Everything to know about the infamous movie Faces of Death before its remake comes out
Barbie Ferreira (Euphoria) and Dacre Montgomery (Stranger Things) are set to star in a reimagining of 1978's Faces of Death, news that is sure to send chills down the spines of more than a few film fans.
That's all thanks to the reputation of the original Faces of Death, as notorious a movie as you would have found on the shelves of your average video store in the '80s and '90s. The film featured footage of animal and human deaths, some real and some fabricated, but all presented as the genuine article and cumulatively intended to disturb even the most tough-stomached of viewers.
Faces of Death was directed by filmmaker John A. Schwartz, using the pseudonym Conan Le Cilaire. Schwartz, a graduate of CalArts (where he reportedly roomed with David Hasselhoff), became involved in the project while working for a small production house.
"One day, several Japanese executives came to us and asked if we could make a documentary about death," Schwartz recalled in a 2013 essay for Cine-Excess. "They wanted us to capture the horror of extinction, and the more macabre, the better. After the meeting, the owner's son came up with the title, and I came up with the concept: the story of a pathologist who, over time, has compiled a library of death. The movie would simply chronicle his experiences."
Schwartz cast an actor named Michael Carr as the supposed pathologist who introduced viewers to the movie's often jaw-droppingly grotesque visuals, which mixed documentary footage from film libraries with material the director staged himself. For a sequence in which diners kill a monkey and eat its brains, Schwartz shot a live monkey and then used cauliflower to represent the animal's grey matter. "To this day, this is the one segment that people swear is real," Schwartz noted in the Cine-Excess article.
The finished film would, in many ways, presage the era of found footage horror movies ushered in by 1999's The Blair Witch Project.
"Part of the challenge creatively was how to make it look like real life, to actually fool people," Schwartz told Deadspin in 2012. "We were way ahead of ourselves on that ground."
The film was banned in some countries, including the U.K., where it was placed on the list of "video nasties." Such censoriousness helped hype the film in those many territories where the movie could be seen. While the film cost just $450,000, Faces of Death would earn serious money, with Schwartz claiming the ultimate gross to be over $60 million.
Schwartz directed sequels to the film before passing away in 2019, but it's the original Faces of Death that stands as his enduring, if barely endurable, legacy, a savage reminder of our own inevitable meet-up with the Grim Reaper.
As the director wrote in his article for Cine-Excess, "In the end, that's what Faces of Death was all about — shining light on the one thing we all have to face."
The new Faces of Death will be written by Isa Mazzei and directed by Daniel Goldhaber, part of the creative team behind the 2018 horror movie Cam. The Hollywood Reporter was first to report the news.
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