Scareactor Stories: Nicholas Cappelletti

 

Hey there HHNU readers, my name is Nicholas Cappelletti. For the past 2 years I’ve been fortunate enough to be a scareactor at Halloween Horror Nights. HHNU reached out to me to share some tales from my time as a Scareactor….

Halloween Horror Nights 26 was my first ever year attending HHN or any haunted attraction in my life, however, it wasn’t intentional that it took me to the 26th year of HHN to attend as a guest, or even perform. I had the opportunity back in 2008 to check out  Halloween Horror Nights 18 with my family, but I saw a guest at Disney walking around with a Bloody Mary themed shirt, and as a young child I was so spooked by what I saw on that shirt. I unfortunately decided to keep to kid friendly activities. Pretty dumb in hindsight, especially considering the fact that the majority of the HHN community believes HHN18 was one of the event’s greatest years.

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“Scareacting is an addiction.”

The rush one feels when they put the fear of potential death in someone is exhilarating. For my first year scareacting at HHN26, I made sure to listen to the returning veterans, as their advice really helped me find out which scare technique would be best for different people. Sometimes people would just look at me when I emerged from my “boo hole,” but most of the time I would either have people freaked out running to the next room, or my favorite when someone gets so scared they drop to the floor. I can remember cast members and I would tell each other how many bodies we dropped after each set was over.

I met so many wonderful and amazing people in my first cast. The chemistry we had when we first met can only be described as “lightning in a bottle.” Besides the wonderful friends I made in my first year, the moment that really took the cake was when we won House of the Year.

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If the above picture didn’t give it away, I was part of the incredible cast of American Horror Story, playing Larry Harvey aka “Burned Man”.

As the season kicked off, the cast as a whole could tell that we were doing something special, and breaking the all time house attendance record TWICE was something that really gave the cast a purpose to create even more horrific nightmares for the guests. Us  scareactors in the Season 1 area knew we had to set the tone for the rest of the guest’s experience throughout the rest of the house (season 4 and 5) and I feel we hit that goal every single night.

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When auditions for HHN27 arrived I knew if I was selected, this would be my final year scareacting. Although I had hopeful plans, and dreams of going on until HHN30, those dreams were unfortunately squashed. We’ll get to that part later…….

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“I couldn’t believe it!”

When I found out I would help in representing one of the greatest horror movies in history I honestly got quite nervous. When I found out my role before I showed up to costume fitting, I nearly fainted. I held the outfit of the great Jack Torrance in my hands, and I was literally shaking. Not only was I excited, but I also wanted to make sure to do the best job possible representing this character and the actor who portrayed him.

My new role in my second year was to be what I had looked for last year; a mentor. I helped any first years whenever possible, and even learned new scaring techniques myself along the way. If there is anything I took from scareactors who have been scaring for more than 10 years, it’s that you are constantly learning, improving, and enjoying this event in many different ways. Jack Torrance had the best scare out of both my years as a scareactor, in my opinion, because it was so well hidden. I could pop out with an axe, have a guest drop to the floor, and immediately vanish back into the hedges.

Probably the greatest experience out of both years came during HHN27. I was in a spot in the hedgemaze where I was the middle Jack in a series of three. Our timing had to be perfectly precise, since the Jack who popped out before me had 2 spots he could come out of, and 2 Jack characters could never be seen at the same time. Our Performance Coordinators were walking into the maze with guests in front of them as well as behind them. The first Jack popped out of his first hole and scared the guests surrounding the Coordinators; they freaked out and he quickly vanished. I emerged immediately, lifting my axe above my head swiping at the guests in front of me. After I quickly vanished back into the hedges, the guest in front of the Coordinators got so scared that they backed up and refused to continue moving. The guests behind them kept trying to push their way forward, screaming that they don’t know where Jack is coming from. Suddenly the Jack before me popped out of his 2nd boo-hole and had everyone fly against the side of the maze wall, and I took the opportunity to scare those same guests again as they ran back towards me. This back and forth scare continued for a solid minute, freezing the line in between our Coordinators because the guests surrounding them were too scared to continue on. That to me takes the cake as the best moment of HHN27 because my Performance Coordinators were there to witness our great timing, execution, and creativity as 2 Jacks who were downright terrifying. As scareactors, we pride ourselves for our great scares, but unfortunately no one really sees them besides the guests surrounding you and a few people behind them.

