The mastermind behind the original 1960 feature film 13 Ghosts (2001) was famed filmmaker and terror impresario William Castle, who earned his reputation as a consummate showman for the innovative marketing campaigns he mounted for the low-budget horror films he directed, produced and zealously promoted from the late 1950s until his death in 1977. Although Castle had been directing and acting in films since the early 1940s, his best known and most respected production was Roman Polanski's 1968 thriller Rosemary's Baby (1968).
Theatergoers were lured to Castle's B-movie classics by the allure of such imaginative gimmicks as "Emergo," in which a luminous plastic skeleton was rigged to fly out over the audience in sync with the appearance of a disembodied skeleton onscreen in House on Haunted Hill; "Percepto," which vibrated theater seats to simulate an attack of the titular beast in The Tingler; "fright breaks" were staged at screenings of Homicidal to permit cowards to flee the theater; and Castle purchased $1000 life insurance policies from Lloyd's of London to "protect" audience members who might be scared to death during the film Macabre.
To heighten the fear factor for the release of 13 Ghosts (2001), Castle unveiled an eerie new attraction: "Illusion-O!" allowed audiences to see on-screen spirits that were invisible to the naked eye by wearing special viewing glasses.
In 1999, producer Joel Silver - who redefined the action genre with the revolutionary blockbuster Matrix, The (1999) and set box office records with the recent hits Exit Wounds (2001) and Romeo Must Die (2000) - teamed with Robert Zemeckis, the Academy Award-winning producer-director of the incomparable smash Forrest Gump (1994) and the provocative drama Cast Away (2000), to create Dark Castle Entertainment, their company dedicated to the production of a diverse slate of horror films. Silver and Zemeckis launched Dark Castle with the record-breaking remake of House On Haunted Hill (1999), which led the box office on its opening weekend of Halloween 1999.
"William Castle understood that what truly scares people is the anticipation of the unthinkable," Silver notes, "and he developed techniques to exploit audiences' fears and bring a new level of entertainment to the genre and to the movie-going experience. "
"There is such a wealth of material in William Castle's movies," says producer Gil Adler, who produced the Dark Castle remakes of House On Haunted Hill (1999) and 13 Ghosts (2001) with Silver and Zemeckis. "In remaking 13 Ghosts (2001), we updated the story for today's audiences, but the visceral elements are very similar to the original film. The basic emotions of love and fear and hate are timeless. "
The producers relished the challenge of contemporizing another fundamental aspect of Castle's original films. "Today's sophisticated movie audiences are accustomed to cutting edge special effects and advanced film technologies that weren't available to Castle and his production team, " Adler says. "For instance, The Tingler was based on a great idea about identifying the part of the body that controls fear, but to represent this fear, the crew threw a rubber lobster onto the floor from behind the camera. We laugh at that today, but at the time, the concept was very innovative. "
Silver, Adler and Zemeckis wanted an equally innovative talent to render their post-modern vision, and drafted acclaimed music video and commercial director Steve Beck for the assignment. "When I read the script," says Beck, who makes his feature film directing debut with 13 Ghosts (2001), "I discovered that there were some very enticing visual and story elements that would allow us to subvert the horror genre formula and raise the bar a bit. "
At the outset of 13 Ghosts (2001), the Kriticos family has been devastated by a fire that left them with nothing. Still stunned and mourning the loss of Jean, Arthur's wife and the children's mother, the family is astonished when out of nowhere Arthur inherits a magnificent house from his estranged Uncle Cyrus, who has passed away under mysterious circumstances.
"With this film, we wanted to tell the tale of a family that is put into jeopardy because they succumb to temptation," Beck explains. "They're in a very difficult place in their lives and they have been offered a kind of carrot on a stick when they inherit this incredible house that appears to be the answer to all of their problems. "
To play Arthur Kriticos, the widowed teacher who is struggling to keep his family together when he inherits Cyrus's extraordinary estate, the filmmakers tapped versatile actor Tony Shalhoub, best known for his role as cab driver Antonio Scarpacci on the long-running TV series Wings and for his work in the hit films Spy Kids (2001), Primary Colors (1998) and Men In Black (1997).
