Scott Jenkins delves into the nightmarish world of Freddy vs. Jason to see how upping the ante in the slasher franchises also upped the ante on the visual effects.
Welcome to this nightmarish wonderland in this clip from Freddy vs. Jason. © 2003 James Dittiger/New Line Productions.
Slasher movies arent what they used to be. Once upon a time, you could create a movie about a psychotic using only a hockey mask, a really big knife and a few gallons of stage blood. Not anymore. Since Freddy Krueger first attacked teenagers through their dreams in Nightmare on Elm Street in 1984, slasher films have had to have more and more effects as the horror became more imaginative. Still, the question lingered: how would Freddys imaginative mayhem fare against an old school killing machine like Jason?
Unlike when Universal pitted Frankenstein against the Wolf Man, this battle was difficult to get just right. There were many unsatisfying scripts that found their way onto the Internet and worried fans about how the film would turn out. The problem is, Jason inhabits the real world, and Freddy the dream world. Jason is stronger, so Freddy wouldnt last very long with Jason in the real world, says Robert Englund, who plays Freddy. But Freddys a lot smarter, so in the dream world, its a whole different thing theres a lot of mind games and manipulation. But if Freddy were to find himself up against Jason in the real world, Freddy would be in trouble.
Freddy and Jason are both pop horror icons, says producer Sean S. Cunningham who produced and directed the original Friday the 13th. Theyve been in the culture for over 20 years and each of them has become a symbol of all those things that collectively we are afraid of, first as teenagers and then as adults. Also, because neither Freddy nor Jason has been able to be defeated in their previous films, audiences will require that these two seemingly invincible forces engage in a killer battle.
This mixture of Jasons reality and Freddys nightmares called for a mixture of practical and digital effects. Freddys face, for instance was a prosthetic mask that had 15 pieces and took three hours to apply and an hour to remove. All the pieces had to be attached, glued and blended onto Englund to allow the full range of acting thats not possible with, well, a hockey mask.
Created by special make-up effects designer, Bill Terezakis a veteran of television shows such as Babylon 5 and James Camerons Dark Angel, and features such as Final Destination 2 and Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed Freddys look had to resemble David Millers original make-up for Freddy. However, he was given more freedom to create demon Freddy an exaggerated, heightened, angry look that shows up when Freddy is really really angry.
The demon make-up is based on Freddy Kruegers makeup, but we took another life-cast of Robert and built an enhanced muscle over his face. Then we took the skin out of the original Freddy mold and blended that over top the new muscle to give him more of a brutish, beefed up look. The paint scheme is reds and lavenders. Theres a mouthful of teeth, contact lenses everything kind of blends together and makes what the audience will recognize as a demonic version of Freddy Krueger. Terezakis was also responsible for 72 wounds, courses and dismemberments things that are much easier to do as a practical effect than a digital one.
The digital effects were created by Cinesite, Pixel Magic and Digital Dimension, which shared the responsibility of taking the effects in a lower budgeted film and propelling it to the next level. Pixel Magic created more than 100 effects shots in just four months for Freddy vs. Jason, including CG character animation, green screen composites, wire and rig removals among other effects. One of the highlights of the film that Pixel Magic created was the pinball sequence. In this scene, Freddy has captured Jason in the dream world, where Jason is a victim of Freddys considerable power there. Freddy knocks Jason around a warehouse like a ball on a pinball table. To get this effect right, visual effects supervisor Raymond McIntyre Jr. resorted to the creation of an animated Jason. A cyber scan was created of Ken Kurzinger, the actor who played Jason, but scaled up to make it larger than life. The model was given a texture based on Jasons clothing. A CG environment was created to match certain aspects of the set for the CG Jason to interact with mostly beams that Jason could hit, can composited with elements of CG dust.
For those of you who havent seen the film yet, the remainder of this article contains a MAJOR SPOILER. Go out, see the film and come back. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
All the elements are together (top image), and Freddys wink seems to indicate that hes had worse things happen. Blake (David Kopp) finds out how real Freddy (Robert Englund) can be, even in his dreams (middle). Loris (Monica Keena) world as she knows it is about to change. (Note the subtle color correction on each frame in the bottom image.)
Digital Dimension had a hand in creating 15 shots for the film, some of which were pivotal in showing how powerful Freddy really is. One sequence showed Freddy extending his shadow to attack one of the teen victims.
The end of the picture shows how powerful Jason is and how vulnerable Freddy is in the real world. Freddy gets decapitated and Jason carries his head away. As the camera closes in for the final shot of Freddy, Freddys head smiles and winks you cant keep a psychotic killer down. This shot was created with Digital Fusion, a powerful desktop compositing software package. The elements a smoky background; Jason in front of a green screen, and Freddy in front of the green screen were shot and brought into the software
We tracked the movement of his hand, and built a 3D head to follow along, said Benoit (Ben) Girard, visual effects supervisor of Digital Dimension. Then we tracked Freddys head onto the rendered head, and used Fusion to warp and enhance the movement of the tracked head. When Freddy winked, we warped the underlying 3D surface to match the 2D action.
Digital Dimension was also responsible for the background change as Lori falls deeper and deeper into Freddys dream world. In addition to changing the backgrounds, a lot of subtle color work was done. We had to color correct every frame of that sequence, says Girard. The work shows the subtle color changes hammer home the illusions presented in the film.
Scott Jenkins has been creating art on the computer since 1987. He has an extensive professional writing career, freelancing articles for print and online magazines. Especially interested in pushing the art of computers, he continued his career teaching and lecturing at schools, conventions and companies, on animation and compositing. Some of his clients include DreamWorks, Sega, Film Roman and Centropolis Special Effects. He is currently writing (digital) Compositing for New Riders and articles for Animation World Magazine. He is currently freelancing as a writer and digital content creator.