A gore fest for the spooky season

Longing for a truly seasonal experience, our Hallowqueen, Caomhán Keane, gets his face slapped into shape by SFX specialists

A gore fest for the spooky season

Longing for a truly seasonal experience, our Hallowqueen, Caomhán Keane, gets his face slapped into shape by SFX specialists

Caomhán Keane becoming ‘Twisty’ the clown from the television series ‘American Horror Story’ at the Make Up Bar in Dublin. Pictures: Moya Nolan
Caomhán Keane becoming ‘Twisty’ the clown from the television series ‘American Horror Story’ at the Make Up Bar in Dublin. Pictures: Moya Nolan

Halloween may have been adopted by the gays as their version of Christmas, but the community are also responsible for inspiring one of its more tedious tropes. The ‘naughty’, ‘slutty’ or in some way under dressed nurse/cop/ whatever profession floats your libidinous boat. Where once our ancestors donned the pelts and decapitated heads of animals to ward of malevolent spirits, now malevolent spirits are downed and taking clothes off has replaced putting masks on.

This isn’t a piece decrying the supposed loose morals of a generation. People should be free to adorn their own bodies with however little clothing they desire. And I’m sure plenty of people use the evening to experiment with their sexuality through apparel, a safe time and place where not that many questions will be asked.

It’s just a pity that such a great chance to express our individuality has become so clinically wanton, where any hint of transgressive thought, political sentiment or creative daring is lost in a sea of mass produced sexy witch, fireman or Handmaid costumes. This baring of skin at Halloween wasn’t always so eye-rollingly trite. Its seed was sewn in 70s New York, where the sexual revolution sparked by second wave feminism and the gay civil rights movement resulted in LGBT people wearing provocative drag costumes at the Greenwich Halloween Parade, reflecting their growing sexual freedoms in outrageous and gender bending garb.

From women dressed as cowboys, to men dragged up as mermaids, lipstick containers, ballet dancers and peacocks, Halloween allowed them to exaggerate their desires and put them on show, without fear of reprisal.

It was soon attracting crowd of up to 250,000.

As always, big business took notice and gay culture was appropriated. By 2006 95% of premade female costumes had a ‘flirty edge’ to them, and, in spite of the hopes of companies like 3 Wishes — who are attempting to lead a sexy revolution for male outfits, men didn’t follow suit.

Things are getting better. As movements like #MeToo gain momentum, the public become more conscious of hypersexualisation and objectification while the appearance of more strong female characters on the small and silver screen has created demand for outfits that are more empowering and less revealing.

Films and shows like American Horror Story and IT have helped the horror genre retain a more visual bent, so more and more people are leaning towards gory and imaginative costumes, which layer makeup and prosthetics on, rather than peeling clothes off.

I’m a Halloween freak, but monetary and time concerns have stifled my imagination in recent years. My costumes have been on a lethargic descent from controversial to kooky to rehashed, as a store bought sailor suit went from sexy (in my own mind) to gory (a dead sailor) to disheartening, when my Pop Eye was mistaken for the Michelin Man.

I’m also dyspraxic, so attempts to make myself up (without help) left me with a face resembling a Picasso painting being pushed through flesh, while a host of homemade materials ended up attached to my body, looking like litter moistened by slime.

More often than not I just appropriated my mother’s wardrobe to prance around as ‘generic woman’, which may have been my first step to coming out of the closet…or to emulating Norman Bates.

So I was delighted to discover that The Make Up Bar, in Dublin’s Temple Bar, offers a transformation service specially catered for the spookiest night of the year. “We’ve been doing it ever since we opened in October three years ago,” Lisa Thompson, owner and salon manager tells me. “There is a massive demand for it. We shut down the makeup school out the back for the weekend before, which means we can facilitate 30 people at a time. Last year we were in at 10am in the morning and we got out at midnight.” Their primary age group is 22-40, and is split evenly between men and women. “In the past few years we have seen a move away from people wanting to still look pretty or sexy (though that would still be our largest audience) to those embracing the gore or character make up.” Among her favourite looks was doing the staff of a local hair salon up as deranged versions of Wizard of Oz characters and a girl who put her own twist on Darth Maul from Star Wars by adding braids.

Cuts, scrapes and bruises can be easily added over normal makeup and cost around €49 for 60 minutes. Bigger looks, such as zombies and burn victims cost €69 for 75 minutes. While any look that uses latex, wax or prosthetics or extends beyond the face can take up to two hours and costs €75.

Ripped off noses, cheeks, eyes and skulls are also popular.

“We ask that you send on some snaps of what you are thinking beforehand, and if you are using SFX makeup we ask that you come in a little earlier for an allergy test so we can check out your skin.

“If people are unsure of what they want to be, we would be asking what the time frame and budget you have is, what the venue is like (indoors, outdoors, sweaty) and do you want to go full on gore or stay pretty. A lot of people opt for half and half.”

For the purposes of this article I have decided to go as Twisty the Clown from American Horror Story, a familiar face to show our readers that The Make Up Crew can do. I’ve also have a slight fear of the merry men ever since my babysitter exposed me to Pennywise the Dancing Clown and exactly one week later I was pinned to the ground by a huge blow up Ronald McDonald that had slipped its bearings.

But I am delighted to hear that they can facilitate original looks and ideas and that dressing up is no longer confined to Halloween.

“During comic-com we have people coming in with characters they have created themselves,” Sarah Tonin, who is doing my makeup tells me as she whitens my face. “We have stags coming in looking for 80s looks and one that had a Beethoven theme. While one lad came in asking to be turned into a giant snake for Taylor Swift.” Having spent the last few weeks trying to banish the lines on my forehead using an anti-ageing cream, Sarah undoes all my hard work by drawing in the natural creases and folds of my face with black face paint, giving them depth.

I should freak out, but as she uses an SFX bruise wheel to add depth to eyes, giving me a sunken effect, I develop a narcissean obsession with my own reflection as I age 10 years.

“It’s gas,” Sarah tells me when I confide that she has made the next 20 years of my life seem less scary. “I can’t tell you how many stags we’ve had in here trying to make a fool out of the groom to be, and they always tell me ‘you were supposed to make him look worse, not better’.”

The feeling is fleeting, as she adds tissue and latex around the circumference of my face to achieve the look of ripped and textured skin, before a prosthetic made from sculpt gel is added to my face. The only thing worse than my ‘rotting teeth’ is the smell of the latex, which really is atrocious, alleviated only when she paints it with alcohol.

My cadaverous appearance stops foot traffic outside the bar’s window, as hoards of tourists double take and gawk on at my chilling appearance, and in spite of the two hours it took to put on, it’s all gone within 20 minutes as I attack my face with baby wipes, soaked in natural oils.

I ask Lisa for any parting advice? “Book ASAP. Slots for later in the day go quick. Since you are in town you can bring your costume with you and head out from here.”


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