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Sunday, 12 May 2013

Sex, Death and Pinhead

The Effects of Hellraiser IV: Bloodline

Hellraiser IV: Bloodline is the latest chapter in the ongoing saga spawned by Clive Barker back in 1987. Earlier this year David J. Howe found out what lies in store for all those fascinated by Barker’s vision of hell.

As with the first three Hellraiser films, the effects were devised and created by Image Animation, a specialist visual effects group based at Pinewood Studios. Work on Hellraiser IV: Bloodline was carried out by a secondary workshop in Los Angeles, headed by Gary Tunnicliffe.

Gary came out to Los Angeles specifically to set up an Image Animation shop in Hollywood. ‘Basically what happened was that myself and Bob Keen were jointly running the company in England. We were taking on more and more projects and a lot of work was coming from America. We therefore decided to set up a US shop and I ended up coming out here to run it.’

In charge of the directorial duties for Hellraiser IV: Bloodline is Kevin Yagher who is himself an accomplished effects artist with numerous films to his name. Perhaps the most famous cinema monster he has worked with is the burned and scarred Freddie Krueger from the Nightmare on Elm Street series.

‘Image Animation had been heavily involved in the first three Hellraiser films,’ said Gary, ‘and we were obviously hopeful of working on the fourth as well. The initial worry came when we heard that Kevin Yagher was going to be directing the film and because he is such a strong force in visual effects in his own right, initially we thought this is it, we’re going to lose touch with the series now because Kevin’s going to take over and do all the effects, and rightly so because he’s a great effects artist. He handled Freddy in the third and fourth Nightmare films, he created Chucky the doll for the infamous Child’s Play series and he also created the Cryptkeeper for the Tales from the Crypt TV series, so we’re talking about a guy here with a wealth of experience.

‘So I wrote to the company funding the film, saying that we understood the position with Kevin but we’d like to be involved with the film. That we could bring along a little bit more than just make-up and effects and gore. We could hopefully bring along some of the mythos.

‘The next thing was that Kevin rang us up and basically said, “Hey I want you to be involved, you’re the only people who’ve been around doing all of the films, can we meet?” The only thing that was odd about us meeting was that he wanted me to bring along my own personal portfolio rather than the company one. He wanted to see what I could do as a person, which was quite nice. So we went along and since then we’ve been extremely good friends.’

Hellraiser IV: Bloodline was again scripted by Peter Atkins, who had previously worked on the second and third films in the series. ‘We got a copy of Pete’s script,’ explained Gary. ‘Pete’s usually pretty vague about his descriptions of the Cenobites, he just writes “Cenobite”. I think Pete knows the situation with us and gives us free rein with the designs and concepts which is very kind of him. It’s so much easier than with a writer who specifies and then insists on every nuance being faithfully carried onto the screen. So Pete writes “Cenobite” and off we go!’

Following the initial meetings with Yagher, Gary Tunnicliffe and his team worked closely with the director during the five weeks prior to the start of principal photography, initially as consultants to ensure that the back-story of the box as presented in the previous films, was adhered to. ‘Kevin wanted me pretty close to him to give him a good idea of what the situation was with the puzzle box because he didn’t know quite how it worked, what positions it was supposed to be in. Initially I was like a Hellraiser consultant.’

The film takes a slightly different approach to the first three films in the series in that the main plot theme revolves around the origins of the puzzle box used to summon the creatures from hell, the Lemarchand Configuration.

‘We see the box being created in the seventeenth century, we see it in modern day LA picking up from where the third film finished with the modern glass building at the end which had the panels of the box incorporated into its design and we end up going into the future and meet Pinhead in a space station, which, I must admit, is a very bizarre place to see him.’

It had been established that, when manipulated in the correct fashion, the box would open up and change shape, becoming elongated and star-shaped as well as a basic cube. Each of the shapes and manipulations caused different demons to manifest from hell, and, with the correct handling, the box could also be used to send the demons back again.

One of the principal make-up tasks in all the Hellraiser films has been the creation of the lead Cenobite, Pinhead, played, as before, by Doug Bradley. The make-up for this character has changed for each film he has appeared in.

‘We redesigned the Pinhead make-up again for the fourth film,’ confirmed Gary. ‘The reason being that in the third film it was designed to be quick to apply and was therefore taken down to a two piece make-up. I felt that the pins in that make-up were a little bit too long, heavy and cumbersome. I have strong feelings about how Pinhead should look and I really wanted to take him back to the way he appeared in the first film.

‘In the first and second films there were small metal plates underneath the make-up that the pins were attached to. These were discarded in the third film for speed. I think another aspect concerning the make-up is that in the first film Pinhead is only on screen for about six minutes, he doesn’t do a great deal and the audience doesn’t get very long to look at him. In the second film he does a little bit more and in the third film he’s very much taking centre stage.

‘What we came up with for the new film was another two piece make-up. The first piece, if you can imagine, finished underneath his brow-line and went all the way back over his head, a little like a bald cap. Then the second piece is the face.

