Category: Special Effects & Props

Rick Baker resurrects the amazing werewolf mask he “let George use” in Star Wars

A. Quinton — May. 25th 2017

The Star Wars werewolf connection hinges entirely on special effects legend Rick Baker deciding to use some of his off-the-shelf creature masks during re-shoots of the Episode IV cantina scene in 1977. Among those masks was a werewolf Baker had created on his own in 1973. As with seemingly everyone else in that cantina, the werewolf extra gained an official name – Lak Sivrak – and an elaborate backstory full of intrigue, romance, tragedy, sacrifice, most of which was told through Star Wars comic books.

Then in 2012, Disney consigned everything about the character except his name and species to Legends, the phantom zone for all retroactively non-canonical Star Wars artifacts. And that was it for poor Lak until earlier this week, when Baker set about re-casting a new mask from that original 1973 mold.

He posted four photos of his work – which I’ve embedded below – on his Instagram feed. The quality of his design and work is astonishing, and consider that he did all of this in three days.

The hashtags and reminiscences in Baker’s comments make this seem like an observance of the film’s release anniversary – Star Wars hit theatres 40 years ago today –but it could also be a coincidence. Baker seems like the kind of person who’d resurrect a 43-year-old mold and then and pour, pull, paint, hair and trim a new mask on a lark – simply because he loves doing this sort of thing (and happens to be really, really, really fucking good at it).

May is the month of werewolf cakes! Check out this prize-winning “American Werewolf in London” creation

A. Quinton — May. 11th 2017

Werewolf News reader Jacob Bellingham shared a photo he took (and a link to a Dread Central article about) this prize-winning An American Werewolf In London-themed cake. Created by Karen Mitchell of Sugarlicious Cakes by Karen, it won a silver medal in the Decorative Exhibit category of the 2017 Cake International competition in London in April.

The level of detail on this thing is incredible, from the bloodwork to the details on the box. Check out the Sugarlicious photo gallery for more, including some close-ups.

Jacob’s family runs Little Brown Fairy Cake, who took home a Bronze in the same competition with the excellent Penguin cake pictured below. Despite looking like one of the least-tasty DC villains, it’s all edible, even the monocle. I told Jacob this in confidence but I think I’m a big enough person to admit it to the world, regardless of what it might do to my werewolf fan credibility: the David Kessler cake is impressive, but I kind of prefer the Penguin cake. What can I say? I like the prospect of eating Danny DeVito’s head, and of course, I didn’t have to travel to London to see (or eat) the best werewolf cake ever – it was right here in my kitchen in 2012.

Monster Legacy explains why werewolf Lupin looks like that in “Prisoner of Azkaban”

A. Quinton — Mar. 15th 2017

I tend to reserve “catchin’ up on my sites” for the end of the day, but any time I spot a new Monster Legacy post – even when it’s not about werewolf creature effects – it immediately gets my full attention. This one is about a werewolf, though: Hogwarts professor and Harry Potter fan favourite Remus Lupin.

Lupin’s werewolf form in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was controversial. Scrawny, sparsely-furred and almost rat-like, his transformed state in the film was neither what author J.K. Rowling described in the book (essentially a big wolf with some human traits) nor what most werewolf fans wanted to see (a shaggy, well-built human-wolf hybrid). This was a deliberate decision on the part of creature designer Wayne Barlowe, who channelled Rowling’s concept of “lycanthropy as sickness” into

a gangly, emaciated creature with distorted proportions… a hunched back, long and thin limbs, and a sickly, almost skeletal head.

The filmmakers were so committed to the concept that they built werewolf suits with stilts and limb extensions to use on set – practical effects that turned out to be anything but. Almost all of the clumsy suit shots were later replaced with CG effects that, while easier to work with, pushed the already-unconventional werewolf Lupin right down into the uncanny valley. A shame – I personally like the look of the practical suits, which seem to have more werewolf and less Gollum in the design.

Take a look at the full post on Monster Legacy for concept images, set photos, conceptual and practical details (including the reason why CG werewolf Lupin was put through an exercise regimen), and a reminder that Rowling wrote perhaps the most uninspiring depiction of a werewolf transformation ever.

This weekend, “Grimm” fans in PDX can buy all of the show’s creature props

A. Quinton — Mar. 9th 2017

Portland-area fans of NBC’s Grimm – which airs its final episodes this month – will want to gas up their cars, pack a lunch and gather up some rainy day cash. According to Portland Monthly, “a 40,000-square-foot warehouse stuffed with more than 120 episodes’ worth of Grimm props and paraphernalia will open its doors to the public” this weekend.

