Dissecting Greg Nicotero!

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

GREG NICOTERO!

So what do you say friends…how’d the season 5 premiere The Walking Dead stab you this past Sunday? Did it meet your expectations? Did it let you down? Well, whatever you thought, it doesn’t change the fact that Greg Nicotero is the f*cking man! Currently serving as showrunner for the AMC hit zombie skein, Nicotero has amassed well over 150 makeup and special FX credits dating back to 1985 or so. In fact, in 1988, Nicotero joined forces with pals Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman to form KNB FX…which has become one of the most prolific and qualified FX houses in all the land. Real shite…where the make-up hall-of-famers Dick Smith, Rick Baker and Tom Savini left off, Nicotero and KNB have grabbed the baton and f*cking sprinted with it!

As a result, Nicotero has forged recurring creative bonds with such venerated genre filmmakers as George A. Romero (DAY OF THE DEAD, MONKEY SHINES, LAND OF THE DEAD), Sam Raimi (EVIL DEAD II, DARKMAN, ARMY OF DARKNESS), Wes Craven (PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, NEW NIGHTMARE, SCREAM), John Carpenter (IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS, VAMPIRES, GHOSTS OF MARS), Clive Barker (LORD OF ILLUSIONS)…not to mention newer talent like Quentin Tarantino (PULP FICTION, KILL BILL), Robert Rodriguez (FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, THE FACULTY, SIN CITY), Eli Roth (CABIN FEVER, HOSTEL), Alexandre Aja (THE HILLS HAVE EYES, PIRANHA 3D) and many, many others. Dude’s imprint across a wide swath of genre flicks over the past three decades his hugely unavoidable! So, it won’t be easy with that kind of creative bulk, but what the hell…it’s been long enough. It’s now time to show Greg Nicotero the treatment he rightly deserves. The kind he’s been deleteriously dolling out to victims for decades now. Yup, ladies and gents…it’s time we un-sheath the sharpened surgical-blade and Dissect one Gregory Nicotero!

BEST WORKS

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Even given the intimidating number of films he’s worked on over the years, I don’t think there’s any question that The Walking Dead has become Greg’s crowning achievement to date. How can it not be? I mean, first off…the sheer longevity of a long-form television over any one particular film cannot be discounted. Not only has he produced and completely overseen dozens of Walking Dead episodes over many seasons now, his role as only grown since the series premiered back in 2010. To wit, the multiple hats of responsibility worn here is nothing short of remarkable. In addition to running the show, guiding it to places diegetically that previous runners Gale Ann Hurd and Frank Darabont might not have – Nicotero has wrote and directed a number of episodes…on top of the heading the makeup and FX departments. That’s some reach and some grasp!

Perhaps more important though is the unprecedented popularity and profound cultural impact the show has had over its five year run. Good god! I mean, zombies have never been a more mainstream staple of the current zeitgeist. They’re everywhere…and accepted as such. I’m just waiting for a goddamn zombie-Barbie at this point. No question this undead resurrection and eternal love for such has resulted from the record-breaking viewership The Walking Dead continues to attract, even five season in. And the great thing about Nicotero being at the forefront of the newfound zombie success is, he’s been kicking around since the godfathers of the subgenre were alive and well (creatively speaking). Dude was there to see it all. It’s not like he’s some Johnny come lately, a trendy fan-boy who struck it lucky, here’s a guy who’s seen, worked on and even greatly contributed to the evolution of onscreen zombies over a 30 year span. It feels right in some way. Just desserts baby!

WORST WORKS

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Not for nothing, but when you’ve tallied well over 150 credits over a 30 year career, you best believe you there’s a number of hideously decayed skeletons in your closet. Unfortunately for Greg, un-scary skeletons! Seriously, with so many subpar films that Greg worked on and is hardly responsible for, it’s pretty tough to call out a single stinker. I mean, there could be any number of flicks that we deem terrible as a whole, but through no fault of his own, actually featured some good FX work out of the KNB squad. Much more of a gray area when Dissecting a makeup and SFX supervisor than it is a writer or director, just simply for the lack of overall authorship of the project. Again, that’s why I think The Walking Dead is easily Nicotero’s most authorial effort. But back to the bad…

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Because Greg is credited with creating so many cool and unique looking monsters, ghouls and ghastly mutants over the years, to me it’s the head-scratching remakes and lame ass sequels my man chose to partake in that really ought to be criticized. Yup, I’m talking about odious dreck-filled rehashes like THE HAUNTING, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, THIR13EEN GHOSTS, THE ISLAND, THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, THE HITCHER, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING, POSEIDON, MIRRORS, etc. etc. Look, I get that a job is a job and it’s hard to turn down A-list projects when you are the preeminent horror FX house in Hollywood, but damn, not a single one of those films were either necessary or memorable. At least, not in the good way!

Of course, I could go on to cite shite like THE UNBORN, VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, PHANTOMS, DIARY OF THE DEAD, THE FINAL DESTINATION and a number of other uninspired efforts from unknown and legendary filmmakers alike, but when all is said and done, Greg Nicotero has far more horror homeruns than strikeouts when it comes to creating killer makeup and SFX. Fact!

