It’s a sunny day (very rare in the UK) and I’m armed with a book – about evil women, murderers and con-women (getting some tips) – for a tube and bus journey into the depths of Southeast London to hunt down Paul Hyett at his FX workshop.
While meeting with the makers of The Descent 2 (set visit) I had missed out talking to Paul. We arranged a little private visit to hear his words on the upcoming sequel and to learn about the life of the man that heads up the gore in Neil Marshal’s films amongst many other UK horrors.
After walking through a housing estate which would probably scare me in the dark of the night, I come across Paul’s workshop. I’m early (again). There’s a sign above the door, I wonder if I have the right place. Next door there’s a guy painting something with gooey black paint that could have escaped from Paul’s workshop. The workshop is closed so I get my book and sit in the sun (yes, bad for tattoos) and wait. I see a guy turn up heading towards the workshop, I head over and introduce myself. I have meet Stuart, one of Paul’s assistants. He opens up the doors and, to my left, I’m greeted with a life-size resin full body cast, nice. I check the tables to my right and see some wounds in moulds that must have been left to dry over night. I then catch a pile of attacked wolves on the floor. I wonder who was eating them? Then, on top of some boxes, there is the body of a woman who is wearing climbing gear, more Descent 2 leftovers (how exciting!). I wander up to use the restroom and see a few busts about and then mooch downstairs and see that Stuart is setting himself up for a day’s work in the main workshop of the arches.
Paul makes an entrance and we decide to make the most of the weather and sit outside to chat about The Descent 2, what else Paul has been recently up to and general horror fan chit-chat.
From talking with Paul I got a feel for his great enthusiasm for the special effects makeup industry. He really loves smashing up heads and squirting blood around which can seem ironic coming from a devote vegetarian (like myself). He also gets squeamish around maggots. We shared an appreciation for the Saw films. Without such films as John Carpenter’s The Thing and John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London Paul wouldn’t be doing what he does now. His addiction to DVDs proves that he’s still a huge fanboy as well as a hard worker on and off set. In addition to The Descent 2 Paul has recently had his work in The Killing Gene, Eden Lake, Donkey Punch and The Mutant Chronicles, so keep your eyes peeled for his style and name in the credits as your likely to see it popping up more often than you think!
ShockTillYouDrop.com: How has it all been now that you’ve wrapped on The Descent 2?
Paul Hyett: Yeah, it’s been nice to finish up The Descent. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been really enjoyable, such a lovely job to do. To come back and do a sequel is great. I’ve always wanted to come back and do a sequel to a film I’ve done before. So yeah, it’s been good. I’m just coming back today to do a stock check and to get back into the workshop. I’m just finishing off a job we are on now called Heartless and I’m prepping for the next one.
Shock: How have the Crawlers evolved in The Descent 2 in comparison to the first Descent?
Hyett: We tried to make them look a bit more bullish, scarred up. A lot of things I wanted to do from the first one but I wanted to make them look a bit harder and nastier. I brought out the bone structure a bit more, gave them more scars, slightly more deformed looking. The teeth were a completely new look, we went for a more multilayered, sharp look, which was more Nosferatu in the first one. This time around it’s layers and layers of teeth, so we had Crawlers always drooling. It was quite difficult to speak as it was like having four layers of teeth in your mouth. They were more defined and everyone agreed they looked better than the first ones. For this time around we made the Crawlers from separate pieces so we could mix and match, whereas before they were from one. I didn’t want it took look like the same Crawler popping up, so once we killed that one we wanted it to look like a completely different one the next time. Although you don’t really tell that on the first one. I had so many different pieces for this one, we made warts and scars and to be honest I don’t think there were two that looked the same.
Shock: How many Crawlers did you have in one shot?
