The Shot Behind the Shot: Larry Cohen’s The Stuff (1985)

Behind the scenes of The Stuff

(Above) Behind the scenes of a practical effect from The Stuff (1985), a sci-fi/horror satire about a deadly dessert written, directed and produced by the late great Larry Cohen. Cohen passed away Saturday at the age of 77. Though he never quite received the plaudits of George Romero, Cohen also specialized in B-movies laced with social commentary. Here’s Cohen on the subtext of The Stuff, from an interview with Diabolique Magazine.

Diabolique: Some of your films from the ‘70s and ‘80s reflect New York as a corrupt, dangerous place. Were there any notable events that occurred in the city back then that had an impact on you?

Cohen: It wasn’t just New York. Things were going on all over the country and the world that I wanted to try and deal with in my films.  Take The Stuff, which was about products being sold on the market that kill people. There are still so many products like that being sold today. In those days you still had cigarettes being advertised on television. Nowadays it’s not cigarettes, but it’s medication that’ll probably kill you just as fast.  As a matter of fact, every time they advertise a different pill of some kind they have a disclaimer afterward telling you all the side effects — like death. So, The Stuff was an allegory for consumerism in America and the fact that big corporations will sell you anything to get your money, even if it’ll kill you.

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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.

Click here to feast on more from this month’s 31 Days of Horror

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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.

The Shot Behind the Shot – Jaws 2 (1978)

Behind the scenes Jaws 2 ending

(Above) The set up for the shark’s fiery demise at the conclusion of Jaws 2 (1978). The production still comes from a collection of 180 set photos recently unearthed and published by the Northwest Florida Daily News. The sequel was shot on Florida’s Emerald Coast as opposed to the Martha’s Vineyard locations of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 original. Check out all of the set stills here.