Set Visit Interview: Special Effects Maestro Paul Jones Talks Zombies, Lickers and More for Resident Evil: Retribution - Dread Central
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Set Visit Interview: Special Effects Maestro Paul Jones Talks Zombies, Lickers and More for Resident Evil: Retribution

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For Special Make-up Effects Designer and Supervisor Paul Jones, Resident Evil movies have become his life. He’s been working on the series since 2004’s Apocalypse, for which he designed the flick’s ‘big baddie’- Nemesis.

For the latest installment writer/director Paul Anderson has been keeping Jones busy more on the zombie front than anything, and during our recent set visit in Toronto, Dread Central caught up with the man behind the monsters to see what he’s got planned for fans this time around, learn more about his yearning for additional creatures in the Resident Evil franchise and hear how the zombie design has evolved along with the undead in the series.

Check out the highlights from Jones’ interview below, and make sure to keep it tuned here for more on Resident Evil: Retribution closer to the film’s September 14th release date.

Set Visit Interview: Special Effects Maestro Paul Jones Talks Zombies, Lickers and More for Resident Evil: Retribution

Q: So has this film been more non-stop action for you?

A: For me, definitely. Someone just came up to me and was like, ‘You’re doing so many less zombies than the last one.’ No, actually, we’ve done more, except we’re doing them in clumps of 20 at a time instead of (scenes where we need) 127 at a time. We’ve been doing a lot more of the same thing, really.

Q: The zombies are a bit more evolved this time; how has that informed your make-up design?

A: Well, it’s always fun working with Paul because he has very specific ideas, so that makes my job easier but also harder at the same because I know exactly what I’m building, but I have to build it exactly how he wants it. That’s always fun. But this has been a different kind of deal because the last movie was very stylized, and this one is going for more realism. The zombies on motorcycles, the action dictates what they’ll look like because you’ve got zombies doing stuff you normally wouldn’t see a zombie do.

I’m not even calling them zombies anymore; I’m calling them ‘infected.’ When you say ‘zombie,’ you’re talking about someone who has been brought back from the dead. With these Russian zombies it’s not the case. They’ve been infected, so they’ve mutated. They’ve been affected by the T-virus – it’s the Las Plagas virus actually – which is why they’re different. So, again, everything is enhanced with them. We still aesthetically made them look dead, but their actions are almost super-human.

Q: So it’s a scaled-back look?

A: No, we took it further. I’m a huge fan of Romero’s Day of the Dead. I think those make-ups look realistic but also extremely stylized, so I really wanted to do my own version of that. And we raised the aesthetic of it a little bit because they’re firing rocket launchers and jumping over trucks, so the way they’re going to be seen in this, the make-up has to be done accordingly, and their eyes are glowing red as well.

Q: What are some of the creatures we can expect to see?

A: Thankfully, the Lickers are all CGI on this, but I had to build some practical stand-ins. There’s (a picture of) a hand floating around the Internet, and we built those and some other pieces to help the CG guys out. One of the biggest builds I’ve had besides the zombies have been the cocoons, which are a new invention of Paul’s that fit along the game. It helped the story elements. We trapped the little girl in the film, and Milla has to rescue her, so we had to create these cocoons which are like egg pods – we’re not really sure why they’re there, but they help move the story along and from an aesthetic point of view it was really fun. They had to look egg-ish and like a Licker because they come from the Licker, but they’re their own entity really.

Q: Can you talk about the cyber-scanning you’re doing?

A: Yeah, obviously when we have a crowd of zombies, we can’t do them all. What they do is huddle a crowd of zombies and then shoot them against a green screen. You also have certain elements like a zombie falling off of a building or crushed by a tank, for instance, but I’m not saying that happens in this movie. But when you cyber-scan someone as a zombie, it creates this 3D element which the CG guys can then animate. We bring a person in, put them in make-up, costume, everything, and they stand there and are captured in three dimensions, and now, instead of creating a zombie from scratch, you have that element there and you can animate it.

