Art of Fear: Stupid yet Creepy Acting Style

The next acting style we will discuss is what I like to call Stupid yet Creepy. Maybe “stupid” isn’t the best term to use because the character doesn’t necessarily have to be stupid by the common definition. That is how we use to describe zombies back then. No dialog, slow moving, and easy to escape. I guess the term just stuck with me. For our purposes the term stupid means slow moving non-aggressive characters. Characters who’s look and actions have a level of creepiness to them.

These types of characters require a bit more “acting” since they rely heavily on performing. Yes, you can have some dialog, but it’s usually very little. A word here and a word there, but movement and interaction are the driving motivation for this style of performing. Your scares are not sparked by loud or violent movements instead the lunging near miss type of strike. Even though a stupid yet creepy type of character can be anything I think first looking at a zombie as an example would be easy for everyone to relate too.

Now I don’t want to spark the huge debate over which zombies are better. Some like the traditional Romero zombie while others like the Resident Evil running zombies. Personally, I am a fan of the Romero zombie style so I’m using that in this example. Zombies are dead…the joints are stiff, and the muscles have atrophied. In short, they lack the physical capabilities to move smoothly. Because of that their movement is choppy and stiff. Their “attack” for a scare is often a clumsy lunge that purposely misses their target hopefully sending the customer running or moving quickly away. If the lunge is timed just right, it will catch the customer off guard. Instead of stalking the customer in a game of cat and mouse the character usually wanders around aimlessly and notices its victim. See here is the trick. As an actor you are always watching and observing. For these types of characters, you need to look like you are wandering around not paying attention. The customers will be observing you and showing signs they don’t like you, but you need to make sure they think you are unaware of them. That makes your attack more surprising.

Like I said though this category fits more than just a zombie. I do believe that it is a makeup (or good mask) driven category as well as one driven on movement and timing. Another example I’d like to give is a good friend of mine and a great haunter. He did a character a few times called “Bump” simply because he dragged around one of those construction road signs he found that said “bump” on it. His costume and look was more of a bum off the streets, but his movement was slow almost like a patient in an asylum over medicated. He would mumble the word bump every now and then as he dragged the sign attached to his wrist and hand by a chain or strap. Even though he was wandering around with what seemed like no purpose he was watching all the customers around him. Looking for that right one that seemed either nervous or complete was unaware he was there. He would then lunge at them swinging the sign and smacking himself in the head with it then looking at them laughing saying “bump”. This character fits both the stupid and creepy parts of this acting style. He wasn’t a zombie he was simply “Bump”.

The type of character you do can have a stupid yet creepy acting style. You are only limited by your own imagination. Also keep in mind the more we talk about these acting styles the more you will be able to mix and match them. None of this is set in stone, these styles can be interchangeable. You can be a stupid and creepy type character but your finish could be a loud and violent one. The options are endless. The purpose of breaking down these style like this is to give you the actor a better understanding of your own character you develop and to be successful at your scares.

Another thing to mention is the entertainment value of this type of character. The reality of haunting is you cannot scare everyone. Your job really isn’t to scare. It’s to entertain. Your main focus yes is to scare customers, but there are those that come just because they simply enjoy haunted attractions. Think about it. After working in one how many times do you go into a haunt as a customer and get scared. Alot of people are like that, they come to see the show and to be entertained. These types of characters start to dive into the end of the spectrum of entertainment. Yes, they can scare or startle customers, but they can also make them laugh as they enjoy watching you work. There is nothing wrong with that, because in the end that customer is entertained.

Adding characters that utilize this acting style helps improve your acting skills overall. Like I said at the very beginning of this series of haunt essays there is more to haunted attraction performing that jumping out being loud. Each one of these acting styles incorporate more and more skills to make these characters work. It takes more preparation to develop a character with these attributes. Each style we talk about becomes more and more involved in making them work teaching you new skills you didn’t know you had. The final two style I will cover in the next essays are not only my personal favorite, but the most challenging yet to make them effective. So lets start thinking about going mad and losing our minds!