The Palm Beaches can be a very spooky place all year long, but in the Halloween season, they become even more so. Currently, the county is home to two professional haunts who employ scareactors to try and frighten you for money; Fright Nights at the South Florida Fairgrounds and Enigma Haunt.
But, did you know that there is also a high school that produces scary scenes that rival their professional counterparts?
At the G-Star School of the Arts, located in Palm Springs, a small but dedicated cadre of high schoolers work year-long to come up with a haunted attraction that features high class sets, amazing themes, and a great make-up department.
Recently, Palm Beach Happening was able to talk with the sophomore Ava Lee Rohloff, a member of the make-up team for X-Scream Halloween, to find out her ideas about scaring, haunted attractions, and make-up technique. Perhaps she will be the next Emily Serpico, who was featured on the make-up reality show Face Off!
Do you like scary movies? (The best opening question in film history, IMHO)
I like scaring other people more than being scared. So basically, I’m the one watching the scary movies from behind the pillow… with one eye peeking out. Then I scream bloody murder into the pillow when the ax murderer/ghost/zombie jumps out from nowhere.
How long have you been a makeup artist?
I started to get really into makeup and prosthetics in eighth grade and now I’m a sophomore at G-Star.
What inspired you to become a makeup artist?
I’ve always been into coloring more so than drawing and I’m right-brain dominant. I do well in school but my interests have always been in creating things. When I was younger, I was the one in bathroom making potions. After watching a few YouTube videos on working with latex and gelatin, I started to experiment. Then I began working with more cosmetic makeup and I just loved the act of transformation. Watching people become something different. Now I love all aspects of being a makeup artist but my passion is in horror and special effects.
Do you enjoy haunted attractions? If so, which is your favorite? (Aside from X-Scream)
Like I said, I’m much more into doing the scaring than being scared. I haven’t been to very many, however I went to one very small one in Myrtle Beach that was actually part of the Hollywood Wax museum. My whole family went in thinking “how scary can this be?” Turned out to be very intense. My dad, who goes every year to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal, even said that the jump scares at this place were better than any he’s ever experienced. Sometimes bigger isn’t always better.
There are several school of scaring, if you will. What technique works best for you?
I like more of the classic, creepy scares. I want to wig people out with a flash of a demon face in the mirror, a vapor being at the end of a long hallway, a ghostly apparition that fly towards you and through you. I like telling the ghost stories that make you not want to sleep at night.
How do you go about developing characters for the haunt?
I start with the theme. What’s the theme of the haunted attraction and what type of characters do I envision being part of this environment? Then I start sketching ideas for characters and what I think they should look like. I share my sketches with the makeup team and if they are well received, from there, I start thinking colors and techniques for getting the effects I want.
What would your ultimate haunted attraction consist of?
Vampires and Werewolves that look like the casts of Teen Wolf, Vampire Diaries, True Blood… come on, I’m a high school girl.
But seriously, I’ve always wanted to see if someone could pull off a true haunting. I think back to Disney’s Haunted Mansion and the basic fear of the lights going out and the thunder and the lightening setting the tone and then the ghosts dancing in the ball room. But the one thing that stills scares and creeps me out is the ghost bride at the end with the whispering voice. I think it would be awesome to experience a real live “ghost story.” Like Amityville Horror/Paranormal Activity/Shining. No guts and gore or crazy maniacs — just ghosts, spirits and haunts sending cool chills down your neck, things moving on their own, flying through the air. Something that would be more of an experience than event. I want to leave being really creeped out and scared to turn off the lights in my bedroom, rather than having peed my pants because a man with a chain saw jumped out of the bushes.
What advice would you give someone interested in working in a haunted attraction?
Be ready to work hard but have fun. You need to not be afraid of getting really involved in the event. Just go all in! Throw ideas out there even if it’s not your area of expertise and don’t worry about whether people will get it or think it’s scary enough or cool enough.
With all the haunted attractions out there, why should someone visit X-Scream?
Raw talent. As high schoolers, we don’t have big budgets so we really have to rely on creativity and talent — from the props department to the actors to the makeup. Everyone involved in X-Scream is new to the horror business but we have unbridled passion to do our best event ever… every year that’s our focus — LET’S MAKE IT UNFORGETTABLE!
Remember that Halloween is a time for fun and frivolity. It is a time to come out of your shell, and to acknowledge the mischievous spirit that resides within all of us. Be sure to keep following Palm Beach Happening for news on other spooky events in the Palm Beaches. If you know of another local event that would appreciate the undead light shone upon it, please let us know!
Also, be sure to check out some of our other Faces Behind the Fear interviews!