I’m so stoked to announce that I had the honor of chatting with John Decker, the FuseFX VFX supervisor for the anthology series, American Horror Stories. I’ve been a huge fan of American Horror Story ever since it first aired and I’ve really enjoyed American Horror Stories as well, so it was fun to pick his brain and learn all the details that went into creating this series. Learn more about his career, his favorite AHS episodes, how they created the 7-foot demon, and more!
PopHorror – Hey John, how is 2021 treating you so far?
John Decker – Pretty good! Thank you for asking. I’ve been deep in American Horror for most of it, so it has been quite a ride.
PopHorror – I bet, so exciting! What is the best thing about working with VFX and is this something you always wanted to do?
John Decker – I love problem-solving, and visual effects provide a rewarding and fun way to scratch that itch and be creative at the same time. I started in VFX as an intern in college, so this is the job I always wanted, in fact, it’s the only career I’ve had!
PopHorror – Wow that’s amazing! Before the new American Horror Stories launched, which season of AHS was your favorite?
John Decker – I have not seen every single one, but my overall favorite was Season 4: Freak Show. I enjoy a lot of that vintage fringe culture, so a creepy circus was just up my alley, and that Twisty was some nice VFX work.
PopHorror – I agree! Was it fun to work on the same set for Murder House? That’s one of my favorite seasons.
John Decker – The house itself has its own kind of spookiness, I suppose some of that comes from calling it “Murder House” over and over! It is a big house, and there were a couple of times where I got a bit turned around. I live in an older home myself, so sometimes I would just wander around and geek out over the vintage fixtures and ornate wood paneling.
PopHorror – I would too! I know that the actual house in LA has changed over the last 10 years, so the team had a lot of work to make it look as it once did. Are you happy with the results? What all did that entail? I couldn’t tell any differences – it was perfect!
John Decker – One of the most visible changes is the large cedar tree in the front yard. It got sick and was cut down a few years ago after its appearance in Season 8. We wanted the house in the opening of the first episode to feel just like everyone remembered it from 10 years ago, so we re-created that tree and added it to the front yard. It felt as if it had always been there, which is the sign of a well-executed visual effect.
PopHorror – Wow that’s truly amazing! Can you tell us in more detail all that went into creating the 7-foot tall demon?
John Decker – The VFX team worked very closely with the SPFX make-up team lead by Jason Hamer. Working from the initial design, we collaborated on which parts of Ba’al would work best as prosthetics, and what would look best as a visual effect. We had a proxy setup for the wings when we were shooting, which were just some big green sticks that helped guide the actors blocking. They also allowed the camera operators to know how big they would be and where to look. We shot references of the room lighting and took measurements of the walls for casting the shadows from the wings. We color-matched all of our CGI wings to the painted prosthetic of the demon actor and put it all together.
PopHorror – I loved that design so much! Which episode was your favorite to work on and why?
John Decker – I really enjoyed Episode 3, at the drive-in. It was such a classic B-movie kind of story, and the big exterior night scenes with all the chaos were fun to watch and work through. Eduardo Sanchez, the director, was a great collaborator and a pleasure to work with.
PopHorror – I didn’t realize he directed that one. So cool! Anything else you’d like to talk about?
John Decker – It is always fun to work on a Season 1 of something, to help establish the look and feel of a show, and to whet the appetite for what’s to come. It was neat to have such a large back catalog of ideas and elements to pull from, but also to create brand new things in the American Horror universe. I’m finishing up Season 10 of AHS right now, and it’s a doozy!
PopHorror – Thanks for chatting with me and giving and our readers some insight on VFX and all the details that go into it. I love both American Horror Stories and American Horror Story, so thanks for all your work. Hope to talk to you again in the future!