Haunted Tropes #006 – The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders

Tropes are not clichés, which are dull and uninteresting. These are common scares that come back year after year because they work, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re highly repetitive. Join us every Thursday as we explore these Haunted Tropes.

People are afraid of a lot of stuff. That’s normal, it’s just in our nature. Do a search on your favorite search engine for “most common phobias,” and you’ll get a. lot. of. results. A whole. lot. Including some of these elements in a haunt to unsettle people is a very good idea, but these are spices and seasonings to be sprinkled around strategically, not the crux of the matter. When a haunt consists entirely of a series of mildly unsettling images one right after the other just because they’re unsettling to a certain subset of the population in general, it becomes a Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders.

So, hypothetical scenario. You’re setting out to build a local attraction where you’re hoping to bring in a whole lot of people and get them so scared that they need a change of pants. You know that people get scared of different things; in addition to the crapload of phobias and fears out there, people love horror movies too. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one of the most talked-about horror movies in years, and the latest Saw movie made something like nineteen bazillion dollars.

You could try to do the same thing those directors did, and make a creepy, psychologically frightening experience from beginning to end sure to lull your audience into a deep sense of foreboding, but to hell with that! How about we just pick the most iconic, goriest scenes from those legendary films and just throw all them in? Brilliant!

I’m sure you’ve guessed where this is going by now if you’ve watched the video (and if you haven’t, you ought to, it’s pretty hilarious). In summary, it’s a trailer done by Saturday Night Live imagining what a horror movie would look like if it were directed by the magnificent Wes Anderson of The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel fame. And while it’s a great mashup of horror cliches and Wes Anderson’s remarkable one-of-a-kind style that made me laugh out loud repeatedly, it is most assuredly not scary in the slightest. Thus, it illustrates the point perfectly: a series of frightening images one after another without paying attention to the tone of the setting overall is a recipe for disaster, or at least un-scared patrons, which is basically the same thing in a social media driven world where people can be tweeting about how not scary your attraction is before they’ve been chased to the parking lot by a chainsaw wielding nut-job.

In one particular scene from the sketch, Owen Wilson (as portrayed by Ed Norton) peers through binoculars at the crazy people on the lawn as an upbeat, jaunty Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard by Paul Simon plays in the background.

“Yeah, look at ’em all!” he says. “There’s a guy with a meat cleaver, and an old record player. One’s carrying a falcon, there’s twins in matching track suits… hey, look at that! Why, that’s Danny Glover!”

Danny Glover


Look through the review archives and you’ll see this played out over and over again. We want experiences, not cheap scares, and the ones that deliver on that are the haunts that score a lot better, every time.

A lot of newcomers seem to think the best thing they can do is try to induce terror by tapping into these primal fears – snakes, spiders, darkness – with just a dash of whatever the most iconic movie creepers happen to be at the time. You’ll probably scare a lot of people doing this. You’ll probably get a lot of screams. But you won’t get people to remember you. You won’t be the experience people are still talking about years later, that they keep returning to year after year after year. If that’s what you want to achieve, do something new. Wow your audience with original ideas, things that they have never seen before, and that they can’t find anywhere else.

Or as Richard Gere said in the movie Chicago,

Razzle Dazzle ’em, and they’ll make you a star!

Haunted Tropes #005 – The EPA Is Going To Tear Us Apart If They Find Out About That

Tropes are not clichés, which are dull and uninteresting. These are common scares that come back year after year because they work, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re highly repetitive. Join us every Thursday as we explore these Haunted Tropes.

“Hey what’s that green crap? What is this? Jesus Christ, look at this place! This is a disaster! That’s gotta be toxic. God, the EPA is going to tear us apart if they find out about that. Well I’m not saying anything. I don’t wanna get called into court as a witness on this once the cat gets out of the bag.”
-Gordon Freeman, Ross Scott’s “Freeman’s Mind”

Haunted Houses are the most disgusting places on Earth.

I could just end the article there, honestly… I mean, what more do you need? You’ve got a GIF of a giant robot cleaning up nuclear waste, and a statement about grime that leaves nothing to the imagination. What more do you want from me? I don’t want to think about it again. If I envision the kind of grime we’re talking about, I’ll have to wash my brain out with Purell again, and I’ve never been the same since.

Alright, fine, you want me to go on? I will, but on your own head be it.

