Friday, October 16, 2009

Halloween Props Part IV

(continued from yesterday)

In which I put nasty things in a box, and the true extent of my sickness is revealed.

One of the projects I had planned was a half of a zombie sticking up out of the ground, preferably with a motorized 3-axis skull on top and a grunty voice track. Due to budget constraints, the motorized skull was out. The natural solution to what to put in the toe pincher was to combine these two projects, and have a zombie peeking out of the coffin.

A big part of what I really wanted to do with the zombie was "corpsing"...taking a dry skeleton and making it look all meaty and greasy and rotten.

First step: a skull and a couple of skeleton hands.You can find these at a lot of Halloween supply shops, or buy direct from the Anatomical Chart Company, who I think makes them. They are designed primarily for lab/MD office/school use, but ones that are of lower quality (missing parts, discolored, etc) they sell cheap. They are perfect for this project.

Next: I pulled out a few of his teeth, removed outward-facing hardware (clasps that hold on the skullcap, etc, but not the springs that hold the jaw on...different tactic there). There are a lot of parts that come off for inspection (the entire faceplate from mid-eye to lower nose comes off so you can see the sinusus). Those got glued in place as well as a couple of bits that had broken off in shipping, and rough, machined edges got sanded.

While skull-shopping, I also picked up a liter bottle of liquid latex. This stuff is awesome. You can do fun stuff with it. I had heard that you can paint it directly on your skin to make kind of faux-clothing (go ahead and google that, but you may want to wait until you get home from work...), and my daughters and I played around with making gloves out of it. Really fun stuff.

Anyway, here comes the fun part, in handy instruction list form:

1. Lay down paper. This stuff is messy. Do not wear latex gloves--latex sticks to latex, and you'll have five pound hands before too long.

2. Unroll a cotton ball. Betcha didn't know cotton balls are actually rolls, did you? Me neither. Look closely, you'll see the spiral pattern. Find a gap and unroll...very easy.

3. Soak the cotton with latex and slather it on the skull. It really is that simple. It's messy and kind of unwieldy, but once you get it stuck to the skull, you can smear it down and smooth it, shape it, do all kinds of cool things. Some people put plastic eyeballs in the skull, I chose to go more corpse-realistic and took some of the dried latex that stuck to my fingers and jammed it in the eye sockets and nose hole to look like dried skin and cartilage. I really wish I would have filmed this part. Next year, I'll do a full video tutorial if I do another one. Try to stick with how muscle and sinew naturally lay on the body--how an eyelid pulls across the socket, how the jaw muscle goes behind the outer edge of the eye socket. Be sure to cover up the springs with latex (conveniently, I think that's where a muscle or tendon or something is, it looks very natural covered up)

Same procedure with the hands, with one exception: they have to be posed first, as this stuff dries hard. I had to climb into the casket holding the skeleton hands and pose in the way that I thought my actor would be--climbing out, reaching for the next victim (or, if you have a more optimistic viewpoint, a senior citizen asking for help from the nice young folks visiting). So: pose them where you want them, and apply the latex cotton. You can apply as much or as little as you goal was to show meat and facial structure as well as exposed bone.

4. Let it dry overnight. Even at this stage, it looks pretty damned impressive, I think. A few years back, Amy and I drove to L.A. to see the BodyWorlds exhibit (they have a similar show here in Vegas now, I think at the Luxor), where plastinated corpses are displayed in various poses. This stuff looks just like that--very much like un-dyed turkey jerky.

5. Paint. There are a lot of ways to go with this. Some folks use dark wood stain, some use diluted black or brown or green paint, some hand paint the whole thing in detail. I wanted to use materials I had around the house to get the right texture and color, and ended up mixing black paint and cherrywood stain, about 1:3 I guess. The two didn't mix well, but it gave it a nice splotchy, uneven look. The only thing I didn't like was that 1. toward the bottom of the paint cup it got dark and gloopy without warning, and 2. the end result was shiny (which looks wet, so it isn't too bad, I guess, just not how a 20 year dead corpse would look)

6. Body. This part was pretty easy: pick up 12 feet of 1" PVC and some 45°, 90°, and H connectors and put them together in the rough shape you want. Add thrift store clothes. Once you get the forearms the correct length, cut notches in the pipe and slip the hand in, attach with a bolt. Apply more latex cotton and stain just like with the skull and hands to cover the pipe (same with the neck). I used a little bit of stain on the cuffs and collar to make it look like decaying corpse juice soaked into the fabric.

7. Sound. An old set of computer speakers, an iPod, and some zombie sounds from the internet, cleaned up and gapped for consistency. I also added some lights in the casket for highlights and ambience (red, but I may switch to green).

And there we are: Jerkyboy. The video clip is my first live test with him done with lighting (hard to see on the vid) and the lightning box running in the background.

There are a couple more projects that I may or may not have time for...if so, of course I'll post. Otherwise, I'll get some good HD video and more pix of the big day up after Halloween. Hope you've enjoyed so far, with you could be here to help scare the pants off of the neighbors.


Natalie L. Sin said...

Fantastic : )

Aaron Polson said...

The video really helps set the mood. Where did you find those groans/moans/howls?

Jeremy D Brooks said...

Thanks Nat

Aaron: I was going to try and make my own, but after about ten minutes of Googlin', I found a site that had a bunch. I think they are mostly from video games featuring zombies, so I had to edit out a lot of "zombie gets hit with crowbar" and "sexy nurse zombie coos" (not making that one up) type sounds. They were embedded in a flash file so I had to do some data wranglin' to get them out.