October 27, 2018

Photo Essay: The Special Effects House That Makes the Stuff of Your Nightmares Come to Life

The special effects and makeup company Alterian may have launched in 1984 with The Return of the Living Dead...

...but there's one project that just keeps on giving.


Alterian has managed to make the doll posessed by a serial killer even more menacing for such sequels as Curse of Chucky and Seed of Chucky—which are incredibly still shot with puppets and not CGI.

At its production house in Irwindale, the company offers a glimpse into some of the more cute and cuddly animatronic projects it's had a hand in, from everybody's favorite Wookiee... the nation's best firefighting bear.

But there's no doubt that their hearts belong to horror...

...and with selections from their filmography (like the mask from Happy Death Day)...

...and their offices look like a Halloween Hall of Fame.

But that particular set of skills has been applies to plenty of innocuous prosthetics projects, too...

Lobster alien from Bedtime Stories

...from John Travolta's drag stint in Hairspray and Johnny Knoxville's transformation into Bad Grandpa...

Bonsai the Geico cavemen and Gwyneth Paltrow's fat suit in Shallow Hal.

Bobo from Born to Be Wild

Although many of the puppets can be operated by hand, they may also be custom mechanized for remote operation.

Willy Beast from Warriors of Virtue

Even the most fantastical creatures are incredibly lifelike...

...and are operated to be anything but robotic (unless, of course, we're talking about Daft Punk).

It's unnerving to walk through offices and a studio that has so many disembodied heads, whether Michael Jackson's or Charles Manson's.

Though perhaps nothing is more disturbing than a disembodied head of a ventriloquist dummy...

...except, maybe, two of them.

There are plenty of characters in distress...

stunt double from Adaptation

...screaming for help...

...and wincing in bewilderment.

There are also plenty of fake cadavers with gored-out eyes and knives sticking out of their chests, but I can't show those to you without a "graphic content" warning. (Yes, they look that realistic.)

Characters in progress are also being sculpted, every wrinkle carved by hand and every fake hair threaded into the fake scalps.

There are body parts galore, whether you need a pair of ears, a set of mismatched limbs, or an entire shelf of heads.

Are they waiting to come to life on screen when the right project comes calling? Or is this a graveyard of discarded faces that will never be used again?

Do they come to life at night, when the lights go out? Do they dream?

Can anyone hear them scream?

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