It’s the most wonderful time of the year. No, not Christmas… bah! I mean Halloween, and if you’re a fan of horror movies, scary stuff and gore galore nothing could be better. Given that one of TV’s most popular shows is AMC’s The Walking Dead and that horror movies outperform almost anything else at any time of the year, it’s no wonder that special effects design houses and make-up studios have gotten into the act releasing their own product lines for the general consumer.
Since there’s so much out there in terms of costumes, latex wounds and decorations it’s become easier to put on your own haunted house to freak out the neighbors and burn indelible Halloween images into the minds of unsuspecting youngsters— Mwa-Ha-hahahaaaaaa!
This “horriday” Gadget Review has found five special effects products that no self-
mutliating respecting haunted mansion can be without. We’ve even rounded up a few specialty stores at the bottom of the list so you can shop for ghoulish gadgets and other spooky stuff guaranteed to make your dungeon of despair a thing to remember.
What’s better than jumping out and scaring someone silly? Creeping up on them silently and making them soil their britches, of course! Here’s the perfect way to do it… The Stalkaround by Ex Mortis. It’s basically a large, articulated puppet with the bottom half of the “body” worn as a costume concealing the performer. The arms are controlled by handles embedded in the elbows, and the monstrous head is articulated via a helmet worn by the concealed performer.
Created by special effects artist, Wayne Toth, the Stalkarounds are used by top theme parks such as Knotts Scary Farm and Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights as well as other events where ghastly fiends and monsters are needed.
2. GHOSTLY APPARITIONS DVD
The Peppers Ghost effect is an age old trick of using angled plate glass and lighting to make objects, like people dressed as ghosts (usually painted a pale blue or green), appear and disappear as if a real phantom had manifested itself. You’ve seen it used if you’ve ever visited the Haunted Mansion at a Disney theme park. It’s pretty basic stuff, but it still requires a big setup… at least two rooms or a large room bisected by a pretty big pane of glass (or plexiglass).
Why bother with the hard work when the work’s been done for you. A company called AtmosFEAR FX created a DVD with amazingly eerie effects that achieve that spectral Pepper’s Ghost look in a variety of ways. Each disc features different ghosts and ghouls that can be displayed using a large HDTV screen or, better yet, an HD projector to show the images against any wall or window. The effect is astonishing and sure to add a supremely freaky atmosphere to any Halloweeen gathering or walk-through haunting.
3. ‘THE EXORCIST': RISING REGAN ANIMATED PROP
Quite possibly the scariest movie ever made was William Friedkin’s The Exorcist with it’s believable performance of Linda Blair as little Regan McNeil, a girl possessed by the demon Pazuzu. Now you can bring the horror of the film right into your own home!
The “Rising Regan” Prop features the fully possessed girl in her bedclothes… the eyes glow, the body rises and falls gently as if moved by an unseen force, and the head, naturally, pivots a full 360-degrees around all with bone crunching sound, terrifying demon sounds and quotes from the film (toned down a bit for the general public, but still…). The prop body can be put just about anywhere, and is really shocking to see in action. Pea-soup, not included.
4. ULTRATEC DRY ICER or FOGGERS
Add a thick, rolling fog to your front yard boneyard or cobwebby castle of fear… it’s easer and safer with the Ultratec Dry Icer, which produces blankets of mist and fog from dry ice, not oily chemicals that can mess with your eyes and nose. The machine uses up to 30 lbs. of dry ice to produce up to 5 minutes of fog that lingers around for a considerable amount of time. But if that’s a budget buster (and you can’t wait up to 1 hour for the machine to reheat and do its thing), consider the G3000 Fog Effects Generator also from Ultratec which does use chemicals, but at least they’re ones that comply with the Equipment Based Guidelines for the Use of Theatrical Smoke and Haze (and other theatrical safety standards).
5. SOUNDS OF TERROR CD
Sure you could gather a group of friends and maybe that voice-actor friend of yours to create a collage of sick and twisted sounds for your Halloween house of horrors, but the folks at Sounds of Terror have not only been doing this a long time (scaring since 1986), but they do a pretty insane job of making some truly spooky sound montages for an evening of thrills and chills.
My favorite is the Twisted Circus that sounds like just the place you’d find crazy killer clowns and dilapidated amusement rides… it’s an aural treat sure to scare the willies out of tick-or-treaters or your party ghouls and guests.
Christian Hokenson is a writer based in Burbank, CA. He's interested in technology, movies, and home entertainment. If you're nice to him, he might buy you ice cream.