Be sure to come to HALLOWEEN EXTREME : A Halloween, horror and haunted house extravaganza!
MAY 24-26, 2013 Rosen Center, Orlando Florida
The Character Matrix:
A Clear And Simple Way To Help Haunt Actors Develop Characters Fast!
Ben Armstrong – NETHERWORLD Haunted House www.Fearworld.com 2/4/13
As we know, the most important and difficult thing to develop in a haunted attraction is a well trained staff. The goal of the CHARACTER MATRIX is to give your cast the tools to get up to speed on their characters fast!
The act of building and opening a haunt is an out of control roller coaster ride and for many the last thing we do is hire a staff, get them looking scary and send them into the gloom to await the first customers. Even when you have the time for training there are always mid-season actors that have to be brought on line without delay. So once assigned to a position what are your actors supposed to do? Well certain things are obvious. Any basically designed room has some sort of obvious place for the actor to hide, or a clear place for them to be seen doing whatever that room requires them to do. Almost anyone you hire (Well almost anyone!) will understand that if you dress them like a clown and put them in a clown room they are supposed to “act” like a clown. So say for example we have a drop panel for them to use in the clown room. It is pretty clear they are supposed to slam down the panel shocking the patrons and do something “funny“. But the next step is the tough one: how do they interact AFTER that?
So let’s begin with some of the basic haunt acting descriptions from the Ohio/Bloodview/Scab 5 school of thought to set the stage for the discussion.
A) PRESENTATION: How the actor looks: the make-up, the costume , the mask, etc.
B) APPROACH: How the actor reveals to the patron, i.e. a drop panel, curtain, pops out from around a corner, was in sight the entire time (for atmospheric characters, trapped people, actors working at a task, like a butcher chopping meat, et al)
C) INTERACTION: What happens between the actor and the guest – The “act” of delivering lines, startling the guest, etc.
The CHARACTER MATRIX is designed primarily to help your actors with the INTERACTION but it can also affect the PRESENTATION and the APPROACH.
First comes the obvious: what is the TYPE and OCCUPATION of the character? What I mean is for example the TYPE could be a CLOWN, the occupation could be a DOCTOR. So we have a clown doctor – that alone gives your actor much better guidance than just being a CLOWN.
Now we go to the MATRIX. Pick One PRIMARY TRAIT and one or two SECONDARY TRAITS that make sense. That may even be too much, it really depends how elaborate you want to get with the act.
A) Determine actor TYPE (Vampire, Werewolf, Clown, etc.)
B) Determine actor OCCUPATION (Doctor, Cook, Gravedigger, Butler etc.)
C) Pick one PRIMARY TRAIT and one or two SECONDARY TRAITS that do not conflict with each other.
Find the DESCRIPTORS under the TRAIT and use them to flesh out your act.
Kill for Fun
Talk to themselves
Be Afraid of Nothing/Everything
Order people around
Ask Dumb Questions
Be Easily Fooled
Now let’s take our CLOWN DOCTOR. Let’s say the PRIMARY TRAIT is he is SMART. The SECONDARY TRAIT is that he is INSANE. Now go to the DESCRIPTORS under the Trait and pick out a few that work for you and go to town! Our Clown Doctor can be very Bossy (Smart characters tend to order others around) but since he is insane his orders are nonsensical. For example when folks enter his scene he might say, “The operation is about to begin! You will be my assistant. Give me the rubber chicken. I wish to make the incision!”
The goal is to give FAST direction to your actors, to give them something to work with that can really help flesh out a character in no time at all. So if they are playing a Ghostly Butler, make them OLD and GOOD, so now maybe in a very slow and cranky way they are trying to warn (Help) the patrons about the horrors ahead.
Someone playing a WEREWOLF might play it differently if they were told to be a YOUNG werewolf. You could play a GOBLIN as ANIMALISTIC or as COMICAL. Even within a Trait there could be many differences. Our ANIMALISTIC GOBLIN could be cowering, i.e. afraid of the patrons or it could be stalking them or putting on a show of intimidation.
