Tag Archives: Creature Features

Creature Features: Facts and Trivia Behind The Special Effects of Poltergeist II: The Other Side

Whether you’re a fan or not of the follow up to Hooper/Spielberg’s 1982 paranormal pleasure Poltergeist, it goes without saying the special effects are spectacular and well-known throughout the industry as a majestic staple of the effects community. Hell, even the snooty Academy Awards recognized the visual terror of the film when it was nominated for Best Visual Effects during their 1987 award season.

While I can agree some of the plot points in The Other Side are a bit questionable, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it’s probably one of my horror movies period. Most of that credit goes towards Julian Beck’s portrayal of the malevolent reverend, Henry Kane; who basically traumatized a seven-year-old Patti into being terrified of old people for the next three years. Quite a feat and a legacy to leave behind as this was the actor’s last film role, and most likely, his most memorable. Just to refresh, Beck was suffering tremendously during shooting with pancreatic cancer and in terrible pain- which would account for his deathly appearance on screen and twisted look. It’s quite sad to think about it actually. However, at least we can take heart into knowing it wasn’t in vain as his character, at least in my own stupid opinion, is held in the highest regard as one of the most perfect villains’ in the horror universe.

I’m sure he’s smiling with his 10,000 teeth beyond the grave with that statement.

Tentacles seemed to be a recurring effect in the movie.  H.R. Giger, who provided the special effects designs, created several prospects but only two made it into the film, the vomit monster and “The Great Beast”. While I’m perfectly fine with these looks personally, some books on his art report that Giger was “very unhappy” with how his designs were translated to the film.

Before we get into the obvious scenes you’re expecting to see here, there were some other simple things like a dream sequence in which Diane is pulled into the ground by rotting skeletons, or another quick shot of dozens of ghostly spirits appearing all over the lawn that weren’t as recognized but looked visually stunning on film.  Then there was the part where Stephen and Taylor are having their warrior session and the smoke attacks him before entering his nostrils. And of course, the creepy toy scene where all the kids’ toys are possessed by Kane and his minions.

The movie was at one point to have been filmed in 3D. Several scenes such as the appearance of the Beast and the cheesy flying chainsaw during the garage escape were filmed to take advantage of the process. This idea was eventually abandoned after seeing the failures of other gimmicky 3D horror films of the decade such as the likes of Jaws 3-D (1983), and Amityville 3-D (1983), which were previous flops for studios. Speaking of the garage scene, it was originally written to have the infamous clown doll come back for a scare, trying to smash its way through the car windows! Even more cheesy? Maybe. But I’m ok with saying it would have been the most awesome cheese.

Those are all notable mentions, but the effects in the film really kick off with attack of the braces! The orthodontic horror kicks off the tentacle special effects theme throughout the film with poor Robbie getting nailed to a ceiling in a cocoon of metal thanks to his dental genetics.

Boss Film Studios, namely Richard Edlund, John Bruno, Garry Waller, and William Neil, was the design company handling the effects. They animated the magic through a mold that was placed over actor Oliver Robins’ head. The team placed straws inside the kid’s nose so he could breathe properly and a device attached to the mouth that would shoot out the metal tentacles through a remote. In the original script, Robbie was to be attacked by bees. However, the actor noted he had a debilitating fear against the insect. So hence, we get this glorious scene instead.

Moving further down toward tentacle terror, is the most recognizable scene from the film- The Vomit Creature. Kane was able to get into the house by possessing the worm in a bottle of tequila.  When Stephen swallowed the worm, it possesses him briefly until his body rejects the evil spirit. Out slithers this huge, slimy, H.R. Geiger inspired creature that quickly grows into a legless ghoul resembling the preacher.  That part was pretty horrifying.  It continued to grow until it resembled a massive column of evil, complete with monster claws that lifted Stephen off the ground; and then scare it off with that warrior smoke!

The creature, played by Vietnam veteran Noble Craig, was a triple amputee due to his war services. However, Craig is unsung in the horror community as playing multiple roles you might not even know about! Such as what is credited as “The Puddle Soldier” in 1988’s The Blob, “The Sewer Monster” in Big Trouble in Little China, and one of the very few people who got to play Freddy Krueger on the big screen in Nightmare 5: The Dream Child; in the scene where Freddy is bursting out of Alice’s body- that’s Craig.

The final few minutes of the film encounter the vomit creature Kane in it’s final form- The Great Beast. Unfortunately, the battle with the beast was originally much longer as with the rest of the film (a full forty minutes is said to have been cut from the movie), but nonetheless made its impact.

On the script sent to HR Giger, there was a scene in the entrance to the other side that involved a tunnel made with arms, bones and worms; and the Great Beast evolves into a massive living landscape that covers the other side. Which would have been cool to see but I’m guessing production budgets were an issue here. The ‘Beast’ itself was apparently a nightmare build for the team; so I suppose he sure does live up to his name.

