The Monster, a suspenseful and wonderfully crafted horror movie has just been in theaters and On Demand today. The titular creature had to fit a certain criteria. In the story, written by Bryan Bertino, Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) and her mother, Kathy (Zoe Kazan) have become trapped in a car on a winding country road during a rainstorm by a ferocious monster skulking in the woods.
Bertino had a vision of a monster that was not only fearsome, but that captured perfectly the heavy metaphor of a destructive relationship between the mother and daughter characters. For this task, the director tapped Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. from a company called Amalgamated Dynamics or ADI for short. This creative hive had worked on such films as Tremors, Batman Vs. Superman, AVP, and X-Men First Class. They had plenty of experience in bringing the terrors lurking in the human psyche to life.
HorrorBuzz and a chance to sit and discuss the work that both Gillis and Woodruff by phone to learn a bit more about the process of creature making, the actual production, and what it was like to bring monsters to life. The project immediately intrigued Gillis at first read and was especially excited that Bertino (The Strangers) was involved. “Bryan knew how to do horror and a movie with emotional meat to it.” said Gillis.
But how do you approach the creation of a monster that is hardly seen by the audience? In creating the creature Woodfruff explained that, “The idea was to make it (the monster) mysterious and very, very real.” To that end they took a particularly novel approach. Woodruff conitued, “The suit was made entirely black and a very impressionistic look.” The script also gave little direction aside from what the monster was actually going to be doing. Explains Woodruff, “Director Bryan Bertino had notions and ideas but it was to be impressionistic.”
How long did the creature take to bring to life? The team at ADI had just 3 months from start to delivery but, as Gillis assured us, “That was actually a pretty generous timeframe as far as movies go.” It also helped that director Bertino was also the screenwriter. The main action of the film takes place at night, in the rain, and oftentimes in silhouette, dripping in torrential showers. While the creature itself was to be more impressionistic than realistic, the ADI team had a very specific direction. Gillis explained “Bryan had a very clear vision of what it was supposed to do so ultimately we had a set expectation which was tremendously helpful.”
Depending more on practical creature effects and puppetry, The Monster allowed the ADI team to really sink their teeth into the mechanics. In creating the menacing figure ADI was allowed to focus very specifically on what the mechanical aspects of the monster would be required to do. “We were asked to make something for a suit performer.” said Gillis. An effort was made though to hide the human profile of the performer inside the suit and as Gillis explained, “We were able to disguise it not by being ghostly but more beastly.” While the performer worked body and arms, a servo articulated head, eye movements, cheek and brow articulations were managed by crew just our of frame.
In the end, their contribution became a bit more than just building a monster. Woodfruff explains the satisfaction he got by saying “Our job was to come up with a creature that was cool. But we loved that we got to be making a smaller film with the goal being to make the same impression, a more intimate scare.” Gillis added, “The creature was actually called “The Monster” in the script. So we were excited to be a supporting player in an elevated horror film.”
THE MONSTER is in Theaters and On Demand NOW.