The best way I can illustrate the point is with a side-by-side comparison. So you know what? You can participate in your own mental abuse. Be prepared to wash your eyes out with bleach – I know I certainly did. I’ll probably have to Lysol my internet history as well; I don’t even know how that works but I’ll do it.

[mlw_quizmaster quiz=1]

See what I mean? Disgusting. Nasty. Filthy. I suppose I understand what they’re trying to accomplish here – the kinds of houses that really look this way clearly belong to the 1%… no, not that 1%. The other 1%, the ones who are utterly deranged, totally off their rockers, and I get that’s who you’re trying to represent in a haunt, but for cryin’ out loud, this is beyond a dilapidated building, this is beyond being condemned. This is insanity, pure and simple. How does anything ever get this dirty?

If you’re going to grunge up your haunt to this degree – and that’s a perfectly valid choice, I’m not saying it isn’t – then you need to make your story match. If it’s supposed to be a sanitarium that’s been abandoned for 50 years? Cool, I’ll buy this. If it’s a haunted house in suburbia where paranormal investigators are supposed to be working? Not so much.

If you’ve been reading the whole series then by now it should be pretty obvious that the things that stick out like a sore thumb are the ones that reek of inconsistency – with established story, with the experience at the beginning vs at the end, or just with the basics of human behavior. You can definitely do this if you want a total gross-out experience, and that’s a reasonable thing to want (in this industry, anyway, it’s slightly less acceptable in fields like rock music, auto mechanics, and decreasingly so for psychology, dentistry, and NASA engineers). You just have to make sure the story you’re telling matches with the setting the audience can see with their own eyes.

Haunted Tropes #004 – No One Likes You Here

Tropes are not clichés, which are dull and uninteresting. These are common scares that come back year after year because they work, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re highly repetitive. Join us every Thursday as we explore these Haunted Tropes.

GET OUTIt’s hard to go through a haunted house anymore and not suffer feelings of unwantedness, anguish, regret… The sad thing about this is that it just all feels so… unoriginal. You see, I remember the good old days… the days when ghosts and ghouls would speak terrible things to you, words and images that would chill you down to your bones, and then down to your soul, and then down to the souls of your bones after that. (Bone Souls are real. People have been trying to tell me they aren’t for ages. Don’t listen to them! Trust me instead. I’m a highly reputable source. Osteo-Souls, they’re called. Google it. It’s a thing.)

Those days are gone now, though. Most ghouls, goblins, and zombies that you meet inside a haunt anymore won’t try to terrify you into submission. They’ll simply insist that you get o-


Achem. Get Out. Yes, that’s what I was saying. Look, I understand that I’m a trespasser here. I know I wasn’t actually invited to this crazy person’s house, and I don’t exactly expect to be given a tray of sandwiches and cookies when I barge my way into somebody’s living room. But there comes a point when it’s too much, when every single inhabitant of the place just wants you to…


Look, I’m pretty accepting when it comes to these sorts of things. But it doesn’t help me feel scared or threatened when you’re telling me to…


after every single corner I turn. In fact by the time the 4th or 5th person has told me to…


it starts to have the opposite effect. This isn’t frightening anymore, it’s just annoying. Sometimes I’m trying to admire the setwork, or take in all the details that someone painstakingly put into the room during the build, but try as I might to linger for just a moment and drink in the details there’s always someone there pushing me forward, screaming at me. It starts to make the whole haunt feel rushed.


It wouldn’t be so bad if it was just the ghouls or the zombies or the nutjobs either, but sometimes even the voluntary victims start screaming at me to…

It’s the phrase I’ve heard inside haunted houses over my cumulative reviewing career more than any other. I’ve been told to…

probably thousands of times by now, and it’s never scary and it’s never anything but…You need to GET OUT

OK, seriously? I was in the middle of a sentence that time. That wasn’t even the right cue, you’re supposed to say it when…GET OUT OF MY HOUSE

Look, I don’t know what you’re trying to pull here, but this is my blog, and I’ll stay here as long as I damn well please! Look, it’s not my intention to offend you. I’m just trying to explain to these nice folks why this particular trend is somewhat annoying. It’s nothing personal, you understand. Really, this is your fault, you’ve been relying on this old phrase for far to many years now. If you can’t come up with something new and original to say, then I’ll have no choice but to…GET OUT NO! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! Do not fight with me this way! Seriously, you need to step back and take a look at yourself. How scary do you even think this is? Come up with something else. ANYTHING else! Anything would be scarier than this. Any single thing you could say would be less trite and overused than “Get Out”. Do you hear me? Literally anything! This is the most utterly generic phrase ever uttered by anyone inside a haunt or out, and if I never ever hear it again as long as I live it will be too soon!



