Monday, October 30, 2023

The Path Through the Marsh

A while back I did a short film called "Changeling", based on a poem by American weird fiction writer and poet Leah Bodine Drake. Her poems are a treasure trove of moody genre musings, so I decided to tackle another of her creations, this time "The Path Through the Marsh." This poem dwells on the legend of a fearsome presence in a boggy forest. Is it just a Native American legend of a demonic nature spirit, or is it something akin to Bigfoot? I decided it was something in between. 

I'm a big fan of the movie "The Legend of Boggy Creek", mostly because of its dense atmosphere. You never really see the Bigfoot creature said to inhabit the wilderness around Fouke, Arkansas, but you do glimpse it, and that's all the movie needs to put its audience on the edge. The movie underlines that the mysterious monster is right at home in nature, while we aren't anymore. It's an organic part of the swamp, while we're only intruders. The movie also says that nature may be far scarier and more dangerous than we think, even if we're only talking about the woods around the corner of our house.

All the backgrounds used in this film were found at Depositphotos or Storyblocks, and they're all shots or pictures of American swamp land. I had to do very little tweaking to make them look creepy or moody. I did add a fair amount of fog drifting around because you can't have a swamp monster film without any fog.

So let's talk about the monster. I actually based the puppet on a half-finished abandoned puppet project. this was going to be a big goblin creature, but since I wasn't happy with how it turned out I chose another path and did a different version. I had, however, progressed a bit and saved what I had built. This was the whole upper torso of the character, so I just stuck on a pair of legs, and I had the beginnings of my swamp monster.

Since the body of this creature would be covered with a very ornate and concealing texture, I didn't spend much time n making the foam padding look organic.

I did cover up the foam with patches of textured latex skin since I knew the final texture wouldn't cover up exactly everything.

This texture I keep mentioning is "chunks-o-flesh", a favorite thing among many a special effects makeup expert. You basically take a sponge, soak up some latex, and paint it out on a neutral, non-absorbant surface. You let it dry and then rough it up with your fingernails until the layers turn into something that looks like a fishing net. You can then pull the latex off the surface and the spongy rubber texture can be applied to make fake wounds, stringy flesh for zombies to chomp through, or, as in this case, to make a puppet look like it's covered with strange organic textures. I tinted the latex a dark green before using it. For zombie flesh, you'd tint it red.

The finished puppet turned out pretty okay. The chunky flesh texture bits were attached using liquid latex as a binding agent, and the whole thing was dry-brushed with several light layers of differently tinted latex. The eyes are two scrapbooking pearls that reflect the light cast on them.

The teeth were made from tissue paper dipped in latex. I hope I managed to pull off a character that has both the feel of a malignant nature spirit as well as a Bigfoot flirtation.

Swamp monsters have been around for a while, mostly in comics. The Heap was first out during World War II. He was a heroic character and was followed in that same vein by two more well-known monsters.

I'm of course talking about Marvel Comics´ Man-Thing, and DC Comics´ Swamp Thing. A comparison between my monster and them is inevitable, though none of these were at the forefront of my mind while building the puppet. The original version of The Heap is in the public domain, by the way. I might do something with that character eventually.

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