“You get your notes and run with it.”
'Quiet Place Part 2' VFX supervisor says the aliens' origins don't matter
VFX supervisor Scott Farrar, who retires from the industry with 'A Quiet Place Part II,' reveals how the newest film refines its unforgettable monsters.
For the makers of A Quiet Place, the scariest part isn’t the heart-pounding scenes of terror where characters must stay silent to evade alien monsters — It’s making sure the aliens were scary at all.
“On the first film, we got all the way to plugging [the monsters] into shots, and it wasn’t scary,” VFX supervisor Scott Farrar tells Inverse.
“It didn’t look good. We were finished shooting and all of us were going, ughhh. We were scrambling.”
More than three years ago, Farrar, whose credits include The Chronicles of Narnia, World War Z, and the Transformers series, was on the set of A Quiet Place to advise freshman director John Krasinski on his first creature feature. For 2021’s A Quiet Place Part II, the two reunited to refine their aliens with oversized gooey ears — and it might be Farrar’s last work in Hollywood.
“He needed help,” Farrar remembers about that first movie. “He’s directing a big effects picture and he’s never done anything like it.”
Through producer Michael Bay, Farrar was dispatched by Industrial Light and Magic to assist the former The Office star.
“It was literally, ‘Go help the guy.’”
Through dozens of iterations, Farrar fleshed out the aliens that stalk A Quiet Place and its sequel, A Quiet Place Part II. It wasn’t easy. The first draft of the monsters failed to raise hairs, which left the team looking high and low for references that were unnerving.
“Someone came up with a bat,” Farrar says. “Bats have little back legs and long front legs. We borrowed on that anatomy. That’s how it started and that rolled into the second [movie].”
“Bats have little back legs and long front legs. We borrowed on that anatomy.”
One of the most memorable moments in the first Quiet Place, when the aliens’ ears are exposed, wasn’t thought of until a month before its release in April 2018. “It seems obvious now. But we got far along and then in production, [we said], ‘Hell, we gotta see the ear.’ There was a lot of pressure, and there wasn’t a lot of time before we had to wrap things up.”
“It’s always down to the last minute,” adds Farrar.
Working with painters and modelers, Farrar uses the word “medical” to describe the kind of yuck he looked for. “I wanted it to be slimy,” he says. “It drips, exposing the innards. John saw it and went crazy. His nerd side flipped out because it was right. It was gross and pulsing.”
All these ideas survive into A Quiet Place Part II. Picking up after the first movie, Part II sees the remaining Abbot family on a journey to find safety in a world that now belongs to a nameless species whose incredible hearing lets them pinpoint and hunt prey.
It wasn’t Farrar’s job to draw the aliens, but it was his job to make them come to life on the screen.
“My job was to design this thing in three-dimensional form,” he says. “Finish the details and be on set with the cinematographer and stunt people to figure how to frame it.”
While A Quiet Place is all about silence, in real life, making movies is “a lot of talking and planning.”
“John would get dressed in a marker suit and be a creature.”
A Quiet Place Part II is a refinement of ideas and expertise that Farrar and the filmmakers, among them Krasinski, producer Andrew Form, and animation supervisor Scott Benza, learned on the first movie.
“Everything got more refined for Part II,” Farrar says.
On the first movie, the filmmakers relied on people in green VFX suits “so the camera can compose correctly,” he says. “We shoot with and without [green suits] so it’s a clean pass afterwards.”
In a rare instance of directors being really involved, Krasinski dressed up too.
“John would get dressed in a marker suit and be a creature,” he says. “He had it in his mind exactly what he wanted that creature to do. Which is a huge help when the director knows what he wants. It makes it really easy.”
But for Part II, no suits were necessary, not even on Krasinski.
“Our technology had gotten to the point we all felt comfortable, John especially, that we didn’t have to have a guy in the suit,” Farrar says. “We had one on standby, but most of the time we shot without anyone [playing monsters].”
Farrar says Emily Blunt, who was familiar with VFX work through movies like the 2014 blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow, “was really good imagining where the creature would be.”
That’s not to say Part II was all smooth sailing, and one scene, in particular, became a VFX house of cards. Late in the film, the character Emmett (Cillian Murphy) finds a monster on a boat docked on an island full of noise-making survivors. While Part II reveals the aliens are averse to large bodies of water, one gets lucky and is rewarded with a feast.
“What was different about this film is working around a lot of actors,” Farrar says. “Especially that scene, people getting swatted left and right. We ended up putting a lot of animated ‘people’ and removing actual actors all over the place so the choreography would be better.”
Like all great creature features, A Quiet Place’s monster is sure to have a place in movie history. But even if audiences want to know more about these aliens and where they came from, Farrar cautions that isn’t the point. If anything, their origins rarely came up during their creation.
“Honestly, I never thought of it,” he says. “You get your notes and you run with it. Let’s be honest, you just need to make something that looks cool.”
New revelations about the aliens, such as their weakness to water in Part II, are instances of story dictating design.
“The idea they can’t swim is so the humans on the island think they’re safe,” Farrar says. “That’s part of the plot.”
In the age of cinematic universes and prequels on streaming services, A Quiet Place stands out for how un-expandable its universe is meant to be. “There’s room [to explore], but the question is: Do you want to?” says Farrar. “To learn any more [about the aliens] would have to do with the plot.”
An industry vet whose career began with the sci-fi film Foes in 1977, A Quiet Place Part II is Farrar’s quiet retirement. (He says his IMDb credit for Mission: Impossible 8 is incorrect.) With decades of knowledge, Farrar has a keen understanding of what works for horror moviegoers no matter what generation.
“What are these creatures gonna learn next? What horrific things are they able to do we haven’t seen? That’s how you keep the audience engaged. You come up with something new.”
A Quiet Place Part II is now playing in theaters.