In the last month, Bernard Gellel has torn his skin off and sewn his lips shut. The quality of his blood having got increasingly grotesque and realistic over the years, Mr Gellel has, for the month of October, turned to a new horror-inspired makeup look leading up to Halloween.
An admirer of beauty and special effects makeup from an early age, Mr Gellel, who is 19, started doing it as a hobby to complement his cosplay, but recently made the leap and will be working as a makeup artist full time.
“It started out typically for me,” Mr Gellel says, “trying out my mum’s makeup and secretly using her brushes.
“Then Halloween would roll around and I started getting more creative with my looks, experimenting with special effects, bloody horror looks, and it just kept evolving from there.”
Mr Gellel, who regularly posts his work on Facebook, but primarily on Instagram, this year decided to do a “31 days of Halloween” makeup challenge. While there is no particular look that a makeup artist needs to adhere to, challengers generally come up with a list of 31 prompts that are Halloween or horror themed and post one completed look on the social media platform of their choice on every day of October.
So far, Mr Gellel has turned himself into pop culture horror staples such as Freddy Kreuger and Coraline’s nefarious Other Mother, mystifying scenes from traditional art like Edvard Munch’s The Scream of Nature, and even a creature or two that appear in his bad dreams.
It’s like I wake up and something is looking at me from the corner of the room… the next day, it’s a Halloween look
“Sometimes I suffer from sleep paralysis. It’s a very scary experience in the moment. It’s like I wake up and something is looking at me from the corner of the room,” Mr Gellel says.
“I can’t speak, I can’t move or see what’s coming for me.
“It’s weird and scary but the next day, it’s a Halloween look.”
As well as having graduated from a beauty course, Mr Gellel taught himself special effects and gore makeup, as no formal education for these kinds of skills currently exists in Malta.
Despite his formal training, he says that practice and imagination and getting used to the idea of not getting it right the first time around are integral in building strong makeup skills.
“You need motivation, creativity and imagination. It’s important to cater for these three things. Even if they don’t come to you at once, you can keep building on them in time,” he says.
While his special effects work is usually relegated to Hallo-ween and Easter passion plays, Mr Gellel says that molding prosthetics and creating un-common looks are still his favourite to work on.
Some of his most beloved creations include a look from early in the Halloween challenge he titled ‘Friends Forever’, inspired by the Golden Fazbear character in the horror video game Five Nights at Freddy’s, as well as a life-size prosthetic cosplay he made of the Demogorgon, the monstrous primary antagonist on the Netflix show Stranger Things.
Each look, Mr Gellel says, could take anywhere between two to four hours to complete, and that to follow a regime of posting daily he had to begin preparing looks from as early as August.
“After the first one, I had about a week’s worth of good ideas. Then the rest came to me in bits and pieces, through Pinterest and Instagram, giving my own spin on things,” Mr Gellel says.
“I’d never seen anyone in Malta do the challenge before and I like to try new things. It’s a really good way to drive up engagement, but mostly, it’s a lot of fun. I wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t having fun.”