A beige shipping container sits next to a workshop on an industrial street in Toronto’s west end. It seems unremarkable — but if you caught a glimpse inside you might be shocked.
It’s a container filled with silicone severed limbs and foam cadavers made by MastersFX, a special effects company that makes props and creature effects for hit shows like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Umbrella Academy. Though it seems like a gruesome spot, the business really embodies the spirit of Halloween.
“Twice this year we’ve had tactical police called because we’ve been moving our dead bodies and cadavers to our storage unit,” said Kyle Doust, a prosthetic artist.
A police officer most recently paid the business a visit at the beginning of this month. Four more officers were on the way, but were called off when it became clear the limbs that had been spotted were fake, Doust said.
“It could’ve turned out a lot differently,” he said.
The business specializes in making props and creature effects for use on film and television sets that make it possible for a character to lose an eye or a limb.
MastersFX makes a wide range of creatures, animals and bodies, said shop supervisor Zane Knisely.
“We’re often making things we’ve never made before,” he said, like an electronic pig that is able to mime collapsing and dying.
Some of the company’s projects involve a lot of research, like referencing medical photos to make sure their effects are as realistic as possible, Knisely said. He has accumulated a lot of biological knowledge on the job.
“I didn’t want to have this kind of knowledge, but you’re forced to look at this kind of stuff and I’ve kind of gone numb to most of it,” he said. “Now, I actually find it interesting.”
It’s a bit of a macabre place to work. MastersFX has whole foam bodies on the floor, heads with severe injuries lining the walls, and black garbage bags filled with bloody guts and slabs of skin.
There are even eight silicone babies in bubble wrap stored in the shop, complete with hair, eyelashes and an umbilical cords. One of the models is “a bit of a movie star,” and has been on multiple TV shows including The Handmaid’s Tale, Knisely said.
It’s not a cheap process. The cost of a full silicone body ranges from $2,000 to $8,000, depending on its detail and shape, Doust said.
The company is currently working on four shows, so on average they make about five bodies a week, depending on the creature and amount of detail needed, Knisely said.
For Knisely, seeing people freak out because of their effects on camera is his favourite part. He’s hoping the police don’t end up coming by for any more false alarms, but is happy to know the neighbourhood is looking out for their community.
“People believe these are actually bodies even though they’re just dummies,” he said.
“Thanks for the compliment.”