Now, those are all fine concepts that looked great on film. But the most horrifying scene for me, was this goddamn transformation of Carol Anne becoming one with the beast.

And for the record, this just as creepy prop is the restoration of the Carol Anne bust that was partly used in that scene.

Tom Spina.com

Creature Features: Celebrating 35 Years Of Practical Effects Werewolves Via STEPHEN KING’S SILVER BULLET

CREATURE FEATURES: CELEBRATING 35 YEARS OF  PRACTICAL EFFECTS WEREWOLVES VIA STEPHEN KING'S SILVER BULLET

Halloween 2020 for many, is looking different this year. Some will go about their own business, and celebrate as per usual. Some will opt to stay home for a family-fun night of horror flicks instead; of which both are perfectly ok mind you! However this year, I have one fantastic selection to add to the typical go-to movies such as Halloween and Trick ‘R’ Treat. A film so perfect that it almost supersedes the novella it was derived from. Piss on Rob Zombie’s Halloween! Piss on the Nightmare on Elm Street remake! This Halloween that coincides with a rare Blue Full Moon- I invite you to hunt up a little private justice with Stephen King’s Silver Bullet!

It’s been a while since we’ve done any Creature Features pieces celebrating our favorite monsters and glorious practical effects; and we’re LONG OVERDUE for a Silver Bullet article. Of which none has been done on this website and being the huge fan I am of this film in particular and this month marks the 35th anniversary of its release, I better get my ass in gear before my Tarker’s Mills card is revoked.

When I say I’m a fan, there’s my commitment status. I don’t fuck around like a virgin on prom night.

Anyway, let’s start with the obvious. I understand a lot of people disregard the Reverend Werewolf final reveal look; comparing it to something that of a dog-bear, (and honestly you aren’t wrong about that). However, it is meant as an insult rather than a critique and I think a lot of these people have An American Werewolf on London on the brain. I will argue till the day I die that THIS look, (not transformation but LOOK) in particular, is far more scary and that is my personal, and firm opinion on the matter.

And I will fucking die on that hill.

Special effects master Carlo Rambaldi, whose notable works include creating the works behind King Kong (1976), Alien, and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial, was tasked as the special and make-up effects head to complete the werewolf looks in Stephen King’s novella turned featured film. The realistic style suit was one piece that was topped with a mask that was operated by a variety of mechanics operated by the crew. Twelve levers to be exact, like that of a bicycle, that could manipulate the wolf’s facial expressions. For long-distance shots, there was a more simple mask that didn’t require all the fancy, tech wires.

However, Rambaldi was only given five executive weeks to pull of this sorcery. Hey, if the master of Queen Alien could do it, anyone can! Still, shooting had commenced even before the final suit and mask were ready. So those little snips of the werewolf leading up to the big reveal, were done with another purpose behind it.

“Ultimately, it looked like a bear,” confesses Attias. “The werewolf was very late in being designed, and Carlo (Rambaldi) was given very little time or money to work on it. In fact, it was so late that we had already started filming before we had the suit, so we starting shooting scenes without it. I tried to make sure the audience would see it as little as possible. – Excerpt from interview with the The Master Cylinder.

Everett McGill wore the suit for most of shooting, who spent a considerable amount of time figuring out the perfect walk for something that was neither man, nor beast. But a man that has been trapped inside an animal who eventually accepted his fate and embraced this dark shadow within him. Resulting in the werewolf quenching his thirst for blood on the “sinners” of the town- as McGill puts it speaking to the Shadow Nation podcast. However, he wasn’t even the first choice! Attias had hired a dancer to wear the suit, but apparently it didn’t work out, resulting McGill to go hairy balls deep in the role playing both the wolf and his not-so-holy counterpart. More demanding stunts in the costume, required a double; which was taken on by Julius Le Flore, the stunt coordinator for the film.

Now. We certainly can’t talk about the effects without mentioning the greatest scene in the movie that brought together a record FORTY werewolves on screen together; the most in any film to date. In lieu of Rambaldi, makeup artist Michael McCracken, Jr. was in charge of the dream sequence that involved a few actors already in the film, and the rest were made of up of Julius Le Flore’s friends of gymnasts and dancers. Clearly distinguishing themselves as different from Lowe’s wolf persona, but were taught the “werewolf walk” McGill had been practicing by the good ol’ Reverend himself.

The congregation of wolves were broken down into three groups. One group had radio transmitting facial features providing movement in the ears, forehead, and mouth. The second bunch had a “tongue device”; allowing the performing to snarl with simply moving the device around with well, their tongue. The third had no special effects at all other than makeup and served as the background werewolves.

And since it’s such a wonderful sequence, let’s give it a watch.