You can also duplicate them as well and give them all separate actions so if you have a crowd scene with hundreds of zombies, it’s much easier to do this and duplicate them. You can customize each one in fact. A good percentage of our days has been doing the make-up and taking them off to the CG guys so they can get a reference.

Q: We interviewed Michelle Rodriguez while she was wearing a cyber-scanning suit. What did you have to do on her?

A: We actually did a make-up for Michelle on this one. I don’t want to give it away.

Q: Zombie make-up?

A: Not quite, not quite. But something to make her look cool.

Q: When she injects the Las Plagas parasite into her bloodstream?

A: Not quite. I’m not saying anything. But I did get to work with her, which was cool especially for two of my make-up guys because they’re huge fans. They were like, ‘Why is she here? She died in the first film?’ But this is kind of a cool story, bringing back some old faces. It was great to see Oded (Fehr) again, too; it’s been a nice reunion.

Q: Are you doing anything here that is tantamount to the Nemesis in part 2? Any ‘guy in suit’ action?

A: Unfortunately, no. I’ve been giving Paul a lot of shit about it because I did the Axe Man and the dogs on the last one; there was a lot of variation. This has been a simple show but a harder show in terms of constant flow from us. There are three different types of zombies: the newly created human undead, the Russians – Las Plagas, plus we have a scene in Tokyo, and we have a different look for those guys, too. So we’ve been jumping back and forth. I told Paul that with the next film he has to write a big creature for me. He’s been happy with the cocoons in this one, but next time he owes me a creature suit.

Written and directed by Paul Anderson, Re5ident Evil: Retribution stars Milla Jovovich, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing, Kevin Durand, Shawn Roberts, Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, Johann Urb, and Colin Salmon. Look for Re5ident Evil: Retribution in theatres on September 14, 2012 from Screen Gems.

Set Visit Interview: Special Effects Maestro Paul Jones Talks Zombies, Lickers and More for Resident Evil: Retribution

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Thelma Is Fantastic and Now You Can Watch the Opening Scene

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One of this year’s most beautiful and subdued horror films is Joachim Trier’s Thelma (review), which opens in Los Angeles tonight. To give you a bit of what the film is like, The Orchard have released the opening scene, which shows a man and his daughter hunting in the bleak Norwegian winter. When they come across a young deer, the true intentions of this trip become apparent…

Having seen Thelma, I can tell you that it’s truly something special. It’s a slow burn, to be certain, but it plays out gorgeously, resulting in a film that has yet to leave my mind.

Related Story: Exclusive Interview with Thelma’s Joachim Trier

Locations and tickets for Thelma can be found here.

Synopsis:
Thelma, a shy young student, has just left her religious family in a small town on the west coast of Norway to study at a university in Oslo. While at the library one day, she experiences a violent, unexpected seizure. Soon after, she finds herself intensely drawn toward Anja, a beautiful young student who reciprocates Thelma’s powerful attraction. As the semester continues, Thelma becomes increasingly overwhelmed by her intense feelings for Anja – feelings she doesn’t dare acknowledge, even to herself – while at the same time experiencing even more extreme seizures. As it becomes clearer that the seizures are a symptom of inexplicable, often dangerous, supernatural abilities, Thelma is confronted with tragic secrets of her past, and the terrifying implications of her powers.

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Award-Winning The Child Remains Playing Tomorrow at the Blood in the Snow Festival

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The award-winning supernatural thriller The Child Remains, which has been on the festival circuit, is returning to Canada to play tomorrow night at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival in Toronto. Tickets for the screening, which is at 9:30pm, can be found at the festival’s website.

The film has won awards in festivals across Canada as well as Best Foreign Feature at the Unrestricted View Horror Film Festival in London, UK.

Described as The Shining meets Rosemary’s Baby meets The Orphanage, the film stars Suzanne Clément, Allan Hawco, Shelley Thompson, and Geza Kovacs. Directed and written by Michael Melski, who co-produced the film alongside Craig Cameron and David Miller, The Child Remains is aiming for a Canadian theatrical release in Spring 2018 and a US theatrical release in October 2018.

