Universal Or­lando revels in all things hor­ror for 28th year

Times Colonist - - Travel - MIKE SCH­NEI­DER

OR­LANDO, Florida — “Scare-ac­tor” Laura Law once fright­ened a pa­tron so badly at Universal Or­lando Re­sort’s Hal­loween Hor­ror Nights that the woman peed in her pants.

Grace­ful and mild-man­nered, the 31-year-old ac­tor didn’t come across as some­one who could have such an ef­fect when she ar­rived re­cently for her trans­for­ma­tion into the Wicked Witch of the West for the 28th year of Universal Or­lando’s cel­e­bra­tion of all things hor­ror. Law has been a “scare-ac­tor” for five years.

She was al­ready in her pur­ple tights and black dress, her red hair was in a pony­tail and her green con­tact lenses were in by the time she plopped down in a makeup chair. A black smock pro­tected her dress as makeup de­signer Eric Gar­cia pre­pared to work his cos­metic witch­craft on her pale face.

“It’s fun to be creepy and scary, right?” she said.

Hal­loween Hor­ror Nights is an all-hands-on-deck af­fair at the Or­lando, Florida, theme park re­sort, as well as at Universal theme parks in Cal­i­for­nia, Ja­pan and Sin­ga­pore. This year, the Or­lando Hal­loween cel­e­bra­tion will have 10 haunted houses, sev­eral re­call­ing slasher films or pop cul­ture from the 1980s, in­clud­ing a house mod­elled af­ter the Net­flix hit TV show Stranger Things.

Hal­loween Hor­ror Nights lasts for 36 nights, but it was planned for more than a year. Each haunted house is a small, tem­po­rary at­trac­tion, elab­o­rately de­signed and themed, built with stu­dious at­ten­tion to de­tails and pop­u­lated with “scare-ac­tors” who chase, but never touch, the thou­sands of pa­trons pass­ing through each night. This year’s Hal­loween cel­e­bra­tion opened in mid-Septem­ber.

“I don’t think any­body does it big­ger or bet­ter than we do,” said Pa­trick Brail­lard, creative de­vel­op­ment show di­rec­tor at Universal Or­lando.

In the makeup chair, Gar­cia ap­plied glue to Law’s face. Next came a rub­bery pros­thetic that Gar­cia placed over her nose and fore­head. Its white­ness gave her a Phan­tom of the Opera look and its shape gave her a hook nose and tex­tured skin. Gar­cia then placed on a white, pointed chin pros­thetic and started paint­ing her face with white and flesh colours us­ing a small sponge. He painted on black eye­brows and small wrin­kles with a tiny brush. She said: “Peo­ple don’t think it’s a real thing, but you can smell the fear in peo­ple a lit­tle bit.”

Law, who doesn’t like to be scared her­self, smelled the fear of the woman she made have an ac­ci­dent one year while work­ing in one of the “scare zones,” ar­eas in the parks out­side the haunted houses where per­form­ers roam around giv­ing jolts of fright to passersby. Law ca­su­ally walked up to the woman and the woman freaked out, run­ning away. Law spot­ted the woman a short time later on a bench, walked up next to her and just stood there. The woman ran away again. Later, the hus­band came up to Law’s su­per­vi­sor and told her the ac­tor had made his wife pee in her pants.

“I was like ‘Yessss!’ ” she said. “I didn’t mean to. It was such an easy scare.”

In the “ScaryTales” haunted house where Law is work­ing this year, she is the cen­tre of a plot that has the Wicked Witch of the West seiz­ing con­trol of the fairy tales and giv­ing tor­tured fates to sto­ry­book char­ac­ters such as Humpty Dumpty, who is found splat­tered on the walls. She is one of the last scares in the house.

“By then, they’re ter­ri­fied and they’re just ready to get out,” she said.

About 3,000 peo­ple au­di­tion to be “scare-ac­tors” each year and just un­der half make the cut. The “scare-ac­tors” are cast by body type; a per­former play­ing the De­mogor­gon from Stranger Things needs to be the size of a line­backer.

Laura Law in char­ac­ter as a witch for Hal­loween Hor­ror Nights at Universal Stu­dios in Or­lando.

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