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Spotlight: IC resident the "Master of Horror"

BY JULIA JESSEN | NOVEMBER 10, 2011 7:20 AM

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A man walked along the ground beneath Los Angeles' "Hollywood" sign on a sweltering day, dragging television sets at the ends of umbilical cords affixed to his belly.

He found the spot he was looking for and sat down. Slowly, he began to cut through each of the umbilical cords as translucent goo oozed out of the slits.

The gory scene comes from an art film, featuring the special-effects work of Corbin Booth, the man behind the umbilical cords.

The 36-year-old Iowa City resident became enchanted with the horror genre while growing up in the late-80s and early '90s.

"In junior high, I developed an unhealthy obsession with horror films and demystifying them, trying to figure out how everything worked," Booth said. "It kind of takes the horror out of something if you know what's going on behind the scenes."

Booth is a University of Iowa studio-arts graduate. He first took a theater makeup class at the UI and later decided to further his passion by attending makeup school in Los Angeles. After working there for some time in special-effects makeup and with the art departments of different films, Booth moved back to Iowa City with his wife to be closer to family.

"I've had to resculpt my vision of what it is to be creative and how I'm going to make that work around here," he said.

Booth now works at a new interior-design retail space in Coralville as an interior designer. However, he continues to use his extensive skill in small films around the area, which, he said, presents a whole new set of challenges.

"You kind of have to work like, 'Oh hey, this zombie loses an arm today, so oh what do we have? We have bread and food coloring, duct tape, and a little bit of paint … Can we make this work?' " he said. "I kind of love those challenges, but I'd much rather be prepared."

Those who know Corbin said he's the best man for those kind of jobs, the ones requiring a creative mind to concoct a gruesome idea.

"I would say that assuming you have some job that entails either disemboweling or severing or otherwise dismembering whatever it is that the subject is, you couldn't possibly ask for a better person to help you take care of that," said Rodney Arthur, who has worked on special-effects makeup with Booth.

Hagan Myers, who has also worked with Booth, partnered on a sideshow of oddities for the local circus troupe Cirque Stupendo, including such objects as a bearded Amish baby in a jar, a zombie deer, an atomic pinecone, and Jerry Garcia's finger. Myers described Booth as having a certain strange, Old World quality.

"He's like a mad scientist," Myers said. "I'd picture him as kind of this crazed turn-of-the-century Eastern European mad scientist who's haunted by spirits, and he needs to do the things he does to get these demons to behave."

The father of two amazes locals each year with his awe-inspiring creations at the Iowa City zombie march, and he has a garage filled with masks and body parts he's made or acquired throughout the year.

Despite the eccentricity of his immersion in the horror world, Booth said, he is ultimately a simple guy.

"As long as I can exercise some type of creativity somehow and provide a basic income to keep a roof over my head and some luxuries for myself and my family, I'm pretty much good," he said. "I don't need a lot."


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