‘When I originally designed the make-up I was hoping for a one and a half hour application at which Bob Keen and Doug Bradley and everybody else were scoffing. They said that I’d never do it. But to this day I have a twenty dollar bill on my desk signed by Doug Bradley which is to commemorate the one hour, twenty-nine minute and fifty-seven second application of the Pinhead make-up. So we were really pleased about that as the quicker the make-up can be applied, the longer the director has the artiste on set to shoot the scenes.

‘The pins are very lightweight and we make them individually ourselves. There are 108 pins studding Pinhead’s head and they are put on by hand each time we apply the make-up. We superglue each round-headed pin into the prosthetic, what we call “pinning the piece”, and then we put the make-up onto it and finally we place the completed piece onto Doug. There is one make-up per application and each is only used once. For this film we did eighteen applications of Pinhead.’

As well as the mythology of the box and creation of Pinhead, another of the early subjects of discussion were the Cenobites – the demons – that would be featured in the film.

‘I have a very strong feeling about how Cenobites should look,’ asserted Gary, ‘and we tried to come up with something horrific and yet amusing, something that was obviously inspired by the Hellraiser mythos. The new female Cenobite that we came up with fitted the bill superbly. I’m really, really pleased with her, she’s the one that I think has come out the best.

‘I actually got the idea for her design when I was watching Sister Act, the comedy film starring Whoopi Goldberg. It’s true, honestly! I was watching these singing nuns and seeing the way their cowls fall down and I thought it would be interesting to do something with flesh rather than material and create a sort of nun from hell. So that’s where the idea came from. I thought we’ll split her head down the middle and we’ll pull the skin out to the sides and attach it to her shoulders. And that’s what we did.’

As well as being quite horrific, the female Cenobite, named Angelique in the script and played by Valentina Vargas, is both sexy and erotic. This is something that Gary is pleased with. ‘We pushed all the bits that women have as high up as they would go and she’s very sexy. I did some original concept drawings and usually you lose something when translating the drawing to the screen but it was really pleasing to see that we didn’t lose anything and the drawing is virtually identical to the way she ended up.’

The female Cenobite in the third film was also darkly erotic, and, not surprisingly, Gary also played a part in her design. ‘I’ve got this thing about sexy female Cenobites,’ he smiles. ‘Mark Coulier created the make-up but I designed the costume, and the peeled-back-skin opera gloves were one of my ideas. Unfortunately you don’t see a lot of her on camera but anyone who looks at the Terri Cenobite from the third film and Angelique from the fourth will notice that there is a resonance going on. The female Cenobite in the first film, although a brilliant make-up, looks a bit dowdy and we couldn’t see much of her body. I wanted to see more flesh really.

‘When I designed the costume for Terri, I remember a couple of people commenting that this was very sexist and unnecessary, that we shouldn’t do this kind of thing. Luckily the fans took her to heart and, at the end of the day, an attractive girl wearing a tight-fitting leather outfit is a sensual idea in itself. I know Clive tends to favour the sensual in his ideas so I thought it was true to the Hellraiser mythos.

‘The idea that we tried to use in this film, especially for Angelique, was that I had always felt that the Cenobites configured their appearance to be beautiful but at the same time giving them constant pain. That was always the idea. If you were a sado-masochist, then you wanted to have a costume that was constantly feeding you pain, like a drip feeding you plasma. You’ve therefore got hooks in your flesh and pins hammered in your head so that you’re feeling this deep pain with every movement. That’s what I wanted for Angelique. I wanted to create something that you looked at and thought that she’s very beautiful and then you realise that … oh my god … her head’s split open.’

The techniques used by Gary to realise Angelique were, as he described, pretty traditional. ‘She’s wearing a three piece appliance in foam latex and basically the old methods still apply. We took a cast of the actress’ head and on to that I sculpted the three pieces of the appliance. These were then moulded and we made the final pieces in foam latex. The pieces were then painted and finally applied to the actress’ head. The make-up had its own problems because it involves a lot of what we call undercut, where the prosthetic appliance has convex and concave curves, so it’s very difficult to mould in the foam latex.

‘Perhaps the hardest part was actually attaching the wires to the shoulder and this was done in two ways. First of all the raised pinches of “skin” on her shoulders were actually made out of a silicon rubber which is a lot stronger than latex. Then underneath the folded back flap of skin on her head there was a metal plate which went all the way underneath around her head. It took all the pressure. Then the wires weren’t actually wire at all. They were lengths of silver elastic. We found this amazing chromed elastic stuff which was superb. We were able to stretch it to a really high tension so it looked like it was really pulling tight all the time no matter how she moved her head. Never once did we have a wire pop out or anything. It was always a worry that halfway through a shot one of the wires was going to spring loose and suddenly shoot up over her head like some sort of wild bungee jump. But it never happened.

‘The make-up took quite a while to apply in the morning. It took about an hour to attach all the wires and make sure they’re nice and safe and a liberal coating of superglue seemed to do the trick! Overall the make-up worked fine and Valentina never complained about having neck ache or anything because although the wires look as though they’re under a lot of tension, they’re not really.’

