Enjoying a good scare
Scream Vancouver haunted house is company’s largest
Saturday, October 1, 2011
If you go
What: Scream Vancouver.
Where: 7701 N.E. Vancouver Plaza Drive.
When: Through October, Sundays, Wednesdays and Thursdays 7-10 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays 7-11 p.m.; Halloween night 7-10 p.m.
Cost: $20, with $5 discount coupons available for Sunday through Thursday events. Group discounts and package deals for all three Scream haunted houses available.
Information: http://www.screampdx.com/vp/ or call 360-258-1782.
A mischievous smile crept across Brian Mudgett’s face as he strolled past a pair of pitbull-sized spiders in the dimly lit corridor at Scream Vancouver.
A low deep growl rattled the floor from a distance.
“Something big is breathing over there,” Mudgett said, edging his visitors toward a trigger wire hidden in the floor.
Seconds later, the skeletal head of a giant T. rex — lit up in red — roared out of the a nearby wall, apparently hungry for a human-sized snack.
“That’s Dino,” Mudgett said proudly, patting the nose of the animatronic creature as it continued to twitch and snarl, looking very little like its Flintstones’ namesake.
The shocks and scares go far beyond Dino at Vancouver’s newest holiday attraction.
Scream Vancouver, which Mudgett designed, opened on Saturday. It’s the third project for Scream Haunted Houses, which also runs Scream at the Beach at Jantzen Beach and Scream Mall 205 in Portland. This is the company’s largest haunted house, and its first in Vancouver.
The group decided to open a location here because lines are always packed at the other two spots, Mudgett said.
The Vancouver house, which tells the story of a Mayan 2012 apocalypse, also has more lifelike computer-controlled creatures — like dinosaur heads and 11-foot-tall mummies — than its sister sites, including 25 of the industry’s newest audio animatronics, said Jim Beriault, a spokesman for the company.
“This is one of the biggest haunted houses in the Northwest, if not the biggest,” Beriault said of the Vancouver site.
Haunting is huge
Seasonal haunted houses might seem like simple fun, but they’re actually big business.
Haunted attractions, as they’re called in the industry, generate about $300 million in revenues every year nationwide, according to the Haunted House Association.
And most of the larger ones take months of planning to put together.
Mudgett has been planning out Scream Vancouver for almost a year now, he said.
A lot of the ideas for any big haunted house begin in winter, said the 29-year-old Vancouver native, who has worked with Scream for eight years.
“We have brainstorming sessions,” Mudgett said. “And for this one I said I wanted to do a jungle theme. I had a research facility I wanted to do, also. We decided to do both and base it off the 2012 story.”
The 2012 story is based on the notion that the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012.
In March, Mudgett and other organizers attended the Haunt Show in Missouri, a huge trade show that supplies technology and equipment for houses all over the country.
At the show, he looked for various items to flesh out the original idea.
After that, he returned to Vancouver and began searching for a site to build the attraction. He found a 20,000-square-foot warehouse at 7701 N.E. Vancouver Plaza Drive.
“After that we started solidifying the story, working out various characters and planning our other supplies,” Mudgett said.
In August, set builders started hammering together an intricate maze that tells the story of a Mayan disaster, he said.
“This is a Mayan temple,” Mudgett said. “They’ve discovered the secrets of the universe, but they’ve also doomed the world in the process. They’ve unleashed all sorts of monsters.”
Some of the scenes inside the temple look almost like a gruesome video game come to life. In one area, a blood-splattered office with flickering lights was planned as a hat-tip to the game “Left For Dead,” Mudgett admitted.
“I love video games, and I’m a theme park fanatic,” he said.
Hidden throughout the maze are about 25 actors, all of whom had to attend Scream’s “monster college.”
“We split them into groups and teach them how to scare, various techniques they can use, without touching the visitors,” Mudgett said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
It can take up to a half-hour to get each actor through makeup before the night begins, which adds another layer of complexity to the production.
“The least amount of time we spend is 10 minutes, and that’s when we’re trying to move really fast,” said Damien Brooksbank, a makeup manager for the show.
For some of the easier looks, Brooksbank and his wife, Claire Brooksbank, who’s also a makeup manager, use latex masks. But for more intricate effects, makeup artists use foam latex prosthetics.
“Some of our animal-human hybrids, skulls, a couple of our demons and zombies, they need more work,” Claire Brooksbank said. “One of my favorite ones is a reptile prosthetic, it makes people look like an iguana.”
The couple have worked as special effects makeup artists in regional film projects and stage productions, but they added that the haunted house industry is also a big part of their business.
Vancouver Scream will also be the first to use an actor acrobatic technique called sliding.
Actors wear plastic knee and arm padding and use metal fingers or other special effects items to slide across the ground and make sparks and noise, said the Vancouver couple, who will be sliding in the show.
“We’re the first one of these in the entire Pacific Northwest to use sliders, as far as I know, and I know everybody in this industry,” Damien Brooksbank said. “The only other ones we know of are in California.”
Many of the sliders will be outside on the street or inside in the event’s foyer, entertaining guests as they wait to enter the attraction.
“We’ll have a lot of scary clowns outside, protesting because we didn’t include them in the main temple,” Mudgett said with a laugh. “We’ll have a slider team out there making sparks, and others playing in the parking lot.”
The attraction will be open most days through Oct. 31, which is both exciting and somewhat depressing for Mudgett, he said.
“It’s kind of sad ’cause we only have five weeks left,” he said. “But then, after Halloween we get to start all over again.”