Category: Special Effects & Props

IMATS interview with the man who sculpted the most famous hand in werewolf cinema

A. Quinton — Mar. 6th 2015

AWIL handAn iconic example of body horror introduces the most famous werewolf transformation in cinema: David Kessler stares in terror as the palm of his outstretched hand slowly elongates. The claws haven’t appeared yet, but it’s not David’s hand anymore. Sculpting that hand was one of Tom Hester‘s first assignments as a make-up effects artist.

I’m sorry to say that before today I wasn’t familiar with Tom, but I’ve been enjoying his work since I was old enough to cram a tape in the Betamax VCR. In his 30-year career, he’s worked on films like Harry and the Hendersons, Gremlins 2, CocoonGorillas in the Mist, the Thriller music video, and of course, An American Werewolf in London.

During the Live@IMATS video series from IMATS Los Angeles 2015, Stan Winston School co-founder Matt Winston and fellow effects artist Norman Cabrera interview Tom and get a look at some rare photos from the production of An American Werewolf in London.

Okay, there’s actually only a few AWIL photos, but one of them is this incredible shot of the creature effects crew in England.

AWIL crew

Despite the IMATS site having oversold the AWIL content, there’s a lot of great stuff in this 19-minute video. Winston and Cabrera are energetic hosts, and it’s clear that all three guys are just as excited about their jobs now as they were when they started as kids.

Tom Spina Designs builds “An American Werewolf Puppy in London” [updated]

A. Quinton — Mar. 1st 2015

Tom Spina and his colleagues at Tom Spina Designs have been working on this cuddly killing machine since December. It’s a custom request from a client: a werewolf “puppy” inspired by Rick Baker’s work in An American Werewolf in London.

The work has been documented their work with a ton of photos. I’ll share a few of my favourites here, and there are over 20 more scattered across the TSD Facebook and Instagram accounts.

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This li’l feller is obviously a real threat to folks from the knees down, but he’s undeniably cute, too. Great sculpting work by Tom and Steven Richter is complimented a “monster manicure” by Melissa Dooley, and hand-punched hair work by Michelle Nyree of Quantum Creation FX. The movie theatre seat stand is a nice touch, although I think this puppy is too young to attend any of the “films” screened at the theatre from AWIL.

Update 2015-03-02: Tom was kind enough to email me some close-up photos of the completed puppy, and a more comprehensive breakdown of who worked on what. Seeing the different components and steps broken down really underscores the amount of work that goes into creating something like this!

Design: obviously the original is all Rick Baker! The puppy’s look is Tom Spina.
Head sculpt: Steve Richter, Tom Spina
Foot and jaw sculpts: Steve Richter
Molds: Patrick Louie, Steve Richter
Body fabrication: Steve Richter
Paint: Tom Spina (head), Steve Richter (feet)
Eye sculpt and paint: Tom Spina

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As usual, excellent work by the TSD team! Check out more of their original creations and restorations on their site, and have a look at some of their other werewolf projects here, including the original werewolf from AWIL (this puppy’s “daddy”?), two different Underworld lycan suits, and a full-body display of Rick Baker and Dave Elsey’s 2010 Wolf Man work.

“In Case Of” Werewolf Kit, because you never know

A. Quinton — Dec. 1st 2014

If you’re looking for a gift for the monster memorabilia collector in your life, or if you’re one of those self-hating werewolf types, check out the Werewolf Kit from crafty prop-makers In Case Of. For less than USD $190, you can get one of 1,589 limited edition werewolf cabinets, which are “crafted, painted, and finished by hand”.

Each kit contains the following items, all of which (except the handbook) are made of hand-painted plastic:

  • Navy caplock musket equipped with silver bayonet
  • 6 silver bullets on stand
  • Black powder flask
  • Protective amulet
  • Pouch containing silver bullets, wadding and percussion caps
  • Werewolf handbook

At first I was a little put off by the fact that everything’s made of plastic, but of course this isn’t a functional kit any more than the SRA is a real government entity. It’s an art object with all of its components sealed into an inaccessible box, and the fun of it comes from the experience of verisimilitude (the parts sure look real) and the supposition that a caplock gun behind glass is going to save you in the event that a 300LB werewolf wants to eat your face.

In Case Of also provides emergency kits to defend against vampires, zombies and demons. Their web site is a little slow right now, possibly as a result of some crazy Black Friday traffic they got from a site in Russia, but there’s a lot of interesting (if grammatically innovative) stuff on there. Kudos to the two founding “childhood buddies”!

Here’s what the “Late Phases” werewolf looks like

A. Quinton — Nov. 15th 2014

Bloody Disgusting has some new exclusive photos from Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s werewolf movie Late Phases, including a direct look at the beast itself. The werewolf was designed by Face Off season 4 contestant David Greathouse, who’s also credited as a “creature suit performer” in the film. It looks appropriately scary with that blood and matted fur, but I can’t help but think the deep creases in the face and the relatively small teeth give this werewolf an oddly reptilian look. Still, nice work by David – this is one movie I’m definitely looking forward to seeing!