In conclusion, there was a lot of pain-staking elements involved in the productions of these creatures. And while some may mock Rambaldi’s werewolf concept, including that of Producer Dino De Laurentiis, it was the only one that gave me nightmares when I was a kid. That has to account for something!

Silver Bullet [Blu-ray]


[Creature Features] ‘JAWS’ – The Birth of the Blockbuster and Galeophobia

In the banner year of 1985, 10 years after the initial blockbuster smash release of the holiest of shark films JAWS, I had seen thine shining light they call Bruce for the first time in my tiny life.

I was three.

THREE-FUCKING-YEARS-OLD.

One could argue my Dad was a sadistic fuck in showing me what I absolutely consider, one of the top three scariest films of ALL TIME. Especially given the fact I wouldn’t even set a pair of feet on any beach for close to seven years after. True story: Having family in the Long Island area, Summer Beach days were very much a thing. However, I would make my Dad carry me across the sandy threshold to a spot I felt comfortable and far enough away from the water. The answer is yes: In my youthful way of thinking, I had concluded that JAWS was smart enough to get me even in the sand. But as long as I was on a towel and far enough away from the shore, all was ok. The answer here is also YES: It makes zero sense, I realize but hey, I was a kid so don’t judge too harsh!

Now that being said, my story is just one of thousands that were scared absolutely shitless after seeing the film, inducing GALEOPHOBIA into the minds of many. Proving without a shadow of a doubt, that JAWS is indeed, one of the scariest films of all time. We define horror as something that scares us. It’s a very versatile genre as what scares one, may not necessarily frighten another. Collectively, JAWS pretty much hit the nail on the head and caused quite a bit of both panic and interest in the beautiful monsters of the deep.

The following vintage clip from NBC NEWS uploaded by Youtube user COW MISSING showcases a little snippet of what ‘The Summer of JAWS’ looked like as far as the cultural impact the film had with its audiences.

Now on the other side of the coin, JAWS ultimately caused an almost global catastrophe for the creatures of the deep in the form of fear and panic; something humanity is very much guilty of with the most recent example given is the 2020 shortage of toilet paper. We are very much guilty of acting out in emotions first, and logic later. And these poor animals have suffered immensely for it. Mind you, I don’t place this blame on the book or film itself as that’s complete BULLSHIT. Every one of us is responsible for our own actions, thoughts, and doings. I only place blame on those who have chosen to use their own fears as an excuse to execute these wonderful animals for either sport, food, or pleasure. As a matter of fact, Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel shadows the event dubbed “The Twelve Days of Terror”, that served as inspiration for what we know as Bruce today.

In 1916, a series of shark attacks were recorded over on the New Jersey coastline killing four people and injuring five others. Also, interestingly enough, during a Polio Epidemic. So of course, under the duress of a record-breaking heatwave and pandemic, the media then fueled an already stressed populous into panic mode. Reports and analysis also suggest that the nature of the attacks were by a lone shark. Later, a Great White was caught during a shark hunt that was found to have human remains in its stomach. Was this shark the culprit? Possibly. I mean, hard to argue if there’s a human limb hanging out inside the belly of the thing.

Anyways, the release of JAWS just helped to reignite a surging fear and interest in the mysterious beast. As time heals all things however, the humanoids have become much more sympathetic and educated about our friends of the deep. Regardless of how many horribly cheesy SY-FY shark attack movies have been churned out year after year, piggybacking off the back of the ultimate shark movie…. 45 years later and counting.

Now, I can’t simply talk about JAWS without mentioning the John Williams score. It is one of the most recognizable tones in cinematic history that Goddess forbid, you ever hear that shit playing somewhere on the beach while your legs are dangling in the water, I’ll place a hefty bet you’re gonna crap your swim shorts. Per the Film Music Society, Williams described the malicious two-tone theme as “so simple, insistent and driving, that it seems unstoppable, like the attack of the shark. The music could be loud and fast if he was attacking, soft and slow if he was lurking, but always menacing in tone.”

Goddamn right Mr. Williams. I mean, every time I have an anxiety/panic attack, that fucking theme song pops into my anxious mind as the perfect accompaniment as an indication of a roller coaster of impending doom.

[JAWS theme] John Williams with the Boston Pops Orchestra

While I myself, and many other 80s’ babies’ grew up in the JAWS VHS era, we were terrified as kids but evolved into adults with a healthy understanding of the nature of the beast with education along with a healthy dose of lovely Shark Week programming provided by the Discovery Channel. However, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I didn’t still ’til this day go to the ocean, dip in, and the thought cross my mind, “Is today the day my leg gets bit off by Sir Great White of Shark?” All thanks to one of the most horrifying scenes of all time.

Thanks for the memories and the trauma Bruce.




Also, this is totally worth picking up! You can get your 4k Ultimate JAWS experience here through Amazon!