“So…do you think you could become a scareactor?”

If you’re a method actor like myself, this type of work can be quite fun. When I got hired for HHN26, I had never watched American Horror Story besides the pilot, but I went back and finished the entire season and fell in love with the whole series. When I was told my role, I practiced at home on how my character walks, talks, thinks, and feels. I even burned myself on my kitchen stove so I knew how it feels to be burnt alive, and how my body would react, which was a huge factor in my scare.

In my first day in the makeup chair, I talked to myself about my character’s wife, and how awful she was and how sorry I am for my daughters. Just about every day before we began while the que lines were starting to form, I had tea time with my kids; I miss those kids.

I had the same mental preparations for HHN27 for every set, and I would get into Jack Torrance’s head. Because of this, though, I became very depressed up until the half way mark of the event. At home, I would have fits of rage and instability. I had to eventually find myself again and try to hold back the crazy Jack.

I believe anyone can be a scareactor, I’ve seen it from my day job, to people on the street scaring their family when their family turns a corner. The part you as an individual will have to focus on is body language and movement. Try practicing without using your voice; you may not have an opportunity to speak in your role. Everything will come from what your body movement says, and over time you’ll find what works best for you, whether it’s a quick movement or a slow powerful movement (especially with a weapon). Personally, I would recommend scareacting, as you can put your heart and soul into any part you are assigned to.

“There is never a bad role”

So why am I not returning? Some of you may be thinking that 2 years as a scareactor really isn’t much, and I agree with that statement. I wish I could continue but there are a few factors that went into my decision to not return.

If you are in a relationship with someone, they more than likely will not understand exactly what work goes into scareacting. It mainly came down to the hours, though; the hours I worked vs. the hours my significant other worked. Being a scareactor can tear relationships apart and cause major rifts between couples. I saw it happen in both of my years performing. It doesn’t matter if their significant other was a scareactor at the event or not, this event can be a relationship killer. My best advice is to try to have some sort of support group before you jump into this line of work, and if your significant other can’t accept what you’re doing then you’ll need to really work out a gameplan with that person.

The second reason isn’t in the public eye all too much, but being physically assaulted, or worse, does happen at this event. This was honestly the main thing holding me back from returning for any further seasons. What I personally experienced this past year (2017) the final nail into the coffin for me. Although this does happen to many a scareactor, how they individually decide to deal with it is up to them. Just keep in mind that Universal Studios is an amazing company to work for, and they will treat you like family. They will be there for you for whatever comes your way as they want you to succeed in all aspects of your life.

I want to thank the readers of HHNU for their time, and their support to the scareacting community and Halloween Horror Nights. Your support means more than you know! We do see you, and we do love it when you return over and over again to the event. I also want to thank HHNU for approaching me to write this piece, and I look forward to seeing you all at Halloween Horror Nights 28!

Why Jack NEEDS A Movie!

Horror fans from around the globe look forward to the months of September and October. Those who travel to or who live in Orlando look forward to it even more because it means as the sun goes down the maniacs come out to play. The most maniacal of the maniacs is Jack the Clown. Anyone who is anyone know Jack and its about time that he gets his own movie.

 

He’s Scary as Hell

Jack Schmidt is the official name of the clown that was created by Universal Studios as a fictional character especially for HHN. He’s a former circus clown, yet he is completely insane. He is scarier than hell, and it’s because of his appearance as well as his actions. He has a twisted sense of humor and murders his victims based upon this.

His general appearance is based upon what you would expect out of a typical clown. However, the green makeup on his white face is done up in such a way that it is anything but friendly. His fingernails are long, his costume is stained with blood, and there are gnarly yellow teeth seen from under his big red nose.

Without him saying or doing anything, he’s a scary character. This incites much more fear than Freddy Krueger or any of the other scary movie characters. Universal Studios could make a killing based upon Jack the Clown.

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Jack meets Britney & Justin (Photo courtesy of Orlando Sentinel)

 

He’s a Known Serial Killer

It’s understandable that Universal Studios wants to create a plot-driven movie. With Jack the Clown being a serial killer, it automatically creates an easy plot that can be followed. We can learn more about the history of Jack Schmidt and how he became insane from performing as a circus clown.