"The family has fallen on hard times," Shalhoub says. "They're living in a cramped little apartment and breathing down each other's necks. I think that Arthur has almost shut down in a way. He's not quite dealing with the problems that he and his kids are having. He's just kind of distancing himself from everything. "
"Arthur is not a particularly heroic character at the beginning of the story," Silver concurs. "He's an 'everyman,' an average guy who is consumed by pain, and then thrust into this extraordinary circumstance. Tony Shalhoub brings nuance, depth and honesty to Arthur's suffering, and yet, beneath the surface, he conveys a certain strength that becomes crucial to his - and his family's - survival. "
In addition to the challenges of playing the conflicted father figure, Shalhoub was drawn to the film's chillingly evocative screenplay. "There was something about this script that creeped me out, that really got under my skin," Shalhoub recalls. "I was captivated by the concept of being trapped in this glass house where you're constantly disoriented and you can't trust your own eyes. "
In F. Murray Abraham, best known for his Oscar-nominated performance as Salieri in Amadeus and, more recently, for his role in the acclaimed drama Finding Forrester (2000), the filmmakers found an actor who could infuse the enigmatic character Cyrus with the intimidating presence and charisma needed to play opposite Shalhoub's empathetic anti-hero.
"When we considered the character of Cyrus, we wanted to cast a dynamic individual who exudes authority," Adler relates. "I've known F. Murray Abraham since I produced Off-Broadway theatre, and I've always wanted to work with him. He exudes a certain elegant menace that made him perfectly suited to play Cyrus. "
Abraham was attracted to the project by the philosophical aspect of the central concept. "The idea of the existence of ghosts intrigues me, and I thought we could examine it by means of this story," he muses. "I think the notion of spirituality in our society and in our world today is disappearing and I think that's one of the reasons we have so much pain and anger and violence. In life, Cyrus was spiritually bereft; he was motivated by a thirst for power and his drive to destroy other people in order to foster his own ends. In preparing to play this character, I wondered, from a philosophical viewpoint, who it is that you are actually betraying when you betray your friends and loved ones. You are really betraying yourself. It's a strange arrogance. "
Shannon Elizabeth, the alluring star of the hit films American Pie (1999) and Scary Movie (2000), plays Kathy, Arthur's daughter who finds herself caught in the center of the family's psychological storm. "After her mom died, Kathy became the mother-figure of the house, taking care of everyone," Elizabeth explains. "It's extremely difficult for her to see her father in such pain, still mourning the loss of her mother. When he inherits Cyrus's estate, she thinks that maybe this will bring some sense of relief and happiness to her father. The house seems like a dream come true, and Kathy thinks that the bad times are finally behind them. "
As the Kriticos family explores their bizarre new home - a modern architectural masterpiece, filled with Cyrus's collection of priceless antiques - Arthur and the children can hardly believe their good fortune. But it isn't long before they discover that there is something hideous trapped behind the house's elegantly etched crystal-clear walls: one by one, twelve evil spirits - each horribly disfigured by their deaths - are being released and begin stalking the family.
Recording artist and first-time actress Rah Digga plays Maggie, the family nanny who finds herself caught up in their terrifying journey. "My character provides the tension relief in the movie," Digga says. "Maggie's attitude is, 'I'm just here to nanny the kids. I don't know what's going on with your crazy uncle and these ghosts, but you're not paying me enough for this!'"
With the help of a tortured psychic named Rafkin and the beautiful Kalina, a militant activist determined to free the imprisoned spirits, Arthur and the children realize that they have been lured into a lethal trap.
