Exclusive Interview With Special Effects Man Karl Derrick
By James Whittington, Sunday 14th June 2009
Karl Derrick (here on the left!) is a multi-talented Make-Up, Special Effects and Visual Effects artist who has worked on some of the most successful genre movies of recent times. His latest creations can be seen in Jake West’s Doghouse which opened on June 12th so we decided to have a chat with this inventive guy to learn exactly how hard it is working in the movie industry.  

ZH: When you were growing up did you know that you wanted to work in special effects?   KD: When I was growing up Special Effects such as Make up and Creature effects were still in their commercial infancy. Back then, the Giants of make up effects whose shoulders we stand on today, people like Dick Smith, were still working in film. So, as a film fan back then, you grew up with Special Effects industry. I always knew I wanted to create and I’ve always been a bit of a joker, so the idea of getting one over on people is appealing. Getting them to believe what their eyes are telling them, rather than their brains.    ZH: How did you get your big break?   KD: Oh, there’s no such thing. I don’t know why this myth persists. My ‘overnight’ success has taken 17 years. You just have to keep plugging away. After a while, IF you stay within your budgets and deliver on time and go the extra mile, the jobs get a bit better, the budgets a bit bigger and the phone starts to ring more often. There’s no ‘break’ or shortcut.   ZH: You’ve worked on some very big Hollywood movies; do you prefer to have more money at hand or less? I mean, do you feel more creative the less money you have?   KD: I like both, they present different challenges. There’s a comfort in having a big budget, but then there’s less creative input. On the big budget films you’re a smaller part in a bigger machine. The converse is also true. I’m not afraid of venturing an opinion, I mean the production is paying for your knowledge and experience, may as well let them have it! I’ve been spoiled by working with directors like Jake West and Mikael Hafstro though. They make it possible for you to make them happy. I like budgets of 2-3 million Sterling. It’s big enough to make a decent film, to be able to afford a competent and experienced cast and crew, yet small enough to allow a great deal of one-to-one work with the Director and other Heads of Department. I believe film is still a powerful collaborative art and it’s really thrilling working with people who are very good at what they do. It’s magical.    ZH: How did you become attached to Doghouse?   KD: Jake and I met through a mutual friend a few years ago. We connected creatively and became friends. Jake landed Pumpkinhead 3 and I really wanted to work with him on that. But, the budget wasn’t enough for me to be able to do Jake and the creature justice and it didn’t happen for me. When Doghouse was green lit, Jake sent me a script and I replied with a 3 word email; ‘f***ing love it!’. That was it. I was the first person hired on Doghouse. We were up and running even before the Art Department. It’s necessary on a film like Doghouse, as we had so much to do. Dan Schaffer’s script is really, really good. I am a great fan of Dan’s writing. This is a far better script than most films of this budget level have access to. Dan’s background is Graphic Novels, so he writes very cinematographically. You can see the story as you read it. James Ryman, a really talented artist, had already done some great artwork for the different Zombird characters, so we had a good place to start. 2D to 3D is always a challenge though. What works on paper isn’t necessarily practical in the real world. I worked closely with Jake at every stage to be sure we were giving him what he wanted. We decided very early that the quality of the Effects work wouldn’t suffer for the film being a low budget project. We set the bar high. We also agreed to try and do as much as possible in-camera, with an absolute minimum of postproduction work on the make up and creature effects work. There are a couple of tweaks, but almost everything you see on the film was as it happened on set. I’m proud of that.   ZH: Was it a tough shoot?   KD: Yes, but tough and fun aren’t mutually exclusive. It was a wonderful experience. We were totally nocturnal for about a month. I needed a big on-set crew for this. We had over 14 make up effects crew on location. Mostly prosthetic make up artists, but also Effects Technicians and contact lens specialists too. We did a lot more than make up on Doghouse, we also made all of the action props and weapons and even the remote control trucks.   ZH: Was it hard to come up with the Zombirds appliances?   