Robert Kurtzman, Gregory Nicotero and Howard Berger make up
KNB Effects, one of the most impressive and prolific special effects houses in
the industry. They’ve worked and built a
niche for themselves in an industry dominated by the talents of Rick Baker, Tom
Savini and the late Stan Winston, which, in itself, is no small feat.
First and foremost, it’s obvious that the KNB Effects House
is made up of people who love movies; it’s evident in their intricate and
homage infused work. But with such an
intimidating and strong filmography, which films contain KNB’s most effective and
Look no further than this truncated Top 5 list of the best KNB
5: The Hills Have Eyes
After making a splash with the French language horror film Haute
Tension, Alex Aja turned his sights on remaking Wes Craven’s classic The
Hills Have Eyes.
Aja kept Craven’s “good people forced to do bad things”
scenario intact, while also emphasizing the monstrous appearance of the antagonistic
mutant family. With the help of Nicotero
and his cohorts, KNB’s effects shocked and disturbed, elevating the film above your
average quick cash-in remake. Each
member of the mutant family was given a unique physical characteristic that helped
develop their personality, merely alluding to the atrocities they must have endured
in order to turn out that way. From that
point on, the viewer begins to paint a grotesque backstory of these characters in
their head that definitely makes the experience much more frightening and
And let’s not forget Big Brain, the most memorable of all
the mutant clan.
KNB’s work in Grindhouse shows two different sides of
their talent; the in your face nature of gore and the much more subdued,
disturbing side of it.
For the first half of horror/exploitation double bill, KNB
brought Robert Rodriguez’s zombie story Planet Terror to life. Filled with blood, puss, mucous and a plastic
bag filled with severed balls, KNB harkened back to the carefree, un-PC, good
old days of 1980’s horror movie gore. It’s
gross, but it’s a fun sort of gross; so absurd that you can’t help but cheer
with excitement when it goes even more over the top (and it does quite
often). Nothing show stopping here, just
On the opposite end of the spectrum we have Tarantino’s
contribution to the double bill, Death Proof.
At first, KNB’s work in this story about a psycho who uses his muscle car
in place of a butcher knife is deceptively simple. But look a little closer. Jarring glimpses of severed limbs grace the
screen on more than one occasion, while bones shatter, crack and snap in half
as they meet glass and metal. If you
want further proof of KNB’s talent, just look at the moment in which Stuntman
Mike crashes head on with the film’s first quartet of female victims.
3: The Cell
Tarsem’s The Cell is one of the most underrated films of
2000. The story of a psychologist who
enters the mind of a comatose serial killer in order to find his latest victim
was one of the most intriguing cinema going experiences I’ve had in the past
The look of the film is what sets it apart from all
others. Tarsem is one of the most
visually gifted filmmakers working today and his talent perfectly fits that of
KNB. The alternate physical
personalities that psycho Vincent D’Onofrio changes into throughout the film
are haunting, yet alluring. KNB
beautifully captured what a madman would think of himself in his own narcissistic
and egotistical mind.
For me, though, it’s the moment in which D’Onofrio slowly
pulls out another character’s intestines using a medieval torture device that
grabbed my attention (and turned my stomach) to the work of KNB.
2: From Dusk till Dawn
Another Rodriguez/Tarantino collaboration, this time telling
the tale of a unique western/vampire horror hybrid. Vampires allow any special effects magician
to truly let their imaginations run wild.
In the form of From Dusk til Dawn, KNB didn’t disappoint.
Whether it’s creating a gargantuan vampire in the form of
Danny Trejo, a weasly pathetic vampire in the form of Cheech Marin or a
slithering goddess of pain in the form of Salma Hayek , KNB pulled out all the
stops. Gore flows in abundance, while
your eyes try to take in all of the little nuances (yes, there are quite a few)
that the effects house threw in for fun.
And how about Tom Savini’s cameo?
Without a doubt, his transformation into a rat-like vampire from hell
still makes me smile from ear to ear.
From Dusk til Dawn may very well be what KNB is remembered
1: The Mist
Was I the only one who was tickled by the collaboration
between director Frank Darabont and the KNB crew? Sure, almost everyone knows Darabont because
of his successful adaptations of Stephen King’s The Shawshank Redemption and The
Green Mile. But I remember him from his
days of writing A Nightmare of Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, The Fly II and The Blob; severely flawed horror flicks, but ones that reveled in gristle and
grue and true genre storytelling.
KNB’s work on The Mist starts off as quite subdued, but
once the creatures come out of the mist to play, the effects team’s true talent
comes to the forefront. The crew plays
with our imaginations, making us wonder what really is out in the mist. What are those tentacles attached to? Where did those big bugs come from and is
there something bigger that feeds off of them?
And what exactly is causing that earth shaking rumble?
The Mist is a culmination of KNB’s best work to date. It’s subtle, yet in your face. It pays homage to the great monster films of
yesteryear, but also creates a few of their own monsters that will last in our
nightmares for years to come.
KNB is good at what they do because they know that special
effects aren’t the be all and end all of a story; rather, effects help drive
the story forward. And like some of the
best storytellers, KNB has the ability to make us believe in the impossible.