A close look at the werewolf makeup of “Wolves”

A. Quinton — Nov. 14th 2014

Today, Make-Up Artist magazine showcases Dave Elsey’s werewolf makeup for Wolves, the just-released werewolf film by David Hayter. Despite Wolves‘s “relatively modest budget”, Elsey and his team put a lot of time and effort into the design and execution of their werewolf makeups, and the article takes a close look at each wolfed-out character.

Elsey certainly knows how to bring werewolves to life through practical makeup, having won an Oscar for his work with Rick Baker on 2010’s The Wolfman. Initially hesitant to take on another werewolf film, he was drawn in by the prospect of designing a conventionally attractive female werewolf. He and his team spent a lot of time finding ways to integrate each actor’s human features into the werewolf designs, from facial hair to scars and tattoos, and they did a lot of considered hair work, some of which I have already snarked on.

The final make-ups the four main werewolf characters included three large facial pieces that were pre-punched with fur, hands that were tipped with soft urethane claws and a body/muscle suit underneath. “We did as much of the hair work as we possibly could before we glued the pieces on,” notes Elsey, “but we still laid tons of fur on the actors while they were in the chair, including all the refined stuff that goes up their cheeks and transitions into their cheekbones. All of that is laid on, because it was too difficult and delicate to do that beforehand.

Check out the article for more, including a lot of great photos (which you can see at a much larger size if you right-click and open in a new tab).

Incredible “World of Warcraft” Worgen cosplay by Shoko & Jérôme

A. Quinton — Nov. 10th 2014

Here’s a little something to bolster the spirits of anyone bummed out by the Worgen-less Warcraft movie. French cosplayers Shoko & Jérôme collaborated on this Worgen cosplay in 2010, for the Cataclysm expansion launch in Paris.

From Shoko’s description on their Facebook gallery for the costume:

Jerôme made the foam base, the legs system, the fur. I made the coating, painting, effects on fur, the resin eyes and gems, teeth and claws.

You can see more photos of this great cosplay in that gallery, and more of their excellent genre-spanning work in their photostream and on

Photo credit: Red Nova

Extraterrestrial nonsense couldn’t derail Face Off’s “Cry Wolf”

A. Quinton — Apr. 21st 2014

When I heard that last Wednesday’s episode of Face Off was the conclusion of a two-episode competition involving vampires and werewolves, I had to take a look. What I saw puzzled me: alien werewolves. In “Cry Wolf”, the four remaining competitors were tasked with creating werewolves displaying “newly-evolved feature specifically designed to take their vampire rivals down”. They did something very similar a year ago. Is it a rule that every challenge on this show has to be hampered by the requirement that the creature be from another world? Isn’t it challenge enough to design, sculpt, cast, paint and finish a unique werewolf design in 20 hours without having to make it look like a background extra from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation?

But I digress. The four competitors were Rashad, Tyler, George and Niko. Each one of them definitely worked a unique angle in the design of their otherworldly werewolves. Rashad’s Asian-themed werewolf had the ability to throw flame from his hands, Tyler’s design was classic werewolf with the addition of giant wrist bone spurs, George’s werewolf was actually an evolved version of his vampire design, and Niko’s creation was covered in spikes to ward off his vampire’s super long, super creepy tongue. I won’t tell you who got eliminated, but I will say that it wasn’t Tyler, whose old-school werewolf design I liked best.

face-off-tyler face-off-rashad face-off-niko face-off-george

One other observation about the episode – despite the standard reality TV techniques trying to inject drama into the proceedings (tense music, reaction shots, playing up injuries and accidents, etc.), these four guys really seemed to get along. There wasn’t any bickering or trash-talking, and they seemed to respect each others’ work. I don’t know if it was because of the professionalism of the industry, or just because these guys do like each other, but it was nice to see.

My WolfCop experience at Fan Expo Vancouver

A. Quinton — Apr. 19th 2014

Yesterday was the opening night of Fan Expo Vancouver, and I used a combination of stealth, charm, and an ancient technique known as “paying for a ticket” to gain entry. Once inside I spent most of the evening lurking around booth 143, where the WolfCop crew was set up.

Over the course of three hours Emersen Ziffle transformed Leo Fafard into the lycanthropic lawman, while CineCoup and production representatives (hi Megan!) explained the film to an increasingly enthralled crowd of passersby. Director Lowell Dean was there too, answering questions and helping Emersen get Leo’s uniform sleeves rolled down over WolfCop’s enormous clawed gloves.