KD: It was challenging on the budget, sure. The difficulty we had to face on Doghouse was the sheer volume of prosthetic make up and effects needed. Here are some stats: Over four hundred foam latex prosthetic appliances 38 pairs of 15mm and 22mm contact lenses 52 sets of creature dentures 20 dead bodies A small mountain of body parts and dead heads. All the hero Zombird weapons All the rubber stunt Zombird weapons Up to 9 hero (close up) Zombird prosthetic make ups a day 50 background Zombird masks 4 hero R/C monster trucks 250 Litres of blood Over 60 make up effects gags   ZH: Did you add anything to the original make-up designs that Jake thought up?   KD: One of the great things about working with Jake West is that he thinks a good idea is a good idea, he doesn’t need to have come up with it himself. Jake and I are on the same page creatively, so we worked together to develop the look of the characters and to come up with some new and original gags for the film.   ZH: Did it take you long to apply the make-up to the Zombirds, such as Emily Booth who plays The Snipper?   KD: The stage one make-ups took up the 3 hours, depending on the character. The Stage 2 make-ups were more involved and took longer. We saved as much time as possible by going through the script and schedule with Jake and Dan Mumford, the 1stAD, and identifying times when characters weren’t front and centre. If they didn’t need to be close to the camera, we put them in a background mask. The focus drop-off on the lens was such that if they were only a few feet further back, they were in soft focus and you couldn’t tell. Saved hours of performers’ and make up artists’ time every day.      ZH: Emily said it took a few hours to get her make ready, how do you keep someone from moving around when you’re applying make-up?   KD: Emily is great to work with because she’s a total pro. We work with actors so that they work with us. They’re made to feel part of our team and we’re all out there with them in front of the camera. They know it’s a serious business and we’re on a tight time schedule every day. Everyone was great.   ZH: Did any of the cast complain about the prosthetics you applied?   KD: Not to my face! Seriously. We were blessed with a great cast and a great crew.   I was way too busy to do much hands-on application myself. My guys were brilliant and worked so hard every day, and the performers were all a treat to work with, so upbeat and professional. It was a great experience. One of the best ever for me.   ZH: Which character was the hardest to realise?   KD: I guess ‘Bubbles’. It’s back to the 2D to 3D thing. Bubbles stage 2, as drawn, was impossible on the budget we had. We needed to come up with a way to make the lovely Annie Vanders into this rampaging juggernaut but couldn’t afford a bodysuit or animatronic mask. So we made a big wraparound neck and chin piece that had a flabby silicone rubber bladder in the chin to make it flop about. Along with the facial appliances it really got the change we needed to distinguish it from stage 1. As always though, it’s the performance that sells the character. Annie did a great job. There were some great performances all round from the Zombirds. Everyone brought something special to their character. It was like the ‘Bash Street Kids’. Deborah Hyde who plays ‘Stella’ the Barmaid Zombird, is actually my department co-ordinator as well. She was busy on this one! It was funny walking into the huge make up room we had to find her in full Barmaid stage 2 make up and lenses, typing crew rosters with her long black bony finger extensions on. Surreal.   ZH: Has there been a point in your career when you’ve thought that you just couldn’t handle the challenge of what was given to you?   KD: No. If I’m not certain I can do it, I won’t take it on. I think very important not to over-promise to a production. If you start writing checks you can’t cash, you can find yourself in deep sh*t pretty fast. You have to pick your battles carefully.   ZH: Do you have any projects lined up?   KD: Doghouse 2! Ha ha…Seriously though, I have a few things which have been promised which are very exciting but I can’t talk about them yet. I’m waiting for Jake and Dan’s next project as I really want to work with them both again soon. We make quite a team. I’m also working with a young writer/Director called Zeb Lamb on a contemporary horror drama called ‘Tanners Walk’. Great project. I’m in the middle of writing a screenplay called ‘Lament’, a contemporary comedy/horror, about a group of holiday Brits undergoing mid-life crises while being hunted by zombies in a Western ghost town. Pure fun, lots of monsters. We’ll be after a couple of million in finance for that very soon.    ZH: Karl Derrick, thank you very much.   KD: Anytime.

