By Josh Saunders
Meet the men who have made your favourite horror movie monsters from Pennywise the Clown to The Thing, Predator, the Alien Facehuggers, Hollow Man and more.
Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr, both 58, from San Fernando Valley in California, USA, have created hundreds of creatures for some of the biggest Hollywood horror blockbusters.
They form the fear-inducing real-life creations, ranging from special-effects make-up to man in a suit costumes and larger-than-life conceptions that require hydraulics and cranes to move.
The process starts with sketches where they consider everything from appearance to the character’s movement, before progressing onto moulds, rubber skins, animatronics and more.
Notable characters from their horror hits, include this year’s Pennywise the Clown from Stephen King’s novel IT, Predator, The Thing, Hollow Man, vampires from I Am Legend, Alien Facehuggers and more.
The pair who founded Studio Amalgamated Dynamics Inc (ADI) speak out about the ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of creations as they approach their company’s 30th Anniversary.
Alec said: “Pennywise make-up resonated so powerfully with people, it’s very gratifying and reminded me of when Alien came out because of the great reaction we received.
“The director came to us with a design, but we had to interpret it into a living, real-thing that worked on the face, was able to emote and express properly – all the elements came together really beautifully.
“It feels like something that has been so embraced by the public and clearly they were ready for and craving it, I’ve got to give full credit to the team.
“More recently we’ve been involvedw with Netflix show Bright which is coming out and required two hundred orc characters, to creating the new Predator characters for Shane Black’s new Predator film, the Annabelle: Creation and also a spin-off of The Conjuring.
“Practical effects are more critical to the success of a horror film than any other genre, the audience expects a certain quality to the horror character, effect, gore or wounds.
“I feel that if you watch a graphic or CGI image, it can be too far out of reality and all the fear dissipates, compared to films like Marvel where it’s accepted, because it’s light-hearted, fun and an extension of disbelief.
“To begin with, the audience accepts a lot more of a digital look for those kinds of films that horror just can’t get away with and you need practical effects.
“We’ve done other movies like X-Men, Death Becomes Her, our resumes are so long with a wide variety, we feel very fortunate over the years.
“We were just kids taking every opportunity that came our way, we never stopped to think how our work may have an impact on people or pop-culture.
“For our monsters and creatures, we receive a lot of appreciation for the artform and are grateful for the fans who keep it alive and keep the franchises going.”
The team believe the success behind bringing some of their famous otherworldly creatures to life was by taking inspiration from and intrenching elements of the real world.
Tom said: “We love to design things with reference to real-life, people in our audiences who come to see these movies live in the real world so even when bringing an alien from another world it needs natural contexts.
“If there isn’t something reminiscent of the real-world then you are in danger of pushing the audience so far that it seems unreal.
“For example, with Tremors there were these gigantic worms that moved underground, we did a lot of drawings, incorporating textures of certain animals and had a snapping turtle jaw that become the main head.
“Whether the audience recognised and noticed it, we want people to see it and feel somewhere in the back of their head that it’s real because they’ve seen elements of the creation elsewhere.”
Death Becomes Her won the Alec and Tom Best Visual Effects at the Oscars and Academy Awards along with nominations Alien 3, Hollow Man and Starship Troopers.
Their other films include: IT, The Terminator, Aliens Vs. Predator, Hollow Man, Cast Away, The X-Files (feature), Jumanji, Independence Day Resurgence, Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, X-Men, Incredible Hulk, Scary Movie 3 and more.
Tom said: “We look to design elements from the beginning, for the last 30 years that’s been our skill and talent, it’s not just about the nuts and bolts or silicone, we take it a step further.
“We take a script and come up with the look for a special character, from how he will move, communicate to even coming up with the story and getting involved in discussions.
“With physical effects, the creature is in the environment interacting in the same light or smoke, it’s important for the camera to capture that reality, which is what we have going for us.”
Studio ADI boasts an impressive room of ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of creatures, a mixture of replicas and film-used characters in their studios.
Alec said: “When I walk through our display room and see all the characters, it’s impressive how many we have and how fortunate we have been, it reminds us how much we owe to the fans.
“There are hundreds and hundreds of creatures and characters we’ve worked on over the years, the Alien Vs. Predator movie had over 40 creatures in it alone.
“I tend to walk through them now as if they are furniture, like they are a living space, it’s not until I see visitors’ eyes pop-out when they see them that I’m reminded how special it is.
“I find myself walking through the creatures not really paying attention, with my dust rag because they have so many nooks and crannies the dust gets in everywhere
“Whenever I walk through I just see dusty monsters.”
