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Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013

The Savini Effect Goes Out with One Last Night of Terror

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Horror movies, for the most part, tend to be associated with the visual. The sight of frights such as buckets of blood, severed limbs and mask-wearing maniacs is meant to provide a visceral shock to the viewer. Yet the difference between a bad (or even a good) horror film and a great one often comes down to how well the movie employs sound. The sensory experience of hearing something as it plays out can ramp up the creepiness index well past 10. The image of Halloween killer Michael Meyers is scary in its own right. That image combined with the film’s signature soundtrack? Downright nightmare-inducing.

Milwaukee-based Savini Effect, who will be playing their final show at the Cactus Club on Saturday, Feb. 9, understands the frightening power of such sounds. Since 2008, the band has been offering listeners their own take on a series of classic horror and cult film soundtracks and scores. For band members Paul Schell (guitar and effects), Rich Schell (guitar and effects), Nick Wojtal (bass and effects), Jim Potter (keyboards and Moog) and Paul Farvour (drums and synthesizer), the music associated with such movies as Phantasm, Halloween, The Beyond, and Friday the 13th are more than mere background noise—they are works of art. And, after listening to their masterful takes on the sounds of such films as Escape from New York, Nightmare City, Castle Freak, and City of the Living Dead, one would be hard pressed to disagree with such an assessment.

What is perhaps most impressive about the members of Savini Effect is their understanding of horror history. They have noted that they looked to the works of such noted spooky aural experts as Fabio Frizzi, Morte Macabre, and Goblin for inspiration—influences that very few bands, in Milwaukee or elsewhere, have ever drawn upon. The band’s name itself shows just how immersed they are in this world: Thomas Vincent Savini is an award-winning special effects and makeup artist who has worked on such films as Dawn of the Dead, Friday the 13th and The Prowler. Not surprisingly, the band jumped at any chance to connect with those who shared their love of horror films that Savini himself made happen, “opening” for such movies as John Carpenter’s The Thing and William Lustig’s underrated Maniac (1980) at the Times Cinema over their four-year career.

There is no doubt that Savini Effect crafted a fairly specialized sound, one that kept them on the outskirts of the larger Milwaukee music scene for their entire existence. Yet it would be unfair to ultimately label the act a one-trick pony. Yes, their attention to detail is unrivaled, but even someone who detests horror films could find something of interest within their songs. “Village of the Dead (City of the Living Dead),” for example, conjures up more than simply fear and dread; throughout its four minutes there are times when the number triumphantly soars. Like all good bands, Savini Effect is capable of touching on a host of emotions. So thank you, Savini Effect, for not only scaring us, but for moving us.

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