An old truck stop hotel that’s seeing a second life as a paint ball complex may seem like a strange haunting ground for special effects artist Shane Morton. Yet once inside the doors of his Silver Scream FX Lab, it transports visitors to another realm, one that gives birth to monstrous creatures painted, sculpted and built by the hands of Morton and his crew.
The Silver Scream FX Lab, located just outside of Atlanta, churns out a barrage of creations for film, TV, commercials, music videos and special events. It’s where Morton and company blast their airbrushes, sling paint, handcraft props out of clay, and strike many o’ mold.
Since 2013, Morton’s been serving as the makeup department head and lead special makeup effects artist for the Adult Swim TV series “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell,” basically “The Office” for the damned. Other projects that have rolled out of the lab include creature creations and effects for several Mastodon music videos; the gore found in indie horror flicks “Dear God No!” and the upcoming “Frankenstein Created Bikers”; and the twisted cat puppet Smarf that Morton and co-hort Chris Brown built for the Adult Swim viral video “Too Many Cooks.”
Silver Scream FX Lab may be an effects studio, but it looks more like a museum. A massive three-headed Cerberus offers its cartoonish, canine gaze to passersby. Fantastic latex masks literally overflow from shelves and cases. A melted-face zombie buddies next to a gorilla mug. The jagged teeth of a jumbo reptilian alien mask look less intimidating than the demonic baby heads half its size.
Turning the Lab into museum is exactly Morton’s plan. The idea, he says, is for it to become a tourist destination, a roadside attraction for rabid horror and sci-fi fans. A 3D trek through Hades is already up and running, the appropriate eternal resting place for “Pretty Face” props.
Morton hopes to have the attraction finished by the summer. In the meantime, he’s holding special effects make-up classes. The next one, an exercise in the basics, drops March 20.
The class, which costs $150, includes a professional make-up kit. Each student walks away with a stash of the essentials, including water-based face paint, spirit gum, crepe hair, liquid latex, stage blood and more.
Morton’s interactive, six-hour class teaches wannabe monster makers face painting techniques, and how to create bruises and wounds. Students also whip up a latex zombie face and learn how to transform an average Joe into a howling good werewolf.
Those interested in taking a creature-creating vacation and visiting the Silver Scream FX Lab can learn more by visiting its Facebook event page.
Can make the trip? Here are a few creature feature tricks of the trade from Morton himself.
Doing the robot:
“I did a big job for Adult Swim where we built all of these giant robots. The bulk of the material we used were old Rubbermaid trash cans and different gallon jugs. We just cut them, drilled holes in them and ran zip ties through them, assembled them and spray painted them all silver. We used vacuum tubing for arms. Those robots were pretty impressive, and they were made on a shoestring. So you can build a giant robot and have it standing in the yard, or you can put someone inside it and have them scare people.”
Pour some syrup on me:
“I always recommend Karo syrup for blood. It’s thick, and it moves and looks like blood. But a lot of people don’t like it, because it’s sticky, it can cause a mess and it’s hard to clean up. When it dries it gets hard like candy. But nothing really tops that for me. Sometimes to cut down the shine you might want to add a bit of corn flour. You can even add chocolate syrup and mint flavoring to make it more palatable in your mouth. You want to use red food coloring, but blood isn’t really red, it’s dark brown. So the trick to make your blood look realistic is putting a couple of drops of green in there to darken the blood.”
"Growing up on St. Simons Island in a family without a whole lot of money, we had to think creatively. My all-time favorite costume was Lon Chaney from “London After Midnight.” My dad ran to the five-and-dime store and bought a sheet of black poster board to make a top hat. He cut a set of fangs out of a milk jug. We didn’t have money for make up, so he just burned a cork, and darkened my eyes and raised my cheek bones up. I had a black trash bag as a cape with the bat wing shapes cut out at the bottom. It was really scary and kind of like magic. He made this thing happen and might have spent 25 cents on the whole project. And in my mind I looked just like Lon Chaney."