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Go behind the scenes as Universal Studios Hollywood prepares for Halloween Horror Nights

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Published: September 7, 2011 at 4:51 PM

Universal Studios Hollywood this morning invited local reporters backstage for a look at preparations for Halloween Horror Nights 2011. I talked with Creative Director John Murdy, who shared his thoughts about the enduring appeal of horror as a genre, and offered a comparison between the event in Los Angeles and its sibling at the Universal Orlando Resort.

While I spoke with John, my wife wandered the room, taking photos and speaking with some of the make-up artists whose work will help bring Halloween Horror Nights to life. Murdy reminded us that while movie make-up artists might take hours to prepare a single actor for scene, Universal Studios Hollywood has to apply make-up to hundreds of scareactors each night, forcing the creative team to find ways to streamline the design and application process for each scareactor, while retaining a movie-quality look.

Most people use makeup to detract from their bloodshot eyes, but here, the bloodier the better. Stacy Smith applies water-based red stage paint on Justin Delk's face to make him into "Scalped Jerry." His scalped head is sculpted silicone, which was made in a shop, well before the make-up process began. It takes 10 to 30 minutes to properly apply the "blood" to both his face and his silicone "hat."

Scalped Jerry

You know those pictures the dentist uses to scare you into brushing your teeth? That aesthetic -- call it "decorative dental decay" -- is the goal for Jenn Rose, Mask and Fabrication Supervisor, who paints blood and gore into the teeth. The actors don't have to wear the teeth in their mouths, instead, the teeth are secured into the masks. Halloween Horror nights requires about 150 masks, and they started making them at the end of June.

Decorative dental decay

Veronica Rodart paints a prosthetic mask, using alcohol-based paint. These masks are different from others, in that actors affix them straight onto their faces. Though they take much time and effort to make, these masks go in the trash after one use, as the edges can't survive being put on and taken off. This means a new mask every night, for every actor, for 20 nights! Rodart said they have to start in June in order to finish the some 1,800 prosthetics required for Halloween Horror Nights.

Prosthetic mask

Kris Kobzina transforms Minerva Mendez into La Llorona, the "Weeping Woman" from the Latin American legend about a mother who, abandoned by her lover, kills her own children by drowning them. Legend has it that she still wanders the earth as a ghost, bewailing their loss. "La Llorona" will roam Universal Studios Hollywood, as she did last year, during Halloween Horror Nights 2011.

La Llorona

The craziest wig that Anissa Salazar said she has made so far for Halloween Horror Nights was the "mud wig," which required mixing up cotton balls, acrylic paint and dirt into it to create a seriously messed-up mop.

Mud wig

Wig Mistress Salazar started in mid-spring on the 100 wigs for Halloween Horror Nights 2011. Her creations are based on artwork drawn for each character, and based on that she cuts, colors, curls, and adds to wigs to create the right look. The hair department also does all the beards and mustaches and creates back-up wigs.

For more: Universal's Halloween Horror Nights 2011 runs select nights between September 23 and October 31. Tickets are on sale from $37-$62 at Universal's website, including a Front of Line ticket option (priced between $69-$99, and includes event admission). Prices vary by night selected.

Laurie Niles contributed to this report.

Readers' Opinions

From Lucas Lee on September 7, 2011 at 6:13 PM
YAY!!!!!!! HALLOWEEN HORROR NIGHTS!!!! ITS GONNA BE AMAZING THIS YEAR!
From Anthony Murphy on September 7, 2011 at 8:17 PM
I always thought this was an excellent marketing ploy! Universal really knows how to put on a Halloween event. I have seen a bunch of videos from a few years ago and I always love to hear how they actually think out the scares.
From 76.175.66.255 on September 8, 2011 at 8:26 AM
Amazing Work ! I never new how much work was put into Halloween H Nights ... Can't wait for opening day !! OceanNsun ;)
From M. Ryan Traylor on September 8, 2011 at 11:08 PM
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, CA is having it's first ever Haunted Maze attraction (in addition to the house) this year. It's being put on by Universal Studios and Lionsgate.
From 69.232.50.34 on September 9, 2011 at 9:21 PM
Yay! For the first time in two years, I will not be going to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Hollywood. It's not worth going to if "Saw" is not going to be a part of it. The only good place to go to is the "House of 1000 Corpses". So in other words, Universal HHH is going to be like any theme park with scary zones, mazes, and rides. Without any movie themed scare areas, it's not going to be unique compared to other theme parks. I have a season pass to Magic Mountain. I might as well go there instead to have fun both daytime and nighttime.
From Annette Hatch on September 10, 2011 at 8:21 AM
Yup, I'm still excited about it! I got my pass holder little promo book, and have to RSVP for the early entry. :) That was a really neat article. Personally, I am looking forward to "The Thing", since I am a huge fan of the super campy version of it. Also can't wait for the Poe house.

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