10 Recent Movie Effects You Thought Were CGI (But Weren't)

Polka-Dot Man's mutated face was totally practical. WTF?

The Suicide Squad Polka Dot Man
Warner Bros.

Visual effects are everywhere in Hollywood these days, to the extent that even most lower-budget films make some use of CGI to enhance their work.

And as much as we all complain about VFX being over-used in Hollywood, they're a tool like anything else which can be put to mesmerising use by smart filmmakers, or lazily relied upon like a crutch.

We're so conditioned to expecting CGI to govern almost every aspect of filmmaking that we might even assume something is a post-produced effect when, in fact, it was created practically on-set and in-camera.

These 10 recent films, for example, all executed impressive practical effects which, ironically, the overwhelming majority of viewers would simply expect must've been achieved by a farm of computers in a VFX house somewhere.

But the filmmakers strove to pull them off for "real" instead, finding talented stunt actors to perform unexpected feats, utilising classically old-fashioned gore effects, and not simply taking the easy way out despite the presumably enormous pressure to just "fix it in post."

If nothing else, these spectacular moments provide encouraging proof that the craft of practical filmmaking wizardry is still alive and well...

10. The Bending Boy - The Conjuring 3: The Devil Made Me Do It

The Suicide Squad Polka Dot Man
Warner Bros.

Perhaps the single most startling moment in the third Conjuring film occurs right at the beginning, when during the opening exorcism scene we witness a possessed young boy, David Glatzel (Julian Hilliard), rising up from a table while bending over entirely backwards.

It's a jaw-dropping shot, and one most audiences would surely assume was achieved with a combination of visual effects, wire work, and perhaps even puppetry.

However, director Michael Chaves confirmed that it was actually carried out entirely practically, with 12-year-old contortionist Emerald Wulf being drafted in to perform the manoeuvre without any wires or VFX enhancement (apart from Hilliard's face being pasted over her own). Chaves said:

"That's all in-camera and it's not sped up at all... We did have CG in that we did face replacement, but there is no wire work, that's all her just doing it. What's crazy is that's at speed. The plan was she was gonna do this slow rise up and we did a couple takes like that, and then I was asked Emerald, 'Can you do that any different?' And she was like 'I could do a really fast version,' and she did it and you could just hear [the crew] trying to like keep their lunch in because it was just so unnerving. And Patrick [Wilson] and Vera [Farmiga]'s honest reaction [is in] there when they're looking at her."


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.