Leatherface Costume Part 2: The Mask

leatherface_ref One of the advantages to the Leatherface costume is that he’s supposed to be a guy in a mask.  That’s much easier to create convincingly than someone like Freddy whose face is his own.   There were two masks used in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre: the killing mask from early in the film and the pretty woman mask from the dinner scene.  While there are a lot of indie mask makers producing both, I haven’t seen a single one who’s come close to the look of the materials used for the killing mask in the original film.  Reportedly, the original mask was made using fiberglass and latex. That’s why it looks so translucent and fragile. It looks much more like dried skin than latex alone ever will. That said, the choices on the market today are almost all made of latex alone. As is in keeping with my M.O. of using mostly off the shelf components, I purchased the Rubies version of the mask from TOYNK on Ebay.

The Rubies Leatherface is quite good for a licensed mask and can be had for less than $50 if you shop around. The biggest pain is the multitude of versions that are out there. Be prepared to wade through results that will include the remake mask, the remake prequel mask, and the new 3D version as well. Here’s what the Rubies looks like out of the box.

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The teeth, lips, and metal mouth support are all sculpted into the mask. The mask is molded in very thick latex and it comes very nicely haired. Gunnar Hansen had black hair in the movie so I’m not sure why they went with brown, but the hair looks good nonetheless. The mask is, surprisingly, a little bit small on me. Despite my well-documented, Big Fat Head™, Halloween masks are usually made so over-the-top huge that even my head is swimming around in there. Not this time. This one’s nice and snug. This mask is certainly usable as-is. It looks very much like Gunnar in the killing mask, but I think we can make it even better.

The first step is to cut out the sculpted mouth. After you have it cut out, the mouth alone makes an interesting costume accessory. It’s worth saving if for nothing other than making goofy pictures.

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I bought some bubba teeth which were made for the TCM remake. I thought they’d work fine for this, and they might, but they’re actually made of hard plastic and they come with a two-part fixodent-style material that’s supposed to hold them in place. Yuck! I thought this stuff would harden and mold to my teeth but it’s just goop.

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If I use the teeth, I’ll use some chewing gum to hold them in place. I could also put some tooth enamel onto my real teeth. This is a good YouTube tutorial for that portion of the costume. If you choose to stain your own teeth, please do so safely.

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Once the sculpted mouth was cut out, I made my own wire support out of an old coat hanger. I just measured it out and cut it, then I shaped it to the mask and taped the sharp ends together with electrical tape.

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I used regular sewing thread doubled up in a tapestry needle to sew the wire into the mask. There are two advantages to using a tapestry needle instead of a regular sewing needle. First, it’s not super sharp so it won’t inadvertently poke extra holes in the latex, and, second, it’s easier to handle and thread because it’s bigger. I did four or five wraps in each of five locations around the mouth to hold the wire support in place.

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The next step was the eyelashes. In the movie, one of the things that makes the mask extra creepy is the presence of eyelashes on the dead eyelids. I added stick-on eyelashes from Amazon. I just peeled them off the card they came on and stuck them in place on the upper eyelids. For the time being, I’m going to forgo the lowers but I might come back and glue them on later. I’m not entirely sure how long the adhesive will last so I’m going to hold onto the second pair in case I need to replace the top ones later.

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The Eyebrows needed some work as well. The sculpt was good, but the real prop had hairy brows. The best way to do this sort of hairing is to use rubber cement to glue on multiple layers of hair before trimming them to size. The trouble with this method is the enormous amount of time it takes. I took a short cut here. I cut a portion of hair from the mask’s wig for each brow and used rubber cement to stick it to itself. I then applied more rubber cement to the mask and stuck the eyebrow down. After it dried, I came back and did a little trimming.

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Next, I added some detail to the hole in the forehead. It’s sculpted here but it isn’t a hole. I cut it out and then used my black thread and tapestry needle again to make it look like ol’ Leatherface had repaired his mask. In the movie, it looks a little like this repair could have been done with thin wire, but I opted for thread so it won’t scratch my forehead under the mask.

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The “stitches” that are sculpted into this mask could certainly use some work too. I had originally planned on cutting the mask apart along the sides of the stitches so I could then glue it back together and add real stitches of my own. When I realized that the mask was a tight fit on me, that plan went out the window, but it might work for you if you don’t have a Big Fat Head™ of your own.  I’d also like to add a couple of eyelets at the base of the neck to thread through some leather lacing to make this even more accurate.

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I think the mask looks much better this way. If you have any questions or suggestions, just leave them in the comments below.

Happy Hallowe’en!

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