Rafkin is a psychic, a clairvoyant who can read people's lives, see their past and their future," says Matthew Lillard, whose role as Rafkin follows his memorable turns in films such as Scream (1996), She's All That (1999) and Summer Catch (2001). "So the entire time he sees what's coming around the corner before it actually arrives. His psychic gift is actually more of a curse than a blessing.
"At first, Rafkin shows up at the house to collect some money," Lillard continues, "but then he finds out that he is partially responsible for Arthur's pain. Because of this, he sticks around and tries to help Arthur as a way of rectifying some of the bad things he's done in his life. "
"Matt brings his quirky brand of off-beat humor and authenticity to Rafkin, who plays a key role in Arthur's realization of the true implications of his inheritance," Silver notes. "He's a remarkably versatile actor, evidenced by his performance, which is a distinct departure from the diverse characters he's played since his breakout role in Scream (1996). "
Lillard admits that the potency of the 13 Ghosts (2001) screenplay convinced him to lift his self-imposed embargo on shooting scary movies. "Coming off of Scream (1996), I was scared to do another horror genre film," Lillard reveals, "so for the longest time I passed on every horror and thriller script that I was offered. Then 13 Ghosts (2001) came along and it puts such an inventive spin on the classic haunted house story, and the plot has such exciting twists along the way, I had to do it. " Lillard pauses, laughing. "And of course, Joel Silver makes it very hard to say no. "
Co-star Embeth Davidtz was immediately intrigued by her character, the fierce Kalina, and her unusual occupation. "Kalina acts as a sort of Green Peace for ghosts," Davitz explains. "She's there to ensure that they're not violated in the afterlife by opportunistic predators. I like Kalina's strength, her resolve and her commitment to her cause. I've never played somebody quite as aggressive and furious as she is. "
If they are to leave the house alive, Arthur, the children and their mortal companions must solve its deadly riddle - a lethal puzzle that contains the key to their imminent salvation or destruction.
It is Kalina who uncovers a clue to the deathly enigma in "The Arcanum," an ancient manuscript filled with inscriptions and sketches, including containment spells for the tortured spirits trapped within the house. But the darker secret buried in The Arcanum reveals that Cyrus' house is much more than the impressive glass and steel structure it appears to be.
The house is in fact a machine - a machine fed by the energy of the ghosts as they are released. As the machine "powers up," one ghost at a time, it opens The Ocularis… or the Eye of Hell.
According to The Arcanum, he who controls The Ocularis is the most powerful man on earth. It appears that Cyrus built this deadly machine in the guise of a home to power the Ocularis and pursue his malevolent goal of penultimate power.
"Ultimately, this story does not revel in evil," Shalhoub attests. "The film is about the triumph of good over insurmountable obstacles, and that's what convinced me to do it. "
MISERY LOVES COMPANY: CREATING THE GHOSTS
In conjuring the film's eponymous poltergeists, Beck and his production team strived to create ghouls that would take terror to a new level, beyond any cinematic fright experienced by William Castle fans or today's sophisticated audiences. "These are the great white sharks of ghosts," Beck asserts. "They're extremely vicious and aggressive, and so when contained, as they are in the house, they behave as any kind of wild beast would - they become very agitated and angry. Once they're released, they unleash that anger upon anyone standing in their way. These ghosts aren't just going to hover around looking kind of scary. They're in attack mode 100% of the time. "
Portrayed by actors wearing complex makeup and prosthetics, the ghosts range from unsettlingly menacing to outright horrifying - each eliciting a distinctive persona, proscribed by his or her individual "death history. "
While the ghosts' death histories are not described in the film, these background stories detailing the life and demise of each tortured spirit provided visual guidelines for Beck and his team, who then enlisted award-winning Prosthetics Effects artists like Howard Berger to turn their concepts into hauntingly realistic creatures of death.
"When I read the script, I figured the movie would rely on a lot of blue screen shots of computer-generated ghosts floating around," Berger recalls. "But Steve didn't want that - he wanted the ghosts to have a solid, physical presence, which would be more threatening than mere translucent computer-created images and raise the level of anxiety in the audience.
