Once a week, a group of Hollywood Visual Effects Artists and Designers meet at a local restaurant for an hour long HORROR, SCI-FI and FANTASY “show and tell while discussing the latest “buzz.”
Famous movie props, rare collections, collector art, special guests and book/movie reviews all make a weekly appearance, adding dimension to the discussion. This blog chronicles that obsession. This is CREATURE BUZZ
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Mad Monster Party Art Show
Just in time for Halloween, the Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks, CA is having a group show tribute to the Rankin/Bass animated classic “The Mad Monster Party”. Address: 13613 Ventura Blvd, Sherman Oaks, CA 91423. 1-800-599-3693.
Amazing paintings, sculptures, handmade dolls and an assortment of mixed media creations pack the two galleries and yes, they are all for sale. For those unable to actually attend the show, artwork can be viewed and purchased online, from their gallery website: http://www.vegalleries.com/monsterparty.html
His a sampling of some of the incredible art from one of our favorite animated classics.
October Shadows 2012
October Shadows is celebrating their fifth year of Halloween in Art. And where could such a show be held, you ask? At the Mountain View Mausoleum (where they filmed PHANTASM!) at 2300 N. Marengo Avenue, Altadena, CA 91001.
The top names in the world of fine art, comics, film, tv and animation are showing why they love this time of year in 2d, 3d and mixed media. The show will run each Saturday and Sunday from 10 am – 3 pm through November 3rd.
Below is a micro sampling of some of the amazing art featured at this annual exhibit.
MONSTERS – COLOR THE CREATURE BOOK
Zombies, mummys, werewolves, vampires, ghouls and of course his legendary Frankenstein monster have made Bernie Wrightson the undisputed household name associated with illustrating the macabre. His brilliant and uncanny knowledge of anatomy is depicted in every illustration, carefully composed and intricately rendered on every page.
The MONSTERS – COLOR THE CREATURE BOOK, released in 1974, feature 16 incredible B/W drawings by Bernie Wrightson. Its this book, along with Wrightson’s “A Look Back” where I became hooked on anatomy. When it came to inventing anatomical form, Bernie Wrightson, just like Michelangelo, made invented forms absolutely real. When I design for films or fun, Wrightson’s illustrations are always near for silent, inspirational guidance.
We would like to welcome our newest member and writer to the Creature Buzz team, Beth, our official UK Correspondent.
Since the tender age of 8 when she was permitted to stay up past her bedtime to watch Universal’s “Bride of Frankenstein” with her father – she was hooked on horror films. Fast forward to the present; Beth watches 2 to 3 horror films a night. As our only international member, we look forward to Beth’s unique British perspective as she shares her vast knowledge of vintage horror & sci-fi classics from film, television and the occasional dusty, leather bound tome.
You can follow Beth on Twitter and at her own blog: http://magicalhorror.webs.com/
In December 2010, I read a great little script for a short indie film called SPOILER, written, directed, shot and produced by Creature Buzz members Dan Thron and Karl Denham. I’ve worked on low budget films before but this production would be better defined as “no budget meets no time.” The story takes place in a time where zombie-ism is common and for the most part, relegated to a controllable disease. Apartment units are set up with special devices that detect the level of putrefaction and if the level spikes too high, all units are immediately quarantined until everyone is checked and cleared. If a unit is discovered to contain an individual that is beyond help… a controlled burn may be issued by the CDC.
Working on a head shot of Margret “Meg” Ryan, Dan Platt created a photoshop comp of the proposed make up. With ONLY one week to prepare for the zombification of Meg – the traditional ritual of life casting, sculpting, molding and casting were not possible. About a dozen generic zombified wounds were sculpted on a flat board in chavant clay and silicone molds made. The molds were filled with pros-aide, frozen and then dehydrated in preparation for zombie day weekend. We used brown tooth enamel to dirty Meg’s real teeth and used chocolate syrup with red and green food coloring to create the thick, dark saliva.
