The Warwulf Costume

If you think a fog machine and a CD of scary sounds is a big Halloween production, you need to meet Michael Shears and his neighbours Billy, Doug and Clay. Not only are they putting together a Halloween Spookfest for their neighbourhood in Stratford, Ontario, they’re building the costumes, props and special effects themselves. One of the costume creatures at this event is the Warwulf, a werewolf built on a shoestring budget using household items, ingenuity and a lot of heart.

“I’m a bit of a werewolf nut,” says Michael. “I’ve never been satisfied with 90% of the werewolves in movies… I’ve always wanted to build one, and decided to finally do it this year.”

The project was originally inspired by Michael’s interest in special effects, prop-making and the horror and fantasy films of the 1980s. He has a background in the arts, and wants to work in props and creature design. “I would like to someday make a film in the vein of the Dark Crystal,” he says, “only much darker and more mature, using multimedia sculpture puppets, suits, makeup– the whole bit. We’re building this stuff now, and Halloween will be a test. The budget is next to nothing.”

As you can see from the werewolf costume photo gallery below, Michael and his friends stretched that budget to some amazing lengths. The Warwulf is built from the following materials, scavenged from thrift stores or snagged for free:

  • a couple of blue styrene foam gym mats, used to make the skeleton structure
  • an old couch cushion sculpted to form muscles
  • two or three square yards of fake fur culled from roll ends, mixed and matched to create a two-tone effect
  • two rubber balls + led lights
  • doll eye lenses
  • recycled acrylic house paint
  • four rolls of duct tape
  • lots of carpenter-grade hot glue
  • a jersey
  • an old pair of shorts
  • huge pants

“Lastly and most importantly, you need an imagination and a willingness to fail repeatedly,” Michael laughs. “If you have a vision and can share it, you will enjoy yourself… and it helps with the hot glue burns. Those are free, too.”

Michael had a lot of help from friends and neighbours, both in building the Warwulf costume and in putting together the other costumes and props. “I got a new neighbour around the time I started,” Michael says. “He got sucked in as a model, and we later worked on it together. It’s funny, all these people I hear who say they ‘aren’t artistic’ or ‘can’t do art’… it’s not true. This project, including the werewolf suit and other ghouls, has become a beacon for all these guys. Now I have seven dudes who have learned to play again. We are all better friends now, and we are having fun. The difference between when we were kids and now is that now we can drink beer doing it.”

The Warwulf will be one of many creatures at the backyard spookfest Michael and his friends are putting on this Halloween. They’ll have a scarecrow, zombies, live pumpkin people (wearing carved pumpkins on their heads), and the Warwulf and a second werewolf will serve as guard dogs for a warlock and witch, both of whom will live in a man-made forest of fake Christmas trees. “If it all comes together, and it’s looking like it will,” Michael says, “it should be scary enough to put a jolt into this new thicker-skinned generation. We’re aiming for the teenagers and parents… little ones may be too scared, and we don’t keep diapers on site.”

If you’re going to be in the area of Stratford on October 31st, be sure to stop by 58 Dufferin Street around 7PM and say hello to Michael, Billy, Doug, Clay and the Warwulf.