NEW MILFORD, N.J. — Matt Kaprielian’s front yard at 115 Center Street in New Milford, bedecked for Halloween, looks like something out of “Night of the Living Dead.”
The 25-year-old balloon technician for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is wild about Halloween.
Always has been.
It all started when his mother decorated the house in an exciting but simple way: a plywood tombstone, jack-o-lanterns, and bedsheet ghosts.
“I was a kid who played with monsters and teddy bears that flipped inside out and became werewolf bears,” Kaprielian said.
He started helping his mom with the decorations, adding one new project per year, until he took over.
When he earned a theater production and design degree at Montclair State University, he took the designs to a new level.
Kaprielian’s animatronics are entirely handmade. The set is made almost wholly of wood, plastic, rubber, and foam.
There is a little special story about the man with half a body in the garbage can in the driveway, though. He comes straight from Universal Studios in California.
Kaprielian starts the setup early in September, putting up the black fencing, the mausoleum, and the lightning simulation unit in a tree. It flashes and plays a thunder sound.
“The first week of October, I start bringing the large props out, then the small props,” Kaprielian said.
Last, he installs the lights so he knows precisely what he’s lighting up.
He’s no electrician, he said, but he can do the electronics for the animations and props he builds. Examples: the corpse in the coffin, which operates on a motion detector, and the smoke machine, which works via remote control.
Kaprielian does have a partner and kindred spirit to help him: a friend he met at the theater production department at Montclair State – Brian Sosa, 24, of Dover, a theatrical consultant for Seton Hall Prep in West Orange.
“I lend a hand here, there, everywhere,” said Sosa, who’s also nuts about Halloween sets.
The displays draws lots of drive-by visitors from as far as Paramus, the Pascack Valley, and points east.
As if all the stage setting isn’t enough, Kaprielian likes to make some gruesome guest appearances.
There will be live actors at the display 6-9 p.m. Oct. 28-31.
The family collects donations in the driveway for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital as well as the New Milford Fire Department and Ambulance Corps.
Kaprielian makes display items for hire. For more information, write firstname.lastname@example.org.