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The Latest Affront to Moviemaking: CGI Blood

I’ve increasingly noticed that blood splattering in movies is being done in post-production with computers.

I’ve ignored it for a while, but after watching The Expendables this weekend, I have to speak out about this latest Hollywood mediocrity.

I’m going to pick on The Expendables because if there was any movie that should have been swimming in fake blood, this should have been it.

The movie is a throwback to 1980s R-rated actions flicks where the plots were thinly veiled excuses for lots of people to get shot to bits and for various things to explode. And of course, there was enough fake blood to fill three Olympic sized swimming pools. The films bordered on campy, and probably to the point that they caused action movies to increasingly have complicated convoluted plots.

But campy or not, fake blood is an aesthetic of the R-rated action film, and seeing just how creative directors and their special effects technicians can be with how and where the blood splatters is part of the fun.

CGI blood splatters look faker than any blood splatter effect since the 1960s when fake blood looked to have the consistency and bright color of ketchup (probably because it was ketchup). If you’re going to make an action film with tons of people getting shot-up, the results of someone getting by a bullet should look realistic. CGI blood clearly looks like a computer graphic that has been inserted — it’s not just unconvincing, its fakeness is glaring and calls attention to itself.

I suppose Hollywood has chosen to go this route because it saves money, but we’re talking about movies with huge budgets. And how much is money is really being saved? $50,000? I cannot imagine it’s more than $100,000.

The Expendables also pushed this trend into new territories by using computers for work typically done by people in the make-up effects department, such as limbs being cut off and impalings. While the decapitations looked realistic enough, there was one impaling that looked so bad that I don’t know how Stallone approved, especially given that it was the death of the bad guy! It was painfully obvious that it was shot in front of a green or blue screen, and that the knife was digital. It made me think of Aliens when Bishop gets impaled and torn in half. That was 1986, and despite the fact that you can see some of the wires – especially when watching in HD – it still looks night and day more realistic and impressive. It’s that level of detail which made the movie a classic.

In this shot the hats, the buoy and Dolph Lundgren’s lower lip are all digital.  So is Stallone’s facial hair.

At the risk of sounding dramatic, if you’re making a shoot ‘em action film and aren’t using fake blood so you can save a few dollars, that’s when you’ve become a sellout – when you have so little respect for the audience that you don’t think they’ll notice, or don’t even care if they do, you’re just a tool of the studio.

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