SYFY Face Off Feral Fungi zombie virus
Top: Twisted Six Effects – Brain Mushroom fungus – Day 1 (Phil) Day 7 (KC) Day 30 (Andrew)
Bottom: Ethereal Effects – Octopus Stinkhorn fungus – Day 1 (Kierstin) Day 7 (Faina) Day 30 (Nelson)

This week’s Face Off challenge “Feral Fungi” is inspired by the zombies from The Last of Us and features the game’s director, Neil Druckmann, as a judge. The three-man teams are tasked with showing the progression of a deadly fungal infection after one day, one week and one month. The fungi were chosen for their appearance unlike the game, which features a Cordyceps fungus with parasitic properties capable of creating zombie like behavior in insects. Twisted Six Effects was assigned Gyromitra esculenta AKA Brain Mushroom fungus. Ethereal Effects was assigned Clathrus archeri AKA Octopus Stinkhorn fungus.

Dead meat

Phil Harrah was eliminated for his incongruous early exposure zombie. The judges agreed that the subdermal spores read more like burns. Unfortunately, this was yet another case of contestants not heeding the advice of mentor Michael Westmore, who warned as much. He noted that it did not appear to originating from under the skin and recommended showing irritation. However, the final product was largely unchanged.

“I think you should have taken some the notes from your shop because their particular fungus was really well developed,” Ve Neill suggested. “And if you had put clusters similar to that on your face, we would have seen the similarity. But what you have is a drippy, blistery look that doesn’t really go with what you’re trying to do.”

Druckmann was also critical of the localized nature of the make-up.

“I wish there was some design element that carried though to the rest of the body,” he said on closer inspection.

Zombie apocalypse survivors

The rest of the cast is safe for now but they will compete individually for remainder of the season. And they’d better watch out for KC Mussman, who nailed the objective of creating a mid-transformation zombie.

“The fungus is starting to take over,” she explained while molding . “So I’m twisting and curving the shapes of the flesh so that they look really torn and ruptured.”

KC’s enthusiasm was infectious. Glenn Hetrick was impressed with the her work in and of itself. Even without the accompanying works, it was clear a transformation was in progress.

“You have managed to capture the quintessence of video game design,” Hetrick praised her. “It has knowledge and passion that comes from playing games and being dedicated to the genre that you work in. And that’s why I think it’s such a stunning success.”

Druckmann added, “It works really well from afar and then when you come up close there’s all this subtle detail starting from where the infection is most concentrated and then a nice fall off to the skin.”

Andrew Freeman came in a close second with his  final transformation zombie. The artist explained he wanted it to feel as those the fungus had so overwhelmed its host that is was ready to burst. It did the trick because Hetrick was eager to see it burst.

“I wanna shoot in the head and see what happens. I want to see how many bullets I have to waste on it before it’ll die.” Hetrick declared. “The head sculpture and particularly the shapes with which you expressed the fungus part of the challenge are extraordinarily successful.”

Face Off airs Tuesday 9PM on Syfy.

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