Interview with Marcel Sarmiento co-writer and director of Faceless
Posted in Features, Interviews, Friday 15th October 2021

Showing at Grimmfest Online Edition is the incredibly inventive horror/sci-fi hybrid Faceless. Here, co-writer and director Marcel Sarmiento speaks about this superb movie.

HC: Have you always been a big horror movie fan?

MS: Definitely as a kid. My first movies made with my Betamax were all about scaring one other and how gross we could push makeup effects. We mostly strangled, stabbed, and threw each other off buildings. I think as I got older, I appreciated what you could do with horror more than horror for horror's sake. I love that you can make characters do things that in any other genre you couldn't make them do and still come out the other end liking them and routing for them.

HC: Where did the idea for the movie come from and what was your writing process between the three of you like?

MS: It originated with my friend Ed and I wanting t...

Universal Monsters are back on Horror Channel and Kim Newman is here to tell you all about them
Posted in Features, Thursday 14th October 2021
Kim Newman

Respected journalist, film critic, and fiction writer Kim Newman takes us through the Universal monsters joining Horror for our Classic Horror Halloween event running from 30th-31st of October.

With Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Wolf Man (1941) and The Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), Universal Pictures introduced the lasting icons of horror... combining the presence of stars Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr with the make-up artistry of Jack P. Pierce (except for the Creature who came later in the day and was designed by the extraordinary Millicent Patrick ). These are the genre's cornerstone fiends, and - despite the way they have been domesticated an...

Horror Channel goes out of this world to bring Channel premiere of Brit sci-fi thriller series UFO from October 20
Posted in Features, Wednesday 13th October 2021

Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing great cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Season 1 of the 1970 British science fiction TV series UFO, created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson and produced by the Andersons and TV mogul Lew Grade.

One of the best of its genre, the 26-part series combines the remarkable talents of the Andersons with those of special effects director Derek Meddings. And with a stellar cast including Ed Bishop, Michael Billington and George Sewell, it proved a popular hit at the time.

Following syndication in the US and favourable ratings, a possible second series was plann...

Horror Channel - Now on Instagram!
Posted in Features, Saturday 9th October 2021

You can never have too much Horror Channel in your life, so follow us on Instagram too!

Find us at

Classic monsters will rise this Halloween on Horror
Posted in Features, Thursday 7th October 2021
Classic Horror Halloween Banner

Famous monsters rise again!

To celebrate the Halloween weekend on Saturday 30th October and Sunday 31st October, Horror Channel presents Classic Horror Halloween, two diabolical daytime marathons highlighted by five channel premieres, including Bride Of Frankenstein, the celebrated sequel to the 1931 classic with Boris Karloff reprising his role as the Creature, Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman, featuring the original Wolfman, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Bela Lugosi as Frankenstein's monster, The Invisible Man, in which Claude Rains delivers a remarkable performance in his screen debut, Christy Cabanne's frightening chiller masterpiece The Mummy's Hand and Revenge ...

Horror Channel sponsoring Grimmfest Online 2021
Posted in News, Thursday 30th September 2021
Virtual Edition

Horror Channel is proudly sponsoring Grimmfest Online 2021 which runs 14th-17th October and will offer audiences the chance to experience the live festival programme in the comfort of their own homes, as well as enabling them to catch up on anything they might have missed at the live event.

The virtual festival will complement and sit alongside the live festival, with much of the content crossing both events. Many of the feature films and shorts that play the live festival will also be featured within the online event but there will also be some online exclusives.

Grimmfest are excited to announce two exclusive feature film presentations only available on our virtual event an...

Would you dare enter? Escape Room 2: Tournament of Champions coming home soon
Posted in News, Sunday 26th September 2021
Escape Room 2

Sequel to the box-office hit psychological thriller that terrified audiences around the world Escape Room 2: Tournament of Champions is available to Download and Keep on October 4 and to Rent on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD on October 18 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

Directed by Adam Robitel (Escape Room, Insidious: The Last Key) the movie stars Taylor Russell (Escape Room, Waves), Logan Miller (Escape Room, Love Simon), Indya Moore (Queen & Slim), Holland Roden (Follow Me), Thomas Cocquerel (In Like Flynn) and Carlito Olivero (Bad Samaritan).