How The Other Half Lives


It’s me, looking… to be honest, I can’t decide if I look slightly better or slightly worse than I do in my everyday life.

Last Halloween I had the unique privilege and honor to be involved in the benefit haunt for Kayla Armstrong. The story is here on the website, and the description on the event page for the haunt sums everything up far better than I ever could. In brief, Kayla was a fifteen year old girl, who’d had a brain tumor diagnosed in 2007. Late in 2013, she had a relapse, and was found to have another brain tumor. This one was inoperable – apparently a common turn of events for survivors of one tumor – and would prove to be terminal. Von, a friend of the family was already working on building his annual Four Mile Scare Home Haunt, and decided to turn it into a fundraiser, funneling 100% of the proceeds right to Kayla’s family to help cover the exorbitant costs of her medical care.

I never got to meet Kayla. We put on a couple of events throughout the 2013 season with her involved, including a pretty epic night put on by the folks at City of the Dead, but I wasn’t able to make it. Halloween night was going to be my chance to meet this amazing individual, someone who had the strength to carry on in the face of adversity far greater than anything I had ever faced even though she was eleven years younger than I was.

I knew what I didn’t like to see… Could I turn that around and translate it into good acting skills?

I was excited, too, because I was going to get a chance to act in a haunted house. I didn’t have any training or expertise other than what I’d gained with three seasons of critiquing under my belt. I knew what I didn’t like to see from the audience’s perspective. Could I turn that around and translate it into good acting skills?

More than that, I had never had a chance to go behind the scenes of a haunt to this degree. Sometimes haunters will show us a special effect or something that they’re particularly proud of once we get out of the haunt, but that’s it. It wasn’t anything like actually being there, actually dressing up and being in the event.

Jim Halpert Costumes

Actually, these seem a little complex for me. Do you have anything easier?

For that matter, I am the kind of guy who doesn’t even do a Halloween costume, usually. I never feel like putting in the time and dedication to do a really good one. The last couple I attempted turned out very, very wrong, and it’s been hard to come up with good ideas that I can reliably execute on a shoestring budget. Really the only thing that comes to mind is… well, shoestring salesman. Even that would probably require a fedora or something. Hmmmmmm.

I enjoy Halloween costumes of course. And I’m a haunted house enthusiast so I definitely appreciate a good makeup job. It just wasn’t the sort of thing that ever really interested me. I could do a prebuilt costume off a rack but those things always feel tacky and cheap, and plus I’m not a small guy, across any dimension – length, width, depth, time, ego – so finding something ready-made that I can just slip on in a pinch is usually out as well. I know some people who can do amazing things with costumes but I’m typically not one of them, sadly.

Normally I can be bothered to put in about as much effort as Jim Halpert from The Office. If that (I’ve just included a couple samples of the level of costume wizardry that Jim exhibited for your reference). But something, call it intuition if you like, told me that the kind of scares we were hoping to elicit weren’t going to come from either Dave or Three-Hole-Punched Alex. Well, not unless you could see through the holes and they oozed with blood which, actually, would make a pretty good costume. Hmmm. Maybe there’s a way I can achieve that. OOH and a little bit of broken rib could be sticking out, too, all jagged-like! Yeah!

…there’s something seriously wrong with me, isn’t there? Aaaaaanyway…

I showed up at the haunt, and was given a brief walkthrough of the grounds outside. I was due in the makeup chair, so there wasn’t time to go over the whole haunt. I’d sent some old work clothes that were on their last legs to Von to be torn up, shredded, and grungeified, so those were there waiting for me. I quick changed into those and then sat down to have some makeup applied.

Jason and Peyton from the review team were already there, and both had makeup experience from their time on the other side of the haunter/audience relationship, so Peyton started to apply some airbrushed makeup to me, to make me pale and sickly-looking, but Von stopped her after a few minutes. He had an idea for something special, if I was up for it.

