Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mesa Monster Museum

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The couple behind Mesa’s Midnight Studios FX has constructed creatures for some of the Valley’s most famous fright sites. Now they’re doing it their way.

Kyle and Breanna Thompson’s newest project looks inconspicuous from the outside – as inconspicuous as a downtown Mesa Main Street storefront with a black curtain, faux-iron bars and monsters leering out of it can look.


Inside is Monsterland, the married couple’s first crack at running a temporary haunted house and year-round monster museum after spending years in the Valley building “creatures” for local haunts, and practically running the creature-construction monster-monopoly around town under the banner of Midnight Studios FX.

Monsterland is ambitious enough to take up two levels. Not a second-floor level, of course, but the most necessary piece of a haunted building: a basement.

From that basement, after (thankfully) switching the lights on, Kyle and Breanna give a little background information, while a replica of the Twilight Zone gremlin-on-the-wing perches on a leather sofa among skeletons, pirates and ghouls.

Kyle says they’re aiming for a “Disneyland with creatures” feel for Monsterland. “I want to have soccer moms wheeling their kids in strollers,” he says. That might come off as a strange description for a haunted house, but when you’re planning to jam it with influences as disparate as Indiana Jones, The Goonies and Swamp Thing, peeking a zombified Adventureland around the corner doesn’t sound like so much of a stretch, especially when “hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours” have been poured into the project’s first run, Kyle says.

Kyle started the monster gig about 15 years ago, creating sculptures and props for independent movies, and he has a connoisseur’s opinion about any science fiction or horror classic you can think of. Still, he’s not a purist: Animatronics have as much of a place in a movie or haunted house as traditional costumes, he says. For the Thompsons, attention to detail is what sets apart cash-grab scream-fests from “art.”

“We’ve worked for haunted houses in the past that just really chintz on quality,” Breanna says. Now that the two have cut out the middle men, they can create the way they want. They’re shooting to set up a museum at the Monsterland site after the haunted attraction run, giving them a chance to share memorabilia they’ve collected with the public while offering a history lesson, from Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula through present day. “I want to show the public where horror came from,” Kyle says.

Of course, it’s tough to please everybody. Some folks just want “the most realistic severed head they can possibly get,” Kyle says, while others prefer something easier on the stomach. His solution is to keep the mature content under wraps until the later hours.

Thankfully they’ve trained enough with a master that they can give both crowds a show: Years ago, Kyle and Breanna slipped a note under the door of Jordu Schell, a movie props sculptor and artist who’s known as one of the greats – like Pablo Picasso if he’d done work on Alien Resurrection rather than Les Demoiselles.

Schell appreciated their enthusiasm enough to teach them some of his trade secrets, and, of all places, where did the two get the call back from him? Disneyland. The one sans creatures.

INFO
Monsterland
18 W. Main St., Mesa,
480-461-3300
monsterland.com
6 p.m.-midnight Th-Su, $20
The haunted house runs October 6-31, after which Monsterland becomes a year-round museum.

 

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