Tom Devlin is just your regular dad who moved to Boulder City with his wife and kids for its wholesome, family-friendly vibe … well, perhaps an Addams Family vibe.
This summer, the special effects makeup artist opened the Tom Devlin Monster Museum, a combo costume shop and repository for the monsters he has created over the years. You’ll know it from the highway by the Frankenstein sign made in his likeness. A purple hearse, dinosaur sculpture and zombie Spider-Man complete the roadside attraction.
Devlin’s goal for the museum is to educate the public in the art of makeup effects. The industry has fought a long-running battle against both ignorance and competing technologies. When Devlin told his family, “I‘m going to go work on movies and be a makeup artist,” they were flabbergasted. This just wasn’t something that people did in his hometown of East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Now, with the Internet and shows like SyFy’s FaceOff (Devlin is a former cast member), the quirky world of monster makeup has opened up.
“We won, this is popular now,” Devlin says. “Unfortunately, computer animation is taking over what we do. Nowadays, it’s more accepted to be a makeup artist, but there are less makeup effects than there were in the ’90s.”
Devlin says that he “did things backwards.” His first pro gig was for The X-Files. “I thought you just show up in Hollywood and you get a job in the movies,” he says. “I was watching The X-Files in Pennsylvania and then I was working on the show.”
During an 18-year career, Devlin has worked on more than 100 films. Jobs take him around the country (only 30 percent of his gigs are in LA). “It’s a lifestyle,” says Devlin, who credits his wife for being “very understanding.” In addition to working in film, Devlin runs his own makeup effects company 1313FX, teaches full-time at L Makeup Institute in Tivoli Village, makes Halloween masks and animatronic zombie props … and of course there’s the Monster Museum and costume shop, with an after-hours haunted house for Halloween. “The hustle never ends. You have to prove that you want to do it more than the guy next to you.”
Artistic obsession, for Devlin, started in childhood with a love of fantasy, He-Man and the Ninja Turtles. In high school, his passion segued into low-budget horror films, ones with whimsical titles like Chopper Chicks in Zombietown. He didn’t possess inborn artistic talent, but a love for horror schlock led him to develop skills the hard way: practice and studying VHS tapes and industry mags like Fangoria. “I love getting my hands in the clay and sculpting it. I can almost blackout and hours go by creating the characters. As soon as they start to come together in the clay for me, it’s euphoric.”
With the Monster Museum, Devlin is just getting started. “We have 1,000 square feet behind this wall,” he says, pointing to plans for expansion. There’s also a planned Christmas attraction, monthly events and regular horror film celebrity signings coming in the new year.
Tom Devlin Monster Museum 1310 Nevada Hwy, Boulder City, 702-294-1313. Daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., $10.