Wednesday, September 7, 2011
How to Use Volume to Maximize a Home Haunt Budget
One trick, that never seems to fail to impress, maximizes a small budget with high production value.
To quote from an old SNL sketch, the answer is simple: Volume.
And no, I don't mean to crank up your "Sounds to Wet Your Pants By" CD to eleven.
As someone who hosted extravagant Halloween parties for over ten years, there would come a point every October 1st when I would look at what the budget was and say to all involved: "How are we going to make something impressive with only X amount of dollars?"
The answer usually came in the form of finding something we could afford, and buying A LOT of it.
Party-goers were always impressed by sheer volume.
Sure a plastic jack o' lantern bucket is a cheap-looking thing you can get for .99 cents... but stack 100 of them into a wall of smiling jack o' lanterns and that single cheap thing now becomes an imposing focal point of the party or attraction.
I'll give a few examples and you'll see what I mean.
First, take a look at the picture at the top of the post. That photo was taken at my local grocery store last year. I'm not sure you can see it, but that giant jack o' lantern is made from cases of soda stacked 7 feet high. Click the pic to make it bigger and you'll see.
The orange is made up of Fanta orange soda 12-packs, with the black of the smile and eyes Coke Zero and the green stem made up of Sprite.
Cost to the grocery store? Zero.
They already had the soda sitting on storage shelves in the back. They're going to sell that soda if it's October or December. They used what they had... they used a lot of it... and they got Halloween geeks like myself to take pictures of it. Impressive? Yes. Complicated animatronic whosee-whatsis? No.
My second example has no photo evidence unfortunately, so you'll just have to trust me.
I was decorating a friend's house for a Halloween party they were throwing. The theme that year was "horror movies." Though the living room, kitchen and back yard had been decorated to coincide with different films like The Shining, Hellraiser and Night of the Living Dead, the front entryway was blank. It was a very small, difficult space as the front door opened to what amounted to a six foot by six foot cell that had a door on the left to the garage, a door in front to a closet and then a doorway that led to the living room.
It felt anti-climactic to have such elaborate decorations through the entire house, but when guests walked in the door they were met with an egg-shell painted entryway. It was equivalent to a Michael Bay movie whose first 5 minutes had two people wringing out a tea bag.
So what did we do? We looked at what we had to work with. One of the party throwers worked at an office with a copy machine. Free copies. This happened to be the year of The Sixth Sense so, in tying in to the theme, we took one piece of paper, added a scary free font we found on-line and typed in the middle of the page simply: "I see dead people."
We then had our friend with the free copies make a hundred copies of that page, and wallpapered that entryway. Not neatly either. Pages overlapped. Crooked. Slapped on like a madman.
Then we inflated one shiny red balloon and taped it to the ceiling in the upper right corner. We also took off the light cover in that entryway so it was just the bare white bulb.
The result? The entryway was a bright white with what looked like the scrawlings of a crazy person. Yet people knew the line from one of the more popular films that year. And because the confined area bounced the white light on itself, the shiny red balloon stood out and drew the eye right to it.
It was one of the more talked about corners of the party and set the tone as people walked in the door.
Cost? 50 cents for the balloon.
Lastly: Many years later, the Halloween party had grown to be quite an annual shindig. The location had been moved to a bigger house, the amount of Halloween props accumulated over the years had grown. The theme that particular year was "Universal Monsters." Believe it or not, we had acquired enough props to build a Wolf Man area, a Frankenstein area, a Dracula area, etc.
What we didn't have, was that "thing" that would make people's mouths drop as they entered the party. The budget was about the same, with perhaps a little more as not much needed to be purchased.
The cost was only the plastic (which was removed carefully and re-used in future Halloween decorations). The sheer volume of fake stone that people saw as they arrived made the party unique and spectacular.
Volume. That's one of my secrets.
For many pro-haunters, this is probably not news. But for some home-haunters, this may have sparked some imaginative ideas.
If you've got similar stories and ideas, share 'em in the comments below.