"What really intrigued me was that Steve didn't look at the ghosts like, 'Okay, that's weird guy number one, and this is weird guy number two,'" Berger continues. "He had a detailed story behind every one of them. He gave us a series of conceptual drawings, and we based our design work on those concepts. We made sculptures and 3-dimensional busts of various designs until we agreed on a final look for each ghost. "
The First Born Son (MIKHAEL SPEIDEL) is the ghost of a little boy who looks relatively normal - except for the arrow spiked through the middle of his forehead.
Backstory: Little Billy Michaels loved to dress up like his heroes, the cowboys on TV. The seven year-old never listened to his mother, and his father dubbed him "Billy the Brat. " But his parents never disciplined him, and little Billy always just did what he wanted. And now Billy's sorry that he never listened to his mom, who suggested that he not play Cowboys and Indians with a real bow and arrow - and that he not shoot the arrow straight up into the air the way that his buddy Danny did.
Wrapped in cellophane, The Torso (DANIEL WESLEY) trundles through the basement accompanied by his decapitated head. The actor, a double amputee, wore a black hood during filming so that the digital effects team could later "remove" his head from his body.
Backstory: Jimmy "The Gambler" Gambino never learned his lesson. A constant scammer and gambler, he always had a knack for landing on his feet. Larry "Three-Times" always warned Jimmy not to get in over his head, his head, his head. But The Gambler didn't listen and he lost his shirt in a big poker game with a made guy. He would have bet his wife and kids if he had any, but since he didn't, The Gambler ran off - welching on the bet. The mob caught up with Jimmy and made an example of him. Actually, several small examples, wrapped in cellophane.
In her heyday, The Bound Woman Laura Mennel was a pretty cheerleader who was strangled on a prom date gone bad. A compound fracture appliance was used to simulate her broken neck, and contact lenses give her eyes a suitably hemorrhaged appearance.
Backstory: The envy of every girl in school, Susan LeGrow was the prom queen and a cheerleader. She won an academic scholarship to state college but decided to stay in town and marry Chet, her high school sweetheart. But the after-prom party turned into a nightmare when Chet caught Susan in Billy Bob's arms. No one really knows what happened that night, but a week later they found Susan's body buried beneath the football field's fifty-yard line, strangled to death.
The Withered Lover is the ghost of Jean Kriticos (KATHRYN ANDERSON), who perished in a fire. With half of her face and hands horribly burned and scarred, Jean wears a hospital gown and pulls an IV drip behind her.
Backstory: She was a loving mother and wife. Outgoing and smart, everybody's favorite PTA mom, she devoted all of her time to her family. Her husband loved her and her kids adored her. Although her daughter grew up too fast, she wanted her son to remain a child forever. When the freak accident occurred, she died while racing to save her kids - her dreams of a happy home snuffed forever.
Because The Torn Prince (CRAIG OLEJNIK) is the ghost of a teenager who was wiped out in a car accident, he is quite handsome when viewed from the left, but the entire right side of his body and face are dramatically ripped and shredded, the result of his lethal road rash. A particularly gruesome aspect of his effects makeup is an intricate face piece that exposes his skull and brain.
Backstory: In 1953, Royce Clayton was Valley High's baseball superstar, wearing his letterman jacket everywhere he went. Everything was handed to Royce on a silver platter, and he felt untouchable. But this cocky James Dean wannabe went too far one night. He challenged the local greaser to a drag race and thought he had it in the bag. But he didn't brake in time and ended up the star of a fiery wreck instead - never to crack a bat again.
Perhaps the most subtlely disturbing of the ghosts is The Angry Princess (SHAWNA LOYER), a young woman who committed suicide. Completely nude, gashed from head to toe and drained of all blood, her full body make-up includes smeary lipstick, dark runny eyeliner and black contact lenses that turn her eyes into deep pits.
