As part of Vulture’s weeklong series of stories about the wonder of special effects, they spoke to 42 filmmakers — directors, cinematographers, effects artists — about the toughest effect they’ve ever pulled off. The resulting stories run the gamut from the computer-generated to the practical, the spectacular to the subtle, and all of them remind us of the sweat that goes into making movie magic.
The Duffer brothers are full-on fans of ’80s movies with old practical SFX — good old animatronics. If you want fake blood, you bring fake blood to the set, and if you want slime, you get real slime. Of course, this approach requires really long reset times, and it’s not always convenient. The main reason they prefer it to CGI, though, is if you look at CGI creatures versus those in, say, The Thing or the original Hellraiser, the CGI monsters aren’t dripping goo; it wasn’t really possible to do that with CGI. So going into Stranger Things three, the number one thing they said was, if we are going to make a creature in CGI, it has to be insanely wet and slimy and stick. Everything has to drip. The first creature we did was the first version of the Mind Flayer — this little creepy thing that forms after the rat explodes inside the cage, in episode two. We refer to this creature internally as The Goop. The Goop would be the first creature established as the materialization of the Mind Flayer, and it would grow and evolve and become more agile and defined. We started with the idea of thousands of rats screaming in pain in a very dark basement. The Duffers wanted the rats to explode — or to be more precise, implode. That made it a little more interesting. You’re not looking for guts and blood to splatter all over the place like a grenade effect. You want the rats to sort of flip inside out, instantly. It would splatter, but not separate into isolated chunks. The problem was, as much as the Duffers loved gore, they said they would have a hard time getting it through Netflix if it was too descriptive — that is, once the rats start flipping inside out, we had to be careful not to make it too biological, where we can see the heart and the lungs and the eyeballs. It had to be something that looked nasty, but on that thin line between spooky-cool and outright gory. So we made a system using an animated rig rat asset and a recipe from the creature effect department. We could make it flip inside out and hide the fur instantly in a thick pile of nondescript guts and blood and mucus.