Monday, January 23, 2017

Swedish B-Movie Monster

Here's a story I think I haven't told you. Way back in 2013 I was contacted by Swedish monster enthusiast Ola Paulakoski about making parts of a big monster for him. I had made a werewolf hand puppet for one of his earlier projects, and this time it was about creating effects for a wholly commercial film venture. After a long haul on one of the bigger crowd funding platforms (can't remember which one) he had gathered the princely sum of $500, for which he hoped I'd be able to create a huge full-body creature. That was impossible, of course, at least for me. Instead we opted for making a head and a claw. The rest of the creature would probably be brought to life via CGI.

"Hermit: Monster Killer", or "Den Gamle och Monstret" ("The Old Man and the Monster") as the Swedish title would be, was to be shot in lush pinewood areas, and the monster would mostly be shown lurking behind trees and rocks, a bit here and there. I did design the whole critter, though, as a guide for whoever would produce the CGI.

To save money on materials as well as space I decided against sculpting big sections and casting them with dental plaster molds. Instead the better part of the creature would have to be built up. But certain details I did sculpt in Chavant clay, like this horn.

And like this bit, which goes on top of the head.

This is the largest bit sculpted; it's basically the face with the eyes. I used a softer hobby clay for this one, mainly because it was faster, and time was of the essence.

Here's the top of the head bit, cast in tinted latex and supported with a mix of latex and cotton.

And this same technique was also applied to the horns, as well as the face cast. 

 I had an old plaster mold of what was teeth or claws, depending on the size of the creature that was going to have them applied. In this case I used the mold to produce a bunch of teeth in latex.

I decided to also sculpt the eyes to make them slightly cartoony, but also quite alien.

Since I had a bit of DragonSkin silicone left in my workshop I made a mold over the eye sculpture, so I could cast the eyes in plastic.

The eyes were cast as hollow plastic domes and painted with acrylic airbrush paints, with red yarn dipped in shellac added for blood vessels. The eyes were then hot-glued to a bit of box cardboard. Shamelessly cheap!

One last sculpture: The testicle-like sacks under the monster's chin. Again, I used that softer hobby clay.

The main structure of the head was built up using polyurethane camping cushion foam; you know those plasticky flat but soft things you sit on during cold days when you're out to watch a game. The yellow and blue bits are very soft polyurethane foam used in furniture.

I dipped strips of cotton in tinted latex and layered this material on liberally around the whole head, filling out gaps between the cast latex pieces. Mostly I simply used an oil paint palette knife to shape the cotton/latex mix into wrincles, folds and warts. I managed to put it all together on a very hot day, so the latex dried really quickly.

Here's the finished puppet head with its base color. I then drybrushed lighter tinted latex over the head to add highlights and various subtler shades. I've also added a couple of acrylic plastic domes over the eyes.

So here's the finished head. Not the most life-like creation, but that wasn't the point of it. If you think the monster has a fleeting likeness to Beaker of "The Muppet Show", you're right. That was a request of Ola's.

The monster head (to the left) was simply manipulated by sticking your hand up the neck and making the mouth flap open. That's it, I'm afraid.

The arm, however, would have a very simple mechanism. When I built these monster bits I had just made a silicone mold from a sculpture of a Velociraptor claw (slightly stylized) and I decided to cast the monster's claws using that mold (again for convenience and speed.)

The claws were attached to plastic tubes, which were covered with latex and cotton. The claws were painted with acrylic airbrush colors.

 The plastic tubes were attached with door hinges to a small round wooden plaque, and the plastic clothes lines were attached to the inside of the plastic tubes using small screws, and then threaded into other tubes running down from the wooden plaque.

 A thick cardboard tube was attached to the wooden plaque, again using screws, and the clothes lines were drawn down through this tube. In the end I only built a forearm, bulking it up with bits of foam and covering it all with more latex and cotton, and patches of cast latex skin, again from old plaster molds.

Both the head and the arm were huge patchwork jobs, done in about three days, but miraculously both items have held up through rigorous filming, covered in slime and blood, up to this day. So hooray for good old latex monsters!
The film is now finished and making the rounds on various genre film festivals, so keep an eye out for it.

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