It's a tradition for Ashley Westin and Tucker Lee to dress up for Halloween. Last year, with the assistance of a professional special effects artist, Lee was transformed into a decrepit old man. While he arrived at Paonia's costume parties too late for judging, everyone agreed he had a winning look.
In his creepy, wrinkly mask, Lee was unrecognizable, even to his friends and his dogs.
This year, Westin got the professional makeover, turning her face over to former special effects artist Rex Whitney, who was responsible for turning Lee into an old man.
Westin said she only remembers one Halloween in her 22 years when she didn't dress up, but this was her best costume ever.
Saturday afternoon, Whitney transformed Westin into Regan, the sweet little 12-year-old girl possessed by the devil in the 1973 classic horror film, "The Exorcist." Dressed in a period nightgown, her diminutive frame completed the costume.
Cue "Tubular Bells."
"It's something I've messed with since I was a kid," said Whitney, who spent about 10 years as a special effects artist in the movie industry. "I just have always loved this stuff."
Whitney got into the business "way back in the '80s." While living on the Front Range, he chanced upon the owner of a Fort Collins-based mask-making business and got a job. Whitney specialized in "derma camouflage," gaining his education from experience, including making many of the Halloween masks seen at Boulder's annual Halloween Mall Crawl, and by studying the book, "The Art of 3-D Makeup."
In 1987, Whitney went to work for FX West, a special effects company out of Denver that is still in operation.
His biggest credit was in working on the 1990 Dracula movie, "Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat," starring David Carradine as Count Dracula. He also helped on the set of "Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead." He jokes about hooking up with a group from Boulder to make "Cannibal The Musical," a 1993 low-budget flick about the ill-fated Alferd Packer party; and working with former Denver Bronco Lyle Alzado and actor Anthony Perkins in "Destroyer" in 2001.
Most of FX West's work at the time was through Denver-based Viacom. But after almost 10 years, Viacom pulled out of Denver. The move left several artists looking for work, and Whitney with a choice: He could follow the work and move to Los Angeles or Orlando, Fla., or he could stay in Colorado.
"It was Paonia or a big city," said Whitney. Once work ran out, "I opted to be done with it," he said. "What are you going to do with films here?"
Since 1995, Whitney has worked casting bronze sculptures for the Lands End Sculpture Center foundry.
Whitney reserves his talents for Halloween, and does this just for fun, although two weeks ago he worked the Zombie Prom at Mesa Theater in Grand Junction. "Oh, the girl that got bit in the cheek," he laughed recalling the benefit event. "Everybody hated that one."
The process begins with the making of the latex foam rubber mask. He employs the same process first used in "The Wizard of Oz," which is still used today, although silicone is the latest material, said Whitney. Despite advances, he prefers foam latex because of its light weight and its resilience, and because, unlike silicone, "It just hangs there all night long."
The process began in September with a clay cast of Westin's face. Whitney then created a negative from the cast, and between the two, he created the mask of Regan, including her puffy, pallid skin and its many deep, self-induced gashes.
A lot of technical steps go into the process, "but it's all about that," said Whitney, pointing to the light-weight, pliable mask.
Westin's transformation began with Whitney adhering the mask with a water-based "prosthetic adhesive." Working with a variety of materials he pulls from his box of tricks — Q-tips, sponges, glues and such — Whitney begins at the forehead, then attaches the nose, upper lip, cheeks and chin, and ends with the delicate eye area.
The trick is to avoid wrinkles, which can be a dead giveaway that it's only a mask. It's a lengthy process, in this case, about an hour and a half, but from then it goes quickly. "Once you get this on, it's, 'OK, now we can paint.' I love this part," said Whitney as he completed the final process of blending the mask's edges into the skin with latex.
He then switches from adhesives to makeup, with names like "Cinema Secrets" that come in a variety of flesh-and-blood tones.
Once the makeup was complete, he reached into his kit, grabbed a tube of KY Jelly and dabbed it into the gashes with a Q-tip to give them a fresh, oozy appearance. Westin also used it in her hair to give it a stringy, oily look. "KY's great stuff," he said, "and it's water-soluble. Washes right out."
Blair's character was in a state of decay, said Whitney, and so were her teeth. To complete her look, he painted Westin's pearly whites with a temporary enamel tooth coloring labeled "Decay."
To prepare themselves for their parts, Westin and Lee watched "The Exorcist." They visited local second-hand stores Saturday morning, where they found the perfect nightgown, and a trench coat for Lee's character. His clerical collar was crafted from poster board. Their biggest expense was Westin's tinted contacts, which were $40 each. Westin also cut her bangs a la Linda Blair, a hairstyle she hadn't worn since she was 6.
The costume won Westin the grand prize "Aluminum Fist" from Revolution Brewing, which, coincidentally, was created from melted aluminum cans and cast at Lands End Sculpture.
Westin admitted that her new look made her feel different, somehow. After gazing at her reflection, she grinned, her mask moving with her face. "I think I can do the possessed thing," she said with an evil laugh. "It's gonna be great." blog comments powered by Disqus