Hyett: We had five, including a King Crawler, he was a huge guy about six feet something. It was fun to do; we went through a lot of KY jelly. We were buying vats of it. Every day we’d get them in, do their makeup, get them on set and slime them up. The quickest one we did was in two hours, I don’t want to set a benchmark with that. On average it was about three hours with the longest taking about 3 and Â½ hours. Which is really good, we did like a production line. We had massive spraying rooms, where they’d stand in like spraying a car, really. We just got it done really quickly as the prosthetics we use now are much quicker to glue on. I designed it so it could be put on as quick as possible because we do early hours and they need to be there at eight in the morning. I don’t want to have to put someone through five, six hours of makeup in the morning. I really wanted to make it work with how I wanted them to look like with the least amount of makeup time.
Shock: How big was your team?
Hyett: For this project I had eight people in the workshop and then, on set, I had a team of four. Quite a small team. We were all cut down for budget, but as we had done the first one we knew where we were going. In the first one we had to design everything, then we had to turn that into a reality and do a test. Half my prep was spent designing and getting it up to a point, so all the time I had left was to make them. It was all about what they were going to look like. On this one we knew what they were like. I think we made everything in about six or seven weeks, I didn’t even need to test anything. The first day was the first test and we just hit the ground running. It was lovely to have a clear insight of what you were going to do, I didn’t have to worry about if they were going to look good under the light. We knew that [production designer] Simon [Bowles’] caves were going to look amazing. I knew how [director of photography] Sam McCurdy was going to light my corners, there was no worries and pressures.
Shock: How was working on Neil’s last film Doomsday?
Hyett: Well, I remember thinking “Wow, Neil’s doing an action move, I wonder how much I’ll have to do in it?” And then I read the script and said to Neil, “You know there’s more gore in this than the Descent?” You don’t really feel it’s that violent though as the effects are pretty spread out in the film whereas The Descent had it all in one go. Doomsday had cows being squashed, bodies being squashed, every day there was something for me to do. I mean what we did to Sean Pertwee’s body was really horrible and you only see a little bit of that in the film. We had arms being chopped, heads, it was great fun.
Shock: How long have you been involved in the special effects monster-making business?
Hyett: Well, basically the first makeup course I did was grease paint in Ealing and that was bout 15 years ago. Most of it is really on the job. I worked with other people, worked with various companies, but mostly self taught to be honest with you. I’d say 90-percent self taught. Doing all the really low budget movies, so many awful low budget films, but these are the ones you can kind of make your mistakes on, where you learn things. It’s really good to learn how to do things on the cheap and learn from the ground up. I started working for more people and the jobs that I got grew bigger and bigger, then you’re suddenly working on something like The Descent. I’d worked with Sam and Simon quite a bit and they kept saying “You’ve got to meet Neil, you’ve got to meet Neil.” Then The Descent came up and I met Neil and we got on and we had a good chat about things. I got the job on that one and from then on it’s been great working with Neil, which is great as he has an understanding of what I do whereas some directors have no idea. He has an education in the prosthetics.
Shock: So what do you prefer doing? The monsters or the prosthetic gore stuff?
Hyett: That’s a hard question, as each job is different. If I do a big huge creature then I think I want to do a character makeup next, then I’ll do one and then I got to admit I do love gore. A lot of effects guys say they only do gore as a bread and butter thing, but I love it. Every day I could come on and do a throat getting torn out, blood spurting all over the place. The Descent 2 is pretty much my ideal job, I get to do creatures and some really horrible gore effects.
Shock: How do you feel about the use of CGI in regards to monster and gore?
Hyett: I think CG is wonderful in CG assistance. Digital gore looks like digital gore, but then sometimes I see it and think, “Oh actually that looks really nice.” It’s good as an enhancement. It works in your Final Destinations and even on Doomsday it has a couple of bits where we had people getting run over by cars, it can be hard to control the blood so it’s good to have a bit of blood spray. To be honest with gore I feel it’s best to do as much in camera as you can. It’s great that we have CG to take away seam lines, any kind of wire effects. I doubt you can get away with a complete CG gore fest as it does look digital. Directors like to do stuff in camera, we all do as you feel that it’s really there. I’m not adverse to it, there was a time when Terminator 2 came out and there was that discussion of prosthetics guys being put out of business, which it hasn’t and it’s so expensive, 80-percent of effects and prosthetics will always be physical.