Category: Special Effects & Props

The stuff that makes the claws, fur and fangs grow

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

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

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

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

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”

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

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.

Awesome Crystumes Costumes werewolf mask: what articulated ears you have!

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.

“Hair of the Dog” full werewolf makeup preview

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).

Terrify your neighbours & restrain your dog with werewolf “MuzzleMasks”

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”.

Bike helmets & CG drool: bringing the “Goosebumps” werewolf to life

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.

For more on the process, including a wonderful dig at my favourite thing to complain about regarding werewolf morphology, check out the post on Cinefex.

Goosebumps Werewolf - WIP Goosebumps Werewolf - Final