If you’re a horror fan, chances are you’re already very familiar with the masterful special make-up work by legendary effects house KNB. Created by Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger in 1988, KNB EFX Group has been behind some of the most jaw-dropping make-up work in our genre.
KNB’s resume includes Army of Darkness, From Dusk Till Dawn, Spawn, Cabin Fever, Sin City, “The Walking Dead” and so many more. One of their current projects is Fright Night 3D, and while on the set of the upcoming film, we had the opportunity to chat with Howard Berger in the make-up trailer and take a look at what his approach was to updating the vampire look for the remake and the various stages of ‘vamping out’ fans will see Fright Night cast members go through in the film.
For Berger, his love for the original Fright Night is what initially attracted him to wanting to handle the make-up work on the DreamWorks’ remake. “The first thing about Fright Night that really attracted me was that I love the original movie and always have. I thought it was super-cool when I saw it when I was younger, and I still think it’s super-cool. So when I heard this movie was coming up, I called Dreamworks and said, ‘I have to be on this movie; end of discussion’, and they said ‘Okay.’ It was that was easy!’ It was interesting when talking to the execs at DreamWorks at first because they were thinking that this was not going to be a big makeup movie. More like, ‘Maybe we’ll do lenses and fangs and pale them down’, and I told them, ‘I don’t think that’s a Fright Night movie’, but I said we’d entertain that thought for a minute.
“But when executive producer Mike De Luca came on board (and who’s probably a bigger Fright Night fanboy than myself), he said, ‘No, there has to be tons of makeup and monsters in this movie’, and I was very relieved for that since that’s what makes the original so much fun- the monsters. So there are monsters and creatures in it, but Craig is really keen on keeping Fright Night based firmly in reality, too. That’s part of the unnerving aspect of it I think because everything looks and feels real. I think if we went into the giant monsters, it would move out of that universe and pull you right out of the experience of watching the movie,” added Berger.
Berger went on to discuss the meticulous approach he took while collaborating with director Craig Gillespie on creating the various vamp-out stages in Fright Night, only to have his careful planning fall by the wayside due to the spontaneity of some of the cast members who loved playing around with the various looks of their characters throughout the movie.
“We had five concepts that we had done for Colin’s look and that’s pretty faithful to what we ended up working with on set,” explained Berger. “We knew we wanted to start subtly and then just build and build and build on that until we got into a full-scale creature, which is the fifth stage with the big crazy ears and veins and all that good stuff. What’s neat about Craig’s concept was that it wasn’t just that Colin becomes a creature and wanders around the streets and has that goofy awkward ‘big monster roaming around giving dialogue,’ approach, which never ever works. Craig’s thought was that it was all adrenaline-based. Jerry flares up, and it’s anger and adrenaline that forces him into these different stages. It’s fun, and the stages bounce all over the place.”
“All of our makeup was originally very planned out, and we were very meticulous about what the stages were in which scenes. Then once we’d get to set, it would be ‘Maybe this should be stage one. No, let’s do stage 0.5.’ Then Colin might say, ‘I think I want to wear fingernails in this scene or maybe the stage four teeth and the stage one eyes.’ I soon realized that we were now working with like a thousand stages so we just got in the habit of bringing everything to set with us so we would be prepared for Craig and Colin’s spontaneity,” added Berger.
Berger also talked about two of the other big make-up gags in the film (WARNING: Consider this is a spoiler alert for any of you out there who have NOT seen the original Fright Night. And if you haven’t by now, shame on you!)- when “Evil Ed” gets truly evil and after Amy (Imogen Poots) gets bitten by Jerry. “Christopher Mintz-Plasse is our Evil Ed, and he was the perfect choice to play that part. He’s got three stages of makeup including a neck gash gag. For Imogen, who plays Amy, Mike De Luca wanted it to be very faithful to the original Amy makeup, the big ‘Dr. Sardonicus’ thing, so we’ve got a new concept using that original thought process and concept.”
“This time, Craig really wants the mouth to open up wide where she can really open that appliance up wide. Part of Amy’s look is that we want rows and rows of teeth, all in her mouth, going down her throat so that will all be done digitally. That will actually be one of the few things where there will be digital augmentation. We are really trying to also do very little digital on this movie; I think there are only 100 digital shots planned right now, which is unheard of these days. That number will probably grow, as we all know, but right now we’re trying to do everything as practical as possible or do a mix when we can, like with Amy’s vampire makeup,” added Berger.
Shooting Fright Night in 3D wasn’t just something that concerned the director, the cast and the other crew members- shooting in that particular format meant Berger had to create some 3D make-up effects as well in order to give fans a truly unique 3D horror movie experience when the flick hits theaters on August 19th.
“We had to use 3D transfers for this movie- they’re a bit like 2D tattoo transfers, but they’re fully sculpted with veins and stuff,” explained Berger. “That was a big thing, too, that the studio wanted- to use the 3D format to heighten the make-up work we were doing. On the first design pass they kept saying they wanted the transfers to be translucent and they didn’t want to have to go the route from I Am Legend and end up having huge digital augmentation which meant that they would be basically replacing our onset work. We were using silicone and found that by barely coloring the silicone and doing a lot of underpainting and things like that and being subtle with the paint work, we were able to achieve that level of translucency. I think this is one of the first times where vampire veins have been done that are pretty out there and have that translucency and organic feeling the studio really wanted. I think the 3D will really enhance the look of what we’re doing here.”
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