IMG_2614Had I ever put on a silicon mask before, he asked me, and I told him I hadn’t. He produced a bald-headed, scar-faced mask that looked fairly intimidating just being held in his hands, before anyone was even wearing it. It also looked smaller than my head by half. The trick, apparently, is to tilt your head down, insert your hands into the mask, and use your fingers to make sure you’re lining up the holes in the mask with the holes in your face, otherwise you end up with your nose coming out the mouth hole, which might be scary, but would also be damned uncomfortable for the entire night. Then you just roll your hands out, and blam! Instant scary person! You also have to make sure not to tear the mask, which wasn’t something I even knew could happen but sure enough, it’s a real thing.

If you’ve never had fifteen pounds of silicon slapped on your face, let me tell you, it’s a different sensation entirely to what you’re prepared for. This isn’t your dad’s Halloween mask (well, unless your dad is a silicon-based horror worker like our own Jason Peterson is). Your entire head is covered except your mouth and your eyes. There were nostril holes I could breathe out of, but it was like suffering from terminal allergies all night long. Also, every time I tried to say anything, the lips on the mask were much more resistant to moving than my own lips were, forcing me to adopt a stilted and halting tone in order to be understood. Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation right after getting your mouth numbed out at the dentist? It wasn’t as bad as that, but it’s a similar sensation.

Von told all of us actors that if we needed to take a break we were more than welcome to do so, but that turned out not to be a big issue. I was just wearing a thin dress shirt and pants, but even though it was cold enough to see your breath outside, I didn’t feel the cold at all, because the mask kept all the heat from my head ensconced inside. If we hadn’t been outside, I’d probably have been totally miserable, but as it was, I felt perfect. Somewhere around hour four, though, I needed a quick break for the bathroom, and I caught a glimpse of myself for the first time since I had put on the mask. It looked good enough that I had to break one of the cardinal rules of my very existence – no selfies – and snapped a pic of how I looked. The bathroom at the house had red lighting and bandages hanging down, which only served to make the effect look even better.IMG_2631I couldn’t help but think that if I looked like this at work, people would have no choice but to listen to me more carefully. I mean, if the guy above was your IT guy, I bet you sure would try turning your computer off and on again before you called him, right? I bet if he told you to file a helpdesk ticket to get your problem looked at, you’d do it, wouldn’t you? I might be on to something here.

IMG_2621So, ultimately, the question I have to ask myself is, do I think I did a good job of acting? I’d probably rate myself a 6 on the Spooky Colorado rubric, based on the way I’ve judged other actors doing a similar job to me. I was basically on traffic control. Guests would come up to the haunt through the gateway of skulls in the photo, and it was my job to route them appropriately. There was a not-so-scary path for the kids to take. Also, people would come up, go through the yard which was done up as a cemetery, then through the garage, and then come back out and be routed through a different path to the exit at the back. I was supposed to direct people to the right path based on whether they’d been through there before or not.

I thought that already sounded a little difficult – I’m the sort of person who can’t remember people’s names ten seconds after meeting them, but this seemed relatively simple – all I had to do was to find something memorable about each person and then, when I saw them again, route them the second way towards the exit.

What I didn’t count on was the fact that more people might show up than I was ready for at any given time, but that’s exactly what happened. At one point I was hit with a whole gaggle of people… maybe 15 at once… some of whom were back for the second pass and others who weren’t. There was also a jumping spider that I was supposed to hit with a pressure pad to attack people with, but often they’d slip past me before I could do anything with it.

I wonder how many other actors get so used to this treatment, that it becomes a rarity when someone actually engages and interacts with them.

I’ll also remember to give actors a bit of sympathy for their interactions with audience members, particularly when it comes to people in masks. I wasn’t prepared for the number of people who would wander through my area and not listen to a word I said. They were just off wandering their own way, completely oblivious to the fact that I was there, and that was a big eye opener for me. We go through a haunt with our eyes peeled, drinking in every detail, but I wasn’t prepared for the sheer number of people who treated me like I was nothing more than a prop. I also hadn’t considered that some people would be running through my scene, not caring what I had to say, because they were scared out of their wits and just running blind, which was awesome to see, but also meant I missed a lot of them. I wonder how many other actors get so used to this treatment, that it becomes a rarity when someone actually engages and interacts with them.