The make-up design was based on settling blood. When the body dies, blood flow ceases and gravity takes over causing the blood to settle and pool in the lowest parts of the body. So we designed our look with Meg’s head pinned to the floor and her body positioned as it will be in most of the shot. We then traced outlines of impact areas, specifically where her face touched the floor and where her husband hands and fingers would cause imprinting when he forcibly held her down. Impact areas where colored a deep indigo black and bruising colors were used to radiate color along vein routes to visually carry and connect the infected disease. This assymetric approach made the design very unique, absolutely natural and have a sense of history which played a vital role to its success.
In 2011, “Spoiler” won Best Make-up and Best Score at the LA New Wave Film Festival!
Kei Chong and Dan Platt apply the prosthetic make-up to Margret “Meg” Ryan for the horror indie “Spoiler”
Howard Phillips Lovecraft
I am envious of you.
To go back and read these stories for the first time with no prior knowledge of their greatness would be quite the treat! I already know how they end, and what happens along the way. I still go back and re-read them from time to time, but that first time through…. when I had no idea what would happen at The Gilman House, or what Inspector Legrasse would uncover during his investigation or what was causing the cattle (and people) to become….. “brittle” in the blasted heath west of Arkham… well, that first time through these stories was nothing short of magic!
Who was H.P. Lovecraft?
Some background must be understood before diving sanity first into the work of arguably the greatest practitioner of weird fiction the world has ever known. Born as Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 – March 15, 1937), HP Lovecraft was always something of an outsider to the world around him. When he was just 3 years old, his father went insane due to a syphilis infection and was committed to a nearby hospital to spend his remaining 6 years. Lovecraft spent the remainder of his childhood and early adolescence living with his mother, his two aunts, and his maternal grandfather.
A sickly boy, he spent much of his youth absent from formal education, instead reading books on subjects that interested him. He had a fascination with science -particularly astronomy and chemistry – and studied the subjects intensely. This fascination with science was coupled with a love of literature -particularly literature of a more fantastic or ‘weird’ nature. In fact, he is often considered to be one of the originators of ‘weird fiction,’ a macro-genre that encompasses science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Being that he did not have a lot of contact with other people outside of his mother and aunts for a large part of his life, he was -to put it mildly- sheltered. This alienation from the rest of humanity was the foundation for his very myopic perspective and serves as a solid foundation for the kind of cosmic indifference that is present thematically in much of his work.
Many of the characters in his stories find themselves in incredible predicaments where they are completely alone as the world around them devolves into something altogether unfamiliar, indifferent and ultimately hostile toward their humanity. After losing his father to syphilitic insanity and seeing his mother end up in the same hospital after a long history of hysteria and depression, he was no stranger to feeling alone as his world eroded around him leaving him exposed and ill prepared for it. He often felt as though he should have been born in a different time -perhaps
hundreds of years prior – adding a temporal dimension to his profound isolation from the world around him. One last peculiarity to Lovecraft’s work is his obvious revulsion for human biology. This goes for *all* forms of human biology not just that of the sexual nature, though that is very much present. These circumstances and perspectives are important to understand as these themes are omnipresent in his work. That said, I have compiled a list of recommended reading that should introduce the neophyte to an incredible body of work that has served as an inspiration to countless writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers ever since.
In short, and without hyperbole, I think that without HP Lovecraft, you would not have Stephen King, Clive Barker, or Mike Mignola as you know them. No HP Lovecraft, and Black Sabbath might have sounded more like Simon and Garfunkel. Without Lovecraft, John Carpenter and Guillermo Del Toro might be directing romantic comedies and Ridley Scott’s Alien may have been more fond of Reece’s Pieces than human flesh and bone.
OK, maybe a touch of hyperbole crept into that last bit. 😉
I have read most of his work, and have come up with a list of stories I feel give you a broad overview of this body by selecting titles that allow for various entry points into the deeper works where these initial concepts and themes are more fully explored. Undoubtedly there will be those who will chastise me for leaving off this title or that title, and they would be right. As you go deeper into his work you find yourself wanting more and more and finding something to love in even his least effective work. But a beginner’s guide is just a starting point and by definition can’t contain everything!
I have listed these in the order I think will build interest with some of the shorter stories first building into the more ambitious works at the end. Some of my personal favorites aren’t even mentioned. I felt it important to leave some of the best work to be discovered by those of you who enjoy what you read from this list.
