How ‘Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin’ made A even scarier

If you’re a Pretty Little Liars fan, you know that any text from the show’s anonymous tormentor, “A,” is enough to get you nervous. But in the Original Sin spinoff series, there’s a whole new level of dread with every cryptic message.

The HBO Max series, which wrapped up its first season on Thursday, introduces a whole new group of friends in a different city with their own A — ones out for blood. Original Sin, an expansion of the franchise based on Sara Shepard’s young adult novels, borrows from the slasher genre and stands apart from the original series and its two previous spin-offs, Ravenswood and Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists. away.

In the new series, five high school girls – Imogen Adams (Bailee Madison), Tabby Haworthe (Chandler Kinney), Faran Bryant (Zaria), Minnie “Mouse” Honrada (Malia Pyles) and Noa Olivar (Maia Reficco) – bond after A’s Torment brings her to prison and the beginning of A’s revenge for her mother’s past transgressions. The girls slowly discover the truth about their mothers and the other children at their school.

Co-creators Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and Lindsay Calhoon Bring wanted to keep Pretty Little Liars’ “DNA” but add a layer of horror to produce a fresh take. Paying homage to the slasher movies of the 1970s and 80s, they reinvigorated the franchise and embraced the A’s fear factor while maintaining their central focus on female friendships.

Bring, who grew up on horror fare like “Tales from the Cryptkeeper” and “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” came to Aguirre-Sacasa, whom Warner Bros. had asked to create a new version of “PLL,” and proposed suggesting that they would work together to incorporate the slasher element.

“I love slashers, [but] I had never done a slasher before. When she brought that up, I thought, ‘I can see that and I understand why I would be a person working on it,'” says Aguirre-Sacasa.

Along with the mystery of A’s identity and the conventions of teen drama, each episode prompted the pair to ask, “What’s the slasher horror set piece in this episode?” Aguirre-Sacasa recalls. To do this consistently, they looked for imagery and sequences that would give A that slasher villain thrill: the sight of a mysterious figure in a graveyard, a rooftop chase.

They also revamped A’s image. In previous iterations of Pretty Little Liars, A can be seen lurking in a black or red hoodie. This time they wanted to give A the full slasher movie treatment and create prominent “iconography” for the villain.

Five girls huddled together.

Bailee Madison, Chandler Kinney, Maia Reficco, Zaria, Malia Pyles in Episode 2 of Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin.

(Barbara Nitke / HBO Max)

“One of my favorite facts about ‘Friday the 13th.’ is that the mask isn’t introduced until the third film, but we all remember Jason with a hockey mask,” says Bring. She adds that people tend not to name horror movies after their titles, but after their main villains. For example Freddy Krueger in “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. The creators wanted something similar for A.

They initially suggested a generic animal mask like a jackal, but eventually reached out to director and celebrity production designer Lisa Soper to take the idea further.

“We really wanted to make sure there was only A,” says Soper. “I went through probably 30 or 40 different mask concepts.”

She looked at other iconic masks and narrowed them down to their common traits: no emotions, pale complexion, hidden eyes. She began “ripping back” emotional elements from her original designs, “deconstructing the mask and hiding who this person is”.

She landed on a flesh mask that “felt like it could have been victims he sewed together,” says Soper. Between the pieces of meat, the letter “A” is subtly stitched and highlighted with staples.

But while Aguirre-Sacasa and Bring drew liberally from popular horror tropes, they deliberately left one thing behind: the male gaze.

“When we went back to the films that we saw as teenagers, and probably before we were teenagers, you realize that most if not all of these films were written and directed by men and often objectify and exploit young women,” says Aguirre-Sacasa .

While celebrating the genre, they also wanted to criticize it. Aguirre-Sacasa recalls reading about the concept of the “last girl” in the horror genre in Carol J. Clover’s “Men, Women, and Chainsaws.” Audiences see the “last girl” tortured to the end – a victim of sadistic oppression and molestation. As an example, score points for the “gratuitous” shower scene in “Carrie.”

A girl staring down a hallway.

Bailee Madison in Episode 2 of Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin.

(Karolina Wojtasik/HBO Max)

Though Original Sin occasionally flips the script in more alarming ways, such as Tabby’s secret filming in the boys’ locker room, it also seeks to “empower” the show’s female characters through its aesthetic choices, says Soper. “Generally, when you’re filming a woman, you’re at a slightly higher angle, looking down at her. With those girls…we would lower the camera a bit and look up.” She also assigned each girl an iconic weapon. Imogen was the knife, Tabby was the hammer, Farren was the bow, Noa was the shield, and Mouse was the trap.

“These girls could play with them individually and have them use that symbolism to make their characters fight the slasher villain,” says Soper.

And while this new iteration strays far from its predecessors in terms of genre influence and tone, the team behind Original Sin believe it lives up to the beloved original — particularly in terms of maintaining the bond between the girls.

“We love the Pretty Little Liars original,” says Aguirre-Sacasa. “We wanted to honor them and create something that fans old and new can enjoy without thinking, ‘Oh, you took this thing I loved and kind of denied it or smashed it or remade it.'”

slotted it but? That’s a different story.

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-08-19/pretty-little-liars-original-sin-hbo-max-slasher-genre-a-explained How ‘Pretty Little Liars: Original Sin’ made A even scarier

Sarah Ridley

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