Thursday, June 25, 2009

Film Inspiration

Was watching POLTERGEIST [again] and was struck by how much movies like that, when I initially saw them, gave me an instant fascination with props and special effects. I owe a lot to them. I can remember writing a letter to Industrial Light and Magic asking them for advice on how to get into that field.

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was pretty important - those corpses behind that tomb wall - the ones that screamed silent screams. I've read about moments in film makers' lives where they had an epiphany and sat up and said "That's what I want to do." Well, it wasn't really like that for me. It was more like a desire to be close to stuff like that, very close - in more movies or magazines or sketches or my own tinkerings with crude little monsters which later became crude big monsters.

Well, I never made it into movies. Never even tried. Never even took an art class other than the filler courses that were required with my non-art degree back in school.


Here are some images from movies that definitely had an impact on me and my haunt:

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Couldn't find any pics of those tasty corpses, but the ghosts at the end of the film were gorgeous and definitely left their mark.


I'll never forget the moment I saw THIS beauty in POLTERGEIST.


These are among the finest corpses to date in any film. The way their heads bobbed independently of their bodies.


The scarecrow from the beginning of the film PUMPKINHEAD.


And of course, the greatest on-screen scarecrow I've ever seen.


I'm thankful for growing up in the 80s with movies like RAIDERS, POLTERGEIST, JAWS, STAR WARS, THE FOG, and THE THING. Where physical props, models, and miniatures were still used to make film magic. I wonder if I would have been so inspired had I grown up with CGI. I can't even imagine what POLTERGEIST would have been like had it been loaded up with computer-generated effects and geared for a younger target audience (though I hear there's a remake in the works, so I guess we'll see exactly that).
Yep, thank God for the 80s. And thank God for Halloween - loaded up with special effects and monsters. The physical kind.

22 comments:

Mr.Macabre said...

What I have read and have not been able to find anything to the contrary is that actual skeletons were used in the movie POLTERGEIST, hence the supposed 'Poltergeist Movie Curse'. At the time, supposedly, it was less expensive to use the plastic based ones we use today.

Just a little creepy trivia...

Grim said...

Great post! Those are all great props from some pretty good movies. I still have to break out the Sleepy Hollow dvd about once a month because it is so filled with great things. I haven't watched Raider of the Lost Ark in a while, but I need to check it out. Those ghosts in that movie... I'd love to be able to do something like that.

Sara said...

Preach on, Rot! Seriously, great post. I LOVE the effects in Raiders. The new DVD (the collector's edition) has an awesome short doctumentary on how they made that Nazi's head melt. Pure AWESOME. I, too, am also glad that CGI did not ruin great movies from the 80's. I miss all of that hand-made artistry. :(

Rot said...

Wow. I've always heard of the POLTERGEIST curse, but never that fact about the real skeletons. Ironic if they actually did that while making a movie about disrespecting the dead.

Cool.

FULL MOON INDUSTRIES said...

"Walk into the light Carol Anne!"

NecroBones said...

All great sources of inspiration. I've always loved those props and effects too.

I had no idea about the real corpses! Is that true? Wow.

The fantastic ghosts at the end of Raiders were a very cool effect. They used small puppets (maybe 10" in size) submerged in water to get the flowing effect.

Jon said...

Amen, brother. All the films you mentioned plus John Carpenter was in his PRIME. Pre-CGI horror FTW!

Word: "gyneto"

Kimmy said...

My all-time favorite movie will always be Poltergeist. I'm 28 years old, seen the movie at least 100 times, and I -still- get the willies over the swimming pool scene. I also sniffle a little when Carol Anne comes back to the living when they're in the tub.

I really, really hope that no one ever tries to remake that classic. I'd get unnaturally angry.

Johnny said...

Don't take this the wrong way, but I am so glad you never went to Hollywood.
Try and name a movie with half the atmosphere created by your haunt in the last 10 years*.
I'd rather watch your site videos anytime.


* With the exception of Sleepy Hollow which NAILED it! I too must watch that movie at least once a month. That and Frankenstein/Bride of Frankenstein. Best set design ever! That cemetery? Forget about it.

Rot said...

wow, man.
thanks : )

bean said...

Kimmy...get ready to get angry...

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1029360/


Lame.

Rot said...

The Poltergiest Curse!

Ghostsoldier said...

Ah, the Eighties...where I fondly and perpetually live...except for an occasional sojourn into this century, as necessitates...

jay's shadow said...

this is a great post!
most of the movies now have computer generated monsters which look fake. back in the 80's is when they acually used their "hands" to make props and monsters. how i miss those days....
(going into an 80's flash back now"

jay's shadow said...

( this post sounds like a good intro to that HAUNT THEORY book)

Rot said...

You're probably right : )

The Captain said...

I've read the same thing that Mr.Macabre mentioned about real skeletons being used, but I heard it was in part two when they are down in the cave. I have many times put on POLTERGEIST to look at the corpses in the pool to get inspiration. I agree all of those movies would have had less of an impact if they were made today with CGI.

Just looked it up and Mr.Macabre and I are both correct, they supposedly used real corpses in part one and two. Yikes!

[url]http://thebeyond.info/poltergeist.php[/url]

JHMDF said...

Mine would have to be the head growing legs and walking away scene in The Thing. I know I bring it up ALL THE TIME, but Silent Hill the movie used a lot of real monsters and effects... another reason why I loved it!

VooDoo.13 said...

The house that Poltergeist was filmed at was about a block away from my Jr. High School.

thecadaver said...

Ah the eighties... wasn't even born yet.
Sigh.

Although may I add that I'm majorly surprised you did a non-art degree. I always pictured you as an art school grad.

Shotgun_Mario said...

I've been the same way with those films. I'm currently an animation student, working my way (hopefully) into the special effects department- notably into animatronics. Surely had the moment that so many have- it was during the dog scene the first time I watched THE THING at around 5:30 am for the first time, and I sat up and told myself "that's what I'm going to do"- since then I've bounced around an engineering school, an art school, a tech college, etc., still looking to find something that can get me started in that direction.

there's a comeback for animatronics and 'real' puppets/props in movies now- but they're so good you can hardly tell they're NOT super-well-done CGI. Directors are beginning to realize that CGI is not the end-all tool for the job, as there's no proper light reflection, or actor interaction like there is with a real object. It's just now they're mixed and enhansed with CGI over them, and they don't always look like the rubber props of yesteryear (oh how I still love them though!)


on a similar thing that johnny said, I'm half glad that you're not in hollywood. I'll honestly say that if you were in hollywood, your set designs and skill for setting atmosphere would have quickly taken you to the top, to where you would have a great influence- but at the same time, I think you're doing a really really smashing job outside of hollywood, and perhaps you really are leaving a mark that none of us really can see- I know for a certain that my style is heavily influenced on yours, so if I get to hollywood like I hope, what you've taught and saturated into me here will come along with, as is any other people who adore what you do. Keep up the amazing work!

Shotgun_Mario said...

another big influence I personally have is the rabbit from the Twilight Zone movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJoPNBEdduk&feature=player_profilepage

Perfect mix of horror and cartoons! Look at those camera shots, the lighting, the fog effects- even though the prop only has ~10 different servos in the face, and [probably] is a hand-controlled puppet head- the entire thing looks so amazingly realistic in the face and body (not the arms clearly) and the way the scene is cut- it's beautiful.