Exclusive: KNB's Greg Nicotero Talks Evil Dead II, The Walking Dead and More! - Dread Central
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Exclusive: KNB’s Greg Nicotero Talks Evil Dead II, The Walking Dead and More!

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When it comes to creating jaw-dropping special make-up effects in movies, it doesn’t get any better than the work by Greg Nicotero, one of the masters of KNB EFX, who have been responsible for some of the biggest and best effects of the last 25 years in the industry.

With the recent release of the Evil Dead II Blu-ray, Dread Central had the opportunity to briefly sit down and chat with the make-up maestro about his experiences both working on the cult classic as well as revisiting them some 25 years later now. Nicotero also briefly chatted about the last few days of shooting for “The Walking Dead” and so much more.

Dread Central: Greg, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me today. I can’t even imagine how busy your schedule must be right now with “The Walking Dead” on top of everything else.

Greg Nicotero: “I literally wrapped Friday morning, and right now I couldn’t even tell you what day it is. All I know is that I’m exhausted because the last few days of shooting “The Walking Dead” were pretty hard. We shot all night scenes last week so it was around 23 degrees every night- the complete opposite of the heat we started off in. It was hard to imagine; we even had fake bodies start to freeze while on set, which was definitely a first for me.”

DC: I can’t even begin to imagine that. Now let’s talk a bit about your own home videos being on the Evil Dead II Blu-ray because I think including them is remarkable. It’s not like behind-the-scenes features were all the rage back then so getting that kind of coverage for a cult classic like this is pretty amazing. So thank you for having that kind of foresight to film everything.

Nicotero: “Well, that’s something I have to give Tom Savini a tremendous amount of credit for actually because he always documented everything, and I think a lot of that came from Dick Smith originally because Smith was a big fan of testing make-ups and doing shooting tests. But when I went to work on Day of the Dead, I ended up being the guy who documented everything we did on that movie, and I saw how important it was to get everything on record.”

“So when we started Evil Dead II with Mark (Shostrom), I had my camera on my shoulder and I filmed a bunch of the work we did in the studio. Then, when we went to set, it was all a bunch of young guys living in different houses in Waynesboro, North Carolina, so it had this ‘summer camp’ feel, just minus the whole massacre part. But back then you didn’t have to worry about the internet or media finding your footage so everyone was really open to my filming on Evil Dead II, which was great because I have a lot of lost scenes in my footage. Sam and Bruce were really open to me filming them- they would begin to ham it up or start performing for the camera anytime I pointed the camera in their direction. Because of that I now have thousands of hours of footage of us on different movie sets because I saw how important it really was.”



“What’s so amazing, though, is the amount of filmmakers that love that film and found inspiration in Evil Dead II. I was working on a project with Bill Paxton, and he told me how one morning James Cameron just showed up at his house and told him he had two minutes to get ready because he was taking him to see Evil Dead II. And even back when I was working with Robert Rodriguez on The Faculty, I had him come by my house and he saw the tapes on my shelf. He had no idea I had worked on it, and when he found out I had like six hours of behind-the-scenes footage from it, we had to watch it all that night. It was so much fun because everyone seems to love the ‘down and dirty’ filmmaking approach on it; I think the effects we did on Evil Dead II was a bit of an inspiration behind the kind of gore you saw in Robert’s Grindhouse movie, too. It’s a classic for a reason.”

DC: As a fan of practical effects, what I loved so much about seeing your footage was the fact that Sam and everyone really created some movie magic on Evil Dead II because everything had to be done in-camera. When you go back and look at your early work like that, do you get nostalgic at all for the earlier days of special effects?

Nicotero: “Absolutely. It’s true that they don’t make films like that anymore at all. It’s interesting. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and what it took to make a movie like Evil Dead II back then and the amount of creativity it took to get everything to work. Clearly Sam, as imaginative as he was and still is, used every trick in the book that he could find; he loved stop-motion; we also used rear screen projection, some miniatures, practical effects, some animation and then just some minor visual effects to finish everything.”

