Zack Snyder’s new zombie heist action spectacular, Army of the Dead, features all kinds of impressive stunts and visual effects—but one of the more memorable is that surprisingly convincing undead horse. In a new behind-the-scenes featurette on the Netflix Film Club’s YouTube channel, special effects makeup artist Gabe Bartalos breaks down exactly how they created this particular part of the movie using entirely practical effects.
“We knew that it wouldn’t be slimy and drippy,” he says. “We looked at pictures of when animals, specifically deer and horses, decay. The skin begins to deteriorate, and what’s left is all the veins and arteries. It becomes this mesh of mess. So we used a lot of organic materials suspended in latex, infused into the skin. There’s the sculping of the muscles, of the bones, of the skin, the way I paint it, the way I weather it. The challenge of a horse, the sheer velocity of the animal, is a real thing to consider.”
Bartalos and his team crafted a latex suit which would fit onto the horse’s body, onto which a series of sculpted and painted foam rubber pieces were attached to create the illusion of the horse’s body decomposing in real-time. And because there was a very real, very alive horse named Ace under all those prosthetics, the production team also had to build a cooling tent so that he wouldn’t overheat during those long, hot days on location in the desert.
“When you’re working with animals, they can’t talk, they can’t communicate… so a lot of care was taken, and many many tests to ensure the suit is comfortable on him,” says Bartalos. “And really, at the end of the day, the more comfortable Ace is, the better for us, because we get more shooting time.”
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