Back in May, I had the privilege of visiting the set for the upcoming horror movie, COUNTDOWN. The film, which is written and directed by Justin Dec, is about a smartphone app that can tell you the exact moment when you are going to die, down to the last second. But if you do anything to avoid death with your new found knowledge, death will immediately find you. In this film, immediate death comes by way of an ancient demon named Ozhin.
While visiting the set, we had the opportunity to speak with veteran Makeup and Special Effects artist Howard Berger. He, along with The Walking Dead executive producer, Greg Nicotero, founded KNB EFX Group over thirty years ago and have worked on hundreds of films and television shows including The Chronicles of Narnia, Kill Bill, and Breaking Bad, just to name a few.
We discussed at length the process in which he and his team came up with the design of the Demon. “Scott Stoddard (Stargate, Serenity) designed the demon based on a drawing that Concept Artist Aaron Sims (Stranger Things, IT) came up with,” Berger explained. “Justin [Dec] didn’t really want to show the demon, in the film he is mostly in silhouette, even thought it was sculpted to be fully featured. His design includes fabric that looks like it’s part of him, not just something that’s over him.”
Portraying the lovely demon is Dirk Rogers, a member of the KNB EFX Group team and a Special Effects suit wearing actor who has appeared on Legion and The Orville. Berger explained to us that Rogers is “very Doug Jones-like. He’s very tall and lanky and knows how to perform well in costume suits.”
On the day of our visit, they were filming one of the scenes that features Ozhin. We had the chance to come face to face with the demon and let me tell you, the design used to create Ozhin was amazing! I absolutely loved how the fabric was worked into the design of his face. It almost looks like black gauze that had been wrapped around his head for so long that it eventually became a part of him. This is the type of character that I would love to run into inside of a haunted attraction. Although we can’t reveal the look of the design in this piece, I can confirm that horror fans will not be disappointed.
As we concluded our conversation, I asked Berger the controversial question: do you think that practical effects are making a comeback? He went on to explain that they never really left. Instead of trying to fight against CGI effects, KNB decided to go the route of figuring out how to combine practical with digital effects to create the best possible outcome on screen. Berger learned that the two art forms could blend together seamlessly while working with digital effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer (Life of Pi, Gemini Man) on The Chronicles of Narnia. “We work together to figure out what we can do to facilitate the director’s vision.”
COUNTDOWN arrives in theaters October 25, 2019.