Universal Studios Hollywood's "Halloween Horror Nights" Creative Director John Murdy Talks Vampires
Thu, 23 Sep 2010 12:59:59
For Universal Studios Hollywood's Halloween Horror Nights, John Murdy is the man behind the curtain. The creative director is the wizard in the background bringing this ultimate Halloween experience to life. Every year, Murdy tirelessly plans and plots the elaborate mazes based on classic horror film properties. Once he brings it to life on opening night, it's an unforgettable playground that could scare the devil himself! This year, Halloween Horror Nights features mazes based on Saw, House of 1,000 Corpses, Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street. There's also the Vampyre: Castle of the Undead, an original for Halloween Horror Nights that's packed with all kinds of entrancing evil.
With this year's opening upon us, September 24th to be exact, ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino sat down with John Murdy for a closer look at Vampyre and so much more.
So Halloween Horror Nights finally got proper vampires!
[Laugs] I've resisted doing anything with Vampires for the four years previously that I've done Halloween Horror Nights. I've been Creative Director, producing it since we brought it back in 2006. With vampires being all the rage in the movies, there have been a lot of people going, "Hey, you should do something with vampires!" I've always resisted it [Laughs]. Personally, I've never found that scary. I'm a classic horror nut. I've seen the original Bela Lugosi Dracula a million times, and I love the mood and atmosphere. I like a lot of other vampire movies too. However, in my world when you have to take it and translate it to this multi-dimensional environment, we're trying to take you right through the screen and into the movie. We want to create a living horror film, and I always feared vampires because of the fang thing. I thought, "How close do they have to get to scare you?" If it's Leatherface with a chainsaw, that has a hell of an impact. I always worried about that. In our culture, it's gotten bigger and bigger. We knew we had to do something with vampires; it was just a question of what.
Going back to the origins with Vampyre definitely makes for a unique take on the undead.
I'm a big history nut, so I wanted to get into the origin of these creatures and where they came from. Everyone knows Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, but that was inspired by Vlad the Impaler in Eastern Europe. My grandmother was from there and part of my family goes back to that part of the world, literally Transylvania. My grandmother would tell me stories. She's one of my inspirations. I'm convinced that's why I do what I do. When I was a kid coming from home school, she'd hide in the closet, pop out and scare us [Laughs]. One time she was babysitting us and she said, "How about we cover ourselves in ketchup and pretend we were murdered." My parents came home, and they were freaking [Laughs]. We always do a lot of research with Halloween Horror Nights. Vampire mythology probably goes beyond Vlad to the earliest written history. I was attracted to the old world origins of vampires. That's a lot scarier to me. We made our own rules of vampires for how we'd portray them visually.
What were some of those rules?
We liked the idea of an almost albino look for the vampires. We thought of what you'd look like if you hadn't seen the sun in years. We liked this idea of translating that to the face and the costume as well. Inspiration comes from strange places. It actually comes from Great Expectations. There's a character named Miss Havisham. She's a woman whose husband died on the day of her wedding so she never changed her wedding dress. She's always walking around in this old tattered stained faded wedding dress. Her home is set the day it was on her wedding day, and it's all cobweb-ed over. It's just creepy! Even though Great Expectations isn't horror, we're always searching for visual reference. I picked that one up. My wife actually recommended it. We kind of took that as the inspiration for the color palette of the wardrobe. We did it because we wanted the blood to just read really strong. We figured if we went with an off-white palette and covered it in blood, it would be a very striking image. With all of these people going into the vampire castle, it's like someone opened up the buffet and it's on [Laughs].
Are the vampires separated by distinct classes?
There are different subsets of vampires. There are "The Turned," who are the recently turned male and female vampires. The females are a little more sexy, and their costumes a bit revealing. On the far end of the scale, there are "The Ancients." They're almost like a mummified vampire. We were thinking of this idea that vampires have to feed on blood and that's how they have eternal life. I like to think about it in terms of a meth addict. Blood's almost like a drug to a vampire. You've seen those before and after pictures of what meth does to people online. I latched on to that. I know it's crazy, but I like the idea [Laughs]. Vampires are an abomination of nature. They go against God. They're not supposed to exist. Even though they need blood, it'd be like a meth addict. They need more, it's insatiable and they can't stop. Physically, they degenerate over time. "The Ancients are one faction. They're leathery but their skin is still that whitish palette. Then we wanted to create the vampire king. Vampire cultures are very much like cabals. There's always a leader. So we created this character called "The Vampire King." We also embraced the idea of vampire children, which is very creepy. We built a family…
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