We’re going more for a Gothic, stylized look than a gory one.
By Marc Shapiro and Michael Gingold
Welcome back to the Nightmare on Elm Street that never ends!
Feast your eyes on the center ring, where Alan Munro and Todd Masters perform creative magic on a prosthetic appliance that, when finished, will graphically simulate an actress spilling her guts. Not enough? How about David Miller, back for another round of Nightmare madness, tucking Robert Englund into his Freddy makeup? Still not enough? Check out R. Chris Biggs, out on location and putting the finishing touches on a metaloid creature suit for a Freddy dream sequence. And in the sideshow? The KNB team sculpting a series of distorted Freddy heads and Rick Lazzarini’s Freddy fetus.
Throw in a diving board that turns into a Freddy claw, a jacuzzi from hell and a black-and-white comic book world, and it’s not hard to see how the special visual and makeup FX mania has slipped into high gear for A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child.
Alan Munro, who last worked his magic on Beetlejuice, was tabbed as visual FX supervisor on this latest Nightmare picnic. During a recent break in filming, Munro attempted to sort through all the goings-on.
“What with all the previous films and the television series, a lot of the effects are going to seem a bit derivative,” Munro defends. “But we decided early on that if a gag is good, what the hell if it doesn’t end up being blazingly original?
“None of the effects in this film are going to be real gross-out kinds of things,” Munro adds. “I know the Freddy birth sequence and Freddy getting inside Alice’s womb sound like they have real gross-out potential, but we’re going more for a Gothic, stylized look than a gory one.”
Aiding and abetting Nightmare 5’s FX approach is director Stephen Hopkins. The Australian helmer is a big fan of deep perspective and wide lenses, all of which is sure to enhance Munro and company’s work in a spooky, William Castle sort of way.
David Miller hasn’t been on Elm Street since he made up Freddy on the groundbreaking first Nightmare on Elm Street. But when Kevin Yagher was not available to do the Freddy face, Miller stepped into the breach on the condition that he could “play with the design a little bit.”
“What I did was cut the number of pieces of the makeup down to three and basically gave Freddy an older look,” says Miller. “The eyes are a bit more sunken and the skin is more droopy and jowley. We’ve even given him a double chin.”
Miller is also responsible for the Freddy baby scene. “The baby is a puppet,” he explains, “that is hand operated. The face is articulated and radio controlled, while the arms are rod puppeted.”
R. Chris Biggs had his hands full when he accepted the assignment to create the major elements of the Freddy motorcycle sequence. In the scene, Dan rides a chopper which suddenly turns into Freddy. Then the bike shoots tubes and wires into Dan, who eventually becomes a humanoid/metal extension of the cycle.
“I was the only one crazy enough to accept the job,” jokes Biggs. Once he stopped laughing, Biggs got down to work. The task began with breaking down a full-sized cycle and stripping it.
“We took a Yamaha V Max apart and molded approximately 25 pieces which would become the major elements of the Freddy cycle,” he reveals. “For the suit, we used a basic foam construction that we sanded to whatever texture was needed. The hands and feet were sculpted.”
Biggs, who was also responsible for makeup FX on the Critters movies and Nightmare 4, sums up what working on a Nightmare film is all about.
“We’re really living the life of vampires on this film,” he laughs. “On paper, we’re usually supposed to wrap night shooting by 2 a.m. Hell, most nights on this film I’d settle for that.”
Ditto KNB EFX (made up of Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger), who are burning the candle at both ends with their Nightmare duties. The most awesome effect, according to Nicotero, is the scene in which Freddy attempts to break out of Alice’s body.
“We did a Freddy makeup on Lisa [Wilcox] and then sculpted a series of three stretched-out and distorted Freddy heads. In the scene, the camera pans around on one head, there’s a cut and the other head is brought in and the Freddy head continues.”
But lest you think that the entire Nightmare 5 FX experience was state of the art, Miller recalls an element of the Freddy birth sequence in which more imaginative moves were required.
“In the very early stages of the birth sequence, we needed something small underneath the birth blanket to simulate movement. First we tried a bulldog but it was too frisky. Then we put a kitten under the blanket, which worked pretty well except for one small problem: Everytime we put the kitten under the blanket, it would curl up and fall asleep.”