‘Harry Potter’ countdown: Scaring up the Inferi

June 18, 2009 | 6:46 p.m.

Our countdown to the release of “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” continues today with Denise Martin’s feature on movie-magic specialist Tim Alexander and his Inferi hordes…  


You can’t see them in the picture, but in this scene from “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” creepy, crawling Inferi surround Professor Dumbledore. Inferi, of course, are the reanimated corpses, puppets of Lord Voldemort, residing at the bottom of the lake, near which one of the dark wizard’s horcruxes is hidden.

Tim Alexander, the visual effects supervisor at Industrial Light & Magic responsible for bringing the undead army to life, has worked on only the most haunting Potter creatures, from the fire-breathing Hungarian Horntail dragon in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire,” the skeletal horses called thestrals in “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and those soul-sucking dementors in “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Phoenix.”

Alexander said it took several months to complete the approximately seven-minute scene, from rendering millions of Inferi to whipping up Dumbledore’s flame tornado (best for combating meddling dead folks.) He took a break from working on Gore Verbinski’s upcoming animated adventure Rango” to tell us why he thinks “Half-Blood Prince” will be the first Potter movie to give even grown-up fans nightmares:

Tim Alexander ILM

DM: So how many Inferi lie in the lake?

TA: A couple million? Above water, you’d probably see about a hundred at a time. But when Harry gets dragged into the lake, there is a whole underwater environment…and it’s actually covered in bodies. It’s all just … bodies crawling on top of each other, and that’s how you get into the millions.

DM: That sounds … disturbing. Certainly, more so than the previous “Potter” films.

TA: It’s certainly much bolder and scarier than we imagined that they’d ever go in a “Potter” movie. Director David Yates was really cautious of not making this into a zombie movie, so we were constantly trying to figure out how not to make these dead people coming up look like zombies. A lot of it came down to their movement – they don’t move fast, but they don’t move really slow or groan and moan. We ended up going with a very realistic style. They move like anyone coming up out of water.

DM: How so?

TA: When we go underwater with Harry, this female Inferi kind of comes up and grabs him and is pulling him down, but it’s more like a hug. Like an embrace. Like she’s trying to encourage him to join them. We were always trying to avoid turning the scene into one you’d see in a horror film.

DM: You’re going to scare a lot of little kids.

TA: Yeah, I think it will.

DM: Tell me about how the Inferi look. How did the design come about?

TA: The art department on the film gave us a lot of references, like Dante’s “Inferno,” where they have all those bodies. The Inferi themselves are very skinny and emaciated people. Very humanoid, but way skinnier than humans could be. Waterlogged and gray. We used the old lady that comes out of the tub in ‘The Shining’ as a reference. Most of the Inferi are adult, but we did also build two children, too.

DM: Yikes. Parents, you’ve been warned…

— Denise Martin



“Half-Blood Prince” screenwriter tells of a “haunting moment” 

On the “Half Blood” set: A chat with Jim Broadbent

The Great Muggle Revolt of 2008

After the magic: Hollywood prepares for life without “Potter”

“Harry Potter” meets Christopher Robin? It’s “The Unwritten” 

STILL WANT MORE?  All Harry Potter coverage at Hero Complex

Photo credit: (top to bottom) Warner Bros.; ILM; Warner Bros.


14 Responses to ‘Harry Potter’ countdown: Scaring up the Inferi

  1. Celia says:

    Awesome!! The special effects on the Potter movies are always so Fabolous! They just get more advanced every film and they truly do some spectacular things like creating that Lake in Goblet of Fire and The whole prophecy room in Order of the Phoenix. I can't wait to see what they've done with Half Blood Prince. From what I've seen in the trailer it's going to be GREAT!!!

  2. Harrison G Potter says:

    Flash, instead of looking at "Dantes" Inferno for ideas concerning the Inferi, why not just read, the. . .frickin. . . . .. .BOOK? What a novel.. .. frickin. … … concept. Why do you Hollyweed jerkoffs continue to alter the story? The story is there. . . its been written for you. … . don't re-invent it. .. … . Follow the frickin direction, jerks.
    Biggest Gits in Hollywood
    1)David Heyman
    2)Steven Kloves
    3)Tim Alexander
    4)Alfonso Cuaron (porn director)

  3. jason says:

    i hate kloves, heyman and yates so much…….just faloow the book losers.

  4. RJ says:

    Be true to the story. I know you have too much creative input but the best reference is from J.K. herself. Trust her we all have. This is why you hollyweird types are getting so much revenue from these movie because we want you to bring her story to life not your's.

  5. MadMan Mark says:

    How scary can it be? The film only has a PG rating.

  6. Lindey Cloud says:

    Guess what went on sale today at the IMAX Century City (Los Angeles) 15 theatre? I got an IMAX ticket for HBP for July 15. The theater confirmed it's in 3D, but I've heard the screen isn't as big as the one at the bridge….oh well…..I've been trying to find out which IMAX theatre in LA was showing it when it opens in non-IMAX theaters. Now I (and you) know.

  7. Anya says:

    We can't expect it to be completely true to the novel. KREACHER is the one who gets pulled under (as he tells in Deathly Hallows) not Harry. Harry getting pulled under in HBP just adds to the intensity of the scene. Personally, I think that JKR did a great job of describing the intensity of one of the frackin' scariest HP scenes WITHOUT Harry being dragged under the water. I'm sure it'll be fantastic. I really hope they keep Kreacher's part in DH. He's vital in the search for the Horcruxes.

  8. Kayla Carter says:

    okay ive read all the hp books at least a hundred times and seen the movies that have out so far a hundred times i agree stick to the story and ull sell way and make millions more i already know that the 7th hp book is bing split in 2 bcuz ur 4 once sticking to the actual story bcuz J.K Rowling is making u her words were 'every part in this book is crucial so im not letting u take any part of it out' well, wat about all the otha movies and books there not as crucial as the 7th bcuz i think so
    That's all I have 2 say

  9. Gaurav says:

    i hate this
    why dont they just follow the books

  10. Jaye says:

    To Kayla Carter:
    I find it interesting that, after reading all the HP books at least a hundred times, that you still cannot grasp the concepts of spelling, grammar, and punctuation. One of the incredible things about JK Rowling is her incredible use of words to impart powerful images and strong emotion, while remaining accessible to young readers. I would hope that some of her skill would be absorbed by the reader in some form or another…. maybe…just a little?

  11. Mary says:

    Bravo Jaye. After muddling through Kayla's post I have to think that she's either too ignorant of basic writing concepts, too lazy to proofread (is that one word or two?), or thinks she's being "cool". I have the feeling that JKR would appreciate a little more effort from a fan considering the effort she put into the series.

  12. Veerle says:

    Well Mr Harrison,
    "Flash, instead of looking at "Dantes" Inferno for ideas concerning the Inferi, why not just read, the. . .frickin. . . . .. .BOOK?"
    Dantes Inferno IS a book!!! A century old piece of historic literature that has inspired thousands of writers and painters on their ideas and visions of hell and other inferno-like places. You bet J.K. has been inspired by or through it as well! A lot of her material isn't all that original, like many writers she digs up treasures of culture and literature and uses them again in a personal mix.
    So..if the filmmakers take inspiration from Dante, they only do what is obvious in this case.

  13. HPlover says:

    ohhhhh i cant wait till hp7 part 1 comes out! I love everything about the books and movies. Give me thumbs up if u love them like i do!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

E-mail It
Powered by ShareThis