Thursday, September 16, 2021

Graveside Chat: A Few Things for Scare Actors This, and Every Halloween Season

*Note: This post was originally made on 9/21/13 on This is a republish.

Well, this year's Haunt Season is almost fully under way. Each day has more and more haunts opening with new and insane ways to scare those brave enough to entire their confines of madness. Along with this comes the legions of scare-actors that fill the halls and corners, the life blood of any haunt.

You can have the best sets, animatronics and costuming but it's the actors blood, sweat and tears that are the true heartbeat of any haunt. Without them, there's not much point is there?

I've always said that working in a haunt is one of the toughest forms of acting that's out there. You have to perform the same scene, or a variation of it, 100's if not 1,000's of times a night. Often with minimal breaks (if you even get them) for hours on end. It's not easy and many don't live up to the challenge.

That said, there's definitely some things the aspiring or current scare-actor can do to make sure that they're doing the best they can no matter what the situation. Over 20 years of working in these things has given me a bit of insight and while my body can't overly take the insane stress I put on it like in the past, I can pass a little wisdom down. So, take it from someone who's been around the block a few times for what it's worth.

First off, some things you'll be instructed to do by your manager or scene director. I wouldn't go too far against what they say that they're looking for from you in the particular area. However, you can always suggest a few things to improve your scare. Communication is key here, just don't go off half cocked. Even then, some of these will only work if you're allowed to wander a bit. If you're behind a drop panel or some other similar startle scare it can be a bit more difficult, but it still can be done if you're creative enough.

One of the biggest things you can do is really get into character. and to think about what's going on around you. Here's a couple idea that could help you out if you're not 100% sure on what you can do with things.
  • Are you alone? 
☣ Have fun with your surroundings, think about how people have been moving through your scene or potentially will. Find ways to be unpredictable with props or with the guests themselves. There's really endless possibilities here. You're really on your own here, but that can get be liberating. Just don't forget to get into character as much as you can. You're carrying the show here and being in touch with your surroundings and persona is very key. 
☣ However, DO NOT just "rawr" or grunt. Always mix things up with some dialogue if possible that fits your character. There's nothing more annoying than that kind of scare 100 times in a haunt. To me it's always come across as a lazy, half hearted scare attempt. Don't be that actor!
  • Are there other people around you?
☣  Here's when you can have a lot of fun with things. There's a ton of things you can do when you have others to play off of.
☣ The biggest thing here is to learn what the others around you are doing. This may take a little while to figure out, but the results can be spectacular. With not only static props and the scenery where you are being able to be utilized, now you have others to help you gang up on people, use as a distraction and so many other things.
☣ If everyone is going over the top, maybe being the quiet creepy one will work, but don't be afraid to change it up. Have fun with it and talk to your co-actors in the scene. It'll go a long way in the end as unpredictability is a key part of any good scare.
I've always thought the most insane and terror inducing scenes had 3-5 actors in them doing just this. After a few nights there's enough chemistry between everyone that the full force of the insanity can be unleashed.
  •  In a drop-window or other small space?
 ☣ This has always been one of the toughest areas in a haunt for me personally. I like to move and weave in and out of the group before me and work with others. That said, there's still quite a bit you can do here.
☣ I've said it before (and probably will a million times before I'm dead), but avoid the "rawr" or grunt. Figure out what's fitting for your area and character. Is it an insane cackle or even something as simple as a "Get out!", "Help me!" or "Don't go in there!"? Maybe it's more of an 'invitation' and something like "Come play with me" or "Join us!" that would work better. All of these work well and provide more interaction, something us reviewers love, and guests in the haunt do too!
☣ It can be dull and you may be bored (like I often was in a small space), but again, play with your character and surroundings while being unpredictable. Don't always open up on the first person or last person. single people out and try to not do the same thing every time. Not only will that help you, but the entire show as well.
  • "If you can't scare them, make them laugh" 
☣ Okay, that might sound completely contradictory to what you think a haunted attraction should be, but there's definitely logic behind this one. If people aren't scared by you or your scene (and many might not be) you can take the edge off by doing something off the wall completely, making them laugh. Remember, they did pay to get in and are expecting entertainment, give it to 'em however ya can!
☣ Not only does it help to not frustrate you throughout the night, but it also can lead to distracting them for the next scene. This is definitely for the greater good here, you're part of a huge machine of terror and every bit helps.
One of the biggest tips that I can give, aside from those above is to have fun with things. You're getting paid to scare people so doing the best you can is always at the top of things, but if you can't have fun while you're doing it there's no point. Also, don't forget to try and go as close to 100% all the time. You'll be sore and hurting at the end of the night, but the rush of scaring someone out of their wits far outweighs that. That is what it's all about, right?

And there ya have it, just a few pointers from someone who's been around the block quite a few times. They might help out, they might not, but either way it's something to consider on those long nights filled with screams and chainsaws.

As always, you can follow along with us on Twitter @24x79 and Instagram for all the latest updates, news and more from haunts and other insanity all over the US! 

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