“That being said, I think Evil Dead II is literally one of the most fun movies to watch that I’ve ever worked on. It’s definitely a springboard movie for all of us who made it, and I think because of all of our ingenuity on that film, it really took all of us effects guys to an entirely different level. What I think is great is that even after all this time, we still get to work with Sam (and even Bruce) on the new Oz movie and Sam’s still the same guy he was back then. He still has the same passion and love for filmmaking, and I don’t think anyone would have realized his true level of talent had it not been for Evil Dead II.”

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Exclusive: Director Dennis Bartok and Lead Shauna MacDonald Talk Nails

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With writer and director Dennis Bartok’s feature film Nails having bowed Friday on VOD via Dark Sky Films, here’s a bit of our interview with the flick’s filmmaker, Cinelicious Pics Head of Distribution and General Manager of the American Cinematheque Bartok (he wears many hats), as well as the film’s star, Shauna MacDonald (of The Descent series).

Nails revolves around “…track star Dana Milgrom (MacDonald), who, having survived a near-death car accident, finds herself almost completely paralyzed and trapped inside her own body, and while recovering, she becomes convinced that some evil presence exists inside her hospital room and is intent on killing her,” and was executive produced by Joseph Kaufman (Assault on Precinct 13) and produced by Brendan McCarthy (Cherry Tree, The Hallow).

Bartok, who previously wrote and produced the 2006 feature anthology film Trapped Ashes, said of his approach to the narrative of Nails, “It’s very ‘anti-flight.’ Most horror movies are built around the idea that you are running away from something. The Halloween and Friday the 13th movies, there’s a mysterious creature that’s trying to track you down, or conversely you are walking into some horrible haunted house that nobody in their right mind would ever go into, for example, The Woman in Black, which is a really terrifying film. But from the very first moment Daniel Radcliffe’s character goes up to the front of that house, the audience says, ‘Turn around! Get the hell out of there! You are going to die!’ And of course he walks in. So I was really fascinated by a narrative in which the lead character was physically trapped in one space, and actually trapped in her own body. So I thought a lot about narratives like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The Sea Inside and Hitchcock’s Rear Window, where the protagonist is physically handicapped and forced to confront that, so both as a writer and as a filmmaker and for Shauna it was a huge challenge, in that how do you make that (type of story) kinetic and compelling, and how do you build suspense when the lead character is trapped in the bed for eighty percent of the story?”

MacDonald said of the script’s appeal, which is a departure in ways from the action-packed The Descent films for which she’s most known, “Oddly, I don’t want to be labeled a horror girl, although the older I get, the cooler I think that sounds. Certainly in the UK they like to fit you in the box of low-budget horror films, and every year after The Descent (films) I get scripts to read, and some of them would say, ‘OK, the lead actress is tied to a stained mattress in her underwear,’ and I would be like, ‘Next!’ and for me, I knew it would be a massive acting challenge to play the lead (as it was written) in Nails, someone who is bed-ridden and paranoid and can’t speak. Her physical journey and her emotional journey is what attracted me to the role.”

“I think it’s important also that she has self-doubt,” MacDonald continues of her role, “and that she thinks she may be having a mental breakdown. No one else is seeing the things she is seeing or experiencing what she is experiencing, so I thought upon that a lot, and also I thought, as a mother of three girls myself, that the character’s connection with her daughter in the script was really heart-wrenching, and I love mother/daughter stories.”

Filmmaker Bartok added, “I thought very much about the bond between a mother and her daughter while writing it, and the sacrifice a parent would make in order to protect their child, and that was one of the main themes from the very beginning. When I set out to make the film I knew that there were two things that I needed to make it work. One was that I needed to make it scary, and to really unnerve people, and to build that suspense and a rising tension throughout, and the second thing was, that I’d really need someone amazing to play the character of Dana, because she’s in nearly every scene of the film, and we experience the story entirely through her perception. And if we hadn’t cast someone with Shauna’s acting gifts, the film would have fallen flat.”