The announcement, which doesn’t actually mention the name of the locally filmed show (but c’mon, what else could it be?), promises “vintage furniture, antique furniture, mid-century modern furniture, clothes, costumes, household goods (new and vintage), doors, architectural items, signs, rugs, industrial lighting, lamps, books, smalls, primitives, collectibles, Christmas stuff (vintage and new), home furnishings, building materials, props, Halloween stuff, bicycles, hardware, kitchenware, chairs, apothecary, artwork, banners, restaurant ware, office supplies, costumes, tools, pallet shelving, retail store display stuff, frames, home decor, dining tables, benches, special effects items, linen, drapes, sports equipment, camping stuff, advertising, and so much more…”

The EstateSales.net listing has dozens of photos of the items that will be available. Much of it seems to be clothing and antiques, but I bet discerning fans will find plenty of props related to the show’s menagerie of werewolves, were-foxes, were-beavers, were-vultures and other Wesen.

Conspicuously absent from the listing is an address for the event. That will be announced tomorrow night:

The address for this sale in Portland, OR 97210 will be available after 7:00 PM on Friday, March 10th, 2017.

The sale will run from 9 to 5 on Saturday the 11th and Sunday the 12th, and 10 to 4 on Monday the 13th. Due to warehouse safety concerns (and possible rogue hexenbiest on the premises), no children under the age of 10 will be admitted.

Thanks to Violette B for the link.

A behind-the-scenes glimpse of “The Monster Squad” monsters

A. Quinton — Feb. 21st 2017

The Stan Winston School of Character Arts recently put up a collection of behind-the-scenes photos and recollections from the crew responsible for building the titular monsters of The Monster Squad, including The Wolfman portrayed by Jonathan Gries.

“The challenge was to suggest those classic creatures, without really copying them,” explained  [lead mummy builder] Shane Mahan, “because we didn’t have permission or the license to use those specific images. So we could do a ‘Gillman’, for example, but it couldn’t look too much like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. It was frustrating for us at first, because, of course, we wanted to do the original designs! But we couldn’t. We could only suggest those designs.”

This isn’t a Monster Legacy level essay, but there’s some neat stuff on display, including Stan Winston’s original sketch of the Wolfman. Yep, you can thank him for those super wide-set eyes.

Monster Legacy lovingly dissects the “American Werewolf in London” transformation

A. Quinton — Aug. 25th 2016

I want to show the pain. I want him to be able to move around, he’s gonna pull his clothes off, we’re gonna see the whole body change — so figure out how to do that.

– John Landis describing the AWIL transformation to Rick Baker

John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London is 35 years old this week, and its showcase werewolf transformation scene is still regarded by werewolf fans as the best ever shown on film. Leave it to the invaluable and tireless minds of Monster Legacy to write a 4,000-word essay on the concept, design, planning and execution of that transformation scene, and then support that essay with an enormous photo gallery.

When you’re Rick Baker even your “unfinished sketch” of a werewolf makes fans like me lose their minds

A. Quinton — Apr. 12th 2016

Yesterday creature effects legend Rick Baker tweeted what he referred to as an “unfinished sketch” of a werewolf rendered in a style reminiscent of his 2010 Wolfman lycanthropes. Is this Larry Talbot posing with his own tombstone? I like dapper snarly werewolves and this fellow wrecked my damn shop.

Then today Rick followed the sketch up with a self-effacing note expressing surprise at the positive response it got. He “almost didn’t post it because it is so un dynamic”, he wrote.

The person who’s taken home two (2) Academy Awards for his Werewolf Work is sandbagging his own artwork online. The dude responsible for some of the most iconic werewolves of the past 35 years is surprised that fans like me want more. MORE! Your modesty becomes you, Rick, but come on – I could write an entire blog post about that gnarly badass clawed hand alone! RICK. You don’t elongate a palm like that by accident!

Rick’s tweets are embedded below. Follow him on Twitter at @TheRickBaker just in case he posts more of these “unfinished sketches” and you want to get your brain’s werewolf zone obliterated directly by the man himself.

An adventure in South African horror conventions, industrial music and werewolf transformation videos

A. Quinton — Mar. 24th 2016

One of my favourite things about “online” is discovering new things through a series of unexpected causal connections. I recently went through one of these “one thing leads to the next” adventures. One tweet from a friend turned into multiple hours of enjoyment involving South Africa, werewolves, music and many things with ALL-CAPS names. Join me, won’t you?

HORRORFEST_V_poster_b My journey started when @Somnilux tweeted at me a promo trailer for South African HORRORFEST 2015. The trailer depicts a woman watching a mysterious VHS tape, sort of like “The Ring”, but with more immediate (and better) consequences: she turns into a werewolf. This gave me two cool werewolf-things to think about and research:

1. Check out South African HORRORFEST. I have never been (and probably won’t ever get a chance to go) to South Africa, but I know two people who live there, who might have attended the event during its 11-year run, and/or who might be going to (or submitting something) to the 2016 incarnation. I am convinced that every horror convention is a treasure trove of unique werewolf artifacts, so this bears further research.

2. Find out who did the werewolf transformation makeup work. Who’s responsible, and have they done more werewolf work? A little digging reveals that Clinton Smith & Cosmesis did the creature effects for Flamedrop Productions as part of the promo for HORRORFEST 2009. Their web site is a content-light placeholder at the moment, so not much else to find there.

