Part of series: Seven Layers of Scare: http://www.halloweenforum.com/blogs/terra/528-seven-layers-scare.html
Detailed look at layer four of Seven Layers of Scare....
Ok, we've decided on our Theme and Art Direction (Layer One).
Decorated the Walls, Ceilings and Floors
to fit our theme (Layer Two).
Picked a Main Scare
that will effectively have the ToTs emit the coveted ScreamLaugh (Layer Three).
Now, let's help immerse them in the horror movie of your mind. The little details - the Accents
- that tell the story of the room (Layer Four).
By accents I mean the chairs, tables, pictures on walls, typewriter on the table, surgery tools on an instrument stand. Yes darling, you get to accessorize!
These aren't just little things you throw into a room. They are critical elements that cement what the room is, what happened in the past, and forecasts what may happen in the future. These details are what adds the 'creep'
to the haunt. It becomes so real that the ToTs are starting to question if they made the right decision to enter your haunt in the first place. Maybe you are
a serial killer and the haunt is just a ruse to trap them! In other words they start to become 'creeped out.'
And, as a special bonus, they are primed and ready for your Main Scare to spring.
Ok, got the reasons why these Accents are so important....but which accents should you pick? That's where some research is in order. Google pictures of the scene in the time you are trying to recreate. For example, an operating room in the 30's. Here's a great picture of a real operating room back then:
Just look at all the large and small goodies you can copy here!
The pro-haunt 'The Dent Schoolhouse'
, located in Cincinnati, are masters at adding realism with Accents. I was lucky enough to go to their seminar at Transworld 2010 and here are some notes. First, a tease of one of their haunt rooms:
The owners created their haunt theme to match the architecture of the schoolhouse they bought. The theme is the story of kids gone missing back in the 40's and 50's and suspicion had focused on the school's janitor named Charlie. The school was immediately closed for good when the bodies of the children were discovered in the basement. Everything in the school had been preserved in their 1950's condition since. Now that the owners had a theme, construction of each room had to follow that storyline. They have a principle's office (pictured above),
shop class, automotive class, cafeteria, etc.... all exactly as they would have been back then.
They stressed to always try to add as many authentic
Accents as you can to help tell your story. Coincidentally, it does make it easier on us (saves prop-building time)
The best places to find these trinkets are antique stores, garage sales, Craigslist (good for large accents)
and thrift stores. Quote from Dent Schoolhouse: "Picture your set like scenes from horror movies. The sets are realistic atmospheres that are filled with junk and not typically filled with latex (props)."
Start with a base layer of large accents (tables, chairs)
then add smaller items to finish filling the room. Remember to always try find items that that help tell the story. If it's a garden shed - have fertilizer, bug sprayer, garden tools...things like that. "OK, but I don't have that much room"
you may be asking... bookcases and shelving are great places to showcase the little accents. Oh, and don't be shy, collect a lot of small accents. When you clutter up a corner with the things that would normally be in a kitchen, it appears lived-in. There's another beneficial reason to do this: All that eye candy distracts the ToTs and helps set them up to be scared out of their minds when you spring the Main Scare. Don't forget wall hangings! The Dent Schoolhouse has posters of the missing kids plastered throughout the haunt.
Arranging all this junk...
Have all Accents positioned to look like they were just being used. A book laying open, chair pulled out, cigarette in the ashtray, the desk lamp on. That brings me to another suggestion they had: When you can, have the Accents working.
They use an old TV switched on a static channel, a radio playing in the corner of the room...things like that. Not only does it add realism but it also helps to light the room in a very creepy way. Anytime you use a light accent try to have it become the source light in the room. At the same time, have the radio broadcast be the sound.
Secure the accents when you can. Use Liquid Nails, bailing wire, screws... anything to keep them put so you don't have to constantly replace or rearrange them. Don't forget the most important part... make them old!
Make a brown paint wash, brush on and smear off with a clean rag. Walla!
dirty. Sprinkle everything with cement dust or Fuller's Earth to give a great layer of abandonment. And finally,
whip out your webcaster gun... it's now FunTime!
I want to thank The Dent Schoolhouse for giving me so much great information. They also have one of the most themed websites ever! It's a blast poking through all the little touches they added to continue to tell the story of those poor missing children: http://www.frightsite.com/
While there, be sure to read the Dent Gazette: http://frightsite.com/thedentgazette.html