TRADEMARKS

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What can we say, this dude’s calling card as far as makeup and FX go is bringing consistent quality across a quilt of varied genre flicks. We’re talking decades! As we tried to articulate above in the “worst of”, even when Greg chooses a questionable project to work on, there’s never any doubt about how legit the makeup and FX will end up being. Dude’s a true pro in that regard. Hell, just think of that gnarly ankle-bashing scene in MISERY where crazy Kathy Bates slams a sledgehammer into poor Jimmy Caan’s foot…yup, Nicotero. Or how about those gnarly cranium-drilling flying-metal-spheres in PHANTASM II? Yup, Nicotero. How about the creepily kitschy low-tech stylings of EVIL DEAD II and ARMY OF DARKNESS? Greg again! In fact, many shots of “Ash’s” hand in the EVIL DEAD II was actually that of Nicotero standing (handing?) in.

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Still not impressed? How about the gruesome flesh eating disease seen in CABIN FEVER? That gnarly bathtub leg-shaving scene (love you Cerina!), or Jordan Ladd’s putridly decomposed skeleton-face? That was KNB! Hell, even before the formation of KNB, Greg was contributing to such long-held genre classics as DAY OF THE DEAD, FROM BEYOND, PREDATOR, MONKEY SHINES and wow, get this one, even the deliciously dopey Chuck Norris action classic INVASION U.S.A.

Really, what more is there to say?!

HIDDEN GEMS

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You f*cking kidding me, old Greggy here has a goddamn armada of buried treasure in his filmography! So much so it’s damn hard to single one out. Almost impossibly so. Instead then, let’s briefly appraise a few of the uncut gems. You’re cool with that, right? Groovy!

I say we start with understated flicks from higher profile horror lifers. For instance, Nicotero worked on LAND OF THE DEAD, which is probably George A. Romero’s last great “of the dead” zombie outings. He also worked on Romero’s MONEKY SHINES 17 years earlier. We could mention THE MIST, Frank Darabont’s bold monster movie allegory adapted from Stephen King’s novel. After-all, it’s surely the bond that Greg forged with Darabont way back on GREEN MILE that eventually led him to where he is now, spearheading The Walking Dead (as a quick bit of trivia, Nicotero actually worked on a war picture in 1995 called, yup, THE WALKING DEAD. How’s that for symmetry!) Hell, we could even mention Carpenter’s criminally overlooked 1995 flick IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS and all the impressive special makeup effects he designed in that flick.

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Beyond that, we really want to highlight some of the even more unheard of joints Greg lent a hand in. I’m talking shite like the wonderfully wacky 1989 slasher flick INTRUDER, where he likely met producer Lawrence Bender and began a long-running creative relationship with Tarantino, one he’s continued up through DJANGO. I’m talking the sleazy little Lance Henriksen flick from 1989 called THE HORROR SHOW. Or MINDWARP from 1992, splendid b-movie trash like DEEPSTAR SIX, DR. GIGGLES, TICKS, DOPPLEGANGER, BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR, WISHMASTER, on and on and on…

NEXT PROJECT

As busy as he must be running The Walking Dead concurrent with his various A-list makeup and VFX movie work, not to mention the announced Walking Dead spinoff show he’ll be heavily involved in, I’m glad to see Greg currently in production on a genre TV project he’s set to direct next. Said movie is titled GALYNTINE, which comes from Sopranos and Fringe staff-writer Jason Cahill. Peep the intriguing premise below:

GALYNTINE takes place at a time after a cataclysmic technology-induced disaster has resulted in a new society that has eschewed any form of technology. This catastrophic event leaves small numbers of survivors scattered around the planet and forced to adapt to isolation and unique challenges.

There’s a truly terrifying notion, no…all technology wiped out? Come on now, you know you can’t even go 3 goddamn minutes without checking your phone or iPad, or whatever device you’ve robotically attached to your person. Hell, my cable went out for three days last week and I almost had a nervous breakdown. Sad but true. And the scariest part, with our antiquated power-grid, such a thought isn’t all that far from becoming a reality.

Anyway, look for GALYNTINE to drop sometime in 2015.

OVERALL

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Pretty simple. With a lifetime spent behind the scenes, the talent of Greg Nicotero can no longer remain hidden. The dude’s obvious affinity for all things horror – spending a 30 year career crafting and creating makeup and FX work for every villain from Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers to Leatherface and Jason Voorhees – has finally culminated with what has to be his most gratifying moment yet: running a mega-popular horror TV show. A show that, just two nights ago, broke its own season premiere record and drew its highest audience ever. And in our estimation, it’s no fluke. When you cut your teeth assisting the great Tom Savini before creating the preeminent FX house in the KNB Group with pals Howard Berger and Robert Kurtzman…when you repeatedly work with Craven, Carpenter, Raimi, Romero Darabont, Rodriguez, Tarantino, Roth, Coscarelli…not to mention single outings with Barker, Lynch, Spielberg and others…yeah, it all pays dividends in the end. Congrats on the success of the show Greg, been a long time coming!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

5379 Articles Published

Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.