People talk about running away to join the circus, but that’s never really been one of my fantasies. I’d much rather run away to join the prop makers, specifically, the geniuses at work at Midnight Studios FX.
Stepping into their booth at Monsterpalooza was like entering a surreal nightmare-topia filled with sneering demons, decomposing corpses and shaggy werewolves.
The monsters are hand-made in Arizona by fx artist Kyle Thompson. From there they find their way to haunted attractions and private collectors around the country.
“When I was a kid Halloween was about trick or treating and jack-o-lanterns and parties,” Kyle remembers, “and now it’s really gone to attractions, people go to attractions for Halloween.”
It’s easy to imagine Midnight Studio FX’s masks, props like their “Pile of Bodies”, and their life-size pose able figures lurking in the creepiest haunted houses. Despite being very busy during Halloween season filling orders, Midnight Studios FX still finds time to open their own haunted house in Mesa, Arizona called Monsterland. The attraction is high-end and filled with animated creatures. There are not many actors involved. Kyle strives to make the visitor “feel alone with the machinery a lot.”
Growing up Kyle loved Halloween and was inspired by series like Creepshow, Tales from the Darkside and the Twilight Zone. He favors comedy or fun horror over dark psychological and gorey horror. He is a fan of Walt Disney and Tim Burton and tries to instill a similar spirit in his own work. “I could be a lot darker with the designs,” Kyle says, “but I try to bring a lot of smiles into them.”
His favorite film is Evil Dead II. “I think it’s possibly one of the best horror movies ever made for the money,” Kyle said. “It’s just as entertaining as a 300 million dollar movie, as far as I’m concerned, and it was made with a very low budget. And the people that were responsible for it are my friends now. I have a really good relationship with Bob Kurtzman, so I’m really just happy to be doing this.”
“I don’t have to be the best sculptor or anything,” Kyle continues. “I just try to do what I can to make what I would like in my collection. And I’m really thrilled that people like what I bring to it.”
What Kyle brings to it is an eye for storytelling and original designs. While he’ll do figures and props that are loosely based on other people’s designs, he does not do replicas. With help from his wife Breanna, he imbues his characters with mischief, texture and ghastliness.
Breanna was introduced to the work through Kyle. Before meeting him, she was unaware of the craftsmanship and time put into masks and props. Now she works alongside him in the lab doing hair work and features.
“My favorite thing would probably be finishing things,” Breanna says, “putting the final touches on stuff: torn up dresses, and messed up wigs, and all the wrappings on our mummies, that’s all the fun stuff.”
Both Kyle and Breanna love the creative process.
“I watch Kyle sculpt not having any reference or any ideas,” said Breanna, “it’s all in his mind and he creates it as he goes. And I think that that’s the most interesting part about monsters is that somebody created every monster that you see, it came from somebody’s idea – somebody’s mind – somebody had to build it.”
For anyone looking to get started in effects prop making, Kyle strongly recommends Jordu Schell’s sculpture class in Van Nuys, California and Dick Smith’s online course. “You have to have a lab,” says Kyle, “and you have to be hands on with the materials. You have to really know that you want to do this.”
I was incredibly impressed by Midnight Studios FX’s props and think they’d make a fantastic addition to any Halloween collection! For more information, visit Midnight Studios FX’s website.