"Most people don't realize how much goes into producing a haunted house," says local makeup artist Jason Blaszczak. No kidding. Blaszczak's pus-filled, blood-soaked, and incredibly lifelike (or is that deathlike?) creations are a far scream from the department-store latex ghoul and werewolf masks of our youth. "It's very tedious and time-consuming," he admits.
The blood and guts of Blaszczak's labor is on display exclusively at Nightmare in Painesville, which includes four haunted houses, many carnival rides, and games. But what once was a busy season for him and his Mentor-based Screamline Studios crew is now just another hectic project on the schedule. "It's not just one time a year anymore," he explains. "I've been busy every single day for the past year. It's unbelievable."
Blaszczak formed Screamline six years ago. Since then, the six-man operation has provided makeup and props for locally produced indie films, CD release parties (including one recently for Midnight Syndicate), and of course, haunted houses. "People dedicate a lot of hours to this trade," he says. "It's a whole new beast now."
And the process is a lengthy one. Nightmare in Painesville actors arrive up to three hours prior to the houses' openings to be fitted with various scars, sores, and body outgrowths. But most of the work begins weeks before that. "I start by making a plaster version of the body part," Blaszczak says. "Then I spend about 30 or 40 hours sculpting it into an alien or whatever. Then I make a negative of that and inject foam latex, bake it, pull it out, and you have a piece made to fit an individual's face. It's a very intricate [process]. There's a lot to it." It shows: You won't find more convincing walking corpses anywhere in the area.
Blaszczak says his career choice came to him 15 years ago, fittingly, in a dream. "I woke up and wanted to make Halloween masks," he says. "A few days later, I was finishing my first mask."
He graduated from the Joe Blasco Make-Up Center East in Orlando three years ago, moved back home to expand his shop in Mentor, and has designed costumes for Six Flags amusement parks and worked as a makeup artist for an infomercial plugging "a souped-up BenGay for old people."
Surprisingly, for all of the creepy-crawly stuff that's haunted Blaszczak since that fateful dream, he's yet to apply his horror-making skills to a fright flick. "Here we are, living our lives around Halloween, and most of the stuff I do for movies is beauty makeup," he laughs.
"But we want to be diversified. We don't want to be labeled as just horror. We don't know just zombies." They also know vampires, two-headed beasts, and really scary-looking senior citizens. Nightmare in Painesville. Through October 27 at Lake County Fairgrounds, 1301 Mentor Avenue in Painesville. Hours are 7 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday, and 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday. $14; call 440-954-4551.