Then South African pal Lew tweets that the woman in the video is the singer for TERMINATRYX, and that an expanded version of the promo was used as the music video for their song “Virus”. That puts another item on my list.

3. Watch TERMINATRYX’s “Virus” music videoTERMINATRYX is a “female-fronted Alternative band with Metal, Industrial and sometimes Gothic shades” – a descriptor that encompasses many of my musical tastes. The video for “Virus” does indeed expand on the HORRORFEST promo video, depicting the continuation of singer Sonja Ruppersberg’s transformation and the consequences it has on the people she meets. The werewolf design was great. Also, I really liked the song, and with all the running I’m doing lately I could use some new music in my library, so…

3b. Listen to more of TERMINATRYX’s music. Not yet in progress, but I’ll probably start with the self-titled 2011 album that “Virus” came from.

But wait, there’s more! The “Virus” video description text mentions anotherlonger, final version – a short film representing the conclusion of the project that started with the HORRORFEST promo, which means I need to

4. Watch MARKED, the 8-minute short film with “more special make-up FX”. I have not yet done this, but technology let me download the video for offline consumption while I’m on the train later today. I have high hopes, based on what I saw in the previous two versions.

Before I do anything else, though I have to

5. Finish this post so you too can check all this great stuff out. Done. And as I write this, guess who’s just tweeted another link at me. Is there such a thing as too much werewolf content?

Of course not.

Monster Legacy takes on the creature effects in “The Howling”

A. Quinton — Mar. 21st 2016

If you want to immerse yourself in monster makeup and costumes but you can’t get a job in the creature effects industry, reading Monster Legacy might be the next best thing. Last year they provided wonderful photo-essays on the werewolf in The Cabin in the Woods and the Lycans of the Underworld series. Now they’ve posted an incredibly thorough exploration of the design and execution of the werewolves in The Howling.

Rob Bottin and his crew brought the werewolves of the Colony to life through an ambitious process of iteration and experimentation, but as the article explains, Bottin was unsure whether the work was any good or not even as the finished shots were being edited together. I was particularly interested to learn about Rick Baker’s role, which went from “designer” to “advisor” as he realized his work on The Howling might conflict with his commitment to An American Werewolf in London.

This passage stood out to me as an excellent summary of why I feel bored and a little cheated whenever I see actual wolves uses to portray werewolves in film and TV.

In adapting the story, [director Joe] Dante also rejected the Studio’s proposals “to use large wolves” to portray the antagonist creatures — an approach Dante “always found disappointing” in other films of the genre. “It’s very hard to even find actors who can look natural while filming a scene with an animal,” Dante explained, “and it takes tremendous time and patience waiting for the animal to do the right thing. And that’s just for normal rabid wolves footage — nothing supernatural at all. Real wolves aren’t scary; it brings things down to nature, really robs things of any fantasy value.” The director was, in fact, adamant in the intention to portray Werewolves as beastly humanoid creatures in his film — nightmare stalkers.

If it wasn’t 9 o’clock on a Monday morning, I would drink to that!

Read the full essay on Monster Legacy, and then check out the accompanying gallery of behind-the-scenes photos and production stills from The Howling. Thanks to Monster Legacy for their always-excellent work!

Instant Moonlight & Werewolf Biscuits at Hoxton Street Monster Supplies

A. Quinton — Feb. 23rd 2016

If you’re a monster in need of a pick-me-up (or a human in need of a unique souvenir), check out Hoxton Street Monster Supplies in London. Like a cross between the SRA and a Diagon Alley transplant, they sell “goods for the Living, Dead and Undead” – real edibles and novel objects cunningly designed by We Made This Ltd to appear both terrifying and delightful.

They have several products designed for werewolves, the most useful of which is this jar of Moonlight, “For a quite immediate and singularly effective transformation from human to werewolf, for the modern lycanthrope who finds waiting an entire month for a full moon an utterly inconvenient bore.” Don’t let the fact that it’s a solar-charged battery and a blue-tinted LED lamp inside a frosted mason jar discourage you – under its glow, any kid (and any cool adult) will definitely feel the fur start to grow on their skin.

Werewolf BiscuitsAlso, coming mid-March, they’re introducing Werewolf Biscuits, guaranteed to help any lycanthrope “maintain a rich, glossy coat”. You may also be interested in Tinned Creeping Dread, which actually contains candy and a short story, or Fang Floss, endorsed by David Kessler and designed to remove “common forms of fang-matter”.

Due to a “rather inconvenient curse“, all Monster Supplies profits go to the Ministry of Stories, “a local writing and mentoring centre in east London, where anyone aged eight to 18 can come and discover their own gift for writing.” A wonderful cause worthy of support, and all the more reason to avail yourself of their products, whether you’re local or (like me) stuck gazing longingly at their online store.

Thanks to Todd and Crys for letting me know about Hoxton Street Monster Supplies.