Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruffe are well-known to fans of the Alien cycle of films. Woodruffe has played the principal ‘alien’ in every film since Cameron’s first sequel in 1986, and is a familiar face at conventions and a fascinating contributor to the 8 hours of documentary in the Alien Quadrilogy DVD set. Gillis instead takes a background role that keeps him a little further from the limelight and a lot further from the horrendous conditions under which Woodruffe has had to portray cinema’s most-feared extra-terrestrial.Inside The Monster Shop is effectively a scrapbook of the making of AVP:R from the point of view of the prosthetics technicians. Lavishly illustrated and divided into sections covering subjects such as the Alien, Predator and new ‘Predalien’, interspersed with blog-like contributions from those who created and interpreted the creatures in the film, prefaced with a reverential introduction from the Brothers Strausse, the directors of AVP:R.
Quirky entries provide amusement, such as the tale of the idiot who abducted an alien suit from the Canadian exterior shoot and quickly got caught trying to sell it online, as well as those pesky bloggers that provided blow-by-blow accounts of exterior night-shoots that were visible from their apartments during principal photography in late 2006.
The book contains reprints of the original ‘xenobiology notes’ that served Gillis and Woodruffe as a departure point for their contribution to the film and a series of accounts of the gruelling and rain-soaked night shoots that led lead alien Woodruffe to his customary pneumonia in pursuit of excellence in the role.
ITMS is possibly the last time you will ever hear anything good about Alien Vs. Predator – Requiem, and as such has a morbid novelty value. The book’s determination to plug the film as a valid entry in the Alien canon distracts from the more interesting descriptions of the conceptual and practical problems facing the technical ‘monster shop’ crew.
Ultimately it is the sheer awfulness of AVP:R itself that sinks the book’s respectful attitude to the canon and to H.R. Giger’s astonishing and original creation. To hear Gillis and Woodruffe talking about ‘respect for the fans’ in light of the derivative schlock that they turned out to be working on inspires both mirth and pity, since their work is in itself of the highest quality, and their association with a sequel this cynical is akin to finding Bogart in Lethal Weapon 12.
It would have been nice for the book to have included one complete progression of an artefact, prop or monster from design stage through to concept, execution and photography, or for the writers to have sacrificed a little of the comprehensiveness of the piece to the specifics of one particular problem (in the style of Cinefex), but the panoply of photos of armatures, moulds and animatronics are enough to engage anyone with an interest in the craft of making creatures.
Authors: Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruffe with Chris AyersPublisher: Titan Books Ltd (18 Jan 2008)ISBN: 1845769090Price: £11.99