Dissecting the Scare Actor: The Figure of the Human Monster in the Haunt Industry

Hoedt, M. (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation

Description

Monsters are ubiquitous in horror fiction, and perhaps never more so than within the type of events known as scare attractions. Most often operating in tandem with Halloween, scare attractions (or haunts) are best defined as promenade performance, with groups of audience members moving between the rooms of a non-traditional staging space and from one scene of a horror story to the next. Within the context of these events, narrative often takes a backseat to more straightforward depictions of genre tropes (and even known characters), the focus instead on providing its audiences with the scares they expect. The responsibility for achieving this fear is squarely in the hands of the performers within haunts, the scare actors. Providing a mix of character acting and audience management, performers in haunts have to draw on a particular set of skills that is largely outside of the remit of more conventional methods of actor training. Furthermore, while some actors may be asked to play the victims of the story, the majority will adopt costumes and techniques to transform themselves into one of many monsters in order to scare the guests.

The aim of this paper is to discuss the role of the scare actor and to chart the performance skills to aid in such a transformation. In addition, I wish to theorize the monster of the haunt as part of a wider discourse: arguably, all monsters in scare attractions are mechanical and / or portrayed by humans, thus creating a particular interpretation of the monstrous Other. Furthermore, elements of dramaturgy and stagecraft within this performance practice present a different relationship between audience and monster, resulting in a dynamic unique to the form.
Period5 Jun 2021
Event titleMaking Monsters: The Production of Terror
Event typeConference
LocationNorwich, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionNational