Host Justin Willman and persnickety cake decorator/judge Shinmin Li are back as Food Network’s hit “Halloween Wars” returns for a second season starting Sunday, Oct. 7, but for many fans the most buzz centers around a new judge: actor, director, and award-winning special-effects and makeup wizard Tom Savini.
“I have to say, the coolest part of this season was getting to be with Tom for 14-hour days,” Willman tells Zap2it. “That man has stories like you wouldn’t believe. He’s a legendary special-effects artist, and he’s been in Quentin Tarantino’s movies, so he was talking about that. He was a big ‘get’ for us, that’s for sure.”
In the four-episode series, five teams composed of a pumpkin carver, a cake decorator and a candy craftsman compete to create fantastically spooky Halloween designs, with the judges dismissing one team at the end of each episode. The last team standing splits $50,000.
“I think we all went into this season thinking it was going to be hard to top the previous year, because of the caliber of the pumpkin carvers last year, particularly Ray [Villafane],” Willman says. “We were all kind of blown away, though. The caliber of this season’s teams was pretty incredible, and the Halloween-related challenges they came up with were fresh and hadn’t been done to death.”
The premiere finds the teams challenged to create the most terrifying clown imaginable.
“The subtlety is where it all comes out,” Willman reveals. “They didn’t go overboard with the ‘evil clown’ aspect, because that has become a little cliche. You’ll see a couple of teams came up with concepts for clowns that looked very human and relatable, and that’s what’s creepiest of all.”
Clowns: funny or nightmarish? Discuss.
“I am a magician, and when I was first starting out, my bread and butter was doing kids birthday parties. Therefore, I would become good friends with lots of clowns. So I’m a clown lover, but I do get some people’s fear of clowns.”
What’s the best Halloween costume you ever wore?
“One year, I think I was in the sixth grade, I dressed up as Dana Carvey’s Church Lady for school. It was hilarious at the time. I didn’t even think at the time that I basically was dressing in drag.”
And the best costume you saw on someone else?
“I try to catch the Halloween parade in West Hollywood, which is like Halloween on crack. I once saw a guy dressed as Rachael Ray, and I used to work for her [on her talk show], so I thought that was pretty epic.”
What’s your favorite scary movie?
“I’m a fan of the original ‘Scream.’ I think that was probably the first scary movie I went to as a kid without my parents, just with my friends, so of course the fear gets amplified. So that one’s a favorite.”