It was Friday the 13th today and we’re halfway to Halloween so it seems an appropriate time to kick off the prop building season! This skinned, split open torso is one of my favorite projects so far. It was extremely easy, fairly quick to complete and I loved the result. Plus, it’s lightweight and weather-resistent so there are many staging possibilities.
I recently picked up several hanging manikin torsos for $1 each at the local Habitat ReStore. So, when I saw the garbage bag torso in a blog post on Haunt Nation it, I decided to try it.
Tools: screwdriver, heat gun, scissors, hot glue gun, spray bottle filled with water, paint brush.
Supplies: heat resistant form, black garbage bags, cardboard, glue sticks, acrylic paints.
First, put the form into a garbage bag. I used a thick name brand bag to make a more durable finished product. Different brands or types of bags will melt differently, but any will work – you just may have to use more of the bags are thinner.
Simply aim the heat gun a few inches from the bag until it shrinks and fits tightly to the form. Do this over the entire form, a small area at a time.
After just a couple of bags, the plastic is surprisingly rigid, but doesn’t completely cover the edges of the form.
Next, cut two pieces of cardboard the length you would like the cut in the torso to be. Notch the top by cutting V shapes fairly close together. These allow the cardboard to curve with the shape of the waist and also allow for bending the “cut flesh” outward and creating a torn, jagged appearance.
I used hot glue to fasten the cardboard to the shrunken garbage bags. I was quite generous in applying glue and used both hands to hold in in place until it cooled so that it would curve tightly against the form. You could use tape or another type of glue.
To finish applying the garbage bags cut the bags across into four or five strips. Then, unfold the strips and cut them in half. Cover any exposed spots on the front of the form by placing and melting the garbage bag strips, overlapping them as you go. Continue until the entire thing is covered with four or five layers.
Be sure the plastic goes all the way to the bottom edge all around. In areas that need extra patching, such as where the cardboard meets the plastic on the inside or around the outside seams of the cardboard, twist or fold the strips before applying them for thicker coverage.
Spray the plastic with cold water if it starts shrinking too fast or appears to be getting too hot. This cools it instantly and freezes it in place.
Once the top and sides of the figure are covered, spray it with water and flip it over. Cut up the middle of the back side and gently pull the melted plastic off the form so that you can reuse the form again. If you aren’t concerned with reuse, there is no need for as many layers of garbage bags.
Laying the hollow plastic form you’ve created upside down, push on it anywhere that appears to be misshapen until you are satisfied with the shape. Then, apply garbage bag strips to the back until you have completely enclosed the figure. Use extra plastic on the neck if you intend to hang it.
Once you are satisfied with the coverage and thickness of the plastic it’s time to have fun with the details. Create ligaments and torn skin by using a screwdriver to pull on the plastic as it melts. Alternate melting and spraying with cool water to form various size threads, chunks or ridges.
Add chucks of garbage bags along the bottom of the arms and legs to give them a torn appearance. Roll up one of the strips and melt it in place near the left breast area to form a heart. Use the screwdriver to push it in place or tweak the shape of it. Create other organs in the same way. For intestines, simply twist a strip and push it into place with the screwdriver as you melt it onto the form.
When you are satisfied with the thickness, shape and texture of your creation, finish it off by painting it and adding blood.
Just a light coat of a dark read spray paint actually looks very good. Or you can continue to detail it by making the internal organs different colors, adding skin tones in some areas and highlighting the texture with a light color.
This is an incredibly forgiving project all around. I used very watered down acrylic paint and several shades of reds, tans and browns. I splotched them around randomly and let them run together. After it dried I went back over it with a dry brush a light tan lightly on the highest textures.
In addition to paint I used some blood made with a version of Stiltbeast Studio’s blood recipe. Mix about a quarter cup of Elmer’s Clear Schoolhouse Glue, about an inch long string of red gel food coloring and a little drop of blue food coloring. It is shiny and translucent, much more realistic than any paint mixture I’ve seen and cheaper than nail polish. With the figure propped upright, I scooped up glops of the blood mixture with a large round brush and generously dribbled it over the darker red areas, particularly inside the cut and let it drip anywhere it wanted to go.
If you plan to put your eviscerated torso outside, spray or brush it with acrylic, polyurethane or some other weather resistant coating. Marine grade polyurethane is the most durable and non yellowing option according to what I’ve read. But, it’s also the most expensive and their are a variety of options that will work, particularly if it will be protected from the elements or outdoors for only a short time.