(Note: I’d been writing this, where time permitted this week, and then saw Grim’s blog of October 7th. I’ve just edited this writing, but give appologies if I might repeat the good advice already given. Consider this a small ‘Part 2′ to Grim’s post).
Ahh, October… I can smell Hallowe’en in the air already! For many of us, it’s a smell of mache and urethanes, of paint, plaster and liquid latex. It’s the pre-season game for those who put the trick in “Trick or Treat”. Having seen some of the works in progress for this season, I’m already getting the same sense of anticipation and hope of finding the best haunts of the year… and this will never change.
Of course, older now, and with a background in staging horror for film & museums, I have a more technical eye to the haunts now. To me, what makes the perfect haunt is not the sheer volume of props & sounds that some attempt, it’s the staging of them. Some of the best haunts I’ve visited have been a bit sparse but the thought in the setup made them great. When I was a child, the houses that caught my attention most (and caused the most fear) were the ones that were dark & quiet, yet had one beautifully scary pumpkin… Sometimes the best fears are the ones we imagine to be there. With that in mind, I always think placement is all-important to the end result. Equal to this is the ‘story’. Each year I try to create a theme or story to my haunt & this often dictates the placement. (Stories of the past here have included; circus sideshow, gargoyle feeding grounds, zombie cemetaries, etc.).
Here are just a few things I use to guide my little chocolatey-smelling visitors down the path:
Keep in mind that, above all, safety is first and foremost! Secure wiring, clear paths of unwanted debris/leaves, accent-light trip points, etc…
1. The path- Take some tips from landscapers (and whoever designed Ikea stores). If possible, a path is never straight. It winds and guides to each discovery. This is even more important when there is no direct theme/story to the haunt, lending to enjoyment of each separate piece. If the path is a difficult one with trip points, etc. I recruit costumed ‘guides’ at those areas. I can always find an extra body on Hallowe’en!
2. Spacing- Using the landscaper’s talents again… Equidistant spacing always looks contrived, as does any grouping of figures/items in equal number. Groups of 3, 5, etc. carry as ‘natural’. Natural lulls the mind into belief.
3. 2-Stages- I like to entertain the whole sticky-masked brood out there on Hallowe’en, from the fearful young to those older ones who are on a candy scoring expedition (and don’t believe there’s a fright left in the night). I generally set out to ‘impress’ the latter group but I keep the wee-folk in mind by offering a candy basket before the gauntlet-of-scares the others must run.
4. The ‘BOO’ Scene- A tip from the best horror movies… (Our hero moves to look at the strange carvings on the stone and the camera moves left to follow. He reaches to touch the pooled blood at it’s base & we wait, breath held, when…. A hand clasps his shoulder from behind!) Also known as the lure, or ‘fishing’. Naturally, I don’t leave a haunt unattended on the night, I involve myself in the ‘scene’. And just like those favourite scary flicks, I enjoy the boo-scene most of all. Leading visitors to an obvious point/display is the perfect opportunity to introduce the prize Boo! Separate switches to light a prop or emit sound, air ‘bladder’ & tube to cause fresh-turned earth to move… Never ignore the opportunities here!
5. Lighting- Grim’s post covers this area nicely. If I add one tip, it’s that red lighting does not affect night-vision. Not to suggest that you use all red light… but that it’s a good one to use for safety areas & sudden flashes of light in places.
In my opinion, if I’ve done it all well, I have a real haunt, not a quick candy scoring station on the street! I’ve both, entertained & been entertained, and those little demons will be sure to remember the experience each year after.
9thmonk is a guest blogger here on Grimvisions you can follow him on Twitter here 9thmonk@twitter