Synopsis:
An expectant couple’s intimate weekend turns to terror when they discover their secluded country inn is a haunted maternity home where unwanted infants and young mothers were murdered. Inspired by the true story of the infamous ‘Butterbox Babies’ and their macabre chapter in Canadian history, The Child Remains is a twisting supernatural thriller that emphasizes story and suspense over shock and gore.

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Tony Timpone’s Elegy – AFM: A November to Dismember

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It used to be that the toughest thing about visiting the global cinematic bazaar known as the American Film Market was squeezing in as many movies as humanly possible before your eyes exploded like Cameron Vale’s in Scanners. At this year’s 38th annual AFM, held November 1-8 in Santa Monica, CA, I watched 17 movies in five days. Don’t be too impressed. That’s a big drop from past years, where I’d see as many as two dozen films during that span.

This year marked my 21st AFM jaunt, and change has been in the air for some time at this industry confab. Two screening days have been shaved off the program, and theater screenings have lost the 5pm and 7pm slots. Much of the Z-grade schlock has been whittled away and there does seem to be a higher level of product on display. No longer does every other movie star Joe Estevez. Now it’s Nicolas Cage! Sales companies feverishly hawked Cage’s VOD-bound Primal, The Humanity Bureau and Looking Glass, in addition to a plethora of cute puppy and sappy Christmas cable-ready movies.

So where’s the horror, you ask? You can still discover it at AFM, but 2017 offered a disappointing allowance for the most part. To put it into perspective, the opening day of my first AFM in 1998 yielded John Carpenter’s Vampires and Spain’s Abre Los Ojos (remade as the mediocre Vanilla Sky in the US) back-to-back (not to mention The Big Lebowski from the Coen brothers). For 2017, I did not see one film as good as those (well, maybe one…). Not a total washout, mind you, as I’m sure you will add a few titles to your watch list after perusing my AFM 2017 screening report.


I Kill Giants:
A lonely teenage girl (Madison Wolfe) defends her coastal town from invading goliaths in this somber tale directed by Denmark’s Anders Walter and written by Joe Kelly from his graphic novel. Not exactly a feel-good movie, I Kill Giants deals with bullying, depression, isolation and terminal illness. It intersperses the somberness with some excellent FX scenes involving the giants, who emerge from the surf and dark woods to taunt our young heroine. Not only is I Kill Giants too downbeat for my tastes, last year’s underrated and underseen A Monster Calls covered many of the same emotional beats much more eloquently and movingly than here.

** 1/2



Errementari:
Spanish helmer Alex del la Iglesia (Day of the Beast, Witching & Bitching) produced this Terry Gilliam-esque dark fantasy, about a cursed medieval-age blacksmith and his battle of wills with a demon out to claim his soul.

Directed by Paul Urkijo Alijo, the movie is like a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life. Its climactic trip to Hell stands out as a highlight, pitchforks and all, as do the superb practical makeup FX.

***


Bad Samaritan:
A parking valet (Robert Sheehan) at a ritzy restaurant borrows the patrons’ cars to rob their homes while they’re eating in this thriller directed by Dean (Godzilla) Devlin and written by Brandon (Apt Pupil) Boyce. As he rummages through the house of the arrogant Cale (former “Doctor Who” David Tennant, cast against type and looking like a less seedy Charlie Sheen), valet Sean discovers an imprisoned woman, the waiting victim of the rich serial killer. The cops don’t believe the robber, but the bad guy catches onto him and soon begins destroying Sean’s life and those around him. Though Bad Samaritan builds some good suspense and remains moderately gripping, Devlin (late of the embarrassing Geostorm, which Irishman Sheehan also appeared in) is no Hitchcock. And at 107 minutes, the movie overstays its welcome.

