By James Gend
It’s like wearing six layers of clothing in a hot, steamy desert in the middle of summer. Light flashing all around you, with only two narrow peep holes barely aligning with your vision and a set of mechanically operated claws as hands.
Your voice is muffled, and your scales are nearly peeling off. Time is of the essence. A bottle of ice cold water stands on a table just feet away, surrounded by a variety of snacks, and they call to you.
But there’s no point. This is how things are. Was it worth it?
This was the life of Santa Clarita resident Patrick Finn years ago, when he manufactured his very own professional monster suit from a box of scraps all for the sake of his childhood love for the one and only Godzilla.
Finn grew up infatuated with the green-scaled, towering lizard and always dreamt of reimagining the character and monster genre in his own way.
Godzilla first appeared in the famous 1954 horror Gojira, directed by the lizard’s creator Ishirō Honda, and was deemed popular in Japan and the states, where an American cut was produced.
Gojira sparked a flame for the monster genre, leading to 33 Godzilla films total.
“I can’t explain it. I guess it’s just nostalgia. I started with Godzilla, then I moved to Ultraman and then to Gamera in the 90’s. I was a kid throughout it all, so it just stuck with me,” Finn said.
From ages 22 to 24, he spent much of his time tailoring away, sewing together and constantly repairing his take on the 1960’s inspired monster for a short film he would soon write and direct with the help from colleagues and friends.
Finn, now 32, gets to come home to his Stevenson Ranch residence every day from work to be greeted by a giant, man-sized monster suit hanging from the ceiling in his garage that belongs to no movie studio or production company, but to him.
“Ten years ago, if you went up to me and told me that one day, I’d own a wearable monster suit that I made…I’d pass out and fall to the floor on my face. Dreams are a tricky thing,” Finn said.
Pounds upon pounds of color foam, liquid latex, fiber glass and some patience for trial and error is what it took for Finn to achieve his childhood dream. His hands sore from the sculpting, his vision still kicking and the suit staring at him all throughout.
“The ends justify the means. Not to get dramatic, but it took years to get it just right. I wasn’t in the interest for it to be fine, I needed it to be right,” he said.
Finn practiced 2D animation at the California Institute of the Arts to dress himself in a visionary, creative mindset that could think outside the box – and it helps that he had excessive training in painting, air-brushing, molding and sculpting.
A film was released in April of 2009, featuring Finn donning the monster suit in a desert as he fights off low budget explosions, miniature tanks and planes, and his “buddies” dressed in anime-inspired latex costumes. There is admittedly not much of a plot, as Finn noted that the point of the film was more to highlight the effects.
“When you’re working on something as complex as this, your last concern is if it has a story or not,” he explained. “My dream was to create the illusion of giant monsters fighting other giant monsters, with practical effects and toy tanks attacking, not to make The Godfather. It’s supposed to look real. That was our only goal.”
Practical effects, the use of 3D models, puppets and figures, were used heavily in movie productions up until the 90s, when computerized effects became especially popular to audiences.
Finn’s film, split in two parts, is available on YouTube, as no companies would pick up Finn’s take on the monster genre for a wider release. Part one saw nearly 2,000 views, with part two receiving an additional 1,500.
Finn also noted that he, after the film wrapped, considered renting himself out to his friend’s birthday parties, but ultimately dropped the idea, as “that suit is way too hot to be in to make any of that worth it.”
Finn was once interested in selling the suit for a respectful profit, but quickly changed his mind as the costume is far too dear to his heart.
In an offbeat, unorthodox way, it’s “family” to him.
As a monster-maker, Finn is not too fond of using computer-based effects to enhance things.
“Don’t even get me started on monster movies today, they’re pitiful. But, I know I’m biased at least. I believe practical effects are what define true sci-fi movie art, not CGI made on a computer! If you’re doing a monster movie, you better get your hands dirty, because the only tool you should have are your hands.”
It cost Finn nearly $1,000 to manufacture the suit, but he says it was worth it by the end.
Now a manager at Target, Finn had considered himself retired from the monster game for some time, until recently when he announced plans for a sequel to his short film. Finn will now once again don the 38 pound suit.
“I’ll be honest with you, I want to be buried in this thing.”