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October 18, 2018

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Ghoul it yourself

You're fed up with Frankenstein. Did Dracula last year.

How about a witch? A ghost? A cowboy? BOR-ING!

Halloween's only a few days away, and you're in a costume quandary.

Never fear, the experts are here.

A handful of those in the know, costume- and makeup-wise, have come up with a few tips to help the creatively challenged scare up some spooky ideas.

Michael Lopez, the costume manager at MGM Grand Adventures, has spent the last month creating get-ups for the 270 ghouls featured in the MGM's Scream Park III, which runs through Wednesday.

And it cost him next to nothing.

"Ninety percent of all the things here were (purchased at the) Salvation Army," Lopez says, standing amid racks of shredded, bloodied clothes in the park's wardrobe department.

The selections in thrift shops are usually large and the prices low, he says. With a little imagination, "You can get a full costume for under 20 bucks."

"Sailors and pirates are pretty easy, because you can find shirts that are red and white striped" for around $2, he says. "Just cut the edges" to make it look frayed.

"Gypsies are the best costumes," mostly because they're easy to create.

Find a black skirt or dress -- the gaudier the better -- and sew or glue a few jingly faux coins to it. "Now it's this fabulous Gypsy dress," he says.

Maybe dead is more your style. A zombie, perhaps?

"Let me show you what we do," Lopez says, grinning mischievously.

He pulls a filthy, ragged wool suit off the rack (thrift store price: $12). Lopez and his crew sewed scraps of brownish cheesecloth on it and slashed it with a razor.

"We were just going for the full rotten look," he says. "When you want something to look really thrashed up, the secret is to cut it first and then wash it. It really frays up."

The finishing touch was a thorough dusting of Fuller's Earth, a mock-dirt powder used frequently in movies.

"You pat it down and it just makes it look rotten and dirty," he says, tearing a gaping hole in the jacket. "In the dark ... it makes it look aged."

At home, however, real dirt will do.

"The best thing to do is just get different textures of dirt, different colors. The desert's just loaded with 'em," he says. "If you want something to look like it has depth to it, put the dark (colors) on first and then put the lighter color on top of that."

Still stumped? Lopez recommends browsing at a few costume shops to gather ideas.

"Go through everything they have, see everything they've got going. You can see all of their creativity, all you have to do is remember it."

Just do it

Rene' Dashiell agrees. "I always say that your mind is limitless and so can your ideas be."

The former Las Vegas resident is a professional makeup artist whose work has been featured in over 30 feature films, including "Casino," "Virtuosity" and "Tank Girl."

Dashiell's taken some time off from Hollywood this Halloween to head the Scream Park makeup crew.

"This kind of makeup is fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. It's very exciting and very creative. You have to pull (ideas) out of your head," she says.

Nothing new for the Western High School graduate (class of '79). "You'd be surprised, in films and television, just how many ordinary kitchen things are used in makeup. It's amazing, and it's cheap, too."

Like fake blood. You can make it at home with a little corn syrup and red food coloring.

"You can add some coffee powder to it to get the dark blood," she says. For "scabby-looking blood," add a few crunched-up corn flakes to the mix.

"It's kind of like being a kitchen chemist."

Red-tinted corn flakes also work well in creating "open meat-looking" effects -- crash victims, war wounds -- and sound effects, like crunching bones.

Get the kit

As far as makeup goes, Dashiell gives the nod to the prepackaged, multicolored kits that pop up in stores around Halloween.

"The best thing to do is look for makeup" in a clean package where "the oil hasn't separated" from the color. That a sign it's a new kit and not a restocked leftover from last year.

"That's basically the stuff we use, it's just packaged differently for the public," she says.

And don't be afraid to mix it, says Ronda Nelson, a member of "Mystere's" wardrobe crew.

"They can mix black and white if they want to go dead-looking," she says. They resulting grayish hue is the perfect vampire pale.

Follow up with a generous dusting of translucent talc. "That will set the grease paint so it won't run when they sweat," says Nelson, who also creates custom-made Halloween masks in her spare time. She, too, is working on the Scream Park's makeup team.

Nelson, who worked on the movie "The Outsider," due out next month, also recommends using Knox gelatin to make a gross-looking third-degree burn.

"Mix it with hot water and add a bit of red food coloring" for a "real thick and gooey" effect," she says. But be hasty: "You don't have much working time because it thickens pretty quick.

"From there you can go ahead and use purple and black (makeup) around the area to make it look charred."

Skin treatment

Not real enough-looking for ya?

Maybe it's time to bring out the big guns: liquid latex, rubber and foam. A variety of pukey pieces can be purchased, along with the glue -- called "spirit gum" -- to make 'em stick.

Though Dashiell applies prostheses on actors all the time, she urges consumers to use caution before gluing "appliances" to their body.

"Your skin is an open, breathing organ and it sometimes has a reaction to being covered up," she says.

And be forewarned: "It's a major job to remove a prostheses. Three hours to put on can take an hour to get off, and it's not comfortable. Sometimes, you take away skin. Cold cream isn't gonna cut ... an adhesive."

In fact, Nelson suggests skipping glue altogether and using two-sided toupe tape instead. "It's easier to get off, instead of dealing with the glue and the mess for a few days afterward because it's gummy."

However, costume shops do sell mortician's wax this time of year, which can be molded onto the face.

Break up a clear plastic cup and insert the little chips into the wax after it's applied and -- voila! -- an instant, painless crash victim.

Having a Halloween dress rehearsal ahead of time might be a good idea, Dashiell adds.

"That way, you can run into any snags that you might encounter. You don't want to be running around on Halloween at 5 o'clock saying, 'Oh my gosh, I didn't plan for this,'" she says.

But more importantly, don't try too hard. "You're only wearing it for Halloween," Lopez reminds. "It doesn't have to be perfect."