John Vulich, who won three Emmys for special effects makeup for “The X-Files,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” and “Babylon 5” with his team at Optic Nerve Studios, and created makeup effects for numerous horror films, died in his sleep Wednesday morning in Los Angeles. He was 55.
One of the first films he worked on was George A. Romero’s 1985 “Day of the Dead,” for which he created the zombie “Bub.” Raised in Fresno, Calif., he got his start in the business working for makeup pros such as Greg Cannom and Tom Savini.
During the 1980s he also worked on “Troll,” “The Lost Boys,” “Fright Night Part 2,” and the TV show “Werewolf.”
He supervised makeup effects for the “Night of the Living Dead” remake in 1990, then went on to work on films such as “The Dark Half” and “Being John Malkovich.” In television, he worked on “Charmed” and “Babylon 5” before working on 30 episodes of “The X-Files.” Vulich also worked on the series “Angel” and on numerous episodes of “Buffy.” In 2005, he returned to zombies with two films in the “Return of the Living Dead” series.
In an interview with a “Return of the Living Dead” website, Vulich talked about his approach to makeup. “One of the first things I do, when reading a script, is to try and pay close attention and get a good sense of what design aesthetic would properly suit the film. It’s also important, in my opinion, to try to stay original, keep away from copying the work of others and avoid clichés of the genre. For instance, with the remake of ‘Night of the Living Dead,’ we felt that what made the original film so frightening was the believability of the make-up. They looked like they were the next door neighbor, come back to life after some dreadful accident, not some creature from beyond the grave.”
He also worked on special effects for films such as the notorious 1994 Roger Corman-produced “The Fantastic Four,” “The Prestige,” “Ghoulies,” “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2,” and “Madhouse.”
After founding Optic Nerve with Everett Burrell, he sold the studio to colleague Glenn Hetrick.
More recently he had been working with his childhood friend, actor/director William Butler, producing shows and interstitials for the Disney Channel. He most recently was working with veteran producer Anatoly Fradis.
Vulich is survived by his mother Franca, his stepfather John, and his longtime girlfriend Nicole and her daughters.
Watch some of the creatures he helped create for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in the video below.