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Published on October 31st, 2017 | By: April Gocha, PhD

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Halloween science: Ceramics help create the gore of early Hollywood horror flicks

Published on October 31st, 2017 | By: April Gocha, PhD

[Image above] Credit: Steve Koukoulas; Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

 

It’s Halloween—and depending on how you like to celebrate, that might have you jumping for joy over the prospect of candy galore or all the horror and gore.

 

But the great thing is that no matter which way you go, sweet or spooky, there’s science behind the celebration.

 

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, there’s plenty of science to explain how sugar transforms into the many different, delicious varieties of candy. Plus, there’s a mountain of research studies about what sugar does to our bodies and our brain (and this academic website can help you make sense of it all).

 

Or if scary is more your Halloween style, there’s plenty of spooky science to explore as well.

 

Many people (yours truly not included) enjoy being frightened by scary movies around this time of year in particular. Beyond surprise and suspense, one of the quintessential components of a horror film is fake blood—which also happens to have some pretty cool science behind it as well.

 

According to a new American Chemical Society Reactions video, Hollywood has had many renditions of fake blood over the years. And ceramic materials even helped some of the earliest horror film directors achieve the perfect consistency to fake out—and freak out—moviegoers.

 

In particular, early horror film director Herschell Gordon Lewis—who was one of the first to put gore on the big screen and “set new standards for gore and violence in the early 1960s” with the creation of the genre of splatter films—used Kaopectate as a primary ingredient for his on-screen gore.

 

Kaopectate is an oral antidiarrheal medication that, when mixed with red food dye, apparently helped Lewis achieve the perfect blood-like consistency to drip and ooze in his 1963 film Blood Feast.

 

Kaopectate has had a few different formulations over the years, but its original recipe contained pectin, the biopolymer that gives jams and jellies their stiffness, and kaolin. Kaolin is a clay mineral that is heavily used in the papermaking industry and to make porcelain and other ceramics.

 

In the digestive system, kaolin’s ability to ease issues could be due to the minerals’ absorptive abilities—it’s reported that parrots also eat clay mineral-rich soil, likely for the minerals’ ability to absorb toxins and neutralize the gut.

 

Due to FDA regulations, Kaopectate no longer contains kaolin. However, it is now sold with a different clay mineral composition—attapulgite—outside of the U.S. Modern Kaopectate sold in the U.S. only contains the antacid bismuth subsalicylate, the same active ingredient as Pepto-Bismol.

 

But not all horror films use the magic of ceramics to simulate blood—watch the Reactions video below to learn all about the varied chemistry behind Hollywood bloodbaths.

Credit: Reactions; YouTube

 

 

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