Backstory: Dana Newman was a psychotic beauty who never believed she was beautiful. Always searching for perfection, not a single strand of her hair could ever be out of place. Famous for her insane tantrums, they called her "Beauty the Beast. " Finally giving up on achieving perfection, she took her last beauty bath and slashed her own wrists. When they found her, they said she remained as gorgeous in death as she had been in her wasted life - despite being covered in hundreds of self-mutilating slash marks.
Another angry blast from the past is The Pilgrimess (XANTHA RADLEY). Accused of witchcraft, she was sentenced to die from exposure and the abuse of her fellow townspeople. In the afterlife, she is permanently locked in wooden stocks. Her gnarled, wrinkled face was created by means of a weathered-flesh piece and further accented by opaque contact lenses, which give her a milky, sightless look.
Backstory: Miss Isabella Smith was a young lady without family who decided to take the journey from England across the Atlantic to the new colonies in 1675. But once she settled in a small New England town, her separatist ways isolated her from the tight-knit townsfolk. When the town's preacher accused her of witchcraft, she denied it as a matter of course. But the town turned against her - much livestock had mysteriously died that month and only a witch could work such magic - so Isabella was sentenced to death in the stocks.
The theory behind The Great Child (C. ERNST HARTH) and The Dire Mother (LAURIE SOPER) is that the demented mother manipulated her giant-sized baby in an attempt to create a monster son who would be capable of carrying out her elaborate revenge fantasies. In the film, the duo is comprised of a heavyset man wearing only an enormous diaper and a vomit-covered bib over his prodigious stomach, and a tiny woman whose aged and peeling face stands out in grotesque contrast to her girlish outfit and pony-tailed hair.
Backstory: Margaret Shelburne was a shy woman who could never stand up for herself - probably because she was only three feet tall. She was imprisoned by a band of gypsy lumberjacks - forced to live in a cage as their freak show version of entertainment. But her secret union with Jimbo, the man they said had the "iron swing" with his mighty axe, produced her pride and joy - her giant 300 pound son, Harold.
Harold was spoiled and smothered from infancy by Margaret, who raised him to be her protector and to carry out vengeance on the gypsy lumberjacks who imprisoned her. Harold took to Jimbo's axe with a passion and was soon felling rows upon rows of giant redwoods. But he soon graduated to human lumber, yelling "Timber!" every time he chopped a gypsy lumberjack at the roots. After Harold sliced his way through the camp, both mother and son were finally killed by a torch-waving mob that wanted to put Harold through the wood chipper. But despite repeated attempts, the mob couldn't manage to stuff his giant body into the chute.
The Hammer (HERBERT DUNCANSON) is the bloodthirsty spirit of a murderous blacksmith. His ghostly incarnation features spikes and nails embedded in his head and body, a large hammer bolted to his wrist in place of a hand, and chains enveloping his torso. One of the more elaborate ghosts, his look was achieved through the creation of prosthetic appliances, including full head make-up, a foam body suit and the hammer-hand piece.
Backstory: George Markley was a happy, honest blacksmith in the 1890s - until the local townspeople wrongfully accused him of stealing and drove him out of town. Enraged, George snapped and tracked down the ten people responsible and hammered them to death. The townsfolk finally captured him and dragged him back to the blacksmith shop, where he received a brutal form of frontier justice - his captors drove nails into his body and chopped off the blacksmith's most prized possessions, his hands, and left them out for the crows to pick over his dying body.
Another visually terrifying ghost is The Jackal (SHAYNE WYLER), whose crazed face with its yellow eyes and deadly sharp fangs peers out through a rusty metal cage that has been locked around his head. An escapee from a turn-of-the-century lunatic asylum, this feral, hunched-over creature also sports a hideous set of lethally long claws. "The Jackal" required full body makeup, as well as an iron cage anchored around his head. Prosthetic gloves with elongated nails and yellow contact lenses complete his bestial countenance.
