Art of Fear: Acting Styles

The next couple of essays I plan on writing will focus in-depth on the various acting types commonly seen in haunted attractions. However, since we just talked briefly about character creation, I thought it was best to outline them all here. As a rule of thumb, I tell actors just starting out to stick with their natural personalities. That doesn’t mean they cannot be versatile in their character types it just means that when starting to branch out with different characters its best to stick with your personality type because the performance will come much easier to you.

When I first really dove in to haunting and wanted to improve my skills and characters, I was told that there were three basic types of haunt acts. Basically, when you boil it all down all characters fit in those three molds.

  • Loud and Violent
  • Slow and Stupid
  • Crazy

Remember we are talking about acting styles not specific character types. For example, let us take a popular character…The Clown. First impressions when I say a clown you may think crazy, but some people like to do the loud and violent clown or a slow and stupid clown. That is why I say these are acting types, not character types. You may choose or are assigned to be a clown in a haunt, but what type of act do YOU want to do. Now over the years I have stretched it out a bit. This is my list:

  • Loud and Violent
  • Slow yet Aggressive
  • Stupid yet creepy
  • Wild and Crazy
  • Insane

I have found by breaking up the categories and expanding on them a bit makes it easier for newer actors to find what works for them. I will go into each of them in-depth in other essays, but to give some examples let’s graze the surface.

Your Loud and Violent characters are pretty self-explanatory. These are the most aggressive type of actors. This type of performance generally makes the customers actually fear that they will be hurt. These actors are usually the ones you see chasing after customers full force. They won’t actually hurt them, but when you watch them act it makes you wonder if they really do intend to hurt them.

Slow and Aggressive acts can easily be summed up with the examples from slasher movies. Think Halloween or Friday the 13th. Michael and Jason are violent characters but they as slow. They stalk before they strike. They play a cat and mouse type game with the customers. When they strike, they can be loud and violent, but they don’t start out that way.

Stupid yet Creepy are generally considered zombie type character. They move slow and don’t seem that interested in anything until it’s time to strike. These performers rely on movement and looks more than anything. Let’s face it the more dead a zombie looks the creepy it is. There are other characters that fit this category, but a zombie is the best example.

Wild and Crazy honestly is pretty self-explanatory. You act well wild and crazy. You spring into action, you talk nonsense, you charge after people with ill intent. Another perfect example would be a basic clown or if you want to refer to a movie look at Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2.

Insane is a different level of acting and the hardest to pull off successfully, I think. It’s also one of my personal favorites. It’s not an in the customer’s face type act its more subtle and disturbing. It’s the Renfield eating bugs, or the babbling schizophrenic, or the clam yet creepy Norman Bates. You have to really commit to this type of acting and be able to sell it. It’s also the one that is mostly dialog driven. I will also argue that it is the most effective because if done right your disturbing act is burnt into the customers brain and they will talk about it once they are out of the haunt.

This is just an introduction. Each category has to be discussed in length in their own essays. For now, I just wanted to touch base with each of them and get the wheels of your mind spinning in a creative process. For our next essay we will talk about loud and violent characters.