Here's how the grotesque "corpsicle" from True Detective: Night Country was created

Have you been watching True Detective: Night Country? I have, and it's terrific—and absolutely haunting. 


I cannot stop thinking about the giant pile of frozen Tsalal researchers—the grotesque "corpsicle"—sitting in the middle of the ice rink, thawing out under the watchful eye of aspiring detective Peter Prior. It's just so…disturbing. It's haunting my dreams! I needed to learn more about it so I found a few great articles describing its inspiration and construction.

Director and writer Issa López explained to Entertainment Weekly that when imagining the corpsicle, she was inspired by rat kings, Gustave Doré's illustrations for Dante's Inferno, shrimp frozen into blocks of ice, and Mexican mummified bodies. This piece in Polygon provides more details about the inspiration for the corpsicle:

Among the influences they ultimately pulled in: 

"A shrunken head where the skin has started to pull back and reveal this mouth that's been dislocated or disjointed" (a work by Phil Hale, a López suggestion)

Berlinde De Bruyckere, a Belgian artist who sculpts "really violent sections that you have cutaways through, and you can see this kind of skin draped and stretched, and you're not quite sure whether it's part of a body you're looking at" 

Ringu — specifically "a reveal where they open a cupboard" (if you know, you know) 

The eternal anguish of Francis Bacon (the painter, not the lord chancellor of Britain)

A photograph of a baroque underwater dance to lend the whole thing a "sense of movement," as if this pile of bodies was merely paused in panic

Finally, this piece from The Ringer describes in detail how True Detective: Night Country prop designers Dave and Lou Elsey actually created the macabre piece. The process included creating individual sculptures based on each of the seven actors' actual (almost naked) bodies:

The Elseys met the actors at Pinewood Studios outside London, where one by one they stripped down to their underwear and acted out their particular pose of frosty agony in Pinewood's scanning facility.

They also worked from casts of the actors' heads, hands, feet, and teeth:

Again, they were asked to mime their painful demises—but this time with the added challenge of holding the pose while multiple layers of a silicone compound and a final plaster bandage to preserve the shape were applied . . . 

Once the shapes were constructed, they were painstakingly brought to life—I mean, frozen death: 

From there, the Elseys set about putting the finishing touches on the models: Lou specializes in the fabrication side of prosthetics, while Dave typically runs point on makeup effects. "We had to take very detailed photos of all of their hair, their hair direction, eyebrows, eyelashes, eyeballs, teeth color, the whole thing," says Lou.

Hairs had to be stitched into each prosthetic individually, down to beard hairs that were then shaved to create visible stubble.

To get the details of frostbitten flesh correct, The Ringer explains that the Elseys dove deep into frostbite research: 

They took to scouring medical papers and the internet at large for clues about the kind of horrific damage that a nude sojourn into an Alaskan winter might wreak on the human body.

I just have to say, everyone involved did an outstanding job. I can't wait to watch the rest of the season and see what becomes of the corpsicle!