Backstory: In 1908, Ryan Kuhn was a deeply disturbed psycho patient of Borehamwood Asylum. He was locked up because of his insatiable appetite for women - specifically, for attacking and biting them! After years of unrelenting imprisonment with his arms stretched back in a straightjacket and his body twisted grotesquely, his limbs grew horrid in shape. He hated any kind of human contact and was revolted if anyone came near. When a fire broke out in his wing of the Asylum, everyone but Ryan escaped. People still talk about how he ran away from rescuers shouting "Keep away!" He preferred instead to face a fiery uncertainty than to let anyone touch him.
Finally, the twelfth and perhaps most lethal ghost is The Juggernaut (JOHN DE SANTIS), who died in a hail of bullets. As a result, in the afterlife his body is riddled with bullet holes from head to toe. The character required a full body suit with makeup and five separate appliances for his forehead, nose, neck, chin and hands.
Backstory: Breaker Mahoney was a massive, seven-foot tall serial killer. Horribly disfigured, he towed stranded motorists back to his junkyard and brutally murdered them. he would literally rip them apart with his bare hands and "break" them into as many pieces as possible. When the local authorities finally tracked him down, the immensely powerful murderer was impossible to subdue physically. But, as Breaker ultimately discovered, all men are "breakable" - and he bit the dust when the cops pumped him full of lead.
Howard Berger was justifiably pleased with the results of his work and that of co-key special effects artist, Emmy winner Charles Porlier. The more complex ghosts required a team of six make-up artists, working three to four hours on each ghost, compelling Berger to devise inventive ways to minimize the application time, such as using foam rubber rather than 35 multi-piece applications made of silicone. "There were days when all twelve ghosts were being shot and we needed to get them all finished in a reasonable time frame," says Berger. "It's a pretty intense process to take one of these nice, clean actors and turn them into a monster in just a couple of hours. "
Berger and the team of artists did such a convincing job rendering the ghosts that even the filmmakers were a little unnerved. "After filming was completed," Berger reveals, "I got an e-mail from Steve that said, 'Will we all go to hell for making movies like this?' I wrote back, 'Yes, but at least we'll be with all of our friends. '"
BUILDING A HOUSE FOR THE HAUNTING
13 Ghosts (2001) takes place primarily in the home that Arthur and his family inherit from their mysterious Uncle Cyrus. It was critical to the producers that the film's principal set reflect the tone of the film as well as Cyrus' dark eccentricity.
"One of the most compelling characters in this story is the house," says producer Joel Silver. "It's the house that holds these people hostage and unleashes all of these ghosts upon them. In many ways, the house is more of a threat to the family than the ghosts it harbors. Therefore, we wanted this character to convey a unique sense of menace, as opposed to being just a generic haunted house constructed from all the cliché horror film conventions that audiences have come to expect. "
During pre-production, Silver and producer Gil Adler toured the New York Science Museum, an event that inspired the concept for the unconventionally eerie home. "Joel and I really loved the structure and the architecture of the museum," Adler recalls. "Joel came up with the novel idea of constructing the house entirely of glass and referencing the museum's architecture in the set's design.
"We've never seen a horror movie that is pristine and clean," Adler continues. "We always see cobwebs, dirt, bats, and old Elizabethan or gothic style structure. When was the last time you saw a horror movie taking place in a building with clean lines and modern architecture? It's a completely different perspective and yet I think it is a very scary concept. "
Steve Beck feels that the choice of architecture underscored one of the film's core themes. "Having all of these riches handed over to this family in what is essentially an enormous glass case is very telling," Beck notes. "When we expose the things we value, we expose ourselves as well. It's a provocative question: How much are we willing to sacrifice to attain the material objects we covet?"
