “Runway” formula, it practically falls over and busts a lip, but at least the pacing is fast. The dozen contestants are introduced in a dash. Most of them are heavily tattooed, pierced and favor black. Many have years of industry experience. One was nominated for an Emmy when he was 19.

In a familiar challenge, the artists are urged to use everything at their introductory party — even the waiters — to create an original face makeup. The results range from juvenile to horror film-worthy. One creates a masterpiece with flowers that looks as if somebody shoved a bouquet down a guy’s throat. Another turns his waiter reptilian.

In the elimination round, the competitors are split into teams of two and must fashion a human-creature hybrid, choosing among an ostrich, a beetle and an elephant.

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Some of the prosthetics work is astonishing. Other pieces are bungled so badly, one proclaims to the judges, “I want to shoot myself in the face in front of all of you now.”

Like “Runway,” the artists’ models take their marks. Unlike “Runway,” the judges then file up to inspect the work. That’s one innovation “Runway” should steal. Why should plagiarism run in one direction?

In another twist, the winner gets the right to consult with the judges — three-time Academy Award winner Ve Neill (“Mrs. Doubtfire”), Glenn Hetrick (“Heroes”) and creature designer Patrick Tatopoulos — on who should be eliminated, which adds a layer of strategy. Of course, the panel is free to ignore the advice.

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Syfy is giving $100,000 and a year’s supply of makeup from Alcore to the ultimate winner, but that feels chintzy. Why not make the prize meaningful and offer a job with Syfy designing the next “Mansquito” or “Rock Monster”?

Actress McKenzie Westmore (“Passions”) fills the Heidi Klum role, but at least she has a reason for being there besides looking good on camera. Her family practically pioneered the art of movie and TV makeup. Her father, Michael, worked on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and its many spinoffs.

The only thing “Face Off” lacks is a Tim Gunn clone to purr, “Make it bloody.”

mperigard@bostonherald.com — Visit Mark A. Perigard’s blog, Love That TV!

All Photos (CC) via User vancouverfilmschool

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