Before the VFX team got their hands on it, our art department played a key part in the concept design and development of the Shoggoth and several more other-worldly beings in the ten-part series for HBO’s Lovecraft Country.
Several design iterations and references of the Shoggoth were used by the VFX team as the basis for the digital build of the Lovecraftian monster, but the Art Department also designed a whole array of beings like ghosts, aliens and ancient spirits as well as effects like working out a very gruesome way for someone’s skin to break apart as they transform from one person to another.
The structure of Lovecraft Country sees each episode work as a standalone story within a wider narrative. Different Lovecraft-inspired elements appear in each and that means the work delivered by the team was really varied. They delivered assets that eventually appeared in a haunted house-esque episode, ancient spirits that come to life and some really grotesque body horror imagery.
‘It was a privilege to be part of the team and a really exciting undertaking for the team to be some of the first people to start bringing these different elements of the series to life,’ commented Martin Macrae, Head of Art Department. ‘Having such a varied range of work was certainly interesting. It allowed our teams to dip their toes in a lot of different things while creating designs that needed to ultimately feel like they’re of the same world.’
Ghosts feature heavily in the series’ third episode, the final SFX and VFX designs of which were largely the same from the Art Department’s initial work. Each has its own unique and very gruesome visual linked to their human forms’ death at the hands of a mad doctor. These included one ghost who’s been torn in half with entrails dragging as he crawls across the floor, another missing the top of her head and another with nails and wooden spikes hammered into his body.
Delivering a large number of ghosts for this episode allowed the team to get creative with the characters’ behind the designs, experimenting with different elements and seeing how far they can push the gore; a theme that comes up more than once throughout Framestore’s work on Lovecraft Country.
Talking about the designs concept artist Yoan Vernet said ‘Helping with the design of the ghosts was an exciting brief to undertake. It was difficult to research and very gruesome but we thoroughly enjoyed the work. It can be a difficult brief to design a ghost and to make it look ‘different’ when there are 12 others to also create but the story contributed a lot to how we went about the designs. We had to portray a different character clearly in each of the designs which in itself became an important part of the story. It’s really exciting to see the ghosts have remained faithful to our initial designs.’
A History of Violence
The series' fourth episode saw the show's heroes heading into an underground labyrinth to find a treasure protected by Yahima - a spirit originating from a Caribbean Arawak tribe who embodies what it means to have knowledge that others will do anything to possess.
The art department worked on the characters initial designs as she would ultimately be seen transforming from a dried, almost mummy-like state back into a more human form. They started by placing her in a dramatic environment shipwreck-like environment and did research into different kinds of tattoos which they tried out on her skin before finalising the designs.
It’s not just Lovecraft Country’s characters and beings the Art Department had to design concepts for; the fifth episode of the show required the team to bring together the first visuals of a character transformation.
As one of the show’s black protagonists uses magic to take on the form of a white woman, the art department brought together a lot of references from existing art and cultural body horror imagery from different cultural and artist visuals to create their concepts.
Meet Me in Daegu
The sixth episode of Lovecraft Country features a Kumiho; a vengeful nine-tailed fox spirit bound to the body of a beautiful woman in order to ensnare men and siphon their memories and life-force. Just another usual request for our art department to start to visualise.
The team created some of the first iterations of the Kumiho, focusing on creating visuals of an undoubtedly beautiful woman with a lot more going on than initially meets the eye. With tentacles being a key motif, the team experimented with different kinds from more Cephalopod-like appendages to more gnarled, almost branch-like ones.