Suggested starter stories for the beginner…
The Music of Erich Zann
The Rats in the Walls
The Call of Cthulhu
The Shunned House
Under The Pyramids (written at the suggestion of Harry Houdini!)
The Shadow Over Innsmouth
The Whisperer in Darkness
The Colour Out of Space
The Shadow Out of Time
At the Mountains of Madness
This list should provide a good overview of HP Lovecraft’s work leaving some nice surprises and gems to be discovered by those of you who get hooked by this initial list. If you make it up to The Shunned House and don’t ‘get it’ by then it is likely you never will – I hear there are those who don’t. In that unlikely event, maybe skip ahead to The Shadow Over Innsmouth for one of the most heart-pounding chases ever described in print.
More suggested reading:
For those more interested in Lovecraft himself, S.T. Joshi is the premier scholar on Lovecraft, and his book “HP Lovecraft: A Life,” is considered to be the definitive biography. At 716 pages it is a commitment, so for a shorter but very effective overview, one need look no further than Joyce Carol Oates’s introduction to her Lovecraft compendium, “Tales of HP Lovecraft.” Oddly enough, the stories she has selected have quite a bit of overlap with my own list! This introduction can allegedly be found on Oates’s web site or those interested enough to look for it.
HP Lovecraft – The Complete Works
If you plan on buying the complete works, they can be had over 4 volumes (5, really, but 4 main ones), and I recommend getting them straight from Arkham House publishing.
Now go forth and discover what revelations drove poor Danforth insane. Find out what *really* happened to Nathaniel Wingate Peaslee during those 5 years his amnesia prevents him from fully recalling, and learn about the origins -and fate- of life on this planet.
I’ve always been a great admirer of Lon Chaney Sr. (April 1, 1883 – August 26, 1930) as not only a character actor but as a make-up genius. His inventive solutions are the stuff of legend. The resources for stage make-up were crude, uncomfortable, toxic and extremely difficult to obtain. Chaney’s focused devotion to bringing grotesque characters to life meant he had to invent his solutions, normally in an unorthodox fashion. His most memorable and certainly, one of my absolute favorite is his version of Erik as The Phantom of the Opera. For a beautiful bio and tribute to Lon Chaney, please visit this site at Magical Horror.
Enamored with that design, I set out to create my own version, the same way aspiring artists copy Renaissance masters to improve their own abilities. I watched The Phantom of the Opera repeatedly and studied every known image of his Phantom make-up, form by form, deciphering what was Chaney’s actual face from his prosthetic counterpart.
And then it hit me. Instead of creating a stylized, non-descript mask that concealed his hideous features like the one he wore to enchant Christine; I would base my mask on the brilliant Chaney “reveal” make-up design.
But my design will have backstory. It should show the wear and tear of a ceramic-like mask that has seen too many days in the dark recesses below the Paris Opera House. My Phantom mask will be reproduced as a lightweight, rigid, resin mask designed to fit every contour of my face, perfectly. It would be “comfortable” to wear and easy to put on or remove in an instant.
The first image shows the super early rough-in stage. At this point, I was laying down character lines, nothing more but carefully watching how the shadows wrap the forms similar to that in Chaney’s make-up. If you look closely, the forehead in the 1st image is low, in case the mask is worn with a top hat. As indicated in the subsequent shots, I quickly abandoned that idea and sculpted the classic, high arching forehead to be more inline to the original design. All of the textures are created by hand, using custom, hand-made sculpting tools. Working at night (of course!), the entire sculpting process to about 10 days or roughly 30 hours.
MOLDING & CASTING STAGE:
With the sculpture now complete, the next stage was to create the silicone negative. The first images shows the blue colored silicone “brush-up” over the finished sculpture. The brush up process took about 5 hrs to create, taking care to create an even thickness coat and allowed to cure overnight. The next morning, the cured silicone mold was removed and the first layer of resin was “slushed” into the mold, until a desired thickness (about 5 mm) of material was reached. The resin was allowed to cure for a few hours, getting stronger the longer it sat. With gentle prodding, the raw casting was removed from the mold and its edges cleaned up with a dremel and sandpaper. The eye holes and ribbon slots were also cut out and sanded to a smooth finish.
