When was the last time you fell asleep thinking about monsters in the other room? For most of us, that thought fades after childhood. But Matthew Gatto knows there are monsters just 10 feet away from where he sleeps. They reside in his living room or, as it’s more commonly known, the Parlor of Horrors. A hobbyist mask maker and collector, Gatto has spent the past few years outfitting his apartment as a small museum of horror movie memorabilia alongside his own handcrafted monster masks.
Looming high above the checkerboard tile floor of Gatto’s lofted living room, a 10′ model of the Alien Supreme Commander from Independence Day hangs from the ceiling. Only about 50 of these were made and this one’s tentacles twine together to give the appearance of a chandelier. Below, Gatto’s collection of props, practical effects ephemera and one-of-a-kind masks fills antique display cases. Original movie posters line the walls, including a theatrical release one-sheet for An American Werewolf in London signed by director John Landis and one of its stars, David Naughton, who wrote, “Beast wishes, David.”
“When I saw An American Werewolf in London, I was blown away. What I loved most about the film was how amazingly groundbreaking the practical effects were,” says Gatto. The movie’s makeup and effects artist, Rick Baker, won a 1981 Academy Award for his work on the movie and Gatto counts Baker among his biggest inspirations. “My fascination and obsession with this film led me to want to create things myself,” recalls Gatto.
He spent three years teaching himself the techniques to craft a full-fledged werewolf mask with carved fangs and contoured latex covered in fur. Though Gatto wore it when it was finished, the mask is now mounted on a taxidermy plaque watching over the rest of his collection. Gatto’s most recent mask is of the titular character from the 1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon, complete with blood-red lips and glowing green latex that folds and creases to form the creature’s skin. Created for a friend’s Halloween wedding, the mask demonstrates the evolution of Gatto’s skills in carving molds and breathing life into his monsters.
Other highlights from Gatto’s collection include the Metaluna Mutant head and claws from the 1955 movie This Island Earth. The mask is a bulbous blue latex monstrosity, a replica made from the original plaster molds used to create the costumes in the movie; the claws are original licensed merchandise from the 1960s, made by the legendary Don Post Studios. “To find one of those original Don Post items is very rare,” says Gatto.
Gatto has been compared by friends to Forrest J. Ackerman, editor of Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. Like Gatto, Ackerman created a horror and science fiction memorabilia museum in his home—the Ackermansion—and led tours for fellow genre fans. Guiding his own tours of the Parlor of Horrors, Gatto shares his knowledge as a storyteller and historian for the items in his collection; the museum’s guestbook is filled with enthusiasm and encouragement from past visitors.
Unfortunately, the Parlor of Horrors is about to go underground because Gatto is moving at the end of June. His new home will have expanded workshop space for mask-making, but there won’t be space to reinstall the museum. Gatto is hopeful to find a new home for the museum so that he can once again lead tours and continue growing his collection. To view selected items from the Parlor of Horrors, visit the museum’s digital gallery on Instagram at @parlor_of_horrors.