There were also people that wanted information from me, but the mask made it difficult to hear them as well – they didn’t sound quite as bad as Charlie Brown’s “wah wah wah” teachers, but pretty close in some instances. One teen girl kept asking me if there were strobe lights in the haunt, but I honestly couldn’t make out what she was trying to ask me, and by the time I did get it, after the fourth or fifth repetition, I had to answer honestly that I didn’t know, because I hadn’t seen the inside of the garage. She never did believe me, thinking I was trying to scare her more by concealing the truth.

After about an hour I had finally settled in on a limp walk, a sort of growling, gutteral sound that I discovered I could make regardless of whether the lips moved on the mask or not, and some pretty epic pointing to push people through either one side or the other, trying to channel the Ghost of Christmas Future from A Christmas Carol with all the silent pointing and stuff.

I learned a lot about what it’s like to deal with the public and run a haunt from the other side, and even now I know that this one night experience is nothing compared to what it must actually be like to take a haunt all the way from sketches on a piece of paper, to a final, built product, to something that has people excited to return year after year. The amount of work I put in was absolutely minimal compared to the work that other, more talented people put in all year round to make such spectacular productions. But it did give me a unique perspective, and one that I’ll try to factor in when I feel the need to call an actor out for something in my reviews this year.

Every year we write our reviews, and every year there’s at least minimal backlash. “How could you give Fred’s Haunt a 9.8?” someone will write in and ask. “I went and it was terrible!”

The truth is the differences aren’t even relegated to different nights. Within the span of 5 minutes, an experience can change completely. Since there are usually 8 critics, we go into haunts in two group of 4, and it’s not out of the ordinary for the first group to meet in the parking lot and start raving about how awesome everything was, only to turn around and have the second group come out and say, “It was OK, but not great.” Seeing that happen every year, I had a theoretical understanding of the fact that a haunt is closer to a play than to a movie – it’s a live performance, and it’s different every single time it’s experienced.

Being on the other side drove that point home in a way that being a critic never could. Things were changing around me all the time, and in the span of just a few seconds my scene could go from intimately and creepy with just a couple of people, to an out of control mosh pit, and then back again. I’m liable to give much more leeway to the actors this year and in future years, thinking back on my experiences.

The thing I learned most of all wasn’t about haunted houses, or silicone masks, or Halloween… It was about what it meant for us as human beings to band together behind people who were having a rough time of it.

 And yet, the thing I learned most of all wasn’t about haunted houses, or silicone masks, or Halloween, ghosts, goblins, or ghouls. It was about what it meant for us as human beings to band together behind people who were having a rough time of it. Every haunt season, we come together to celebrate the inhuman, the insane, the deranged and the disturbed and the disgusting. But when it came down to the wire, the whole community acted like a single family. Several haunts across the metro area gave away free tickets to their attractions for us to use as prizes in our raffle to raise money. Von converted his entire home haunt into a benefit, and the Spooky Colorado audience banded together to raise money to help Kayla’s family deal with their expenses, giving very generously to the cause.

Of all the people on Earth, the zombies, and the vampires, and the demons pulled through in order to do something that was, ironically, one of the most human displays I’ve ever seen, and I was honored just to have a small part in the bigger picture. See, it’s easy to forget it every year, as the friendly competition between haunters picks up and people start looking at their review scores on the website, but the haunt community in Denver and the rest of Colorado is, essentially, one big family, and that fact never shone through clearer than it did when everyone banded together to accomplish this amazing thing for one family in need. Between us all, and all of our efforts, we raised over $7000 in just one month.

We all hoped that this would be a temporary setback for her.

It wasn’t.

Kayla was supposed to meet us at the haunt, and to get a chance to act in it. But she wasn’t doing well that day, and ultimately she couldn’t come. We all hoped that this would be a temporary setback for her. It wasn’t. Kayla Armstrong spent her last few hours on Earth thinking about us, there in the cold with us in spirit if not in body. She held on just long enough to find out how the evening had gone. Kris Kropelnicki, our team lead, went to see her that night just after she got out of her makeup and back into regular clothes, and in her own words:

She could not attend and she passed at approximately 1:40am on November 1st, two minutes after I left her house on Halloween night, when I came by to tell her how great her haunt was. Her dad said she waited for me to come and then went, knowing her haunt KICKED ASS! Kayla and her family taught us a lot last year and I am grateful for the experience.

As am I. Thank you, Kayla, Mike, and Von, for giving us all the opportunity to be a part of the magic… and I don’t just mean Halloween night.


