In a basement in Burrillville, DeConte builds his army of darkness

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BURRILLVILLE – In Burrillville, the dark powers of All Hallows Eve do not visit just once a year – they live in Neal DeConte’s basement, where he has been building his own Army of Darkness with figurines that have crawled out of our collective cinematic nightmares.

“This is my passion,” DeConte told NRI NOW, and his intensity shows in the painstaking care that he puts into his details. Using standard models as a starting base, DeConte modifies and builds the forms into real art. His demonic creatures have a hypnotizing presence; their murderous glee is disturbingly real.

DeConte has been making models since he was a kid, starting with the basics such as model cars.

But in his early 20’s when he saw the first horror kits, the figures blew him away.

“I’ve always been attracted to power-related art,” he said, “and the detail was amazing.”

Since then, DeConte has taken “amazing” and developed it into something truly incredible.

DeConte’s bust of Ryuk from Death Note, with its glittering eyes and sharp, shiny teeth, is chilling. Tactile touches add an eerie dimension – dyed lambs wool was used for the hair and collar; the tiny apples are hand sculpted, and the book was scratch built from paper and stock cardboard. DeConte uses resin, vinyl, fabric, wood, brass and some surprises that make his pieces completely unique.

His award winning replica of the ship “Orca II” from the movie Jaws contains materials from the film itself.

“The clear acrylic stand holds a section of the actual fiberglass hull from the Orca II and the sand in the base is from Quint’s shack on Martha’s Vineyard,” DeConte explained.

A close up of the hardware on the deck of Orca II shows oar locks replicated into perfect micro-miniatures.

In order to tie his sculpture to its movie source, DeConte collected gravel from the cornfield in California, where they filmed Jeepers Creepers, and added it to the base. For his replica of the long-necked Henrietta from Evil Dead 2, DeConte made the base of wood from the actual cabin used in the movie. The finished piece was signed by Ted Rami, who played the creature in the movie.

Mad Max from the movie Fury Road: 1/4 scale bust model kit to which DeConte added dyed lambs wool for. hair and scratch built the removable face mask for out out of aluminum, styrene and brass.

DeConte’s creative career might have gone in another direction. He was initially drawn to CGI and special effects. But the industry hours and tough demands were not a good match at the time.

“I was married with four kids when I was 21,” he said.

So DeConte made some practical decisions. Starting out at Image Techniques, DeConte has worked in the printing industry for 23 years while continuing his personal art at home. He has amassed an impressive array of skills along the way. DeConte learned on the first Mac computers at a time when the industry was so new there weren’t any formal classes. But this was par for the course.

“If I want to learn something, I just figure it out,” he said.

His evolving talent took him through managing Hasbro’s paint department, his own production model company, and to Boston Valve, where he’s been an industrial designer for the last five years. A common thread runs through it all: whatever the day gig, DeConte’s creative work has thrived.

By now, DeConte’s meticulous, monstrous art has gathered a loyal fan base. He does only custom pieces, for discriminating collectors.

“Some of these original kits sell for up to $150 and up, so not many people in their right mind tend to take something they spent that much on and butcher it up into pieces to make it their own,” DeConte said.

Norris Spider head from John Carpenters The Thing. DeConte took the molded in eyes out and created separate acrylic eyes – and that’s human hair used for the head.
Base was made to look like it was made from crates from the research facility.

His pieces sell today for $1,500 or more, and when viewed up close, it’s easy to see why. His engineering expertise shows in his Creature From The Black Lagoon – it seems to float up effortlessly atop delicate strands of seaweed. Under the Creature’s webbed hands with their with tiny sculpted claws are row upon row of microscopic suckers.

“I use jeweler’s magnifying glasses,” DeConte said. He pointed out the popping orbs on his Norris Spider head from John Carpenter’s The Thing. “I took the molded in eyes out and created separate acrylic eyes; and that’s human hair used for the head. Don’t ask.”

Plans for a website are in the future. In the meantime, you can follow new works on Deconte’s Facebook page, and you can always find DeConte at his home studio, where, curiously, harmony reigns.

“My wife hates horror films and won’t watch, but she does her needlework and cross quilting upstairs and I keep the creatures in the basement,” he said.

1/6 scale Henrietta from Evil Dead II: DeConte resculpted a large portion of the body on this and remade the long neck on the interchangeable “monkey head,” to match the length of what was in the movie. What’s left of the blouse is sewn out of fabric and and the sleeve edge and collar were created from a portion of lace ribbon. The wood base is made from wood from the actual cabin that was used in the movie! This is signed by Ted Rami who played the creature in the movie.
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