01 November 2010
Zombie image by Lone Orc David Harrison
I've done lots of regular acting, but until this past weekend I've never done any 'scare acting'. However, I do love Hallowe'en, and needed some flexible gainful employment, so, when I found out that The London Tombs were hiring for the Hallowe'en rush, I went for it.
I made it through the selection process and dutifully spent all of my Hallowe'en time this past weekend terrifying the public.
My job title was 'Scarer', but I like to think of it as 'Professional Zombie'.
At its worst it was great stretches of monotony, meandering in the smoky dark, while the wail of sirens, snaps of air cannons, hissing snakes, and/or creepy clown music droned on around me. The air was moldy, everything I touched was filthy and covered in sticky. The basement labyrinth was disorienting - the strobe lights, netting, smoke machines just making it worse. For hours at a time I would be stuck in this confusing maze, on high-alert lest a group of people in need of a scare pass my way.
At its best, the job was a thrilling game of hide-and-seek. One in which I never had to worry about getting caught. I was always 'it'. Crouched behind doorways, hidden in shadows, sneaking up behind unsuspecting victims. Hilarious good times for me, and good bang for the paying clients' terrified buck.
A great scare, like a punchline, can fall flat if delivered too early. Or too late. The trick is to ride the tension until it's almost unbearable, and then release it.
And sometimes that release can be a throaty RAAAWWWWR, or a high-pitched yowl, but that volume isn't always necessary. Some of the best scares came from silently coasting out of the darkness (call it the 'creepy factor').
But that creepy slowburn scare isn't my thing. For me, it just can't compare to leaping onto a simulated sacrifice table and lunging claws-first at a girl screaming the horror of someone who is watching their life flash before their eyes. Her terror is something I won't soon forget.
Nor will I soon forget: the guy who used his girlfriend as a human shield (even running her into a wall in an effort to get away from me) as they raced through the Snake Pit; the pair of teenage girls who, pinned by their fear up against a chain-link fence, spent a good thirty seconds trading screams with me in the Generator Room; or the Goths who decided on doing the Tombs with their flashlight on, to ward off the darkness – not realizing how well a flashlight accentuates the shadows, giving me multiple opportunities to scare a dribble of urine into their PVC trousers.
Without getting too 'inside baseball' on the whole experience, let me just say that I spent, of my Hallowe'en weekend, about 70% of my time dressed up like an undead workman, prowling the bowels of The London Bridge.
Of that 70% of time, I spent 20% crouching behind a shower curtain, 15% frozen in a pose of Amazonian decay, 18% lurking in, or racing to, miscellaneous shadowy areas, 2% applying earplugs, 7% laughing maniacally at your fear, 8% cranking up the smoke machine, 18% lurching out of the aforementioned shadows at nervous Hallowe'en-goers, 11% chasing the terrified and terror-stricken, and 5% applying or removing makeup.
It's possible that the numbers don't add up, but I'll tell you what: zombies are artists; they aren't really into math.