I have to say, my volunteer actors stink. Since our event is non-profit, we are limited by those actors associated with the groups benefited; try as we might, the level of acting isn't getting much better.
To improve, we looking to change up to a system that relies more on scares that anyone can operate, such as a drop panel. We use a couple of those already. I've seen variations on this idea--curtains, pop-outs, etc. Any other suggestions for scares that anyone can operate without much training...and still get the scare?
Dark Hollow Haunted Forest
If you have the ability, in general try to have some sort of incentives for better acting, even simple things like awarding actor of the night, scare of the night etc... Simple prizes like a meal at McDonalds can help. Even without actual prizes, end of the night meetings are a great morale booster for actors. Simple awards like actor of the night give them something to work for and at the very least have bragging rights over. Or even some "premium positions" like cue line roamers are something that can be "worked for" Just a thought.
As for more ideas for easy startle scares. Pop outs of all sorts work best, as you said with drop panels, doors, classics like patterned suit against the same pattern wall, glowing mask room (with one real actor in one of the masks), etc.... You can aslo do the same ideas with lighting such as a slow duration strobe...light flickers there is no one there, light flickers again, actor is right in front of them. Another simple and effective one can be done with simple lasers or long throw disco lights and fog. Basically you can take any hallway, fill lightly with fog and project laser or other light down the hall, an actor can stand directly below the light and the customer will not see them untill they pass the light and they are right in the actors face.
You can also go the loud prop route like boom sticks, shakers, slammers, or the noise and light units that Shot In The Dark Scare Tools sells (Shock Guns I think they are called).
Hopefully those ideas can help some.
Mike "Pogo" Hach
I dont say this very often, but buy my DVD. Buy the first one. Dynamic haunted house acting.
This is going to sound weird, but watch the dog whisperer. Become the pack leader and set a good example, give feedback to actors in a way that doesent crush them. Thats all the advice I will give that you didnt ask for. The question you asked tells me alot, you didnt ask "How can I make my actors better?" you asked "How can I make my actors suck less?". Just sayin.
Here is my answers to the question you asked.
Camo scare variations (doll room, bush, guts)
Dot room variations
Mannequin scare variations
Baked potato room
Creature carts/ puppets
Laser grotto (pop up)
All of These require good timing so you should invest in teaching them that as best you can, peep holes and back lighting patrons so shadows can be read will be very helpful to their timing.
Allen beat me to it. I would suggest Allen's DVD! It covers all your basics and then some. What would be even better is to have Allen come out personally! We are having him come out to do some advanced training!
Allen and his DVDs are great resources.
Allen, what's a baked potato room?
yeah What is potato room?
Thanks guys! It gets the ideas flowing.
We have a robust acting skills and training process (incentives, prizes, etc.), but there are a good deal more issues than what I mentioned here. Hence the question. We need more no-need-to-train, high-scare techniques that a 13-year-old girl can run...because sometimes that's the only kind of actor we can get in certain areas. :)
Dark Hollow Haunted Forest
Bake potato room...
I figured after I typed it I would be explaining it LOL.
Baked potato rooms are old school, real old school they hit their hey day with 70s "SCREAM IN THE DARK" haunts. They are a room 12x12 oor 15x15ish that the whole room is coverd- walls, cieling, floor, everything covered in aluminum foil or mylar. The actor is in a mylar stretch suit (like a dot suit but all shiny) and the room is lit by a strobe. Its very disorienting like a dot room. They are great because the guests are blind almost for the next three rooms. The strobe bounces around like crazy.
Ive seen them! Just never heard of it referred as that. Think of the poor actor in there! LOL!