Once the transformation was complete, WolfCop stalked the halls of the Vancouver Convention Centre with his entourage. I had to leave before the procession ended with beer, bourbon and nachos at The Cambie, but I had an excellent time, and I came away with some souvenirs and some good info. Here’s what I learned:

  • The June 6th release date is for Canadian Cineplex theatres only, but an announcement regarding wider distribution – presumably covering US and international markets – should be happening in the next week or two. The film will have a two-week engagement in Canadian theatres, but it could run longer if audience numbers are good.
  • Lowell Dean graciously endured my initial fanboy freakout and we had a great conversation about the film’s promotion, the bright side of having to shoot outdoor scenes in sub-zero Saskatchewan winter weather (atmospheric snow effects), and the action figures available through the Indiegogo campaign. He had the affable, easygoing air of someone who gets to do what he loves with people he trusts.
  • Leo Fafard is enthusiastic, charming and intense, even when faced with the prospect of having to sit still for three hours while someone glues stuff to his face – again. I look forward to seeing how he channels that energy into his portrayal of Lou in the film.
  • Emersen Ziffle tackled his work with fastidious care, and surveyed the prowling, capering results from a distance with the quiet satisfaction of a proud parent. After chatting with him I learned that this was roughly the 25th time he’d applied the makeup to Leo, and it was clear to me that he didn’t think the casual convention setting was an excuse to compromise on quality.
  • WolfCop-FanExpoVancouver-11The main makeup application appeared to be a two-piece prosthetic, comprised of a cowl that surrounded Leo’s face with fur and built-in pointed ears, and a facial prosthetic that blended into the larger piece at the edges. Leo inserted his own contact lenses and dental appliances, and Emersen and Lowell helped get his werewolf gloves on like a Formula 1 pit crew changing tires. The nails on the gloves were solid and fairly sharp, and even at close range the detail on everything held up wonderfully.
  • A pair of gore-streaked WolfCop gloves were on display around the corner from the main booth, ostensibly as part of a small CineCoup booth. The blood and flesh splattering the fur were obviously from Lou, and Lowell confirmed that the transformation scenes are going to be graphic. There’s blood and shredded skin “everywhere,” he told me. “He actually rips his own face off.”
  • I heard more than a few folks exclaim with glee over the film’s tagline “Here Comes The Fuzz”, which replaced the “Dirty Harry… Only Harrier” line initially seen on the official poster.
  • I got deputized with an official WolfCop police badge, so, you know, don’t be doing any crimes near me.

The WolfCop presence at Fan Expo Vancouver continued today, with a panel at 11AM, followed by another makeup transformation. If you’re in the Vancouver area, you still have a chance to see Lowell, Leo, Emersen and friends tomorrow. After that they’ll also be at the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo April 24 – 27, and at Fan Expo Regina May 3 – 4. I imagine further events will be announced as the premiere approaches.

Below are some photos I took of the makeup process. Many thanks to the WolfCop crew for letting me hang out!

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The werewolf of “Autumn Moon” is old-school perfection

A. Quinton — Jan. 25th 2014

“Autumn Moon” is an upcoming werewolf film written and directed by Randy Fabert, who wants it to be “the most violent werewolf movie ever made.” That’s a goal I can respect, especially when the werewolf committing the violence looks so horrifically great. It was built by Fabert’s own shop, Fabert Makeup EFX Studio, and it’s exactly the kind of practical monster I want to see on the screen.

Chatter about the film has been floating around since 2012, when Fabert first announced the project (shameful admission: he even sent me a press release, which I did nothing with because I’m dumb). Last September there was a brief, modest and successful FundRazr campaign to cover the cost of the makeup for the first scene (a werewolf attack, natch), which is being filmed as a teaser / proof-of-concept. Horror Society has the most recent update on the film, including some exclusive effects photos, a comprehensive cast list (yay Bill Oberst Jr.!) and many more photos from the Autumn Moon section of the Fabert Makeup site. In accordance with the ancient ritual, here’s the plot synopsis:

Pulp writer Michael Renee Allen thought the house on the edge of the woods would be the perfect place to write his next novel. He soon finds that the forest has more to offer than just fresh air and a nice view. Something unspeakable is stalking the forest. A cunning force of pure evil that hunts by night, painting the forest with blood. 

Below are some more photos of the werewolf, because that’s what you want to see, and I want to show them to you. For more on Autumn Moon, you can follow Autumn Moon on Facebook. It sounds like that opening scene is almost ready for viewing!

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Watch short film “Bad Moon Rising”, or “why you don’t keep werewolves in captivity”

A. Quinton — Nov. 18th 2013

2012 short film Bad Moon Rising combines practical effects and smart directing in a manner calculated to stimulate the part of the brain labelled “werewolves killing motherfuckers”. Enjoy all seven minutes of it here.

Director Scott Hamilton and crew put it together as a promo for a feature length film about a bank full of hostages that turn out to be werewolves. Its showcase is a lengthy werewolf transformation that’s achieved solely through traditional effects, and which I thought was very well-executed. BMR is a “modified version of the feature film’s opening sequence [that] was shot in order to act as a guide to the overall feel of the film”. All right, Hamilton, my appetite has been sufficiently whetted – please tell me where I can see (or help fund) the feature!

For more information, including an extensive gallery of mid-transformation photos like those below, visit BMR‘s web site.

Bad Moon Rising 3D Bad Moon Rising 4B Bad Moon Rising 4A