The irony of Bloodview Haunted House is that it's way scarier in the off-season. This sick altar to terror is muddily encamped somewhere along the outer arteries of Broadview Heights' business parkways. David "House" Greathouse pulls up in a pickup with his eminently dread-locked girlfriend Becky in tow. They're monster makers, these two—makeup artists in the messy business of special effects. House's claim to fame is creating the Mushroomhead masks and directing five of the band's music videos. He's now on SyFy's Face-Off, a Survivor-style show that pits Hollywood makeup artists against one another in challenges of the grotesque. He leads me up the stairs to the Bloodview prep room and wastes no time demonstrating his fulsome talents: first on Becky, then on himself.
Sam Allard: I guess to kick things off, I'm curious about the genesis of your interest in all this disgusting stuff.
David "House" Greathouse: Birth.
My interest in monsters started from birth. The classic monsters, I mean. I wanted to play those characters and make those movies and live in that world—that Transylvanian world of fog and cobblestone roads and bats and mad scientists.
A simpler time...
I started doing makeup when I was 9 or 10 years old. I had a kit, you know? Spirit gum, wax, grease paints. At the time, I focused on ooze and gore and gouged eyeballs and stuff. I was the kid that cut the kids' throats in the neighborhood.
So you were a sicko?
Yeah, a real sicko. But also an entrepreneur. I'd try to make a buck on anything ghastly. Haunted houses in my basement. Gore, guts, blood.
Speaking of which, those Strawberry preserves look fresh.
No, that's blood. Like mouthblood.
Sort of a Marachino sauce, or what's it—oh my.
It's just Karo Corn Syrup and food coloring.
Of course. Instant mouth blood.
There's a few other secret ingredients in here too. When people use just the food coloring and corn syrup, they're always like, 'that doesn't look right,' but I'll let them figure it out for themselves. Let them play with it. And that pink stuff on the back of the teeth is glue. The teeth add so much to the character. It lets you get into it easier.
Into character? Assuming that you're both a make-up artist and an actor.
I'd say I'm a very good actor. This is my 'Mad Doctor' character. It's a simple one, less about the prosthetics and more about the gadgets.
The shackled neck wound's a nice touch.
Actually, let's call it the 'Mad Director,' How about the 'Mad Director'?
I'm a pretty laid-back guy. But getting into character, man. There's a freedom. You become a different person. You lose so many of your inhibitions. You say things and do things that you might not normally do.
Sounds about like my relationship with alcohol.
...and the makeup, when you do it yourself, it really sort of amps you up. It's primal. Now, obviously you're going to get a much better job when someone else is doing it for you. There's less blind spots, you know? And the artist can really focus in. I mean with full makeup—head, neck, and face—it can take forever. You could spend all day doing it. But you could have the best makeup job in the world and it'd be nothing if you didn't have a good character behind it.
What's the most complicated type of makeup you do? Or, I don't know, what's the hardest technique?
I'd say really realistic human aging makeup. Like wrinkles maybe? Noses and chins. You're able to disguise a lot with violent gore, but trying to put a huge realistic functional nose on someone and not see the edge and the makeup line: that's harder than creating, I don't know, an alligator monster.
So like in Benjamin Button?
Yeah, that would be really hard. I mean that won the Oscar. But they went in and CG-augmented some of the makeup.
No, that guy's brilliant. And the director, [David] Fincher, he's a real perfectionist. Anymore, though, effects are almost all CGI. Period. Directors do their shots and then ship it off to CG world, and they work on it four months.
Not so in the glory days?
I went out to LA when I was 21. And this was '91, when business was booming. A lot of the rubber monsters and 80s practicals were still really popular.
Like the creature designs in Alien or Predator or all those 80s monster movies, where there's a guy inside a suit. That's what CGI has really had an effect on. Not so much makeup artists, but creature designers.
Wait. That Alien thing...was a man?
Yep. And the breaking point was Jurassic Park, when they mixed puppets—beautifully—with CG characters. But since then, it's been all CG characters, period.
No CG allowed in Face-Off though, I take it?
No. Ha. With Face-Off, they sequester you in a house in Los Angeles for 2–3 months with no communication. You're locked down: No internet, no television, no reading, no lifelines. None of that. And each week's a new challenge.
Like what's an example?
Last week on the show, we had to design a two-headed monster.
Would you be good enough to paint a picture of life on the Mushroomhead tour bus?
Beer drinking. Parties all night every night. Bad behavior. Loud music. Frat-house lifestyle. But you know, no one was getting hurt. No one was doing anything too life damaging. No heroin charges or murder charges, so...
All's well that end's well. How are you keeping busy now?
I'm actually designing new masks for Mushroomhead and preparing props and masks for a huge Halloween convention. But my main gig is down at Precinct 13 Entertainment in Crestline, Ohio. We're a special effects...well, it's a movie production house, ultimately. And it's a school.
Wait, so what is it?
The school just started. We teach makeup effects. It's called KIA—Kurtzman Institute of Art.
That's also a car company, mind you.
Yeah. But I mean we do haunted house props. Commercials. Anything relating to the genre, really anything. And we've got a lot of what I call 'Hollywood Rejects,' coming to work for us, but the work we're doing is just as valid as anything they're doing out there in LA. And it's great to be bringing business into Ohio. We did the special effects for John Dies at the End.
That Paul Giamatti movie at the Capitol?
Yeah. And we did the special effects for Devil's Rejects. Bob [Kurtzman] co-created From Dusk til Dawn. That's the big one. Austin Powers. So many movies, things you've heard of. And Bob's working at a major level, you know? He's not a hack like me squirting blood on the walls.
Or, you know, in your mouth.