The Shot Behind the Shot – Glass (2019)

I missed the final chapter of M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable trilogy in theaters, but as of yesterday Glass is now out on home media. Here’s a before-and-after VFX shot from the film, which – like Shyamalan’s previous two efforts The Visit and Split – was self-funded by the director.

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Pic of the Day – On the set of the original Pet Sematary (1989)

Pet Sematary behind the scenes

(Above) Actor Brad Greenquist in the makeup chair for his role as rotting corpse/guardian angel Victor Pascow in the original Pet Sematary (1989). A remake from Starry Eyes directors Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kölsch arrives this week.

Both films are based on Stephen King’s 1983 novel, which was inspired by a similarly misspelled graveyard for neighborhood pets located near a house that King rented in 1978 while teaching at the University of Maine.

The Shot Behind the Shot – Spike Lee’s patented “double dolly” from Malcolm X (1992)

Malcom X Spike Lee double dolly shot

Few directors boast an instantly recognizable signature shot, but Spike Lee and his “double dolly” are among that select company. The technique involves placing both the actor and the camera on dollies – allowing them to glide along the dolly track in unison. My favorite of these shots comes courtesy of cinematographer Ernest Dickerson in Malcom X (1992), as Denzel Washington (in the titular role) is propelled toward the fateful rally where Malcolm was assassinated in February of 1965. The scene is accompanied by Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come. The Civil Rights anthem was released as the B-side of the single Shake only 11 days after Cooke himself was shot and killed under suspicious circumstances in December of 1964.

“I’d cut the sequence without (the Sam Cooke song) and then Spike brought the song in and we added the music and everything fell so gorgeously and emotionally together (that I didn’t adjust the edit). It floored us and spooked us. If you look at it, you’d definitely think I cut that sequence to that song, but I didn’t.” – Barry Alexander Brown, from a 2019 interview in Filmmaker Magazine


A montage of Lee’s double dolly shots…


Further reading…
Spike Lee breaks down his signature visual flourishes for the NY Times
The unlikely story of Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come from The New Yorker

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The Shot Behind the Shot – Elf (2003)

I found a few images of behind the scenes set-ups on the Blu-ray featurettes of Elf. They offer a glimpse into how cinematographer Greg Gardiner used forced perspective to create the illusion that Will Ferrell’s Buddy the Elf towers over his North Pole counterparts.

Check out more in the Shot Behind the Shot series.

31 Days of Horror – A breakdown of a signature effect from The Blob (1988)

Like John Carpenter’s The Thing, the 1988 remake of The Blob surpassed its 1950s sci-fi progenitor with the assistance of then-cutting-edge special effects. Many of the film’s most memorable gags were courtesy of effects designer Tony Gardner – including a misdirect that finds the ostensible hero, the clean-cut high school jock Paul (played by Donovan Leitch), pulling a Janet Leigh and getting devoured in the first act.

Gardner and his L.A. based company Alterian have provided effects for a host of classic genre films – Return of the Living Dead, Army of Darkness, Zombieland, multiple Chucky flicks – and Alterian’s Facebook page offers up a treasure trove of behind the scenes pics from those projects. Below are a few photos from the aforementioned Paul-melting scene in The Blob, which employed a practical rig for the actor, animatronics, and quarter-scale puppets.

Continue on past the photos to read a detailed description of the effect from Gardner and to watch a clip of the scene.

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31 Days of Horror – On the set of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Drag Me to Hell behind the scenes photo by melissa moseley

Protective plastic blankets the crew in preparation for a messy effects shot on Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell (2009), which marked the Evil Dead filmmaker’s return to horror after toiling on his trilogy of Spider-Man films. Photo by unit stills photographer Melissa Moseley.

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31 Days of Horror – On the set of Phantasm II (1988)

Back in July, special make-up effects artist Mark Shostrom posted a series of photos on his Twitter feed to commemorate the 30th anniversary of director Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm II. Below you’ll find a few of those photos, which document the process behind one of the film’s climactic gags.

I’m also posting this to highlight the fact that Coscarelli (Phantasm, The Beastmaster, Bubba Ho-Tep) has a memoir out this week titled True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking. Don was the first filmmaker I ever interviewed when he took time, nearly twenty years ago, to do a story for the student paper at the University of Kentucky. I got the chance to talk to him again a few years ago for Filmmaker Magazine to dig into the making of the original Phantasm.

And if you continue beyond the photos, you’ll find a pair of videos in which effects legend Greg Nicotero talks about the making of Phantasm II.

31 Days of Horror – Behind the scenes of Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Behind the scenes Insidious Chapter 2 by Matt Kennedy

A set pic from one of my favorite unit stills photographers Matt Kennedy, from the making of James Wan’s Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013). For more of Matt’s work visit his official site or his Instagram feed.

Check out more from this year’s 31 Days of Horror.