KNB EFX TALK EXORCIST SEQUEL
The ebbs and flows of Hollywood production are unpredictable, as any poor sucker who has chosen a career in film knows all too well. A busy three, or four, months of guaranteed work may suddenly descend into a nine-month lull of scattered gigs while the desperate process of begging for loans from friends and family begins, depending on where you're stacked in the production food chain, of course.
Don't ever believe that FX companies have their own special crimson floaties to keep them afloat during these fluctuating tides; many aspiring gurus of gore can just barely scrape through the rough times until another job comes along. However, 2003 has proven that the floodgates of the horror dam have burst wide open and the demand for cinematic grue is on the upswing. One effects house holding steadfast in the current is KNB EFX, mainstay monster makers behind the bar bats of From Dusk Till Dawn, the malevolent manifestations from Thir13en Ghosts, and, most recently, the severed limb buffet on display in Kill Bill.
'This year has been strange for us but we're busier than ever,' KNB's Greg Nicotero tells the Corner. Busy indeed. Take a look back at many of 2003's box office heavy hitters and it's likely you'll see the boys of KNB in the final credits crawl. A fraction of the company's triumvirate may have moved on to greener pastures this year (that's Bob Kurtzman who has relocated to Ohio and continues to pursue a directing career) but that hasn't stopped Nicotero, Howard Berger, and their team from tackling effects duties on The Hulk, lending a little lycanthropic love to the next two Ginger Snaps installments, and even resurrecting some choice horror icons from a bygone era of creature features for the upcoming Loony Tunes: Back in Action (directed by Joe The Howling Dante).
And lest we forget Warner Bros.' Exorcist: The Beginning for which KNB applied possession prosthetics to actor/European music superstar Billy Crawford in the role of Che Che. But it appears most of KNB's work has been flung out the backdoor and into a dark alley where this Exorcist's second director (following the late John Frankenheimer), Paul Schrader, is still wincing from a swift kick in the ass he suffered himself. Schrader was ejected from the film after his rough cut was met with an eager studio's sour response. When talk of re-shoots on the film were discussed by Warner Bros., Nicotero was concerned about the amount of work that lay ahead and squeezing it into KNB's increasingly busy schedule. 'Production tells me that they're just waiting to see what they're going to do,' Nicotero recounts. But, 'The next thing I know, Gary Tunnicliffe is prepping new effects for the reshoots. So, I call him up and ask him if he's going to need anything from us?that's when I learned they're redoing practically the whole movie'
Following Schrader's departure, it was decided recently that his somewhat more cerebral approach to the material - which dealt heavily with Father Merrin's loss of faith - would be punched up with some flash and spookshow pizzazz courtesy of Deep Blue Sea helmer Renny Harlin. Nicotero elaborates, 'Evidently they've re-written the movie and re-cast not only the female lead but re-cast the character we've done all the make-ups on. So Che Che is no longer an 18-year-old pop singer from Europe but he's gonna be like a nine-year-old native boy.'
'Originally the whole concept was that Che Che was this handicapped boy whose withered and as he becomes possessed his body regenerates,' he continues. 'Through the final exorcism he's wearing this bald make-up based on some concept art that Paul [Schrader] did himself while on the set in Rome.' With the script being reworked and a batch of new faces stepping before the camera, The Beginning's end result is now anybody's guess. 'I'm trying to figure what the whole experience is all about,' Nicotero sighs in frustration. 'Nevertheless, I'm glad we had an opportunity to work with John Frankenheimer from the very beginning - going over designs and what we could do to make things scarier. I mean, this is the guy that did 'The Manchurian Candidate'! I'm glad I had that chance before he passed away.'
Participating in the retooling of one horror project isn't going to put a butcher knife in KNB's side, though. Currently they're up to their gills in Cursed, the Kevin Williamson-penned Wes Craven werewolf film that has seen better days. Dimension halted the film's production for a hiatus so the screenplay could get an overhaul and a third act tweaking by Williamson. KNB took over on werewolf effects when Baker bid adieu to the film and decided he needed a vacation. 'I believe the script is much, much better,' claims Nicotero. 'Kevin really worked his ass off and did a great job.'
Greg also sings praises for Mick Garris' latest Stephen King adaptation Riding the Bullet. 'It's a great script and a fun movie,' he adds. 'Mick has always been a good friend and we've always wanted the opportunity to work together and when this project came up last year he called and said, 'I think I found a project that is a Garris/KNB fit.'' It's hard to believe that Bullet marks the first time KNB and Garris have worked together, especially when one looks at the history of FX-heavy, epic King television that Garris has bravely helmed.
'I was jumping up and down to get the job on 'The Stand.'' Nicotero continues. 'I wanted it so bad I flew to New York and met with Richard Rubenstein who I had already known. We did some prototype designs for Randall Flagg and dead bodies. Mick didn't know us then but he had a relationship with Steve Johnson and wanted to go with him. Rubinstein said to me, 'I have to go with this director's decision, I can't fight this battle.' I completely understood that.'
Riding the Bullet focuses on a young man hitchhiking his way from college to a distant hospital where his mother is being cared for. On this journey he's picked up by a mysterious, and quite dead, fellow who offers our traveler a choice. Although the original story lent itself to just a few choice make-up effects, 'They actually added a lot more to it. The first draft [of the script] wasn't make-up FX laden. Mick added some more horrific, scary elements to it.'
Howard Berger, who also supervised the KNB work on the Canadian-based Ginger Snaps prequel and sequel, is venturing up to Vancouver to pull similar duties on Bullet. Being a close friend of Mick's, Nicotero regrets not overseeing the effects work himself, however, he's got his hands bound by countless other projects including the third season of 24 and the upcoming Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events starring Jim Carrey and based on the surprisingly mean-spirited (but fun!) childrens' books of the same name.
Courtesy of Creature Corner