FILMS STUDIO ADI’S HAVE WORKED ON:
GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS Michael Dougherty Legendary Pictures
JURASSIC WORLD: FALLEN KINGDOM J.A. Bayona Universal Pictures
THE PREDATOR Shane Black Twentieth Century Fox
SORRY TO BOTHER YOU Boots Riley Significant Productions
THE MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE Wes Ball Twentieth Century Fox
CLIFFS OF FREEDOM Van Ling Aegean Entertainment
BRIGHT David Ayers Fogteeth Productions/ Netflix
IT Andy Muschietti Warner Brothers
ANNABELLE: THE CREATION David F. Sandberg New Line Cinema
LOGAN James Mangold Twentieth Century Fox
INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE Roland Emmerich Twentieth Century Fox
THE MONSTER Bryan Bertino UnBroken Pictures
THE DARK TOWER Nikolaj Arcel Sony Pictures
FIRE CITY: END OF DAYS Tom Woodruff, Jr. Okay By Me Productions
HARBINGER DOWN Alec Gillis studioADI/Dark Dunes
BATMAN VS SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE Zach Snyder Warner Brothers
THE MAZE RUNNER: THE SCORCH TRIALS Wes Ball Twentieth Century Fox
SAN ANDREAS Brad Peyton Warner Brothers
PAUL BLART: MALL COP 2 Andy Fickman Columbia Pictures
ENDER’S GAME Gavin Hood Summit Entertainment
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS Thor Freudenthal Fox 2000 Pictures
GROWN UPS 2 Dennis Dugan Columbia Pictures
ODD THOMAS Stephen Sommers Fusion Films
JACK THE GIANT SLAYER Bryan Singer Legendary Pictures
YELLOW Nick Cassavetes Medient Entertainment
THE THING Matthijs van Heijningen Universal Pictures
ZOOKEEPER Frank Coraci Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS Matthew Vaughn Twentieth Century Fox
SKYLINE Colin Strause & Greg Strause Universal Pictures
OLD DOGS Walt Becker Walt Disney Pictures
CIRQUE du FREAK: THE VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT Paul Weitz Universal Pictures
G-FORCE Hoyt Yeatman Walt Disney Pictures
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE Gavin Hood Twentieth Century Fox
RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN Andy Fickman Walt Disney Pictures
DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION James Wong Twentieth Century Fox
LONELY STREET Peter Ettinger Inwood Street Productions
THE INCREDIBLE HULK Louis Leterrier Universal Pictures
AVPR: ALIENS VS PREDATOR REQUIEM Colin Strause & Greg Strause Twentieth Century Fox
WILD HOGS Walt Becker Touchstone Pictures
SPIDER-MAN 3 Sam Raimi Columbia Pictures
ZODIAC David Fincher Paramount Pictures
THE SANTA CLAUSE 3 Michael Lembeck Walt Disney Pictures
FAILURE TO LAUNCH Tom Dey Paramount Pictures
ALPHA DOG Nick Cassavetes New Line Cinema
ALL THE KING’S MEN Steven Zaillian Columbia Pictures
ELEKTRA Rob Bowman Twentieth Century Fox
AVP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR Paul Anderson Twentieth Century Fox
SCARY MOVIE 3 David Zucker Miramax/Dimension
SPIDER-MAN 2 Sam Raimi Columbia Pictures
LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION Joe Dante Warner Brothers
THE SANTA CLAUSE 2 Michael Lembeck Walt Disney Pictures
SPIDER-MAN Sam Raimi Columbia Pictures
PANIC ROOM David Fincher Columbia Pictures
JOHN Q. Nick Cassevetes New Line Cinema
BUBBLE BOY Blair Hayes Walt Disney Pictures
EVOLUTION Ivan Reitman Dreamworks SKG
BEDAZZLED Harold Ramis Twentieth Century Fox
THE 6TH DAY Roger Spottiswoode Columbia Pictures
NUTTY PROFESSOR 2 Peter Segal Universal Studios
HOLLOW MAN Paul Verhoeven Columbia Pictures
CAST AWAY Bob Zemeckis Dreamworks SKG
WONDER BOYS Curtis Hanson Paramount Pictures
THE ASTRONAUT’S WIFE Rand Ravich New Line Cinema
MY FAVORITE MARTIAN Donald Petrie Walt Disney Pictures
THE X-FILES (feature) Rob Bowman Twentieth Century Fox
ALIEN: RESURRECTION Jean Pierre Jeunet Twentieth Century Fox
STARSHIP TROOPERS Paul Verhoeven TriStar Pictures
MICHAEL Nora Ephron Turner Pictures
JUMANJI Joe Johnston TriStar Pictures
THE SANTA CLAUSE John Pasquin Walt Disney Pictures
MORTAL KOMBAT Paul Anderson New Line Cinema
WOLF Mike Nichols Columbia Pictures
DEMOLITION MAN Marco Brambilla Warner Brothers
DEATH BECOMES HER Bob Zemeckis Universal Studios
ALIEN 3 David Fincher Twentieth Century Fox
POINT BREAK Kathryn Bigelow Largo Entertainment
THE GRIFTERS Stephen Frears Miramax Films
TREMORS Ron Underwood Universal Studios