** 1/2


Anna and the Apocalypse:
Christmas, teenagers, music and zombies… Anna and the Apocalypse has it all. As the snow falls and Yuletide cheer builds, a living dead outbreak hits the quaint British town of Little Haven. Can teen Anna (Intruders’ Ella Hunt) and her friends make it to their high school auditorium for presumed safety? Well, they’ll try, singing and dancing (and bashing in undead heads) along the way. OK, so the movie’s cute and a raucous scene of zombie mayhem in a bowling alley scores a strike, but the problem with Anna is the songs just aren’t that memorable. Where’s Richard O’Brien when you need him?

** 1/2


Incident in a Ghost Land:
Writer/director Pascal Laugier took our breath away with his vicious Martyrs in 2008, but 2012’s underrated The Tall Man garnered little notice. Packing a ’70s horror vibe, his latest recaptures some of Martyrs’ uncomfortable female-inflicted brutality. Two young sisters and their mom head to a remote family house, which is soon invaded by two ruthless psychos. Though the story echoes Tourist Trap and High Tension, Laugier pulls the rug out from us at a key point and takes us down an even darker path. I wish the villains had a little more depth here, but In a Ghost Land has enough shock and thrills to satisfy fright fans.

***


Cold Skin

Cold Skin:
Laugier’s fellow extreme Frenchmen, Xavier Gens, terrorized us with his Texas Chainsaw Massacre pastiche Frontier(s) in 2007 and explored postapocalyptic horror in The Divide (2011). Now he tries his hand at a Jules Verne-style creature feature. In the early 20th century, a weather observer (David Oakes) arrives for a year-long assignment at an isolated island near the Antarctic Circle where he meets the misanthropic lighthouse keeper (Ray Stevenson). A race of pale-skinned fish people dwells in the seas and raids the island at night in several bravura action set pieces, their motive unknown. The real threat here may be Stevenson, who keeps one of the creatures as a pet/sex slave. Gens plays the story like a fable, but ultimately I had a hard time warming up to Cold Skin. Where the movie succeeds is in the creature FX and photography departments.

***


Let the Corpses Tan:
French directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani won over the horror arthouse crowd with their giallo tributes Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears. Their latest flashy exercise tackles the much-loved Italian Spaghetti Western genre, but relocates the story to modern day and a Mediterranean hilltop villa. A gold-robbing gang holes up in the scenic, sun-drenched location, with a woman artist and her friends get caught in the crossfire when two cops arrive. The filmmakers do a fine job of paying homage to Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone here, but we’re talking style over substance. None of the characters really pops, and the whole thing grows a little tiresome. Fans of Cattet and Forzani and arty shootouts will still dig it.

** 1/2


Downrange:
After the weekly US shooting sprees of Vegas and Texas, this was the last movie I wanted to embrace. A group of friends find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere after a sniper cripples their car. Said sniper then begins blasting away at the college kids in graphic fashion, brains splattering the asphalt in gruesome close-up. Director Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train, Versus) does some flashy camera things, but the movie is so damn mean-spirited that it just left a bad taste in my mouth. The lowdown on Downrange: the story’s not very plausible nor the characters very likable.

* 1/2


Ghost Stories:
Just when I gave up on AFM 2017, the last movie screening I attended turned out to be not only the best genre film of the market but one of the best of the year period (IFC releases Ghost Stories next April). Supernatural debunker Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman, who co-wrote and co-directed with Jeremy Dyson) examines three extreme hauntings which just might make a believer out of him. Adapting their successful London play, Nyman and Dyson riff on past British horror anthologies Dead of Night and the ’70s Amicus flicks, but with a modern sensibility. Ghost Stories achieves its scares with class and distinction, as well as terrific makeup FX and a memorable supporting turn by The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman.

This one will send you out singing too; the “Monster Mash” plays over the end credits!

*** 1/2


So even though this year’s AFM was a bust, you will likely spot me canvassing those comfy Santa Monica theaters (kudos for solid projection, luxurious seating and friendly staff at the Arclight, AMC, Broadway and Laemmle) again next fall. On the market and festival beat, hope springs eternal!

For more information on the AFM, go to www.americanfilmmarket.com.

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