The original 1976 horror film tells the tale of American official Robert Thorn (Liev Schreiber) who realises that his young son may be the devil incarnate. The remake, also by Fox, is Directed by John Moore, with Cinematography by Jonathan Sela and Visual Effects Supervision by Cinesite’s Matt Johnson. Filming took place in Prague between October and December 2005, and the subsequent visual effects unit shoot in January 2006.
Cinesite’s visual effects included a decapitation, impalement, attacking dogs, violent gorillas, menacing atmospherics and the creation of series of sinister co-incidences. Many of the visual effects involve elaborate new takes on spectacular deaths from the original film, with cameras showing the action in close up, shocking detail.
VFX Supervisor Matt Johnson, “We wanted to take the effects from the original 1970s classic a stage further. We worked closely with Director John Moore to create scenarios which used visual effects to allow for more intimate and shocking audience perspectives.”
One of the most memorable sequences from the original film is the death of Father Brennan, who is spectacularly and shockingly impaled by a church weather vane. In this new elaborated version, Father Brennan (Pete Postlethwaite) is seeking sanctuary in a church undergoing renovation and surrounded by scaffolding. As a new stained glass window is being lowered into place, evil forces guide a lightning strike to a high scaffolding pole, which falls through the shattering window, impaling and lacerating the priest on the ground below. The effects in this sequence were created using a combination of models, greenscreen, a computer generated (CG) scaffold pole, CG rain, digital matte painting and pyrotechnics. Postlethwaite was filmed on a dry set wearing a harness, with no rain or atmospherics. The finished, highly realistic sequence shows him being impaled, with computer generated glass on the ground and in his chest, being lashed by computer generated rain and leaves composited from a separate greenscreen element.
The infamous decapitation of key character Jennings is also recreated in sudden and shocking detail. In another chain of bizarre and devilish co-incidences, a careless workman’s hammer slides away from him, where he is working on a roof in Israel. The hammer hits and breaks the rickety hinge of a sign, causing the sign to swing scythe-like towards Jennings (David Thewlis), who stands up at precisely the wrong moment. Several passes including a clean plate, Thewlis against greenscreen, a realistic dummy made from a cast of the actor’s head and blood splash elements were used for the final, stunningly realistic and seamless composite. For subsequent shots in the sequence where Jennings’ body falls backwards down stone steps, a stuntman was filmed wearing a green hood. Cinesite removed the stuntman’s head and tracked a 3D neck stump onto the lifeless, tumbling body.
Cinesite also created the death of character Mrs Baylock (Mia Farrow) who is hit head on by a speeding car, turned Prague into London using digital matte paintings to insert London landmarks into skylines and a variety of other highly realistic effects sequences.