My biggest fears used to be pretty basic: sharks, heights, failure – the classics. Then I watched episode 2 of True Detective: Night Country. Now my worst nightmare is a very specific scenario involving dead bodies, frostbite, and having my arm cut off.
The scene that inspires this nightmare takes place at the top of night country‘s second episode. Police Chief Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and the rest of the Ennis police examine the naked, frozen bodies of Tsalal Arctic Research Center scientists, grouped in what Liz calls a “corpse”.“They have gone blind, their eardrums have been ruptured and their faces are trapped in expressions of terror that hint at an unknown horror. However, this ordeal does not stop at the corpse.
One of the scientists is still alive.
That’s right: scientist Anders Lund (Þorsteinn Bachmann) is not a corpse trapped in a corpse. He wakes up when a bumbling officer breaks his arm, unleashing a scream that rivals a zombie’s most chilling moan. He imagines returning to consciousness, numb from frostbite, blinded by his time on the tundra and trapped in the ice, tangled with the corpses of his co-workers. Lund’s horror and pain are unfathomable. How would you begin to bring this scenario to life for viewers?
The process began with the construction of the corpsicle itself. Both the prostheses and the ice sections were made by Igor Studios, a prosthetics and SFX makeup studio run by the married team of Dave and Lou Elsey. The corpse ice elements included holes where the corpse dolls could slide in and out. This included the Lund doll, which came with detachable limbs.
“You could move it and the bones would break, and you could tear off pieces and repair them later,” Dave Elsey told Mashable in a joint video interview with Lou Elsey.
Think about it: Lund is alive for all of this.
Credit: Michele K. Short/HBO
The body could also contain the actor who plays Lund. Bachmann could swipe to see shots of him screaming when he woke up. “That little hole where his body went was almost like a saddle that he could sit on,” Lou Elsey said. “You could put your legs through a hole in the bottom, which is what we did with the body as well.”
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“When we first established Lund’s position, using articulated dolls, that was one thing. But when you do it with a human body, you realize that you have him on his knees, bending back with his arms and his head in a strange position,” Dave Elsey said. “But he was fantastic; he kind of pushed himself into an even worse position.”
The scene required special effects makeup for Bachmann, including ice effects, contact lenses, and rotting teeth and gums. They then covered it in fake ice and snow to complete the corpse illusion. However, one thing he didn’t have to worry about was the cold. While night country He filmed the discovery of the body and scenes of its excavation in the Icelandic mountains, the production moved indoors for scenes involving Bachmann.
“We basically shot the corpse with and without Lund,” production designer Daniel Taylor told Mashable in a video interview. “We filmed him on the dead body on a set, because it was too cold to put him naked on the mountain. So we filmed elements of him waking up indoors, where we could control the temperature.”
“He’s a good guy, Þor, in real life. He’s a bit happy-go-lucky, so we thought, ‘Wow, I hope we can make him look scary.'” Until we got on set, we weren’t really sure about it,” said Dave Elsey. “But then we realized that having a brilliant actor with good makeup is the total effect. You can only contribute so much, and then he’ll contribute more and take it even further than you could have ever imagined.”