They're causing problems:
A white bank robber in Ohio recently used a "hyper-realistic" mask manufactured by a small Van Nuys company to disguise himself as a black man, prompting police there to mistakenly arrest an African American man for the crimes.
In October, a 20-year-old Chinese man who wanted asylum in Canada used one of the same company's masks to transform himself into an elderly white man and slip past airport security in Hong Kong.
Authorities are even starting to think that the so-called Geezer Bandit, a Southern California bank robber believed for months to be an old man, might actually be a younger guy wearing one of the disguises made by SPFXMasks.
News coverage of the incidents has pumped up demand for the masks, which run from $600 to $1,200, according to company owner Rusty Slusser. But he says he's not happy about it.
Slusser opened SPFXMasks in 2003. His six-person crew uses silicone that looks and feels like flesh, down to the pores. Each strand of hair Â and it's human hair Â is sewn on individually. Artists methodically paint the masks to create realistic skin tones.
"I wanted to make something that looks so real that when you go out for Halloween no one can tell," Slusser said. "It's like 'Mission: Impossible' Â you pull it over your head one time and that's it. It's like a 10-hour makeup job in 10 seconds."
He experimented until he found the right recipe for silicone that would seem like skin. A key discovery was that if the inside of the mask is smooth Â even if the outside is bumpy with pores, a nose and other features Â it will stretch over most faces and move with facial muscles.
Posted on December 14, 2010 at 1:12 PM • 57 Comments