Dark ArtsOctober 25, 2019
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Story by Allen Laman
Photos by Sarah Ann Jump
As the young man walked up the driveway of Becca Schitter’s home in Jasper, he noticed something in the distance. He’d made the trip to buy a bike from Becca’s father, Joe. Innocent enough. But before he could he even get inside, he might have thought about sprinting to his car and high-tailing it out of there.
On the patio, he saw the back of a young girl. Becca spun around to greet him with a rusty ax in her hand, her bloody mouth was stitched shut.
“He went white,” Joe recalled with a laugh. Becca added that the poor guy was so shocked, he couldn’t speak.
Fear not: The horror-movie-esque plot was only a prank played by Becca, who was really covered in food coloring and latex — not blood and bits of sliced skin. She has honed her makeup and special effects skills to a level of supreme realism during the past few years.
As the Jasper High School senior nears graduation, Dubois County’s master of the macabre aims to turn her love for dark art into a full-fledged career.
“I chose special effects as a way of portraying my feelings,” Becca said. “Because it’s just so different.”
She dove into the art about four years ago, when she painted a half-pumpkin mask on her mother, Angie, for Halloween. Becca remembered how she bought the $3, three-color palette from Walmart. Now, she recreates it on herself at least once a year to check her growth.
The novice brush bristles she used have evolved into an airbrush, a cosmetic canvas shaped like a head — whose name is Davie — and more professional gear you’re more likely to see on a Hollywood movie set than in a teenager’s bedroom.
Becca, 18, has a room that doubles as a studio and overflows with makeup supplies, vials of fake blood and past creations that have been stowed away for potential future use.
There’s a pair of ram horns. The cookie cutter that was lodged in her chest around Christmastime. And, of course, the clumpy, sticky wad of latex cuts and scrapes.
Her grandpa always mentions the pop can. Once, Becca situated a Sprite can onto her face in a way that made it look like it was sprouting from her eye.
“We never know what she’s going to look like when she comes out of her bedroom,” Angie said.
At first, it was weird for the elder Schitters. What parents want to see their child oozing with blood and gore?
But as Becca’s artistic skills blossomed, Mom and Dad encouraged her to keep pushing. The combination of her creativity and ability to conjure up an idea and run with it will take her far, Angie said.
“We could tell pretty quickly that she was pretty talented at it,” Angie said. “And so that’s why we tried to encourage her. We’re real excited for her and what she can do with this.”
Her first professional training came at a summer camp at the Academy of Make Up Arts in Nashville, Tennessee. The small school taught her how to use fake blood bladders and prosthetics to make it seem like someone’s neck has been slit, and also how to use the same supplies to make arms spew red when zombie actors pretend to munch on them.
Becca would look like the victim of a gruesome accident after her days at camp. Angie laughed when she thought of how she’d shield her bloody daughter from the public on their way back to their hotel.
One day, Becca hopes to return to the campus to receive an education that could land her on the set of shows like “Supernatural” or “The Walking Dead.”
“I’d love to work with horror,” she said. “Like horror films, behind the scenes. And if all cards are played right, I would love to be an actress. That’d be super fun.”
Acting is Becca’s other love. She had a role in the school musical, and when she’s home alone, she’ll laugh and scream — pretending to be an evil villain in a Disney movie. She also uses TikTok — a social media video app — and has 66,000 followers who tune in to her videos.
She’s been a fan of the aesthetics of sci-fi and horror for years. It’s ironic, then, that she can’t watch full-length scary movies.
“I love looking at the effects, but I hate jump-scares,” she admitted. She recently went to the theater to watch “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark,” and ended up watching most of the movie through the tiny slits of her fingers as her hands pressed around her face. She’s never been to a big haunted house, and she’s also not comfortable around real blood.
But when it comes to making the fake stuff, or piecing together a mask, or zipping a mouth closed — that will never get old. (Becca is also skilled in glam makeup application, but recently, it’s taken a back seat to her horror work).
In early October, she passed her skills on to a crowd of all ages at a special effects crash course in the Jasper Public Library Annex. The goal was to show them that even the stuff on the shelves at Walmart can still be concocted into a gruesome blend.
There, attendees learned how to whip chocolate syrup, corn syrup, flour and food coloring together with a paintbrush to make blood.
“It smells like hot fudge!” one participant exclaimed.
Then, they drizzled liquid latex onto their arms, stuck cotton balls to the paste, and dabbed more latex and flour over top of them — creating the cushion for a fake slice in their skin. Depending on how big they made the cut, it could look like they were slit with a knife, or a pair of scissors, or even a sword.
“Every single cut has a different story,” Becca said. When the event ended, she instructed participants to rip the hyper-realistic cuts off, just like a Band-Aid.
“My opportunities have just exploded in the past year,” she said when reflecting on how the craft has helped her grow. “So, it’s been able to expand what I do. And I’ve gotten more resources.”
Becca is also directing a short film for her radio and TV class at JHS. Inspired by “Supernatural,” the 10-minute flick will follow a group of campers who are picked off one by one by a wendigo, which is a mythological man-eating creature.
In addition to calling the shots, she’s also designing and applying the actors’ makeup and special effects. She sees that as another step to her dream job.
“I get to see what my makeup actually looks like on camera, and behind the scenes,” Becca said. “I get to [really] kind of put my foot in the water of working behind set.”
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