In regards to casting the film’s antagonist, the gaunt, towering and ghostly figure of ‘Nails,’ Bartok states of actor British Richard Foster-King, of which he’d been introduced to via an audition tape for an entirely different movie, “Richard had done these beautiful movements (in that tape), as if he was swimming in the air and elongating his arms, and I think he had even crawled along the floor at one point. And as soon as I saw that tape, I said, ‘That’s it. That’s Eric Nillson. That’s Nails!’ And the producers, because they wanted to keep the budget as low as possible, had wanted to hire local actors out of Dublin, and I would look at those tapes, and they were OK, but I felt we really needed to get Richard. So bit by bit I kept saying, ‘No,’ to these other suggestions, and finally I was able to convince them to bring Richard in from London.”

As for the evolution of the character, which itself possesses some of the nuanced tragedy of Universal’s classic monsters, Bartok stated, “It was really fascinating because we had reached out to several gothic, surreal artists who had been recommended to me by various friends, and asked them to submit concept designs, and the one that we liked the best, and they were all actually excellent, was by a French photographic artist named Nihil, who takes photographs and then manipulates them digitally. So Nihil did an amazingly creepy concept, which provided the blueprint as to how we approached the character’s design. There were several steps in getting it onto the screen, though. Maybe seventy-five percent of it came from Richard’s physicality and his on screen presence, and the rest could only be achieved digitally, and we brought in an incredibly gifted visual effects artist named Eli Dorsey, who had worked on Ted Geoghegan’s film We Are Still Here. And Eli created the milky white eyes, and the dentures which kind of sit outside the palate, and the ghostly pallor. But primarily, I think its Richard’s performance which makes the character, an evil tormenting character who is also tormented, so very haunting.”

Nails also stars Ross Noble, Steve Wall, and Charlotte Bradley. You can watch the film on iTunes.

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Exclusive: studioADI and 20th Century Fox Unveil Stunning Alien 3 and Resurrection Art Collection

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Today, Yahoo! Movies have announced that studioADI, who we’ve seen this year in IT and will see next year in The Predator and in 2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters, and 20th Century Fox Consumer Products have launched The studioADI Collection, a new initiative that will see the award-winning FX studio create art inspired by Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection. The pieces that will come from this collection are not to be confused as collectible figures but should rather be seen as high-quality works of art as each one will be hand-crafted based on original molds and they will then be individually painted. Prices will range from $250 to $4,000 and they will go on sale beginning December 1st through Big Cartel.

StudioADI’s Alec Gillis states, “The studioADI collection is our tribute to the films that have been an important part of our legacy as artists. Each piece of art reflects the same detail and passion we poured into the characters when we created the original Alien films.

Tom Woodruff Jr. adds, “This is the collection designed for fans of these entries into the Alien franchise as well as aficionados of the art of creatures and monsters of iconic pedigree.

The studioADI Collection will include the following seven pieces:
Queen Alien Embryo from Alien³
Newborn Alien Design Maquette Bust from Alien: Resurrection
Newborn Alien Full Body Design Maquette from Alien: Resurrection
Swimming Alien Study Model from Alien: Resurrection
1:1 Alien Warrior Half Head from Alien: Resurrection
1:1 Newborn Alien Head from Alien: Resurrection
1:3 Scale Queen Alien Head from Alien: Resurrection

These are descriptions of two of these items:
“The Newborn” from Alien: Resurrection was the terrifying mix of human and Alien DNA gone wrong. This Full-Scale Bust is cast from hand-laid translucent polyester resin from ADI’s original production molds and is painted to the same exacting specifications by ADI’s painter who painted the character for the original film. The piece measures 30″x20″x40″

“The Queen Alien Embryo” was seen in David Fincher’s Alien³ was nestled next to the beating heart of Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver. Cast in translucent urethane and hand painted by the same ADI artists who created the piece for the film in 1991.
At 7″ x 9″ this piece of art is perfect for desktop display.