The mask was then coated with a light grey primer followed by numerous layers of bruised flesh tones using special model paints. That process was repeated until I was satisfied with the final coloration. The images show the process and the final version of the mask.
Trapped in time. Surrounded by evil. Low on gas
In 1992, I was contracted to recreate stop motion, miniature puppet versions of the life sized creatures created by KNB FX Group and Tony Gardner’s Alterean make-up FX studio. Working from KNB’s full scale winged Deadite suit, I methodically reproduced a 1/6th scale version for shots where the Deadite takes flight with Sheila (Embeth Davits). The original Deadite and miniature Embeth sculptures were created in supersculpey and cast in dental stone molds.
After 4 weeks of hard work, the stop motion puppets were delivered on time to INTROVISION, the company awarded with the visual effects shots. A few weeks later, I got a call (on my birthday!) to make a small repair to the Deadite. The “runner” handed me a paper bag and inside was something that resembled a shredded piece of bacon. That was all that remained of the Deadite puppet! This was no small repair, it was an entire redo and of course, it was due to shoot the next day! I learned that one of the “Igor’s” in the model shop attempted to drill into the delicate foam latex skin but as soon as the latex touched the high speed drill bit, it wound the foam around the bit, ripping the skin from the armature – chewing it to pieces. Like a good, obedient steward of my craft, I worked through the night and delivered an “ok” version but charged them 1/20 of what it cost to do the first time. Everyone in LA cries poor but its bullshit. If I knew then what I know now, I would have charged them a FORTUNE for that repair.
12″ Tall, Evil Deadite sculpture
The complete, 1/6th scale stop motion Deadite puppet
The same Deadite puppet, but destroyed!
But as production quaintly stated: “it needs a little repair”. Effers.
Flying Deadite semi-posable replica
With the molds long destroyed, this is the only known casting of the flying Deadite in the world . This replica is made of flexible urethane and has an internal, semi-posable wire armature. Its safely stored in my collection.
Sheila Stop Motion Puppet
I also needed to make a miniature, stop motion puppet of Sheila (played by Embeth Davitz) to be carried away by the Deadite. This puppet stood approximately 10 inches tall.
There was a scene where Bruce Campbell had an evil Siamese twin joined at the torso, that forced him to crawl away like a spider. Internally we referred to the shot as “Spider Ash.” If I am not mistaken, Tony Gardner’s Alterian Studios created a life sized practical puppet/costume combo. But for potentially more challenging (or comedic) shots, the production company asked me to create a stop motion puppet version. This is how it went down…
Tony’s group supplied me with two head casts of Bruce Campbell, both taken with extreme facial expressions along with a slew of incriminating photos to use as a guide to match in miniature. Created in supersculpey in 1/6th scale (approx. 12″ tall), they were baked to a hard finish.
I needed to get a “buy off” on the sculpture from Sam Raimi before I could proceed with the molding and casting phase. With the delicate and fragile Spider Ash sculpture carefully packed, I slipped into a production meeting already well under way. Sam was sitting on the far end of the long boardroom table and when it was my turn to be addressed, my sculpture was carefully passed forward. Energized with enthusiasm, Sam Raimi gave it the 5 second once over and said “Gentlemen, this is a vision of beauty” and with that… he slid the sculpture back to me, across 8 feet of boardroom table, as if he was playing air hockey. I caught the sculpture before it took a nose dive to the floor – matched only by my elevated blood pressure.
After all of that, the “Spider Ash” stop motion puppet never made it into the final print of the film, but presented here as a piece of ARMY OF DARKNESS history.
Spider Ash Stop Motion Puppet
This image is one of the only surviving pictures in my archive that depicts the Spider Ash puppet as it was delivered. The molds to these puppets have been long destroyed.
Spider Ash Surviving Replica
This image shows the only known surviving copy of the 20+ year old Spider Ash puppet safely stored in my collection. This replica is made of a flexible urethane with a semi-posable wire armature.
…and the “Full Monty” shot.