Bringing The Horror To Life: An Interview With Special Effects Make-Up Artist, Eleanor Sabaduquia

Wednesday 29 May 2019

Remember when you first watched The Exorcist as a child and thought you weren't going to sleep for the rest of your life?

Back in 1973, not many digital resources were available to uglify the demonic protagonist’s look.—the work mostly comprised dummies and long hours of special effects makeup. 
Artist Dick Smith’s terrific job transforming Linda Blair from sweet to devilish gifted him with an Oscar statuette, which shows makeup artists are heavyweight in production. 
Makeup effects were a substantial part of the film’s scare factor. 

Say whatever you want about remakes, but The Exorcist and other classic horrors hold a place of honor in pretty much every listing of “the scariest movies ever made”. The lack of digital effects didn’t stop it from scaring the hell out of its audience. 

Fast-forwarding to circa 2002, an interesting BTS footage of Robert Englund on set of Freddy vs Jason mentions the evolution of SFX makeup. Sitting on a chair with a finely sculpted mask dappled with Pros-Aide glue, Englund mentions how the detailing of Freddy’s makeup became more realistic over the years. 

Just as CGI has dramatically evolved, makeup techniques have been fine-tuned for seamless results.

If CGI was available (and good) back then, would it have been used to create the characters’ full looks? Possibly. Would they be as iconic? Probably not. 

The goal here is not to slam digital effects—they’re vital for enhancing and touching up details that prevent a scene from looking low-grade. 

Also, let’s not forget about some bizarre expressions that can only be achieved through CGI. Again, it’s all about emphasising what’s already there. 

Okay, now back to 2019. 

As most of you know, the Latin folklore-based horror The Curse of La Llorona premiered on April 19th. It led the International box office with a whopping $30 million, which sure thrilled dedicated fans of The Conjuring universe.

If you're one of those fans (I know you are!),  then you'll love my super quick chat with a leading make-up artist who has worked on some of the biggest blockbuster films in recent years.
 Meet Eleanor Sabaduquia, one of the makeup artists who worked not only in The Curse of La Llorona, but also in films like The Nun, Aquaman, The Conjuring Franchise, SAW, Lights Out and Annabelle Comes Home. 

1 - Even with CGI at its finest nowadays, SFX makeup still remains a crucial part of horror productions, especially when ghastly creatures are involved. 

Can you share why your role is an essential part contributing to the story/ character development during the filmmaking process?  

Actors are reactionary and visual people. 

When you have an actor in makeup and they start seeing the character form on their face, they start feeling the character. 

They also get reinforcement from the reactions from everyone on set, be they crew or other actor, and often times this will help everyone’s performance. 

Many times, producers/studio don’t have a visual/creative mind, so they need a real representation to see in person, which can inform visual effects to what they need to enhance.

2 - You’ve worked in notable horror films, such as Annabelle Comes Home, The Nun, and The Curse of La Llorona. 

The horror characters in these productions are both feared and loved worldwide, which must be super exciting for both of you who took part in creation. For you, what was it like to bring such memorable characters to life on screen? 

To tell you the truth, I’ve never expected any of my designs to be horror icons, as I think the makeup is pretty basic and variations on a theme, and there are far more interesting and elaborate makeups out there (ANY Guillermo Del Toro film).

So for me, it’s just character makeups.

I think the reason they’re so popular to duplicate because they are basic- white, black, red, but I guess they’re effective.

3 - The script is the backbone of any film. However, your artistry sure contributes to the translation of words into the final product we see on screen. 

In your point of view, how much does a well-written screenplay influence the entire makeup process, and what descriptive elements does it require to set the project in motion?
The scripts are pretty vague in what our big bads look like, and in some cases, like The Nun, it was a last minute decision for reshoots- James Wan gave me inspo photos and I took it from there.

Usually, we hammer out what our characters look like in many conversations, photo references, and camera tests.

Laila shares all of Into The Script's news on her Instagram page (@lailarsnde) and Facebook.

1 comment