Face Off

14 Feb

SyFy week continues with a slight change of pace. We previously touched on a Canadian fantasy procedural, and now we’re going to switch gears and head into the realm of reality competition. Both include crazy creatures, but today’s featured program, Face Off, is about the work that goes into creating those creatures.


I’m a huge fan of makeup, in case me writing about cosmetics for over a year wasn’t enough of a clue for you. I love the way you can transform a face through makeup, either to make someone beautiful or beautifully grotesque. Have you seen Kevyn Aucoin’s book Face Forward? It’s a great example of not only what a genius Kevyn Aucoin was, but also how something as simple as makeup can completely transform a person.

Who are these famous faces? Oh, just Calista Flockhart and Gwyneth Paltrow, after an Aucoin makeover.

Who are these famous faces? Oh, just Calista Flockhart and Gwyneth Paltrow, after an Aucoin makeover.

Face Off isn’t so much about transforming a Gwyneth Paltrow into a James Dean, but more about turning a human into a goblin or an alien. It’s basically Project Runway with creature effects. There are contestants, they get a challenge (create your own slasher movie villian! Create a zombie Alice In Wonderland character!), and then they’re set loose in their studio to create movie magic. Someone wins and someone is eliminated, week after week, until there is a winner. Sure, there are various twists and turns, but it’s a tried and true structure, used by just about every reality competition show. The thing that sets Face Off apart is that the work they do is downright jaw-droppingly AMAZING. And when it’s not amazing? When a contestant messes up? They mess up BIG TIME. Imagine special effects makeup done horribly. It’s laughable and horrifying and sometimes just as fascinating as when they do an amazing job.


So not only do you get to watch people create things you can only dream of (and dream of being capable of creating in the first place), Face Off also explains to us laypersons exactly what is being done. I mean, not to the extent that you can try these things at home, but they explain why they’re using foam vs. silicone, what goes into making a certain mold, or how to make a realistic looking elephant-human hybrid. It’s not enough to make you a SFX makeup artist, but it’s enough to make you feel like you can adequately judge the contestants from your couch, which is why we all show up to these shows, isn’t it?

Face Off

The judges are top artists in their fields, and my favorite part of the show is when they get to walk up close to the models and poke and prod at them. Then they either compliment or trash the creations in hushed whispers, before doing so to the contestant’s faces. Glenn Hetrick serves enough shade for 50 judges, and he’s intimidating too. Ve Neill is like your friendly aunt who will tell it to you straight, but still buy you a nice birthday present, even after telling you your life’s work just isn’t cutting it. There are other judges that are there for a few seasons or come visit for a spell, but those two are the Heidi and Michael of the group. Maybe that’s not a good example. The Nina and Michael? Nope. I got it. The two sides of Michael. Catty and caring.


Even if you’re not a makeup fangirl like myself and have been watching since season 1, I feel like Face Off is still a completely enjoyable show. I’m not a huge fan of reality competition shows – I used to be a Project Runway addict, but the move to Lifetime came with some changes I couldn’t get behind (the premise cannot last for one and a half hours of programming. It just can’t), and now I just watch RuPaul’s Drag Race and Face Off. So this recommendation is coming from a very discerning reality TV viewer (clearly, from my TV taste, you can tell). Give Face Off a shot! You might just like love it.

Face Off: Season 4 currently airing on SyFy


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