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2016 has been a particularly difficult year for devoted fans of music and cinema as over the last eleven months a number of legends and industry veterans have unexpectedly passed away, leaving a hole that no sooner has it healed another has left us. Within weeks of the New Year the world lost musical icon David Bowie and noted character actor Alan Rickman but even after fans recovered from the double tragedy that January had to offer further casualties of 2016 soon followed; To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee, musician Prince, boxing legend Muhammed Ali and even Willy Wonka himself, Gene Wilder. Elsewhere there was Star Wars veteran Kenny Baker, Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin, 80s pop star Pete Burns and the legendary Leonard Cohen. This year took too many names to mention and now the latest to pass is special effects artist Tom Rainone.
While his name may not be known to the mainstream and thus most likely excluded from next year’s memoriam tribute at the Academy Awards, Rainone has entertained horror and fantasy cinemagoers for almost thirty years. Rainone’s most prolific work was alongside filmmaker Brian Yuzna, commencing in 1989 with the latter’s directorial debut Society. They had met as Rainone first arrived in Hollywood in the mid-1980s when his 16mm short Armageddon Fabulosa was nominated for a Student Academy Award and the two quickly became friends, Rainone assisting in post-production on the cult horror From Beyond. Their first collaboration, Society, was a dark satire on the Beverly Hills 90210 yuppie life fashioned as a body horror, which saw Yuzna continuing to push boundaries as he had done since first arriving on the scene several years earlier with Re-Animator.
While attempting to develop an adaptation of the H.G. Wells tale The Invisible Man, Yuzna and Rainone worked together on the highly-anticipated Bride of Re-Animator and the double-bill Initiation: Silent Night, Deadly Night 4 and The Toy Maker. But their most memorable collaboration came in 1993 with the sexy zombie sequel Return of the Living Dead III, which took the concept of Romeo and Juliet and incorporated it into a horror flick. Rainone had dabbled with the mainstream a year earlier with the Disney blockbuster Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (the follow-up to a movie also produced by Yuzna), assisting on the visual effects on a production that would host an array of respected artists, most notably Kevin Yagher. Other popular features would include Clive Barker’s Lord of Illusions, the straight-to-video sequels Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest and The Crow: Salvation and the Wes Craven-produced cult classic Wishmaster. Most recently, Return of the Living Dead III was released on Blu-ray featuring an audio commentary with Rainone.Yesterday news began to circulate online that Rainone had passed away, yet with no official statement or cause of death revealed it remained merely a rumour, but now sadly many collaborators and friends have expressed their condolences on social networks. ‘My good and great friend Tom Rainone has passed away. He was a part of my family during the 80s and 90s – always around the house and on the movie sets,’ says Yuzna. ‘Brainstorming late into the night. Helping to design the movies, directing second unit, bringing his aesthetic to the movies and forever surprising me with his wit and wild creative imagination. A unique friend and collaborator. A sad day.’ Cult movie veteran David DeCoteau also paid his respect, ‘RIP Tom Rainone. Jack of all trades FX man. 2nd Unit Director. Troubleshooter and designer. I met him through Kenneth J. Hall and loved his enthusiasm. He worked for Brian Yuzna quite a bit and was quite respected by his colleagues. Too young.’
Wishmaster director Robert Kurtzman added, ‘If Facebook is right, my old friend Tom Rainone passed away today. Had the pleasure of working with him on lots of projects along with Wishmaster…one crazy SOB! So many stories, much love, RIP Tom.’ Another friend Ed Neal, best known to genre fans as the disturbed hitchhiker in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, shared his memories of his friend, ‘Time will try and rip him from my memory like a tsunami rollin’ over a quiet seaside cabana…it will have little chance of that. I’ll just go with the short version..it’s always the truest. He might have been a headache but he was never a bore. We trudged many a mile together in search of everything from the silly to the sinister, finding in each other a passionate shared belief that film was a gift and not a job.’ He concluded with the heartfelt, ‘Save me a seat at the bar, where I know you’re sitting right now with our old pal, Johnny Ramone…I’ll be along.’