This monster-maker probably likes Halloween more than you do

By Francesca Emms
Photography by Victoria Birkinshaw

Featured in Capital #73
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Bill Hunt was seven years old when the movie Halloween came out. The trailer was on high rotation all through October and, being a “creepy little monster-making kid”, he tried his best to sit through it, “but once that piano theme started, and Michael Myers came barreling down the steps, I would get up and run from the room.” These days Bill is made of sterner stuff and every October he dives into his annual “month-long-nothing-but-horror-binge”, watching at least one horror flick per day.

Halloween is Bill’s favourite holiday. “Aside from the obvious celebration of all things that go bump in the night, for me, it also means change.” For the first half of Bill’s life, in Nashville, Tennessee, Halloween came in autumn and “signalled the beginning of the holiday season, with time off from school for Thanksgiving and Christmas following soon after.” For the past twenty-plus years Bill’s lived in New Zealand so Halloween “heralds the end of the long, gruelling, holiday-free Wellington winter and the beginning of the long, warm summer.”

Whether he’s here or there, All Hallows Eve has always been “an opportunity to lean into my horror-loving self, while also being able to transform into any number of characters that I could imagine.”

Bill was one of the first foreign artists to join the Weta Workshop design team on The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He spent more than thirty years as a special effects makeup artist, sculptor, and props maker for the likes of King Kong and Avatar. Now happily retired from the blockbuster movie biz Bill is a sculptor and painter “typically with a leaning toward horror”.

Bill lives in Upper Hutt with his “wife/soulmate/muse” Sherryn, who shares his love of horror (they wore zombie makeup for their wedding photos), three sly black cats (Hydie, Ophelia, and Elvira), and two “enormous, happy Mastiff-cross moose-dogs” named Lilith and Frazetta.

The property is hard to find and surrounded by bush. Bill’s home studio, which looks out over a valley of dense vegetation, is filled with sculpted and painted monsters in various stages of completion. I spot two axes and a pentagram on the floor, then realise I can’t see or hear any neighbours – the perfect setting for a horror film.

For the last few years Bill’s been doing his own version of Inktober (a celebration in which people draw something with pen and ink every day through the month of October) which he calls his 31 Horrors of Halloween. “Every day, I do a new oil paint portrait of a favourite or iconic horror movie character. Aside from being a lot of fun, it’s been immensely helpful in honing my painting skills in a short amount of time.”

As a professional monster-maker, Bill says, “When it comes to a Halloween costume, it has to be comfortable and easy to wear and remove.” You don’t want to have to “take off half the costume and have to carry around all night, and you don’t want a two-hour makeup removal process waiting for you at the end of your fun night either, so I found it’s more fun to keep things simple but effective. A face painted with water-based makeup can be simple yet striking, allowing me to actually enjoy the night.”

Check out Bill Hunt‘s top five horror films (for people who don’t like horror).


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