In this installment, six people unwittingly find themselves locked in another series of escape rooms, slowly un...

Creature-Feature mockumentary Bigfoot Hunters to be unleashed soon
Posted in News, Sunday 26th September 2021
Bigfoot Hunters - Poster

Join the hunt for the legendary sasquatch in hilarious creature feature-comedy mockumentary Bigfoot Hunter.

Meet Brian Emond, a millennial clickbait reporter longing to work on serious news stories. Unfortunately for him and his producer Zach, their network has zero faith in them and sends them into the Appalachian Mountains in search of Bigfoot. Along for the ride is their guide, Jefferey, the only cryptozoologist to have encountered the legendary sasquatch in recent times. The three set-out into the wilderness with one goal: find Bigfoot. What could possibly go wrong?

Directed by and starring Zach Lampugh, a former Adult Swim editor, and Brian Emond, a comedi...

Horror Channel unleashes primetime premieres for October
Posted in Features, Tuesday 21st September 2021
Oct line-up-social

Horror Channel has seven weekend primetime premieres line up for October, including, at 9pm on Sunday nights, the UK TV premiere of Brad Paxton's supernatural thriller Incarnate, starring Aaron Eckhart, and the channel premieres of David Cronenberg's erotic psychological chiller Dead Ringers and Juan Carlo Fresnadillo's atmospheric fantasy Intruders (2011), starring Clive Owen.

Plus, there are four premieres at 9pm on Saturday nights: Darren Lynn Bousman's nightmarish mystery Abattoir, Iain Softley's Southern Gothic-style frightener The Skeleton Key, starring Kate Hudson, dark horror comedy Mom And Dad, starring Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair and Mama, the Guillermo Del Toro exec...

Tom Paton, director of G-LOC chats about his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman
Posted in Features, Interviews, Tuesday 14th September 2021
Tom Paton on the set of G-Loc-3-1

Ahead of the Horror Channel premiere of his sci-fi action thriller G-LOC, director Tom Paton reflects on why making movies is like solving a puzzle, his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman.

Horror Channel will be broadcasting the UK TV premiere of your Sci-fi adventure G-LOC. Excited or what?

It's honesty so strange to me every time Horror Channel debuts one of my movies. The channel has been such a big part of my life growing up and informing my taste in films, that it's always a "pinch myself moment" when I see something that I've made appear on their TV listing. G-LOC is much more of a SCI-FI adventure than any ...

Escape From New York score to be released on blue vinyl
Posted in News, Wednesday 8th September 2021

Originally released on the 31st of July 2015, the vinyl edition of John Carpenter's classic 1981 thriller, Escape From New York mirrored the expanded CD release from 2000, with over 20 minutes of previously unreleased music plus music from scenes deleted from the final print and original dialogue highlights.

The masters for that CD were re-mixed from the original multi-track session tapes by long-time Carpenter associate Alan Howarth.

This is the first time on coloured vinyl for this LP, all previous pressings having been on black vinyl and will be released January 21st, 2022 thanks to Silva Screen Records.

Interview with Sean Nichols Lynch writer and director of Red Snow
Posted in Frightfest, Sunday 5th September 2021

Final film of Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition 2021 is a fangtastic (sorry) twist on the vampire movie, Sean Nichols Lynch's Red Snow. We had a quick chat about this blood-splattered shocker which has a deep vein of humour running through it.

HC: Where did the idea for Red Snow come from?

SL: I was trying to get a different horror feature financed and was struggling to get it off the ground. It was a frustrating period for me, and I honestly felt like I'd never get to make another film. I happened to run into Dennice, who I knew from my film school days at San Francisco State. We got to talking and I started to think about how great it would be to just drop everything and ...

Articles Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
Intruders (2011)
Sunday 17th October
9.00 PM
Tales From The Darkside
Sunday 24th October
8.30 PM
San Andreas Mega Quake
Saturday 16th October
6.40 PM