Warning: The night is dark and full of spoilers. If you haven’t watched Season 5 of Game of Thrones yet, stop reading now.
The fifth season of Game of Thrones briefly turned into a straight-up horror film thanks to the doings of Episode 8, “Hardhome.” Featuring an attack by the White Walkers on the Wildling encampment known as Hardhome, it was in equal turns chilling, gruesome, and terrifying — and more than a little amazing. The sheer scope of the battle between the undead and the allied-by-necessity Night’s Watch and Wildlings was truly impressive. Though it’s obvious some of the fight had to have been created digitally, it’s so well done that it’s hard to see the seams. The blend of practical and visual effects doesn’t detract in the least from the viewing experience, and you can see how it all comes together in a VFX breakdown reel from El Ranchito.
The digital effects studio was responsible for selling the horror of Hardhome. Any poorly rendered moments would have taken away from the overall effect—that overall effect being, “Holy hell, Westeros is so screwed.” Their reel illustrates the amazing work they did to make the events feel authentic. Watch:
When I watched “Hardhome,” I was primarily focused on the immense numbers of the undead, and the Night’s King. But El Ranchito added so much atmosphere to the proceedings: the mountains, the swirling snow and lighting, the palette — each piece, no matter how small, played a part. Those effects were layered with the bigger ones in a way to make a giant look as real as a giant can look, and shattering a White Walker into dozens of shards. I’m simply floored.
Who wants to go watch “Hardhome” again?
Image Credit: HBO