For most of us, monsters exist only in the movies. But for local special effects artists Evan Hedges and Kevon Ward, monsters are part of everyday life.

As art director and lead affects artist (respectively) for Denver-based 13th Floor Entertainment Group, Hedges and Ward normally work with a team to craft the horrors stalking the halls of the company’s annual haunted houses. But at the urging of friends and colleagues, they recently took a chance to compete on the ninth season of Face Off, a Syfy reality show where 16 makeup artists put their skills to the test in a series of elimination challenges. Weeks in, only nine contestants remain—with Hedges and Ward among them.

So far, the shows’ tasks haven’t been easy. The artists are constantly on the clock, which means they can’t spend too much time on any one aspect of their characters. After a challenge has been announced, they have 30 minutes to brainstorm before moving into the lab. There, they have less than two days and few reference materials to transform a model into an original character with full makeup. And according to Hedges and Ward, the show is very authentic with its time restrictions.

“When they say 10 hours, they mean 10 hours,” says Ward. “And we’re responsible for all our successes and failures. No one comes to help us fix things up between takes. In that sense, it’s a fair competition.”

Luckily for Hedges and Ward, their jobs at 13th Floor Entertainment have made some of the show’s biggest challenges old hat. They’ve had plenty of practice meeting deadlines, improvising with available materials, and developing character concepts, and that helped them to create several characters they’re proud of early on in the show.

In “Frightful Fiction,” the challenge of episode four, their individual assignment was to morph characters from classic stories into fiendish mash-ups. Hedges made Sherlock Holmes into an infected vampire bat, and Ward designed a decaying necromancer Merlin.

They also got the chance to put their brains together in a partner challenge, where they designed undead alter egos for an engaged couple. After watching the couple’s video, Hedges and Ward turned them into light and dark creatures to reflect their different outlooks on life. “It was fun and rewarding to see them happy with it,” says Hedges.

For special effects artists like Hedges and Ward, that’s the ultimate goal—taking an idea and literally bringing it to life. “Sometimes people are so blown away. It makes me feel like a magician,” says Ward.

To see what characters Hedges and Ward dream up in the remaining challenges, tune in to the latest episodes of “Face Off” at 7 p.m. MT every Tuesday on SyFy.

Bonus: If you want to see Hedges’ and Ward’s terrifying creations up close, visit the local 13th Floor Haunted House. September 18–19, 25–27, and every night in October; 4120 Brighton Blvd.; 303-355-3327; $25.99–$49.95