The Art of Fear : Loud and Violent Characters

One of the most common and popular characters many actors flock to are the loud and violent characters. That’s because they tend to get the most reactions. They are also in my opinion the most necessary type of character in a haunt. Come on…let’s face it without the loud and violent characters putting the fear of God into the customers making them scream a haunt wouldn’t be much of a haunt would it?

As an acting style the loud and violent character is the most important, but also the most difficult to master. A huge part of this style is timing. Granted you can go crazy, bouncing off of walls screaming, and chasing customers without rhyme or reason. Anyone can do that, but it’s generally not as effective as a well-planned out loud and violent act. Just yelling loud or thrashing about will get a simple startle scare in a ton of customers but that is it. I’ve seen so many actors do just that and once that initial startle scare is over, they are stuck just looking stupid with a customer laughing instead of running in fear.

Like I said this is the most difficult of the acting styles to master because even though most actors do not realize it there are several layers involved you need to consider and master before you can really be successful with this character type. The first is pacing yourself or stamina both physically and vocally.

Imagine you are running a marathon. If you give it your all right from the start and keep that intense pace up for the whole race you will fail. You will not cross the finish line. Instead, a good runner paces themselves and know when to push for the win. Same concept here. An acting night in October is a long night…even the slow Sundays. It’s a marathon of scaring customers especially for loud and violent characters. It is important to learn how to pace yourself or you will crash from exhaustion before the first break hits. You don’t need to go after every single customer. Remember most come through in groups so targeting the middle first and see who jumps will help you to determine your course of action. I’ll go more in-depth about targeting customers and groups in another essay, but for this I’ will elaborate a bit.

My rule of thumb is I target the middle of the group if I don’t already know the best customer to scare…and by that, I mean the one that screams the loudest and jumps the highest. Target the middle and take a quick second to read the rest of the group based off that first initial rush. Then build from there. Instead of trying to get everyone in the group hit the weakest link. Their reactions will spark similar reactions to others in the group, or you will know who in the group is just sitting back laughing at their scared friends trying not to piss their pants. This way you limit the stress on your body and your voice.

Speaking of voice…being loud puts a tremendous amount of stress on your vocal cords to say the least so pace yourself. I prefer to mix some normal volume level dialog in with my yelling to not only save my voice, but to also mix it up a bit for the customers. If I’m spewing out dialog talking at a normal volume, then I kick it up to screaming well that’s more effective. Loud and violent doesn’t mean you are that way all the time.

Another thing is knowing your room or your surroundings helps alot. Most haunts have experienced builders and they will work hit or kick points in the room. These are more durable spots that can take a beating so you are not punching holes in walls or breaking props. Figure out or ask what points are best for an aggressive style of acting. For example: you set yourself up to run at a customer screaming and yelling as they towards the exit of the room so they go running out screaming. Find a kick point and time it so as you run you hit the kick point making a bang along with your act. It’s like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence. Again…I cannot be more clear about this…ask the people in charge about these points. Nothing is as bad as damaging an expensive prop or ruining a set wall in the middle of an acting night. Be careful not to damage your surroundings trying to get a scare.

It is important in any acting style, but very important in this one to stalk the customers to evaluate them. In rooms you must do this quickly because you have a limited amount of time with them. Take a quick evaluation to see the best target to hit. Who will scare the best in the group? Loud and violent characters want to target the screamers, the jumpers, and the runners. The customers scared reactions will spill over to the other customers, and it sounds good to those who are making their way to your room. Learning how to quickly evaluate who to scare will save time and energy allowing you to get the most out of your night. If you are a roaming actor, then please give those placed in rooms info on who to target when you find a good scare. Remember a good haunt is a team of actors and the show will be better for it.

Loud and violent actors tend to carry weapons if the haunt allows it. Honestly to me weapons are not necessary. Weapons are like axe handles, dulled knives, meat hooks, etc…some sort of intimidating noise maker. Anymore most haunts do not allow these things, and in my opinion weapons are a crutch. I’m not talking about props like severed heads, canes, whatever. Props are uses as part of your character not a weapon to intimidate and make noise. Trust in your acting ability and learn how to scare without a weapon. In the long run it will be more personally satisfying. Also be sure to check with those in charge BEFORE you carry any type of prop or weapon. Insurance companies like to use a little word called liability.

No some of you may be saying to yourself I cannot do a loud and violent character. I’m too short or too skinny or whatever type of excuse you will give yourself not to try the character type out. Let me tell you the absolute BEST loud and violent character I have ever seen doe which was extremely effective was not a guy built like a football player. It was a short woman about 5’5″ who absolutely destroyed the customers as a loud and violent demon. She was amazing and she did pretty much what I outlined in this essay. She stalked customers crouching down staring at them. She knew who to hit and timed it perfectly. She paced herself to keep her voice on point. I saw her firsthand chasing after the bigger guys that did look like football players. She fine-tuned her act and was amazing at it. My point is that if done right ANYONE can play a loud and violent character.

With any type of character, a loud and violent type character take careful planning and practice. Being oud may come naturally to you and to others it takes time to develop. Do not get discouraged. Everyone has their natural abilities, and a specific character type may be outside those abilities. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Plus, like I said in a previous essay character types often overlap depending on your act or a spur of the moment reaction to a good, frightened customer. So, trying your hand at doing a loud and violent character…or any of the other types you may think is out of your comfort zone…will benefit all your character acts. Our next essay we will look in-depth at another acting style.