‘The original concept for the rest of the costume was to have kind of woman’s teddy made out of flesh. We’d got this wild design where she’d got the skin round her stomach pinned up onto her chest, but they thought that was a little too gross so we adapted the design to a sort of leather basque which hooked into her flesh just under her collarbone and that worked really well.

‘She’s got a little bit of a bare midriff, not too much, and then she’s wearing a very long figure hugging leather skirt, a kind of Morticia Addams type of thing. That was made from a stretchy plastic leather material. She’s wearing two elbow length opera gloves which are attached to her little finger and thumb leaving the rest of her fingers free.

‘Everyone who’s seen the completed costume seems to have liked it and the fans especially seem to have taken her to heart. She was even on the cover of Femme Fatale magazine, which usually runs photographs of bikini-clad women from horror films, and I’m really pleased about that.’

As has been established throughout the Hellraiser films, the Cenobites all started out as humans who became corrupted and ultimately transformed into the minions of hell. In the fourth film, Angelique starts out as a human but becomes transformed as the film progresses.

‘Angelique is actually the arch nemesis of the film,’ explains Gary. ‘She’s in all three acts and she’s a really nasty person, so her becoming a Cenobite is no real surprise.’

Alongside Angelique are some other Cenobite characters, include a bizarre Siamese twin. ‘Those two characters were probably the most difficult I’ve ever done,’ Gary reveals. ‘Pete had actually written in the script “Siamese twin Cenobites”. The reason it is always difficult to do something like this is because we’ve seen it done before, and I’m afraid it always either looks like someone wearing a rubber head on their shoulder or two people standing together. I opted to have two people standing together.

‘We looked at how we were going to join them together. Were we going to join their heads? Their bodies? Or some other combination. We eventually decided on joining their cheeks, and what I went for in the end was the idea that their heads had kind of been drawn together by a cog placed between their heads which sort of twisted them into one. We ended up with this very strange pulled look.

‘A friend called Steve Norrington sculpted their faces for me. If you pull somebody’s face very tight from the top, it makes them look like they’re grinning and smiling; if you pull somebody’s face down from below it makes them look sad and unhappy. So I decided to go completely over the top with this and make one a tragedy mask and the other comedy. So one of the twins has this – as Kevin Yagher’s crew called it – shit-eating grin and the other has a very sallow, miserable expression. To play the twin parts we hired two guys who are actually twins, Mark and Mike Polish. They were great to work with and a lot of fun. They were skinny guys and they shaved their heads and everything. They really threw themselves into the part. We had them standing very close to each other in a big costume that joined them together and then we pulled their heads together in the middle with this metallic cog. There’s also this later scene where they split apart and we see them as individuals and what they do is reconfigure themselves around somebody to kill them.

‘If you look carefully at the cog that the twins have got between their heads you’ll notice that it features the same pattern as the disc on the centre of the puzzle box.’

Other work for Hellraiser IV: Bloodline included several Cenobite gamblers which feature in scenes set in the seventeenth century. ‘One has got his mouth and lips torn back into a kind of rictus grin, one has his eyelids and his mouth sewn down, one has had his face pulled forward and sewn together like a football in the middle of his face, and one who’s had his cheeks pierced, giving him a kind of vicious snarl. I don’t know if they are going to survive until the final cut at the moment because I know the first act’s been changed around.

‘There were also all the puzzle boxes to create which involved a lot of work because they needed to do so much more in this film. Apart from that I was on set as a kind of chain and hook wrangler. Hooking all the chains into flesh. And I killed a few people here and there, you know, just general Hellraiser stuff.’

Gary Tunnicliffe and his team were kept very busy during the time they spent working on Hellraiser IV: Bloodline, not least because there were another three films in production at the same time that required their services. ‘The longest day was for the Hellraiser film when at one point I worked ninety hours in one shift. Welcome to the world of effects! It was just hard work and at the end of the day you tend to run on adrenaline anyway, and any time you see Pinhead or a Cenobite that you have created walk on set you get such a huge buzz.

‘One of the most memorable days was walking out on set with Pinhead, and Kevin – who, you will remember has done make-up and effects for years – walked up and was transformed into a fan. He just stood there looking at it muttering about the great design and that Clive Barker has got such a clear vision, and he just took it all in, the costume and everything. He just loved it. I think everybody does. If Doug Bradley charged a dollar for everyone who wanted their photograph taken with Pinhead then he’d be a very rich man!

‘The nicest thing I’d like to hear about Pinhead is that he looks just like he did in the first film. And maybe people will like Angelique a little bit, that would be nice too.’

Ultimately fans are going to have to wait until Hellraiser IV: Bloodline is finally released to appreciate the work and skill that Gary Tunnicliffe and his team at Image Animation have put into the film. This is always assuming that their work survives the rocky path through the censors and the film distributors.

Interview conducted and written by David J. Howe. With thanks to Gary Tunnicliffe at Image Animation in Los Angeles.