I don’t remember the exact time when collecting Halloween masks came into my life. If I had to guess it was around 1982 or 1983, after receiving a full color catalog from Distortions Unlimited in the mail, after seeing an ad in Fangoria magazine. I would go through this catalog front to back, over and over again, admiring the awesome creations by Ed Edmunds. There were so many monsters in this collection that I wanted, but since I had yet to start working, buying these masks was not in the cards.
It was at this time that I also became aware of other mask companies. I had already known about Don Post Studios, thanks to Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine but one company, also thanks to an ad in Fangoria, really struck a cord with me. The company was Joe Reader’s House of Horror Studios. I ordered their catalog as well and was blown away at his creations, so much so in fact that my first mail-order mask was from him in 1985!
This mask was Living Death, a rotted corpse mask similar to Don Post Studios’ B. Garrett Theta, that featured a dangling eyeball (a feature very common in corpse masks at the time). I ordered a set of matching hands as well and spent so much time going over the details in both the mask and hands. In fact, it was this set that started me on the path of thirteen years of yard-haunting after getting such a great response from trick-or-treaters when I set these pieces onto a figure sitting in my doorway on Halloween night in 1985.
Though there were many masks in his catalog that I loved, I am regretful that I did not continue buying them the way I should have. The subject of this review, Da Crawh, was one I bought many years later and amazingly, was in such great shape that you would never guess that the mask is from 1985! The latex is still as pliable as it was when it was originally made and the paint job is very fresh. That is one of the many things I love about Joe Reader’s masks; they last. Masks that I bought from both Don Post and Distortions from the same period have long since rotted away!
So let’s talk about the mask itself. The sculpture is very detailed, having an organic quality to it with lots of skin texture. The eyes are small and beady, giving it a nice creepy look (you see through slits in the forehead the blend in with the wrinkles). Where the mouth is, there are three appendages in a triangle that are claw like, that are surrounding a small slit of a mouth. I am assuming that this creature would use these to tear at its food, bringing it to its mouth. The paint job, though simple, is effective. The basic color is a tannish-brown with a darker shade in the wrinkles of the skin and pinkish highlights. The eyes and the claws are black in color. Overall it’s a very fun design and a favorite in my collection.
For those that missed out on the original House of Horror Studios releases, there was a second opportunity to buy a few of them thanks to Jeff Death at Death Studios in the mid-90’s. Though no longer in production, they do show up from time to time on eBay. Jeff’s version of Da Crawh is very similar to Joe’s, with the main difference being in the facial claws. On Jeff’s version they are more bone-like in color, which actually makes more sense then being black as in the original copies.
Though Joe Reader went on to do special effects work in such films as JURASSIC PARK and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY, it’s a shame that he no longer produces these amazing masks. I am truly hoping that companies like Death Studios and perhaps Trick or Treat Studios will offer some of these creations in the future, assuming that the molds are still available somewhere. For now I will continue to watch eBay.