Universal Studios has already done all of the hard work. They have created the character and created some of the back story. People already know his personality, and therefore they will know what to expect out of the movie.  A ready made audience from the millions of people that attend HHN every year could catapult a low budget picture into being very profitable for Universal!

 

He Has Gained Quite the Reputation

HHN has a different theme year after year. Jack the Clown was originally created for the 10th anniversary of Halloween Horror Nights. However, he became so popular that he has made appearances time and again.

The moment people see Jack the Clown, at least those who have been to HHN, are well aware of who he is. This means he has instant name recognition, which is a big deal, especially when you’re talking about a movie.

With this kind of reputation already established, imagine how easy it would be to get people to go and see a movie that stars Jack the Clown. It suddenly makes him more accessible. People don’t have to travel all the way to Orlando. Plus, the cost of a movie ticket is going to be considerably less than the cost of admission to the theme park, even if you consider what you will spend at the concessions counter.

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He Haunts People’s Dreams

Twitter, Facebook, and blogs across the internet light up during Halloween Horror Nights with talks about Jack the Clown and how he has been haunting people’s dreams. Even before Jack Schmidt, however, plenty of people had a fear of clowns. Universal Studios used this to their advantage. What better iconic character to represent HHN than simply bringing a clown into the picture who is not only a former circus performer but who is now a serial killer?

The nameless clown in people’s nightmares now has a name: Jack the Clown. Universal was smart to play upon people’s fears and it’s Mr. Schmidt that is in the nightmares.

Many people jump at the opportunity to get scared. Year after year, horror movies do well at the box office. This means that the fact that Jack the Clown haunts people’s dreams will actually work to Universal’s advantage.

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It Could Mean an Entire Series of Films

Jack has already been popular enough to warrant re-appearing theme after theme. This means that there’s obviously a call to see more of him. Universal Studios knows a good thing when they see it, which is why he is allowed to return.

Freddy Krueger got a total of eight movies. The series is still well-known, even though a new movie hasn’t been released in years. Friday the 13th has even more at a total of 12 films.

Just think what Jack Schmidt could do at the box office. An entire series of films could be written about him, based upon the many themes of just past HHN alone could fill a franchise!  They could also attach a possible film to their new Universal Monsters franchise that begins this year with Tom Cruise’s The Mummy.

Universal Studios needs to give Jack the Clown his own movie. People have already decided that they love him as a scary character. Plus, Universal has already given him a look, a name, and a full backstory. Now all they have to do is bring him to Hollywood so that everyone can see him in action up on the big screen. It could be the biggest scary movie to ever be released.

Let us know what you think – could this be an excellent idea?

Guest Blog: My Favorite House at Halloween Horror Nights 26…

Guest Blog: This week we have Karen from the excellent UO Fan Guide who wants to talk about her FAV house for 2016, take it away Karen…

 

Before I begin talking about my favorite house at Halloween Horror Nights, I have a few confessions to make:

I love Universal Orlando. It is quite literally my favorite place on Earth. I visit every chance I get throughout the year and cry real tears nearly every time I leave. But until this year, I’ve never been to HHN.

Throughout 2016, I spent hours, or more accurately, months, watching videos, listening to podcasts, and reading everything I could about the event – partly because I don’t like to do anything without studying like I’m preparing to write a dissertation and partly because once I started learning about the event, I just didn’t want to stop. To say that I was excited about attending HHN 26 is a dramatic understatement.

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American Horror Story at HHN 26

When I read on HHNU that American Horror Story (AHS) was coming to HHN 26, I couldn’t believe my luck. AHS is one of my favorite television shows. I’ve seen every episode multiple times, and (feel free to sneer, laugh, or call me a nerd when you read this next bit) I’ve even read my fair share of AHS fan fiction in between seasons.

Of course, I wasn’t the only one who was thrilled about the prospect of one of TV’s most delightfully twisted shows coming to the theme park. Universal Studios’ creative director John Murdy called AHS the “No. 1 requested maze” among guests, and Universal Orlando Resort’s creative director Michael Aiello told Entertainment Weekly that AHS was at “the top of the list for many years.”

