This past September this writer headed down to Arkansas for a quick set visit for the upcoming slasher flick Madison County. With filming taking place on location in the actual namesake area, I quickly came to realize I had never felt as far from Hollywood as I did winding around those dusty, remote roads on my travels to and from the set.
The beauty, contrasted with the isolation in these mountainous areas, made for the perfect backdrop for the carnage about to hit Madison County.
Beyond the stunning scenery, what impressed me most while on the set of Madison County was the cast and crew’s adaptability to some truly guerrilla-style filmmaking in order to get the movie completed on time and within its budget. There were no Ramadas with turn-down service here – everyone was staying at a very modest (and insect-friendly) motel that even though it was the closest lodging to their filming locations still meant the cast and crew had about an hour commute to set every day. There were many sleepless nights for those involved with Madison County; yet, when I arrived during week three of shooting, their enthusiasm seemed unwavering. They were all just happy to be a part of the project.
Madison County, written and directed by Eric England, stars Ace Marrero, Colley Bailey, Adrienne Harrell, Matt Mercer, Joanna Sotomura, and Nick Principe. Principe, a specialist at portraying dominating killers these days, plays Damien, who ends up proving to a group of unsuspecting college kids that he’s more than just a local town legend.
Great slasher movies always hinge on one thing: just how successful their killer is at delivering the chills and a decent body count for horror fans. From what this writer saw on set in September, horror fans will be delighted with Principe’s cold and vicious portrayal of Damien.
Once the gang finished up in Arkansas and had a chance to catch their proverbial breath back in Los Angeles, Dread Central sat down for an exclusive roundtable with some of the key cast and crew from Madison County for an in-depth look at the making of the film. In this first installment we take a look at the killer Damien: what went into the character, his look, and what it takes for Principe to become the man behind the mask.
The design of the look of Damien’s mask was a key component to the creepy aesthetics of Madison County. England collaborated with Robert Hall and Erik Porn of Almost Human Special EFX (this writer’s daytime employer) so that it would be creepy and realistic without looking like just another rubber mask.
Click over to the next page for an exclusive look at Madison County‘s killer in full make-up!
Principe said, “When they asked me to come on board to play Damien, they didn’t have an effects team yet for Madison County, and since I’ve known and worked with Rob for years, I just knew that he had to do the effects. I knew this was a really good script and it was going to be an ambitious shoot so I knew I had to use every one of my resources to make sure that we got the look of the character (and the effects of the movie) right.”
Porn, who handled the conception and creation of the Damien mask, described his design process. “I got to design and do the fabrication of Damien’s pig mask. The ideas for what the mask should look like were just not to look like either the masks from Motel Hell or the Saw movies. Eric said they’d be shooting during a lot of daylight, which was another design challenge, so we added a lot of texture to the mask to give it a little more of a demented look. I know both Eric and Rob wanted to add a bit of a burlap sack to the back of the mask to up the creepiness factor. Personally, I think it turned out really great.”
Slashers aren’t just guys in masks either – they’re forces of nature, usually with their own set of rules and killer agendas. For Damien, Principe drew from England’s own script and vision of the killer for his portrayal but still added his own deadly flavoring into the mix.
“Eric was so great about laying out the character of Damien in the script so when I got to set, I just added my own little touches to him,” explained Principe. “For the most part I just did what Eric wanted for the character, and every once in a while I’d give it a little something extra just to complement what the script called for. I always say the writer/director of each project is like the dad, but for me my characters become my step-child in a twisted way.”
“Usually, the first three days are kinda about me finding the character, and after that it’s game time for me. I’m not a big fan of the whole method acting thing so when the mask comes on, I’m dialed in, and when it comes off, I’m right back to being myself. I’m all for doing what it takes to ‘get you there’ but I guess I’m lucky because when the mask comes on, I’m right inside that character’s head,” Principe added.
For England, seeing Principe on set as Damien the first time exceeded any expectations he had for his “creation” going into Madison County.
“I think the best day for me was Nick’s first day on set,” said England. “I mean, having Nick there already was beyond great, but once he put on that mask and got into wardrobe, I got really excited to see Damien come to life right in front of me.”
Check out the exclusive first stills of Principe as Madison County’s most infamous resident, Damien, below! Also, check back with us next week as Dread Central gives you an introduction to the up-and-coming cast members of Madison County, including an exclusive video from the Madison County roundtable interview.
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