Who Is That Mask Man?

Aug 16 2010 - 10:12pm


(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner)/Russ Adams displays one of his latex zombie masks.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner)/Several of the latex zombie masks of Russ Adams are displayed.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner)/Russ Adams displays one of his latex zombie masks.
(NICHOLAS DRANEY/Standard-Examiner)/Several of the latex zombie masks of Russ Adams are displayed.

OGDEN -- It apparently doesn't take torches and pitchforks to drive flesh-eating zombies away.

Politely asking them to leave does the trick.

Organizers for the Historic 25th Street Farmers and Art Market had second thoughts last month after inviting Russ Adams, owner of Escape' Design Studios, an Ogden-based special effects company, to operate a booth displaying a ghoulish collection of latex zombie masks and shrunken heads.

After just two Saturdays, Dan Musgrave, executive director of Downtown Ogden Inc., a nonprofit organization that manages the market for the city, asked Adams not to come back.

"We had several complaints from vendors next to him and several small children," said Musgrave. "It was a little too graphic for an early-morning market."

Peter Barrera, the market's coordinator, agrees that Adams' gory handiwork amid the market's pastoral setting in Ogden's Municipal Gardens at 25th Street and Grant Avenue may not have been an ideal match.

Still, he praised Adams' artistic ability.

"No doubt he's talented, to capture emotion in the sense of horror," said Barrera.

Nikki Trammel, who runs Backcountry BBQ at the market, said having Adams' booth operate just a few feet away from hers didn't help her business.

"It was pretty gory," she said. "It's certainly unappetizing."

However, Bobby Orris, who operates Uncle B's hot dog and hamburger stand at the market, didn't have a problem with Adams' masks.

"He was just doing his thing," said Orris. "The farmers market is about trying to express yourself."

Adams said he was stunned to be kicked out of the market after only two weeks. He added that officials with the market approved of his work in advance and noted that his booth was one of the busiest.

"They (market officials) were really excited about it," said Adams. "They were tired of the jewelry vendors normally associated with the market and wanted something to bring new attention to the market."

Market officials approved Adams' application for a booth after viewing only one of his masks, and that one was free of blood and gore, Musgrave said. However, when Adams set up his booth, he displayed about a dozen extremely graphic masks, he said.

Adams said being kicked out of the market cost him money because he was unable to reconnect with customers who had placed orders for masks.

Adams had hoped to use proceeds from mask sales to help finance "The Light of Daigh," a horror movie being produced by Ritual Pictures, an independent film company he owns.

The film, which has a $360,000 budget, is set during medieval times in a village in Scotland that is besieged by the black plague. The main zombie in the movie is modeled after Adams' 83-year-old grandfather, Gene Carr.

Adams said his grandfather thinks it's funny to be cast as a zombie.

"He laughed and said, 'People always said I was a force of nature; as the undead I guess that makes me an unnatural force'," recalled Adams.

A trailer for the movie was shot at Fort Buenaventura in Ogden, but a release date hasn't been set.

Adams, 37, a self-taught sculptor who is working toward a master's degree in literature at Weber State University, has been making masks and movie props for about 15 years.

Adams' small studio behind his home on Harrison Boulevard is a virtual museum of the macabre, filled with replicas of torsos, torture devices and human heads drenched in blood.

Making masks is a laborious process that takes skill and planning, said Adams.

All props begin with a clay sculpture that can take anywhere from several hours to several days to complete. Next a plaster mold is made.

Once the mold is dry, it is forced together using straps. Then latex is poured into the mold and is allowed to dry. The mold is then opened and the latex skin is pulled out, creating a cast. The cast is painted and sealed, acrylic eyes and teeth are added, hair is punched in one or two strands at a time and blood effects are added.

Adams also has been hired to create for some of Hollywood's biggest movie stars life masks that can be fitted with various prosthetics. Life masks for numerous actors, including Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie and Drew Barrymore, hang on a wall in his studio.

Adams said being both a filmmaker and a special-effects creator is rewarding and challenging.

"As for which part I enjoy most about film making, it would have to be the logistics of putting the entire cast, crew and support team together. It's a fragile process and very stressful, but I really enjoy it," he said in an e-mail to the Standard-Examiner. "As for what I enjoy most about prop work, it's the detail process involved. I also love to see people's reactions to my artwork."

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