Here are images of some of these pieces:

We got our hands on three exclusive images from this collection that add a glorious vision of how detailed and intricate these pieces are going to get.

The first image is of the back of the 1:3 scale Queen Alien Head from Alien: Resurrection. You can see that every square inch of the design is tended to and that no stone is left unturned when it comes to the mold and paint.

The second image shows the Newborn Alien Full Body Design Maquette from Alien: Resurrection from a wide, almost full-front angle. You can really see the spindly, almost delicate structure to its body while also being intimately aware of the grotesque yet hypnotizing physique.

Lastly, the third image is a closeup of the Queen Alien Embryo from Alien³. Here you can see just how detailed the mold is, each wrinkle and crease in the Xenomorph’s body etched finely and with precision.

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Whatever Happened to Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving?

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Back in April of 2007, we all sat in our local darkened theater and watched as Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s exploitation double feature Grindhouse (review) blew the roof off the place for 3 hours straight.

Well, it’s ten years later, and I think we are all asking ourselves the same question: Where the hell is Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving?

Like every other human out there, I enjoyed both Tarantino and Rodriguez’s films – along with the fake trailers by Rob Zombie and Edgar Wright – but the big takeaway was Eli Roth’s faux trailer for the greatest 80’s slasher that never was.

So what happened to the feature?

Well, Roth was originally working on the feature back in 2007 after finishing his work helming Hostel: Part II, telling Cinema Blend:

“I’ve been working on the script with my co-writer, Jeff Rendell, who plays the pilgrim in the trailer,” Roth told the site. “And it’s me imitating Jeff’s voice [for the narration]. But Jeff has been working. I said that his deal is he has to work on the script while I’m promoting The Last Exorcism, and as soon as I’m done in mid-September he’s going to fly to California, we’re going to sit down, and bang out the script.”

But then the planned film died out as Grindhouse flopped at the box-office. Following the film’s underperformance, all talks surrounding Edgar Wright and Eli Roth’s Grindhouse double feature spin-off were silenced in a single weekend.

In fact, the last update we received on the possible standalone Thanksgiving film was last year when Roth did a Reddit AMA, and said this about the film’s current development:

“Have a draft not totally happy with. I want to put some more work into it so the film lives up to the trailer. We have the story and mythology cracked so now it’s about getting the kills right.”

Nice. Seemed like the film was making some headway. Nothing to do but gut the T’s and cut the heads off the I’s. But then nothing happened. At all. No updates. No nothing.

With that in mind, we here at Dread Central decided to reach out to Roth personally and see if there were any new happenings in regards to the film. Unfortunately, we were unable to reach him so I guess we’ll all just have to keep wondering and waiting.

Maybe it’s the pressure he no doubt feels making the much loved faux trailer into a feature. After all, he did say this back in 2007: “No matter how many movies I make my whole life, that two-and-a-half minute trailer is what I’ll be remembered for: ‘Eli Roth — he had a guy fucking a turkey with a decapitated head on it.’”

Or maybe the rights to the film were just tied up with the now infamous Weinstein company. But with that company finally going under (thank God) maybe now the rights could be sold off to new producers and finally, we’ll see not only Thanksgiving but features based on Don’t and possibly even Werewolf Women of the S.S.

But I dream…

Until we get the full-length feature flick of Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving, we can always look back on the comments he made to Rolling Stone way back in April of 2007, in which he talked a bit about the Pilgrim’s backstory.

“My friend Jeff… we had the whole movie worked out,” Roth told the magazine. “A kid who’s in love with a turkey and then his father killed it and then he killed his family and went away to a mental institution and came back and took revenge on the town.”

Jesus, please us. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like the f*cking perfect setup/backstory for an 80’s slasher throwback flick set on Thanksgiving.

So ten years later, let me be the one to come right out and say it: Please, Eli Roth, make Thanksgiving. Please. Every horror fan in the world would thank you. Forever.

Sigh…

We’ll make sure to update this article in another ten years.

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