Art of Fear – Insane Acting Style

The final grouping in my list of acting styles I call Insane Acting. This is different from the previous wild and crazy acting we talked about. This is more of cold, realistic, and twisted type of insanity…the type you might get from watching serial killer documentaries like Ted Bundy or a John Wayne Gacy. It is one of my personal favorite acting styles and is very difficult to master in order to be effective. A true insane act works best outside the confines of a room but could be adapted with some work. I feel it is most effective for roaming actors and it involves using all the tools and techniques you must develop to be a good haunt actor. I’m talking about timing, observing, dialog all combined with patience. It is a true test of your acting abilities inside the haunt. With this acting style you are truly hunting and terrorizing.

Your character can be or look like anything, but for myself I like minimalistic makeup when I act with the insane style. That’s just a personal preference though. You see this style isn’t the loud in your face scare it is on a totally different level. You must get into the customer’s head. Break down their sense of security. A full emotional attack on their rational thought is what you are aiming for here. The goal is to freak them out, disturb them…the goal is not to make them scream the goal is to make them feel uncomfortable, unsafe, and eventually cry. In order to do that you need to “hunt” for the right customer. This takes time and patience. You must know what you are looking for and that comes with experience.

I have to say at this point this type of customer isn’t in every group. You will be lucky to see a couple really good targets a night. However, they are there you have to just know what you are looking for. Look for the customer that isn’t overly vocal in their group. One that is slightly nervous, but not overly jumpy. Look for signs as you pass by like them giving glances out of the corner of their eye. They usually pay more attention to their surroundings and look at every line or wandering actor that comes close to the group they are in. They are not overly scared and jumpy…more cautious and stick towards the middle of the group they are in. Pay attention to their body language. They usually show signs of a timid personality. It takes time to learn all these signs and condition yourself to see them WITHOUT paying attention to them too much.

Remember you are insane like a serial killer. Your actions at first are subtle and teasing. Eventually make eye contact and smile or maybe point however do not fully engage yet. Plant the seed and wait until they get further into the haunt. Find your spot where you will make your “introduction”. Remember your acting style is hunting and disturbing. So how should you really act?

Dialog is a huge factor here. So is your movement and your voice. Calm, low tones, and disturbing dialog.

“I’d love to see what makes you tick inside your pretty head my dear.” or “I see the darkness that marks your soul.”

This is a cat a mouse game and your dialog should build with each interaction. Be disturbing enough to convey the fact you are not your normal jump out and scare and have fixated on that customer. Hit your customer of choice and then disappear moving ahead a couple of rooms hide in the shadows then hit and run again. The purpose is to break them down and make them wonder where you keep coming from. Remember you are an insane serial killer type tormenting for a long-term scare. What I like to purposely do is act get in from of them at least a group ahead and stay in that room. Act for the group in front of them or even their friends but ignore them to a point. The most they will get from me is a brief acknowledgment like a stare or a smile. Something that makes them know that I see them…that I am aware of them. By doing this I’m also watching the signs. If they are the right target, they will get more nervous or say something to their friends as they quickly look away. Something like “look it’s him again” that’s when I know they are worth the time to continue. Then let them pass and stand there staring at your chosen victim as they exit the room and when they are out of sight move quickly ahead a few rooms to repeat the process then be ready to do it all over again.

At this point you should be ready to engage your chosen victim directly. This is when good dialog comes in. When the group enters the room, you are in don’t stand still circle like a lion circling its prey. Stay moving don’t let them be able to figure out where you are coming from. When you move in to give your dialog always move closer quickly from a different angle…say a line…something like “I love the smell of your soul” and then back off quickly and circle again. Remember you are toying with them. Unhinging them. Think Freddy in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. He wasn’t like Jason that just came out and killed and was done. He tormented people. That’s what you are doing. Now at this point your chosen victim’s friends may try to protect them so find ways to work around them. This is another reason to keep moving around so you always have a way to get in there to deliver a disturbing line of dialog. Remember patience and steps. Don’t overdo it. Back off and move to the next area. You don’t want to totally unleash until they are ready to break down.

After a few rounds of various levels of your cat and mouse games. Hopefully if your chosen victim is right, they will not be happy at all to see you. Their friends will be around them trying to block you and your victim will not even look up at you. If they are doing anything like that then it is time to move in. Your finisher can be just about anything. Personally, I stay quiet and disturbing, but at times I move in and start quiet and quickly change to a combo of loud and crazy threating to smash their skulls to see what ticks inside their heads or rip open their chests to find their precious hearts. For this act I have memorize and Oingo Boingo song from the 90’s called Insanity. The lyrics are perfect. I’ll move in and stay as close as possible and whisper as much of the song as I can remember into their ear over and over again without stopping faster and faster until they snap, scream, and yes…quite of few have cried scream shut up! I was even punched once by a woman’s friend for being too “creepy”. That was an awesome moment!

My point with this acting style is that with this type you really take the time to erode the line of reality and fantasy between you the haunt actor and the customer that comes into the haunt. Suddenly by taking the time and working on the right one you have allowed them to feel a different level of scare. Not the shock jump scare, or moments of fear sparked from phobias. You gave them a taste of real fear. As a haunt actor that is very satisfying to say the least. Cherish those scares because they take a lot of effort to achieve and like I said those customers are harder to find. I hope that breaking down these various acting styles help you round out your acting techniques more with your characters. For our next collection of essays, we will look into various tips and tricks to help you identify good target customers and to find ways to make scares more personable by being more aware of what your customers say and do.