Universal Orlando revels in all things horror for 28th year
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.