‘Don’t Be Afraid to Go Big’: The Bloody Shocks of ‘Love Lies Bleeding’

[Editor’s note: The following article contains major spoilers for “Love Lies Bleeding.”]

Rose Glass‘ “Love Lies Bleeding” is one of the best thrillers in years thanks to its complex characterizations, richly observed sense of period detail and locale, and fearless blend of sex, violence, and fantasy. One of its greatest strengths is its ability to keep surprising the audience with plot twists and images that are organic yet shocking, often executed with stunningly original makeup and visual effects. “I like all of the visceral, violent, bloody, gooey stuff,” Glass told IndieWire. “I like films that make you feel something physically, whether that’s revulsion or arousal.”

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Special effects makeup supervisor Bryan Perkal played a key role in creating three of the biggest surprises and most startling moments in “Love Lies Bleeding”: the reveal that heroine Lou’s sister has been brutally beaten by her husband; the discovery of the husband’s grotesquely mutilated body; and the murder of Lou’s infatuated admirer Daisy on Lou’s doorstep. In all three cases, the make-up helps tell the story clearly, concisely, and brutally, evoking just the kind of physical reaction to which Glass always aspires. “I found it really cool that the three elements I did for the movie were all surprise reveals where everybody gasps in the theater,” Perkal told IndieWire.

Perkal quickly got a sense of Glass’ bold sensibility when they began discussions and tests for the makeup on Jena Malone as Lou’s sister. “I started kind of small at first, and Rose said, ‘Don’t be afraid to go big,'” Perkal said. Glass wanted an asymmetrical, lopsided look to Malone’s face that would fully convey the terror of what she had gone through at the hands of her abusive husband. “Rose wanted it to the point where it was almost surreal, like, could this really happen?”

Perkal built four prosthetic appliances for Malone’s face from scratch, a job that was made more challenging by the fact that he wasn’t able to actually work with the actress ahead of time. “I didn’t get a chance to life cast her beforehand, so I’d done the measurements offline and kind of had to wing it.” The makeup took around two hours to apply, requiring close collaboration between Perkal and Malone to play around with different colors and bruises. “It’s not an easy job for the actor,” Perkal said. “They’re under glue, there are chemicals involved, and they’re under a heavy piece. You try and make it as comfortable as possible, but there are always limitations.”

For the second big special effects makeup job, Perkal collaborated with the visual effects department to create a truly horrifying image of actor Dave Franco with his jaw hanging off after having his head slammed against a table. “Production started out wanting to do it all practically,” Perkal said. “I gave them the option of a prop head, but we ran into the problem of him having to be moved and wrapped up and put in a trunk. So the prop head idea went out the window because we could only use it for close-ups and insert shots.”

‘Love Lies Bleeding’Anna Kooris

Instead, the filmmakers opted for a half-practical, half-digital approach where Perkal created three applications for Franco’s face that would give the impression that his jaw had been destroyed. Although in the movie, the audience is only shown the aftermath of the character’s murder, the original intention was to portray the death itself, and Perkal took his cues from the script in designing the prosthetics. “In the script he gets his head smashed against a hard table, so I imagined what it would look like if his mouth just split, almost like the Joker’s smile,” Perkal said. Perkal applied both the prosthetics and a lot of fake blood on the day, and then visual effects came in and created the hanging jaw, removing teeth and, as Perkal put it, “really getting into the meat, because there’s only so much you can do with an actor’s face.”

For the makeup on Daisy in the third of Perkal’s big reveals, there were other challenges having to do with continuity. “There’s a lot of movement, as they wrap her and unwrap her and place her in different positions,” Perkal said. “She gets dragged through the apartment at one point, and she has blonde hair so we’re trying not to get blood in her hair.” Perkal also had to create “death makeup” for Daisy after she has theoretically been dead for several hours, though the audience is in suspense over whether she’s really been finished off. “A day has basically passed, and she’s drained of blood, so we wanted this crusty blood that dries and flakes off the skin. But you don’t really know if she’s still alive or not.”

Ultimately Glass’ aggressive sensibility made “Love Lies Bleeding” an immensely satisfying collaboration for Perkal. “The thing I really liked about Rose is she wasn’t afraid to kick it up,” Perkal said. Yet, for all the film’s gore, there are key points where violence is played off-camera in ways that Perkal felt were highly effective. “When Daisy is shot in the face, you don’t really see it. The way Rose and her editor cut it, you just see Lou turn and get splattered in the face. I found that to be a really classy way of doing it — and a big surprise.”

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