John Carl Buechler makeup artist, specialized in creature work.
It’s impossible to be an avid horror fan and not be familiar with the work of John Carl Buechler, even if you may not be familiar with the artist behind the work. His passion for genre and the filmmaking process meant that he delivered hundreds of great horror memories over the decades. A special effects and makeup artist that specialized in creature work and design, Buechler also wrote, directed, and acted in movies as well. From the late ‘70s to the present, only a devastating battle with cancer would slow him down from his prolific output in film. A friendly, enthusiastic voice that matched his extensive work ethic in spades, Buechler is gone too soon, but his lengthy filmography has left us with countless movie memories that shaped generations of horror lovers.
If you’re a regular reader of our It Came From the 80s column, then you already are aware of Buechler’s enduring relationship with producer Charles Band, especially during the era of Empire International Pictures. He’s the mind behind the monsters of Ghoulies, TerrorVision, Troll, Cellar Dweller, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, and Dolls. Many of which shaped my own love of horror as a child obsessed with monsters. He also worked on special effects on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Prison, Crawlspace, From Beyond, Re-Animator, Ghost Town, Trancers, and more throughout the years.
While Buechler directed a segment in the anthology The Dungeonmaster in ’84, Troll marked his feature directorial debut followed by Cellar Dweller. Often the productions of these films overlapped, meaning that Buechler was almost always juggling multiple projects at once. He somehow made it seem effortless, despite the insane scope of work involved.
Buechler also brought his expertise to all three major horror franchises in the ‘80s and ‘90s. A special effects artist on A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, in which he had a hand on Alice’s aged makeups, the impressive effect of Freddy’s chests of souls, and the humorously grotesque horror soul pizza, this ambitious special effect driven sequel was made all the better by his contributions. He handled the special effects design for Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare with his studio Magical Media Industries, Inc. Then there was Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, made more impressive by Buechler’s role as special makeup effects supervisor and designer. Though Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers has proven divisive, the kills can be downright gory, attributed in part to Buechler.
In Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, Buechler stepped into the director’s seat. Having worked with stuntman and stunt coordinator Kane Hodder on previous films like Prison, Buechler wanted Hodder to don the mask of Jason Voorhees, a move that meant Hodder would irrevocably become intertwined with the character. While this sequel has a fun tone overall thanks to the telekinetic protagonist that would battle Voorhees, it was originally much, much bloodier. A lot of the gore and death scenes had to be trimmed to avoid an X-rating. Meaning that while the MPAA dampened Buechler’s vision, it’s clear he understood this series (thankfully a lot of the gore can be found in the deleted scenes of the boxed set).
Hodder and Buechler reteamed again in 2006 in Adam Green’s Hatchet. This time Buechler would be working on the great gore effects and playing the lovable Jack Cracker, while Hodder would assume the role of a modern horror icon in Victor Crowley. The character of Jack Cracker appeared again in Hatchet II, though for a brief, unforgettable scene.
These are just some of the highlights of Buechler’s expansive career. He was a classically trained filmmaker with a degree in fine art, cinema and theater. As much as he loved and gave himself to the art of film, he also gave freely to budding talent in the industry. Many other notable artists working in special effects were given their start by Buechler. All of this to say that Buechler was and is just as important to horror fandom as he is to the people working in horror films. The profound impact he’s had on the genre ripples out so far, and has touched so many, that his presence will forever be embedded in the DNA of horror cinema.