Once a year Universal Studios is transformed as the sun sets, turning a place filled with happy tourists into one teeming with ghoulish and ghastly creatures from mid-September to Nov. 1. During Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) 2014, guests have the chance to live through classic horror films and original scare zones. With eight haunted houses, the creative team began working on the concepts for HHN 2014 right before Christmas 2013.
The Miami Hurricane had a chance to speak with HHN Director of Houses Charles Gray at a student media panel to talk about the best types of scares, his favorite moments, and the hardest trick to pull off in a house.
Student Media: What do you think are the most effective scares during Halloween Horror Nights?
Charles Gray: That’s an awesome question because really there’s so many types of scares I find that if you could have a longer scare you can have a distraction scare where somebody’s doing something kind of creepy and it makes you look and then somebody else pops out on the side. But the distraction might be too good and they don’t notice the pop out, so I think just really when you boil everything down, just a basic basic scare is the best.
SM: How do you combat that difficulty of having so many people kind of back up the line?
CG: Well what I tell the scare-actors is that even if somebody knows something is coming it can still be scary because anticipation is also a factor of fear. So knowing that something is around the corner even if you’ve seen it, you’re still going to walk slower or further against the wall knowing that they’re there and once they pop out it still it can still be just as frightening.
SM: Do you have people that go through the house before you actually open it up to see if it’s going to be good at scaring and then tweak anything at all?
CG: We have a rehearsal process that we do go through. We also have different groups go through like Safety and things like that to kind of test things out to see is it safe as we have certain guidelines we have to follow. Luckily, our creative team we have a lot of people who have been here for a while so we have those people who know this corner needs to be a little sharper or we need to change his angle or something like that… so we’re tweaking all the time trying to make it better.
SM: What have some of your favorite moments been watching guest go through the houses?
CG: Well, I want to tell you but then I kind of would give something away. So I will say at the end of Giggles and Gore is one of my favorite spots. I will make sure I spend just 10 minutes standing there enjoying what’s happening. I won’t tell you what’s happening, but it’s a lot of fun so you have to check it out.
SM: What would you say is your funniest moment that you’ve seen?
CG: I’ve seen a girl get scared out of her pants. She just ran so fast her pants just came off and she kept running. I’ve seen run people out of their shoes, so that’s the fun of the job.
SM: What’s the hardest scare trick to pull off or just to get it to come to fruition?
CG: I think the most difficult thing would be marrying the human with the fake bodies and selling that. Things are built at different times and you cast, a 5′ 4″ girl and you build this dummy body, you’ve got to make sure you get another 5′ 4″ girl in case she gets sick or she can’t go in. To make sure you have someone that matches her same body type, you really have to keep an eye out for those kind of things matching the mechanical and the human aspect.
SM: About two years ago at one of the houses there was this guy who was in a sailor’s outfit and he wouldn’t scare people, but he was funny. Did you guys do that on purpose to make people laugh?
CG: I think the main point of this event more than anything is to entertain people and I think that yes, fear is number one on the list but there so many different emotions you can feel through a night. I think laughter is in Giggles and Gore or some people come just to sit and watch other people because it’s fun to see other people get scared. So there’s a lot of different emotions that you can feel throughout the night and I think it’s important for us to kind of tap into more than one.
SM: What keeps you inspired doing this year after year? What’s your favorite part of the process from creative thought to watching people go into the houses?
CG: I think the creating is a lot of fun and I think it’s one of those things that seems easy but it’s very difficult at the same time. I think you have to really be passionate about what you’re creating but at the same time be willing to change it and sometimes that could be just as difficult because it’s human nature to just get so passionate about something so I think that’s a skill and in and of itself . Again that’s one of my favorite parts is just seeing a little egg and then later on seeing what it turns into.