Haunted Tropes #003 – Voluntary Victims

Tropes are not clichés, which are dull and uninteresting. These are common scares that come back year after year because they work, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re highly repetitive. Join us every Thursday as we explore these Haunted Tropes.

Some people are just asking for it...

Some people are just asking for it…

At some point, someone decided that it didn’t make sense that a serial killer or a group of cultists or a camp of cannibals would have just one group of victims. After all, if you, the haunt-goer, are meant to be walking through the home of a mass murderer, there should be some evidence to support the claims of their psychopathic murdering ways. And so, whether it was to lend credibility to the stories the haunts were trying to tell, or just to add a few more screams and chills to your wanderings throughout the haunts, actors started being cast in the role of fellow victims instead of just crazy people and monsters.

This was a great idea, or at least it was on paper. The problem, as is so often the case, came in the execution. Haunt actors are very commonly left to their own devices when it comes to creating their own parts, relying heavily on improvisation, perhaps with some occasional dialogue written for them. This is usually good, as haunt actors have a passion for what they do. Very few people, as it happens, are willing to show up at 5 PM, have 10 pounds of makeup slapped on with a trowel, and stay out until the wee small hours of the morning looking more and more hideous as the hours wear on (well, very few people who don’t hang around on Colfax Avenue, anyway), and haunt actors have a tendency to be very creative with their characters as a result of being given a lot of control.

On the other side, there’s one thing that haunt actors who aren’t given a lot of direction tend to be notoriously bad at, and that’s interacting with audience members. And the point at the intersection of improvised characterization and bad audience interaction is the unholy portal from which springs an endless slew of voluntary victims.

Picture it. You’re slowly inching along through a haunt that purports to be the home of a serial killer who’s been skinning and eating his victims. Alright, it’s a good backstory, but how does the haunt owner make you believe that you really are in the home of such a deranged person? Corpses and missing persons posters are a great idea, but someone who can speak for themselves is even better. So it’s not uncommon for actors inside a haunt to play the role of a victim instead of one of the sociopaths. Usually these people will beg for assistance when the audience walks through their scene. Maybe it says something about our society, but the general sense I get is that haunt actors never expect a shred of decency from any individual human being, ever. The entire worldview must be based on one singular idea:

People aren't chocolates. Do you know what they are mostly? Bastards. Bastard coated bastards with bastard filling.

If you offer to help one of these poor people, their response will usually be to ignore you. They haven’t prepared for the eventuality that someone might actually offer to do something heroic or self sacrificing and help. The really unfortunate thing is that this singular act shoots any single shred of credibility the haunt had right in the foot. At point blank range. With a bazooka.

The mildest cases of this trope occur when the victim is seemingly locked in a cage or shackled to the wall or floor, with heavy hardware to which the audience does not have the key. The very worst offenders, on the other hand, will have a poor tortured individual run screaming into the room, begging the audience to, “Please, take me with you!” and then staring like a deer in the headlights when someone actually stretches out a hand and says, “Come with me.”

Here’s a nifty scientific chart that I designed to show just how bad some instances are based on others, because as we all know charts are the hallmark of a scientific publication (forget all those people who try to tell you “peer reviews” mean anything – they’re probably just trying to sell you something). Charts prove things, damnit, and I’m about to prove the hell out of this point. Check this graph out!


As you can see, the more genuinely trapped a person is, the closer we get to the smiley faced side of the graph, showing that I’m happier when… uh… I mean, that isn’t to say that I’m happier when people are stuck in tragic situations from which there is no escape. I’m not some kind of weird pervert or anything, but then again I did stay up late on a Sunday night making an obnoxious chart in Photoshop, so you be the judge of my sanity level.

The saddest part of all this is that it can be so easily avoided, but nobody ever takes the opportunity to fix it. A person barges into a room begging me to help her escape and then refuses to come with me? Bad acting. A person barges into a room begging me to help her escape but is dragged away by a psycho before I can do anything? Authenticity!

Another actor who got this right a couple years back was a ghost wandering around a cemetery, wailing about how much he wanted to leave. When I suggested that he do exactly that, just go, he replied that he couldn’t, his soul was bound here. Simple, effective, and it added characterization to him – not only could nobody help him, but it instantly made his story that much more tragic.

The thing that’s most surprising to me about this one, is that it’s even an issue at all. Just find some way to prevent your victims from just walking out the door. It’s what a responsible serial killer would do anyway.