Halloween Horror Roundup Part 1: Malditomaus Cracks the VFX Jigsaw Puzzle with 'Spiral'
October 26, 2021

Halloween Horror Roundup Part 1: Malditomaus Cracks the VFX Jigsaw Puzzle with 'Spiral'

In the film “Spiral: From the Book of Saw,” the police are pitted against a criminal mastermind who’s unleashing their own twisted form of justice. Brash Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks (Chris Rock) and his new rookie partner, Detective William Schenk (Max Minghella), investigate a string of new murders with the help of Captain Angie Garza (Marisol Nichols) and Zeke’s father, retired Chief Marcus Banks (Samuel L. Jackson). The police must race to try and stop a Jigsaw copycat killer before they find themselves in one of his morbid games.
Buenos Aires-based animation and VFX studio Malditomaus worked on the film under the leadership of VFX Supervisor Jon Campfens of Switch VFX. Specializing in producing captivating imagery for feature films, television and VR/AR content, Malditomaus was no stranger to the “Saw” franchise, having previously worked on “Jigsaw” and “Saw: The Final Chapter.”

“We were so excited to continue our work on the ‘Saw’ saga,” says Malditomaus’ VFX Executive Producer Martín López Funes. “When working on horror films, VFX plays such a role in storytelling. Whether it’s creating blood and gore, making injuries more gruesome or selling a weapon’s impact, VFX helps bring things to a different scare level.”

Daniel Petronijevic stars as ‘Detective Boz’ in “Spiral.” Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer. 

For example, Malditomaus helped make the film’s gunfire more realistic by using Fusion Studio to create smoke and muzzle flashes.

“In order to create the realistic effect of a gun firing, we first used Fusion Studio’s 3D particle generator to create clouds of smoke and then tracked them to the weapons’ barrels where the bullets would have left from. Then we layered particles and formed them with masks to create muzzle flashes to show the blasts,” says López Funes. “While these details can seem like minor notes, invisible VFX are important because they help create a realistic story that that audience can get lost in. For horror films, the more engrossed the audience is, the bigger the scare.”

With police work at the center of the “Spiral” story, the film has several greenscreen scenes for which Malditomaus had to replace an electronic screen with a composited image. “As the detectives are working to solve the case, they view updates on their computers and watch events unfold on televisions or through security cameras,” López Funes explains. “For each of these events, we had to key out the greenscreens and bluescreens and replace the images.”

For this, the Malditomaus team used Fusion Studio’s camera tracker and motion tracking tools to stabilize the composited images, so they’d match and move with the shot, as well as the software’s Delta Keyer to remove the green and blue screens, and Luma and Primatte keyers to further refine hair and other precise details.

Whether working on some of the more invisible effects or ramping up the guts and gore, Malditomaus’ work can be seen throughout the film. However, López Funes hopes they go undetected. “The biggest challenge we face for a project like this is to create VFX that are impactful but invisible. They need to increase the immersion of the viewer in the scene and not distract from it. It’s all part of the horror movie magic,” he adds.

When he’s not busy working on them himself, López Funes notes his favorite horror films to watch around Halloween are “Child’s Play,” “It,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and the “Saw” saga, of course.

Top image: Chris Rock stars as ‘Detective Ezekiel “Zeke” Banks’ in “Spiral.”   Photo Credit: Brooke Palmer.