The appeal of AHS was hard to deny once HHN 26 started. On nearly every night of the event, the lines for the AHS house were longer than the lines for most, if not all, of the other houses. I truly enjoyed touring every house at HHN 26 and thought that they all had something fun and/or horrifying to offer. However, AHS was easily my favorite because it placed me into the show’s most memorable scenes and brought me face to face with quite a few of my favorite characters.

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It’s All Connected!

If you’re not familiar with AHS, the main thing that you should know is that it is an anthology series with six seasons under its belt and more on the way. Each season is a standalone story with a beginning, middle and end, but there are intertwining mythologies that connect some of the characters and the seasons to each other. For example, two of the characters, Pepper and Dr. Arden, appeared in both Asylum (season two) and Freak Show (season four). We also saw The Countess from Hotel (season six) seek out medical services from Dr. Charles Montgomery, the original owner of Murder House (season one). Montgomery was also the last name of one of the characters in Coven (season three), and that’s probably not a coincidence.

I won’t rattle off any more examples since the interconnectedness is fun to discover on your own and easy enough to seek out online if you’re interested in learning more. But I do think it is worth mentioning that Ryan Murphy, the creator of AHS, recently told The Hollywood Reporter that the connections will become increasingly evident and “explode in seasons seven and eight.” It will be interesting to see how this is represented at future HHN events.

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Fun Moments in the AHS House

When you think about the interconnectedness of the seasons, Universal’s decision to base their very first AHS house on multiple seasons (Murder House, Freak Show, and Hotel) makes sense. Personally, I think that squeezing three seasons into a single house was almost pushing it – after all, that’s a lot of material to cover – but it worked well enough.

The house was split into three sections, with each section focusing on one particular season of the show. Universal made several really good creative decisions to make the AHS house shine.

1.) They chose to populate each section with several of the most iconic scenes and sets from the show.

2.) They did a great job of recreating sets so that fans could clearly recognize the scene that was being represented.

3.) They cast people who actually looked (or were made up to look) like the characters from the show.

4.) They had the scareactors lip sync to real audio clips from the show.

As soon as you walked into the AHS house, you saw a projection of the TV show’s credits on a wall, which served as a sort of welcome. After that, it was one memorable scene after another.

Some of my favorite scenes from the Murder House section included the creepy basement laboratory of Dr. Charles Montgomery, who was standing by inhaling some of the ether meant for his patients, the smoldering children (Margaret and Angie), who were having a tea party at an exceptionally clean table that contrasted dramatically with their burnt skin, and the rubber man room, which was draped in red and filled with mannequins and a single scareactor, all dressed in rubber suits. My favorite Easter egg in the Murder House section was Tate Langdon’s library book. It was hard to spot, but a cool touch nevertheless.

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The Freak Show section of the AHS house was nicely themed. I especially enjoyed visiting the trailer of Ethel Darling (the Bearded Lady), which included all sorts of trinkets and books. I feel like there were Easter eggs to find in this trailer, but I had trouble picking anything out. What I did notice was a copy of a V.C. Andrews novel in a stack of books, which was a rather odd prop choice (seriously, why was that there?) Twisty the Clown’s murder bus was also a fun stop. It contained kids’ toys scattered among the clutter and a couple of nods to past HHN events (like the sack from Jack’s HHN 25 show) that even a newbie like me could recognize. The rest of the Freak Show section was rather gruesome, especially the scene where Elsa’s legs are being cut off, but it did a good job of reflecting various scenes and characters from the show.

The Hotel section of the AHS house featured a lot of strong character moments, from Queenie being stabbed in her bed to an appearance from The Countess and her children. But one of the best moments came near the end when you saw The Mattress Man, a decrepit and decaying ghoul, crawl out of the mattress he had been sewn into. When I took an RIP tour, this scene really shocked and scared the people who were not familiar with AHS, and I have a feeling it is the one scene that might have stuck with them the most.

After seeing what Universal did with AHS, I have to say that I really hope they continue to do AHS houses that represent the seasons that were excluded this year.

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Did you enjoy AHS and would you be excited for it to return for #HHN27?