Thursday, August 29, 2013

Behind the screams of Halloween Horror Nights 2013 as Universal Studios Hollywood previews their crazed characters

The creepy creatures of 2013 were unearthed yesterday by Universal Studios Hollywood during their annual makeup and costume press preview event.

On hand were Horror Nights creative director John Murdy and longtime horror makeup artist Larry Bones to discuss how this year they are bringing to life familiar fiends from AMC's "," "," and "" along with original creations for haunted houses , , and .

Also among the makeup artists demonstrating their techniques was Laney Parkhurst from Syfy's "Face Off," one of the creators of the show's winning "Future Frankenstein" designs that will be duplicated for Halloween Horror Nights.

Watch the two videos below for an over view of the makeup and costuming process, including this year's return of "The Walking Dead," followed by a closer look at each of the designs.


Every year the artists behind the many makeups and costumes that play important roles in shaping Halloween Horror Nights push themselves as far as they can go, developing elaborate masks, prosthetics, appliances, and outfits for their "scareactors" to don each evening while pursuing their theme park victims all in the name of fun.

"The Walking Dead" has the biggest presence at this year's event, both in Hollywood and Orlando, even with no particular new look to latch onto from the latest season. "Being that it's based on season 3, there really aren't any iconic walkers from that," explained makeup artist Larry Bones. "There wasn't any 'Bicycle Girl' or 'Well Walker' or anything along those lines." But there will be around a dozen familiar walkers featured in the haunted house, Terror Tram, and scare zone based on the hit AMC TV show, each requiring lengthy multi-step makeup processes.

The walkers will be reaching out to new areas of the park. "We've been doing Terror Tram since I brought Horror Nights back in 2006," said creative director John Murdy. "What's different this year is that we're taking guests to a new part of the backlot as well, which is the area of the backlot we call our metro sets." And there the streets will be filled with the recognizable undead as guests make their way between mazes.

But zombies are old hat for the Horror Nights team. This year's difficulties lie in the replication of characters from the recent "Evil Dead" film, also spanning both coasts' events. "It's going to be our biggest challenge by far because we've got the character Demon Mia and we're using Pros-Aide Transfers," said Bones. "She's got up to nine different appliances glued to her so it's going to be quite a challenge for us this year."

Model BriarRose Galla sat patiently while her detailed Demon Mia look was applied, layer by layer, over the course of nearly two hours. This will be a nightly occurrence throughout the run of Halloween Horror Nights.

But Mia wasn't the only one of the unfortunate visitors to that creepy cabin in the woods afflicted by evil. Among the most memorable moments from "Evil Dead" was when Olivia turns her knife on herself, slowly slicing open her cheek. The results of that horrific happening will also be part of Hollywood's maze.

For both "The Walking Dead" and "Evil Dead," Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando discussed how each coasts' events would offer experiences based on these franchises. "We get together early on, both teams, and talk about what we're thinking about doing for the coming year," said Murdy. "Sometimes we join forces on certain properties, sometimes we don't. We joined forces this year on 'The Walking Dead' and 'Evil Dead.' It was cool this year - we all saw the movie together, for 'Evil Dead', and we all came back here and brainstormed together, which was kind of new. We've never really done that before. Then we go our own ways and come up with our own scenes." From there the experiences diverge, allowing visitors to each event to experience something different and unique.

For the return of the Universal Monsters Remix maze, Universal Studios Hollywood enlisted the help of designers on Syfy's hit TV show "Face Off" to create new looks based on Frankenstein's monster and his bride. The winning team included Laney Parkhurst, a big Horror Nights fan who also worked the event last year. Having her design featured at the event is a top honor for her. "It's probably the best feeling in the world," Parkhurst admitted. "I can't even explain how awesome it is. It's a dream come true."

While applying her winning makeup at this preview event, she added that her time on "Face Off" was fun but exhausting. "It's very stressful, but at the same you almost don't have time to be stressed. It's just go go go. They definitely keep you very busy."

With Parkhurst's assistance, it was easy for Larry Bones to adapt the design from the show to Halloween Horror Nights. "It wasn't that much of a challenge because I knew how it was constructed," said Bones. And working with someone from "Face Off" wasn't novel either. "We've had probably three or four of the people who have worked for me have been on 'Face Off' before, so it's nothing to me." It just goes to show that Horror Nights employs the best of the business.

When fully assembled, these characters are sure to creep out everyone who attends Halloween Horror Nights beginning next month.

But beyond this set of five prominently displayed during the preview, many more creatures will lurk in the shadows of Halloween Horror Nights across its mazes and scare zones. Not every character receives hours of prosthetics, many donning custom created masks and hand-crafted costumes.

Among the most unique creations this year are the designs from El Cucuy: The Boogeyman. "It's really nice that it's an original character for Halloween Horror Nights so there were no limitations on what they could do with this," said Bones. "It's going to have really creepy elements."

Following in a series of mazes featuring rock music icons (previously Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper), Black Sabbath 13 3D will be one of Universal Studios Hollywood's first soundstage haunted houses, offering a chance to really play with the 3D concept. "We actually did about four to six weeks of just R&D, using every possible kind of UV glow-in-the-dark materials we could possibly find and just using them on any material we can, knowing what tools we had to work with," explained Bones. "If you've been in 'Alice Cooper' last year you'll notice that warmer tones like reds are going to seem like they're virtually floating in space. Where we've had that in the walls before they're now actually in the characters. So if the character has a blood drip it's going to seem like that blood is floating in front of your face. People will be swatting, trying to touch stuff that isn't there.

And why Black Sabbath? "I grew up with Black Sabbath," said Murdy. "I actually didn't know them when my partner Chris Williams suggested the idea to me." From there, the team used connections in the horror and rock music worlds to begin discussions with the legendary band. Ultimately, it was a surreal experience for Murdy. "About a month or so ago I was with them in Texas and it's pretty wild to sit here and go, 'Oh yeah, Ozzy Osbourne. I listened to you when I was in junior high.'"

Guests will face their fears at Halloween Horror Nights 2013 beginning September 20, continuing on select nights for several weeks, keeping an eye out for these creepy creatures, the results of countless hours of hard work by Universal Studios Hollywood's talented team of artists.


(Photos by Josh Daws)
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