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The Basement – From SFX to VFX: A Visual Anatomy of a Decapitation

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Remember those cool Fangoria articles of yesteryear, which focused on the technical aspects of special effects gags? Well, with co-directors Brian Conley and Nathan Ives’ indie horror feature The Basement, which focuses on a serial killer known as “The Gemini” (who dispatches his victims via decapitation with a blowtorch) set to world premiere at Shriekfest Film Festival on October 7th, we’ve got a similar behind-the-scenes look at how they achieved one the film’s many FX scenes.

Starring Mischa Barton (The Sixth Sense), Jackson Davis (“Lonelygirl15”), Cayleb Long, Tracie Thoms (Death Proof), Bailey Anne Borders (The Fifth Wave) and Sarah Nicklin, the opening of The Basement finds suburbanite Carlee (actress Jessica Sonneborn) discovering the head of one of The Gemini’s several victims on her front lawn. In order to achieve the effect, the production utilized a blend of practical effects (courtesy of Juli Hapney, who designed and applied prosthetics to actress Pamela Wistrom) and VFX (from Lloyd Lee Barnett, whose previous work includes Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and Avatar).

Below are a chronological series of photos, first from the set, and then from Barnett’s VFX session. Enjoy!

From the Press Release:
Pasadena, California-based production company Conley Entertainment Group is proud to announce the World Premiere of its independent horror/thriller feature The Basement, to be held at the venerable Shriekfest Film Festival on Saturday, October 7th, at 8:15 PM at Raleigh Studios (5300 Melrose Avenue) in Hollywood, CA. Tickets to the premiere can be purchased here: brownpapertickets.com/event/3087128.

Starring Mischa Barton (The Sixth Sense), Jackson Davis (“Lonelygirl15”), Cayleb Long, Tracie Thoms (Death Proof), Bailey Anne Borders (The Fifth Wave), and Sarah Nicklin, The Basement, which Sam Santiago of TrulyDisturbing.com likens to a cross between Silence of the Lambs and Split, is about a Los Angeles serial killer known as The Gemini (Davis), who tortures and ultimately murders his victims in the dungeon-like basement of his San Fernando Valley home.

By the time the movie opens, Gemini has already claimed seven victims, all of whom he has horrifyingly maimed and decapitated with a blowtorch; but Craig Owen (Long), the famed musician whom Gemini has chosen for his eighth victim, and Craig’s beautiful wife, Kelly (Barton), prove every bit the killer’s equal in the art of psychological warfare, giving rise to one of the more diabolical plot twists in recent memory.

Brian Conley, who co-wrote and co-directed with Nathan Ives, stated of the premiere, “It is truly thrilling to be premiering our film at a festival as revered and respected as Shriekfest.”

Ives, who, along with Conley and Mark Heidelberger, also co-produced, said of the film, “Neither Brian nor I had any interest in making a mindless horror movie. There is a lot going on beneath the surface in this film, and I think audiences will be intrigued.”

Stated Shriekfest Founder Denise Gossett of the film’s selection, “I am a huge fan and supporter of independent films, and The Basement is a great example of a well-made, beautifully shot film with some terrific performances!”

Nevertheless, Santiago has a word of warning for potential premiere goers, “There is a fair amount of gore, and this film does not shy away from showing the extreme physical and psychological trauma you’d find present under such circumstances. It’s not for everyone.”

Producer Heidelberger seems to concur, adding with a wink. “The performances in this movie are so true to life, it’s frankly disturbing. But the directors keep telling me that’s a good thing.”

Worldwide distribution rights for The Basement are currently available so we’ll see what happens after the premiere! In the meantime, the film can be found on Facebook, on Twitter @Basement_Movie, and on Instagram at @basementhorrormovie.

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