Production designer Sean Hargreaves rose to the challenge of adapting Silver's vision from innovative concept to practical design. "The first thing that comes to mind when you consider a glass and steel house," he says, "is that it would have a very futuristic appearance. For that reason we decided to go for the unexpected, and we included some antique elements in the design. We incorporated cogs and gears and pulleys into the glass walls of the house, so that everything would run like a clockwork mechanism. It also has art deco and art nouveau elements, which, combined with old- fashioned technology, helps to give the house its unique character. "
During the three months that it took to design the set, Hargreaves and his production team worked closely with Beck to ensure that the remarkable structure would be both visually compelling and function as a practical film set. "We didn't want to repeat too many typical ghost movie clichés, with sets and characters shrouded in shadows, so we designed large areas of the house where we could light through the ceiling and the floor," says Beck. "Of course, the lighting had to be fairly unique because of the transparent walls. "
In fact, the amount of light needed to illuminate the atypical haunted house was so prodigious, it required the services of an entire power substation - which generated enough electricity to power a small town.
"The refraction and reflection of light was the most challenging issue we faced while filming," Beck remembers. "What was really wonderful about this set was the opportunity to shoot through numerous glass walls, layers upon layers, which gives us a multi-textured kind of visual statement. On the down side, we could see right through the walls, all the way to the other side of the house where people were having coffee and doughnuts. So we had to be very careful about how we arranged our cameras and how images reflected on the glass. "
The beauty and complexity of the transparent set also provided the most daunting puzzles for the computer animation team. "Just as the biggest challenge in real-time filming was dealing with lighting and reflections inside the house, we faced the problem of trying to digitally re-create multiple reflections and refractions throughout the glass layers," says visual effects supervisor Dan Glass, whose team created the computer generated images that seamlessly blend with actual footage shot on the set.
Another important aspect of the house's design is its relationship to a key element in the script. "In the story, an ancient book known as "The Arcanum" contains the blueprint which Cyrus used to build the house," Hargreaves explains. "It's filled with writings and drawings and sketches, almost like a da Vinci notebook, and it's illustrated with pages of Latin inscriptions. These inscriptions are actually containment spells for the ghosts trapped inside the house, which we transferred onto the glass walls of the set. "
More than 3 miles of etched glass walls and a total of 8,500 square feet of glass were used to construct the set. The Latin "etchings" were actually rendered on a plastic overlay and adhered to the glass walls to achieve Hargreaves' "Arcanum" design motif. Bridge welders were brought in to fuse the house together, using nearly five tons of steel in the process.
The construction of the centuries-old Arcanum book itself is another example of the attention to artistic detail evidenced throughout the production of the film. A great deal of painstaking effort went into the materials and design needed to make the book look authentically ancient. Propsmaster Dean Eilertson reveals that three people worked for a week just to age the parchment paper used in the four books that were eventually created.
"Aside from testing more than thirty samples of paper to meet sound and textural qualifications, we also had to find someone who could bind the books together in the correct way," says Eilertson. "We eventually located a third-generation Scottish book binder who knew how to put the curve into the spine and to bind the 1,500 pages together properly. " The book covers were created from carefully aged leather, using a complex system of dyes.
The massive, beautifully designed brass and copper rings that form the floor of the "Ocularis Room" were created with a combination of special effects and good old-fashioned craftsmanship. The intricately ringed floor represents the Black Zodiac, a hellish inverse of the common Zodiac table. Etched with 12 individual symbols that correspond to each of the trapped ghosts, the rings move in concentric circles and were built to be removable to allow for necessary "green screen" filming.
"For the clockwork mechanism and the Ocularis, Sean Hargreaves gave us a sketch as a starting point," Glass explains. "Then on the computer we built, as faithfully as possible, this working mechanism, which was programmed so that all the gears meshed correctly and could be animated in multiple ways. Once we had the working model in place, we took the plates that had been shot on the set and rendered the effects to blend in with the 'live' footage. In the end, we rendered between 75 to 100 shots of the clock and the Ocularis. "
"This movie centers around a complex mythology," Silver concludes. "In order for that mythology to be believable, every component of the film must be as authentic and detailed as possible. An enormous amount of work went into making this happen. In this particular case, the devil is in the details. "