Dialogue will naturally come once you merge the TYPE, OCCUPATION and several TRAIT SETS, but in many cases BODY LANGUAGE and or the APPROACH is the thing the actor will understand as many characters won’t even have dialog in their act.
So there you have it… a very SIMPLE EASY way to give your actors something more to go on than just the room and costume. Do you have a Zombie horde and you want to make them different from each other? Easy! Make some YOUNG, some OLD, some STUPID and some INSANE. Now you have variety! The CHARACTER MATRIX is by all means not finished. You can add endless TRAITS and DESCRIPTORS to it. It is more of a shorthand way of thinking to get the crew rolling. When your actors come to casting to get assignments you can hand out a few TRAITS along with the costume, and it will help a great deal with the performance.
TYPE TRAIT SETS
There are certain trait sets that lend themselves to certain Haunted House Characters. Here are a few obvious ones to start with but you can make up a million of them… use these as an example and have fun!
Nazgul /Wraith Trait Set
Werewolf Trait Set
Demon Trait Set –
Goblin Trait Set –
Clown Trait Set
Creeper Trait Set
Zombie Trait Set
Monster Trait Set
Vampire Trait Set
Victim Trait Set
Greeter Trait Set
Camo Creatures Trait Set
Statues/Golems Trait Set
The Netherworld Haunted House gift shop will be OPEN Saturday, December 22nd and Sunday, December 23rd from Noon till 5:00pm. Need a quality skull toilet brush? How about a Collector bobblehead, or maybe some vintage style Halloween decorations? Lots of weird and unusual stuff to choose from…apparel, jewelry, household items, accessories and so much more! We even have Halloween inspired Christmas tree ornaments, Krampus stockings and other holiday related items.
We know this is last minute notice but we hope to see you this weekend…please help us spread the word!
Halloween’s dark harvest comes to life with AMERICA HAUNTS Halloween Countdown #1!
It is historically believed that the celebration of Halloween originated from the Celtic festival called Samhain, held at the end of each harvest season. Legend indicates that on October 31st, the barrier that separates the worlds of the living and the dead opens up, making crops susceptible to damage by returning spirits. To pacify these ghostly visitors, great bonfires were raised, and masks and costumes were worn with which to entertain them. Participants would walk between the fires as a cleansing ritual, casting the bones of slaughtered livestock onto the flames. A festive Halloween meant a successful harvest.
This connection to autumn’s crop offerings still lives on today, with much of the iconography and color scheme of the holiday based in this origin. Cornstalks, gourds, wreaths of dead vine or fall leaves, and – of course – pumpkins, have all become a traditional staple of Halloween decoration and celebration. It is difficult to conjure images of All Hallow’s Eve without picturing jack-o-lanterns or decor comprised of these recognizable fixtures.
Nowhere is this theme more prevalent than within America’s haunted attractions. Across the country every Halloween, the nation’s top creators deliver a senses-shattering array of frightening fare to visitors hungry for seasonal scares, tapping into a wide variety of chills and thrills. Touching upon both familiar and unexpected archetypes, they are able to invoke the true essence of the holiday.
Ulster Park, New York’s “Headless Horseman Hayrides and Haunted Houses”, part of the Historic Haunted Hudson Valley, delves deeply into the spirit of the harvest season. Having been voted “World’s Best Haunted Hayride” by AOL News, it boasts a one mile hayride, a labyrinth-style corn maze, six professionally created haunted houses, and much more. From the army of hollow men hidden deep within The Root Cellar, to the mutated reptilian plant creatures who populate Nightshade Greenhouse and Nursery, the fall crop has taken on horrific proportions. A vengeful scarecrow – reanimated with the evil spirit of an abusive husband – stalks the Evil Reaping Dark Harvest corn maze, and the diabolical cult of the Headless Horseman roams the same grounds once traveled by the legendary Ichabod Crane. The very trees around you come alive as Halloween’s dark roots unleash their earthly terror.
“Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride” is Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s premier haunted attraction, which Fangoria Magazine calls “a pure cornucopia of terror”. Featuring a 25-minute heart-pounding ride through the dark forest of Arasapha Farm, the Haunted Hayride takes visitors on a mind-bending journey over the rural terrain of its 82-acre farmland spread. The Haunted Corn Maze sends brave souls walking through a tall corn field where danger and unimaginable horrors lie around every twist and turn – such as the dead fisherman who stand silent vigil in a murky swamp populated by hungry alligators. If nature’s wrath becomes too overwhelming, hapless mortals can seek refuge by checking into the Bates Motel, where the only thing being harvested is more lost souls to wander the halls of this startling ‘resting’ place. Autumn’s cool breezes and color changes mark the passing of much more than just summer’s crop offerings on this unhallowed ground…
Further south, at High Point, North Carolina’s “Spookywoods”, the fear of being in the forest at night has never been so powerful as when visitors submit to Nyctohylophobia. The Dark Harvest plunges unsuspecting humans into a field of 10-foot high corn, overrun with the most frightening of creatures. Located on over 50 acres of farmland, the earth beneath your feet is rich with history and legend, as generations of harvest have unearthed nature’s dark wrath. And while the still of night offers spine-tingling chills, the days are also very much alive with fall festivities, including the Kersey Valley Pumpkin Patch, filled with thousands of pumpkins of every shape and size for perfect fall decorating. There is gem mining, fossil digging, and a dinosaur discovery (the first true monsters!) To top it off they have developed one of the largest zip line tours in the world, featuring over a dozen zip lines connected by giant 60-foot sky towers. Running the gamut of autumn’s fare, Spookywoods is certain to provide plenty of Halloween memories for holiday fans of every age and interest.
Humans are what is being harvested at “Creepyworld”, in St. Louis, as living dead scarecrows seek victims alongside zombie pigs, rabid chickens and crazed farmers. Delivering the world’s largest famous faces pumpkin display, this massive haunt is always finding new ways to breathe (after)life into the fall harvest. A typical hayride becomes anything but, as you defend humanity against hordes of the undead on the Zombie Town Paintball Haunted Hayride, and who can say what terror has been reaped and sown in the grisly Silo-X? Featuring NINE different horrifying attractions at one location for one price, Creepyworld offers the longest haunted house experience in St. Louis.
“The Haunted Trail of Balboa Park” reveals what occurs when nature runs amok. San Diego’s only all-outdoor haunted attraction sends the brave (and foolish) on a mile-long journey through twisted, sinister woods while unseen evil awaits. An eerie reminder of why we should not take Mother Nature for granted, visitors are assaulted from every angle as the change in seasons harkens a change in the natural order of things. The Haunted Trail of Balboa Park is no mere stroll in the park – it will leave you begging for shelter from the great outdoors.
NORCROSS, Ga. — Chesley put on a brave face Friday morning to give 11Alive viewers an inside look at Netherworld.
“I don’t do scary well,” he said.
Even with the lights on, the popular haunted house still proved scary. Experts consider it one of the best in the country.
Netherworld is located in the Georgia Antique and Design Center off Jimmy Carter Boulevard, near Interstate 85 in Norcross. It’s open nightly through November 3. Tickets start at $22.
The Giant Centipede!
Distortions creates a giant centipede for 1 of the top haunted houses in the US, NETHERWORLD!
Take a look behind the scenes at Erebus in Pontiac, MI – the world’s largest haunted house between August 2005 and September 2009 – and learn about the high and low tech tricks that go into delivering high quality terror!
OK – Check this out!! It’s greatly sped up and edited so you don’t see their entire trek through Netherworld Haunted House…and the fine folks at Travel Channel were nice enough to just focus on these scared teens and not the sets, props,
effects and massive creatures that had them so freaked out. So come out for yourself to see what all the screaming was about! We are OPEN TONIGHT and Every Night thru November 3rd. Check your local listings for HALLOWEEN CRAZIER on Travel Channel to see lots more of Netherworld and other amazing Halloween events on this original one-hour special which, as Travel Channel says, “features the most terrifying and absolute best of what Halloween has to offer”…suffice to say, we are thrilled to be included.