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Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Tom Devlin's Monster Museum

While we were in Las Vegas in July, we had the chance to drive out to Boulder City. If you haven't been, it's cute little town right outside of Vegas (a 30-minute drive), that's right on the outskirts of Hoover Dam. We were also able to drive the short distance to overlook Lake Mead. I've been excited to visit Tom Devlin's Monster Museum, right in the heart of the city, for a long time.

Tom Devlin is a make-up effects artist for movies and has been in the business for over 20 years. He strives to preserve the art of special effects.

Tom Devlin is a make-up effects artist for movies and has been in the business for over 20 years. He's worked on a ton of films, including Butcher House, Mega Piranha, Puppet Master: Axis Termination, and Camp Twilight. Sure, you've probably never heard of these, but that doesn't make him less impressive. 

Tom strives to preserve the art of special effects throughout history, in order to teach others the history of them and how to improve upon current techniques with things that may have worked well in the past, but by also trying new things in the ever-evolving industry. 

Let's head inside! The Monster Museum opened 5 years ago and is a must for anyone who loves horror, thinks make-up effects are awesome, or really just wants to see some cool movie memorabilia. If you are not good with the dark, lifelike figures, or small spaces, this might not be the museum for you, since you walk into this hallway:

Now, you probably already know that I'm afraid of haunted houses and the dark, so this would not have been a museum I would have gone to alone. I may have felt differently if there were most people there, but were the only ones inside when we arrived. The first part of your self-guided tour is devoted to the classic monsters and those that portrayed them, like Lon Chaney. 

I have a terrible overactive imagination when it comes to things like this, so the low lighting kind of freaked me out, thinking that I saw figures move, but I can assure you that it was eyes playing tricks on me, because everything inside is static. There aren't any people dressed up waiting to jump out at you, or animatronics waiting for you to walk past to be triggered. You might worry about that same thing in the rooms that have Ghostface and the all the iterations of Jason from Friday the 13th.

Past the classic monsters and actors, you get into the amazing horror movies and monsters from the 80s. When we visited Vegas last year, we visited a movie memorabilia collection called Cineloggia that had props and costumes from several movies, including some little heard of horror flicks, but also from the Hellraiser series. 

Cineloggia didn't have complete mannequins, just costumes, but Devlin has recreated the whole make-up effects of the Cenobites that are on display, complete with Pinhead and the Lament Box in an alcove that gave Hellraiser II vibes. 

There was a whole long hallway case with 80's movie props that were actually used in the films. Some movies I'd heard of and some I hadn't. Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead is now on my list of movies to watch. Last year I came away from Cineloggia with the need to watch a terrible-sounding movie about a killer turkey called ThanksKilling, which was so bad it was good. We then watched ThanksKilling 3, because there is no second movie. (It's a whole thing.)

I'm always impressed by what people can do with latex and how amazing even bad masks can look with some aging and creative coloring.

We both realized we'd never seen any of the Puppet Master movies, so that was one of the first movies we watched this Halloween season. It's exactly and also completely not what you expect it to be. I'm looking forward to watching the sequels at some point. All of the dolls in this case murdered someone in the first movie.

There are more of the newer movie monsters here, too: Freddy, Michael Myers, Beetlejuice (if you consider him a monster), Gremlins, Chucky, Ghostface (he was the header to my previous blog post), and Leprechaun. I will say the lighting could be a lot better - or worse, I suppose - as it's very difficult to take any sort of decent pictures in most cases. This isn't a fancy museum. It's strictly there to showcase the make-up and appliance work. Some rooms have great backgrounds and props and others are just blank black walls with plaques telling you about the movies. 

Once you've survived the many small rooms, you come out at the gift shop (surprise!), where you started, and you're given the opportunity to go have a sit-down in their little theater that shows documentaries about other make-up artists and effects work. We watched a film about the people who were the main prosthetics and appliances for the Planet of the Apes franchise. Learning the tips and tricks of those that came before is imperative to effects artists now in developing new techniques, but falling back on tried-and-true methods that can look just as good and also save time and money.

Tom Devlin's Monster Museum is right on the main street when coming in Boulder City. They have signings and meet & greets with horror icons like Cassandra Peterson (who plays Elvira), and you can even book a tour with Tom himself for less than expected, which I hope to do in the future. Regular admission is just $20 per person. You can totally make a whole day out of a visit to Boulder City, NV between this, visiting Hoover Dam, or even just Lake Mead, and doing a walking tour on your own around town, while also checking out all the cool statues along the streets.

If you enjoy horror movies or even just cool make-up effects, what movie has some of your favorites?  

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