There was much to love about Netflix’s breakout show of last year, Stranger Things. The 1980’s setting along with homages to Spielburg-ian wonder, Goonies-like camaraderie, and John Carpenter horror made the show a nostalgia feast. And you can’t forget about the strong performances that both the adult cast as well as the kids put in. But another huge part of the show was the creepy and threatening monster that terrorizes Hawkins, Indiana: The Demogorgon.
Part of what made the monster so effective at being intimidating and nasty was it existing as a set of practical animatronics and digital wizardry. That’s right, the Demogorgon was really there, terrifying the cast. When they set out to create this thing, the Duffer Brothers really cared about “building” a monster, rather than just generating one in a computer. Inspired by the creatures of H.R. Giger from Alien and John Carpenter’s The Thing, they wanted to “build an animatronic monster.”
To do that, they went to the people at Spectral Motion, responsible for a lot of work from Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy movies. To provide the design that the team would construct, the Duffer brothers filled artist Aaron Sims with all of their inspiration for the creature. What followed was the emaciated shambling beast with a fleshy flower of teeth for a head. after months of work, when the brothers finally saw the thing come to life, they were amazed.
The first time we saw our monster’s head peel open… it just blew our minds and transported us back to our childhood. And the way it moved was terrifying — their brilliant robotics engineer had designed the animatronics in such a way that the movement of the head “petals” never repeated themselves. They had a life of their own, moving in unpredictable and bizarre patterns. It felt organic. Creepy. Real.
The animatronics were so life-like, they terrified the young actresses who played Holly. Where the animatronics or other practical effects could not be used, cgi (done by creature designer Aaron Sims’ company) allowed the creature to do everything the script needed it to do. Ultimately, it was a combination of impressive animatronics, prosthetics, and cgi that brought the Demogorgon to life. Check out a demo of the head that brought Barb to a premature end. #NeverForgetBarb