Category: Special Effects & Props
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?
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 video. TERMINATRYX 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 another, longer, 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.
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!
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.
Also, 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.
A. Quinton — Nov. 28th 2015
The werewolf mask photo in this Crystumes Costumes tweet has been open in one of my browser tabs since Wednesday, and the accompanying video shows off the mask’s phenomenal design and articulations (those ears!).
This pulls me in two directions: vague regret that I abandoned the creature FX career path before I’d even really started down it, giddy delight that people like Crystumes (aka Crystal Michelle) are making such amazing stuff in their own homes.
Crystumes is not currently taking commissions, but you can see her works in progress on Patreon. She’s here in the Pacific Northwest so I have my fingers crossed that she might be at HowlCon next year so I can check out her work in person.
A. Quinton — Nov. 14th 2015
I got a follow-up email from Hair of the Dog director Michael Butts the other day.
Just wanted to share this picture of the “werewolf” in “Hair of the Dog.” Bennett Rodgers spent 6 hours in make-up which went from head to toe. This of course is just a shot of Bennett’s face in full werewolf make-up.
Scott Crain took the picture[,] and the make up artists were Stacy Lockhart, Caleb Paschall, and Laura Natalie Homer.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn the werewolves in this movie have a form more lupine than the wolfman-esque visuals we’ve already seen (and that I was quite happy with).
A. Quinton — Oct. 27th 2015
This Indiegogo campaign launched yesterday, with a target of $45,000 USD and a goal of making your mild-mannered (but rowdy enough that he or she needs a muzzle) dog look like an unhinged lycanthropic killing machine.
The original werewolf MuzzleMasks are designed and hand-made in Moscow, Russia. They are crafted from the finest materials and designed for the maximum comfort of your pet. These MuzzleMasks come in 5 sizes, designed to fit any dog from a Poodle to a Great Dane. MuzzleMasks provide plenty of room for your pet to open their jaw and are created for your dog to make the ultimate bad boy or vicious girl statement!
The makers of the MuzzleMask are raising funds to mass produce these and distribute them in the United States. You can get one of these masks for a pledge of $35 USD. My dachshund turns into a literal trash disposal if left unsupervised, so he could probably use a muzzle, but this one is likely to get me a letter from our strata, sternly-worded and containing the phrase “traumatized children at the playground”.
A. Quinton — Oct. 21st 2015
The big-screen adaptation of the Goosebumps book series is crammed with as many of R.L. Stine’s monsters as will fit. Via SOLIDASP comes a link to a Cinefex Q&A / interview with MPC production VFX supervisor Erik Nordby and VFX producer Greg Baxter, the two guys in charge of bringing these creatures to life.
In a somewhat dry but interesting discussion, Nordby and Baxter discuss the challenges of creating the Ginormous Blob, the Abominable Snowman, and of course the beloved (by me) Werewolf of Fever Swamp.
Let’s look at one of the creatures in more detail – the Werewolf, for instance?
GREG BAXTER: The initial 2D concept design for the Werewolf was provided by Carlos Huantes. Carlos then built a miniature maquette which we cyberscanned via 3DS in Burbank. This was our initial starting point for MPC to model and augment from.
VFX people, help me out – is “cyberscanned” a term of art, or is Baxter from a CSI Miami episode?
Who performed the Werewolf on set?
GREG BAXTER: John Bernecker was our stunt proxy for the Werewolf. He performed on-camera for just about every Werewolf shot, including running on all-fours atop a grocery store freezer. Erik and MPC Supervisor Pete Dionne built a custom facial capture rig with Go-Pros and a bicycle helmet, capturing John’s snarling for additional animation reference.
Interesting to hear that despite the heavy use of CG, on-set proxies and performers were essential in creating the film’s monsters.
A. Quinton — Oct. 16th 2015
are between 1 1/2 to 1 7/8 inches long from one end to the other, Each set comes with 10 claws (adhesive not included). The claws are marked on the inside to let you know which finger they go on.
The claws are made from a tinted semi-translucent urethane plastic casting resin and then treated to a black/brown wash and sealed. The black/brown wash really brings out the details of the claw-like texture. The result is beautiful. They can be made in black or other custom colors upon request.
According to the product page, these claws can be attached to your own nails with prosthetic appliance/nail glue, and you’re encouraged to further customize the fit with a little sandpaper and squinting. Once you get them on, refrain from doing any Three Stooges routines or vigorous scratching, because these claws “come to a semi-sharp point (such as that found on a plastic fork)”.
These would be a great alternative if you don’t have the patience or the materials to sculpt your own.
A. Quinton — Oct. 15th 2015
Beatrice Barkley is an eight-year-old horror fanatic with a serious problem: her mom’s brought her new boyfriend home to meet the family, and no-one but Bea seems to notice he’s a werewolf. Over the course of the evening, Bea uses her expert knowledge of werewolf weaknesses in an attempt to expose the seemingly innocuous French teacher as a dangerous monster – with unexpected results.
Gerrard is an award-winning filmmaker from London who lives and works in my hometown, Vancouver. Every time I think about the Vancouver connection I get a little outraged and a little embarrassed – how could I have not known about The Wolf Who Came to Dinner, especially considering it was one of the 2015 Crazy8s winners, and one of our two major newspapers wouldn’t stop posting about it in the spring.
I absolutely love the practical werewolf effects on display in the trailer. They were created by Dallas Harvey and his company Vancouver FX Studio. The costume looks like a figment from a child’s imagination brought to life, which could be exactly what’s happening here. For an in-depth look at the process of designing and building the costume, check this interview with Dallas. Also of interest is this interview with actor Adrian Hough, who plays the titular werewolf / French teacher who comes to dinner.
The Wolf Who Came to Dinner is currently being shown in festivals around Canada. For more information, visit the film’s Facebook page.
A. Quinton — Sep. 23rd 2015
I’m putting together a new werewolf costume, and I’m trying not to fall into the same pattern that has screwed me in the past. Like many other amateur werewolf costume people, my instinct is to sink a ton of money into an expensive mask and awesome gloves. Through budgetary constraints and tunnel vision, everything else ends up as an afterthought. That means my amazing werewolf head and hands are framed by an outfit hastily assembled to hide my lack of fur or grey werewolf skin.
It’s September, there’s still time, and I’m telling myself this now so I don’t spend another Halloween trapped in generic pants and whatever long-sleeved coat I can bear to wear indoors for five hours: I need some kind of werewolf bodysuit.
One option came to me via Tandye, who should know better because we share a bank account: this insanely detailed and highly practical werewolf bodysuit from Snakepit Studios. This particular bodysuit is painted to match a werewolf mask from Immortal Masks, but your $425 USD will get you a bodysuit sized to your measurements and painted to match the rest of your costume.
Snakepit Studios is an Ohio company that started in an engineer’s apartment and now makes dozens of different comfortable, highly-rated custom cosplay bodysuits. Their bodysuits are made-to-order from “lightweight, athletic grade material” that won’t drown you in sweat, and they can be tossed in the wash after a night of getting fake blood and drinks spilled on you.
It might seem expensive, but a suit light this is the literal foundation of a good costume. You can wear whatever you want on top of it, as shredded and torn or fitted and revealing as required, and feel confident that your pasty human skin isn’t showing.