HEMLOCK GROVE: Matt Whelan Talks the VFX of Season 2 (2014)

"Hemlock Grove"
“Hemlock Grove”

Netflix’s horror series HEMLOCK GROVE is a carefully-constructed masterpiece of visual effects combined with practical effects and prosthetics to create its supernatural creatures. When watching the werewolf transformations of Season 1, it was impossible to tell where one effect left off and the other picked up. It was as if the audience was really watching someone transition into a werewolf before their eyes.

In a press interview from the set, Matt Whelan briefly talked about combining those effects to make everything look as real as possible in HEMLOCK GROVE.

Can you describe what you do on the show?
MATT: I supervise the visual effects on HEMLOCK GROVE and that involves being on set and helping everyone work through the problems that obviously come up when you have such an effects heavy show. It’s everything from lighting green screens correctly to how are we going to track the shots and add in the digital elements. The creature effects, obviously all those types of things that are required for the narrative.

Was there any pressure to top the Season 1 werewolf transformation scene?
MATT: Absolutely. A lot of pressure. But the stuff we’re coming up with is really exciting.

What is the balance between practical and visual effects?
MATT: In CG we always say, “shoot it, if you can” because it’s always going to look better. The stuff that we’ve been doing with the prosthetics people (Todd Masters of Masters FX), they are doing just incredible work with prosthetics that we’re helping augment in the end with visual effects. That’s really the best marriage of everything.

What about effects for the town of Hemlock Grove?
MATT: Specifically with the Godfrey Tower. We spend a lot of time just trying to establish that kind of iconic situation where this oppressive building is overlooking the entire town that has had so much taken from it. It’s kind of the classic story of the dichotomy of the upper class and the lower class.

Is there a lot of physical gore this season?
MATT: There is a lot of physical gore and it’s all the better for it. We try to help them out when they want it to be more or bigger or grosser. There’s good stuff coming.

What effects get you excited when you see it in the script?
MATT: The big ones. From set extensions to full CG creatures to the hybrid stuff that we’re talking about where it’s actors, special effects and visual effects. The show has a really broad base to be able to do a lot of things, and for my job, that’s really interesting because every day is like, “How are we going to do that?!”

How much is it a person versus a thing that you’re working on?
MATT: We’re seeing the characters, both Roman (Bill Skarsgard) and Peter (Landon Liboiron), explore their powers as things are happening in this series. So you can gather a certain amount of information based on that. Both the intricacies of what those things might mean, and those have demanded more originality based on these concepts. That’s the cool thing about it. You’ll think, “Oh, we’ve seen this before.” But it’s been tilted or it’s slightly change in a way or seen through a lens that we haven’t necessarily seen before.

To see all the fine visual effects in Season 2, be sure to tune in on Friday, July 11th when the entire second season of HEMLOCK GROVE will be available for binge-viewing on Netflix.

(Editor’s note: Special thanks goes to Netflix which made this interview possible with a sponsored trip to the set of “Hemlock Grove.”)

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