Crypt TV’s The Girl in the Woods is currently streaming on Peacock and ComingSoon had the opportunity to meet with the show’s Special Effects Makeup Department Head Christina Kortum along with Spectral Motion, Inc. project manager Kevin McTurk, who discussed the complicated creatures featured in the horror series.
The series is produced by Jack Davis and Eli Roth’s horror production company, Crypt TV.
What drew each of you to this project?
Christina Kortum: I worked with Crypt TV before, a few times actually. I did their creatures for Kinderfänger and also Mira, Mira – two of the shows they did for Facebook watch – and also two seasons of The Birch. So, they gave me a call and said, “Hey we’ve got this new monster thing going on. Would you like to join?” And I was like, “You had me at monsters!”
Kevin McTurk: This was our first time working with Crypt TV and they contacted us. Our shop is known for building fantasy creatures for Guillermo Del Toro’s films and this was a fantasy based series so this was a great opportunity for us.
What is your collaboration process?
Christina: Well, I was on another project, so I was actually booked. They started with Spectral Motion, Inc. and I’m a huge fan of Spectral’s work, so I was really excited when I heard they were working with Spectral on these creature designs. So, Spectral and their team built these creatures from scratch and did all the design work, molding, casting, and painting. They shipped it to me in Portland and I maintained them on set. The producers asked for some changes, after we saw what dancer and contortionist Marina Mazepa — who plays The Echo character — could do. I was like, “Let’s modify the costume slightly so it could accommodate these crazy movements she could do!” So, there was some additional modifications but I worked with Kevin and his team to make sure we were all on the same page. I was basically support on set for Spectral to make sure everything looked great and everyone was taken care of.
Kevin: The Crypt TV team came to us with some loose ideas and we did a whole bunch of concept art where our designer basically builds the creatures in Photoshop in a program called Z Brush; and then we submit our artwork and go through a notes phase with production and decide what the final character is going to look like. Then, our sculptors sculpt the characters in clay; and from the molds, we generate the skins and then the skins are painted, and then closures and zippers are installed. Then we finish off the character, put it all in a crate, and ship it off to Christina.
What was the directive or goal for these creatures?
Kevin: There was a definite list of criteria these creatures had to fulfill. Crypt TV was doing a lot of world-building so the creatures had to have a lot of common themes. Without giving too much away, I can say the creatures have a lot of the same features so that we know they’re all part of the same universe.
Christina: There’s definitely a lot of themes running through the show. You definitely know these creatures come from a similar place. I think Spectral did a great job keeping each character really unique and fun and cool to look at and exciting, but you can also tell there’s a theme and universe that they all share. That can be a tricky line to walk.
As you’re designing these creatures, how much of it is based on realism?
Kevin: We absolutely take the actual physical measurements of the actor underneath the costume very seriously. We want to make sure the muscle groups on the creature suits translate perfectly. So, when they’re moving any body part we see the arms are flexing the right way, the legs are flexing and there’s no strange buckling of the costume. As an audience member, you’re convinced it’s actual skin and not a guy in a suit. That’s our number one goal.
We have a team of sculptors who are all veterans who have worked on dozens and dozens of creature films. They really know anatomy and how to translate that from a unit performer so that it all works as a cohesive creature.
Christina: The whole goal of practical effects is to make audiences go, “How did they do that?” and design is key to that – placing everything in the right place. So, we make sure the suits fit the actors and do everything they need to do. It was great, especially watching The Brute walk around. The actor inside, Douglas Tait, was very talented. He’s a rather large gentleman and to see all those extra muscles on top of his muscles moving the way they did was really fun.
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Is there a fine line between making the monsters too fantastical?
Kevin: We wanted to make these creatures terrifying. One thing we noticed on all of our projects was having a creature with no eyes and just a gaping mouth with teeth, is always terrifying. We definitely took advantage of that with the Brute and Echo characters.
What was the most exciting creature for your team to work on?
Kevin: Probably the Echo, played by Marina Mazepa, who, as Christina mentioned, is an amazing contortionist. We had just worked with her on Malignant and recommended her to Crypt TV for the Echo role. She did such an amazing job. She moves in such an inhuman, otherworldly way that we find designing a character for her is always a lot of fun.
How challenging is it to integrate these costumes and designs into the actual show?
Christina: Well, sometimes we did do some color changing on some of the costumes when we saw the lighting on set. We worked with production to make sure things looked the way they wanted to once we got all of the creatures in the real light on set. There are quite a few different sets with different lighting. So, we tried to adjust as much as possible to keep everything looking as consistent as possible.
Was there something in this show that forced you outside your comfort level?
Kevin: One of the most challenging elements was this prop of Carrie’s mechanical arm. This was definitely a challenge and we had every department at our studio really working hard to create this. There was 3D printing involved, there was sculpture involved, casting interesting materials. We had to make a series of real sharp dagger blades and stunt blades. This was a true challenge for everyone at our studio.
Christina: On set, that same prop was a challenge. We have a lot of amazing stunts, there are crazy fight scenes and we put this poor arm through the grinder. We had to keep it together and functional through these fight scenes with people rolling on the ground and getting hit with objects. It held up! And we kept it going, it was great. Kudos to Kevin and his team for building a great prop.
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What about this show are you most excited for audiences to see?
Christina: I really loved the script and I think audiences are going to love that these creatures are really scary and terrifying. There are also other elements of the creatures that’ll be brought into the script and I’m really excited to see that play out. It really is a world that you can dive into and lose yourself in. This is something very special. A whole new universe that’s not based on vampires, werewolves, or any particular genre. That, to me, is really exciting – an original world that we haven’t seen before.
Kevin: I’m going to agree with Christina. I love the world Crypt TV has created with this. It’s not straight horror, there are heavy fantasy elements involved. I love our creatures. They’re very specific and they’re original. I can’t wait to see how they play out on screen.
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