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3 Practical Gore Effects for Your Next Horror Short

Robbie Janney

Need to find a cheap way to add some gory goodness to your next horror project? Try out these three easy practical effects.

To celebrate Halloween (or any gory time of year), we’re diving in to one of my favorite aspects of filmmaking: creating practical effects. These practical elements are the meat and potatoes of any low-budget horror short — fake limbs, fake blood, and fake guts. We’re going to use some of the most tried-and-true methods in the industry to get you all the gore you need. It’s gonna get messy, and it’s gonna get gross, so strap in, and let’s create some monstrosities.

1. Creating a Realistic Prosthetic Hand

Practical Gore Effects - Hand

Using alginate molding powder and water, you can make very realistic casts.

Let’s start off with the fake hand. For our short, we wanted a hand that ends at the wrist so we could fake a chopped-off hand look. To create a realistic-looking hand, simply create a mold of your own hand. We used Alginate Molding Powder to get the job done. It’s what the pros use to create life casts of just about anything.

Take the powder, and pour it into a plastic mixing bucket. The recipe is a one-to-one ratio of powder to water, so take your other mixing bucket and fill it with water to match.

Once you pour it in, start mixing immediately. We used a paint mixer on a drill to really get everything together, but a wooden mixing stick can work as well. (You’ve only got about 5 minutes before this pancake-looking batter starts to freeze up.)

After it’s all mixed up, slide your hand in there in the position you want for your prosthetic. Now, just wait about 10-15 minutes for it to harden up. It’s going to start giving you some resistance after a few minutes, but make sure to give it time to truly harden.

Finally, just pull out your hand, and you’ve got yourself a true-to-form casting of your hand.

Practical Gore Effects - Silicone rubber

Silicone rubber is great for creating the actual prosthetic.

To make the actual prosthetic, I recommend using silicone rubber. It’s going to give you some life-like wiggle and texture. You can buy a trial size of it online for around $30. It’s a two-part process that’s really easy to follow:

  1. Pour each container into individual cups, and mix them to get any liquid leftover on top incorporated into the fold.
  2. Pour them both into a combining cup, and mix with a wooden paint stick.
Practical Gore Effects - Setting the mold

Once you pour the silicone rubber into the mold, let it set for 5-6 hours.

The silicone pack we bought had two different colors of rubber solution, so it will become apparent when it’s fully mixed when the colors combine into a single color. Now, just pour that solution into your mold, and let it sit for about 5-6 hours.

Practical Gore Effects - Paint the prosthetic

You’ll need to apply some layers of paint to get a realistic look for your prosthetic.

Once the setting is done, you can slowly start to wiggle out the hand. (If you’re careful enough, you can pull it out without breaking the mold and use it for duplication.) It almost freaked me out how life-like it is — it even has the grooves of my skin and fingernail texture. Now obviously my hand isn’t blue, so we’re going to coat this with a layer of silicone paint.

Most silicone paint packs you order come with a flesh-colored paint base, but you can mix that paint with a little bit of red and white and black to get your desired color. Let that dry for a bit, and you’ve got yourself a realistic-looking prosthetic.

2. Crafting a Bucket of Fake Blood

Practical Gore Effects - Fake Blood

You can create fake blood using Karo Syrup and food coloring.

We need to make some blood to accompany the chopped-off hand. This is one of the most famous methods of crafting homemade blood — with good ol’ fashioned American corn syrup. It’s been used on indie horrors since, well, indie horrors began. Bruce Campbell was basically coated in this mixture for the entirety of The Evil Dead. It’s an extremely simple creation — just pour out some corn syrup into a container, and mix in some red food coloring.

Practical Gore Effects - Mixing Fake Blood

A powered mixer makes blending your ingredients easier.

Add a healthy dose, and mix it all up. Then, add the secret ingredient that brings it all together — chocolate syrup. This will add a bit of brown color that will even out the brightness of the red. For our little horror shoot, I wanted a spurt of blood onto one of the characters, so instead of just flinging it with my hand, I used a little water gun-looking thing to soak some blood up and shoot it at Brian. If you add a little bit of air to the mixture when pulling back the shooter, it will add more of a spray than a direct shot, if that’s your desired look.

3. Realistic Guts

Practical Gore Effects - Fake Guts

You can create fake guts with pantyhose, paper towels, and your fake blood.

We had a shot wherein someone gets their guts cut open, so we decided to make some fake guts to spill out. This is also another extremely simple build — just take some regular panty hose, and start stuffing it with paper towels.

Practical Gore Effects - Twisted Guts

Tie your guts off and twist them for added realism.

Once you’ve filled them up, tie them off, and begin soaking them in the blood mixture. The paper towels are going to soak up the blood, and it will somehow turn out looking like some bona-fide human tubes.

So now you’ve got a practical effect bouquet of gory goodness. All in all, all of the materials we used added up to about $80, so it won’t break the bank if you’re worried about costs.

Interested in the tracks we used to make this video?

Looking for more filmmaking tips and tricks? Check these out.

Need more horror and Halloween elements? Check out these free and paid collections.