27 December 2005


Today we take a look at Bob Hutcheson.

I initially met Bob as an actor. He's a part of The Really Spontaneous Theater Company, and back in 2002 Pamela and I went to see this troupe just about every week.

Bob is rock 'n roll. He's from Detroit, and exudes the kind of calm cool that you'd expect from a beatnik or a contributor to the college literary magazine. He also has a bizarre streak about eight miles wide.

His paintings are like sideshow banners. He plays word games with the viewer and devises brilliant visual puns. Plus, his work is just plain fun.

He and his wife also happen to be two of the nicest people imaginable. (She's a singer and an actress and no doubt a future "Tuesday's Artists I Love" candidate!)

Update, 4/18/17: Follow Bob on Twitter, and visit his website!

26 December 2005


Rather than bore you with what movies I thought were best (because, let's face it, opinions are like certain unmentionable sphincter muscles) I thought I'd give my five top entertainment experiences from this past year. It's a bit more all-encompassing, and far more personal. That way you the reader won't feel obliged to send me an e-mail calling me a dolt for putting March of the Penguins on the top of my list.

Number 5 - Revenge of the Sith at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. Sure, I enjoyed the movie. I thought it was the best of the prequels (so much so, I saw it twice; that's pretty rare for me.) What made this screening so special was seeing it opening weekend in a sold out house, in one of Hollywood's iconographic classic movie houses. Every person there was there to ENJOY the movie. That really effects how you watch a movie. Also, our screening was "overseen" by the Fighting 501st. Such a simple thing, (armed stormtroopers at the doors to the theater) added so much excitement to the whole experience.

Number 4 - Discovering Freaks and Geeks. I had heard good things about this show. I had no idea it was so amazingly good. Even the pilot episode felt fully fleshed out and arrived. You know how most pilots feel like it's the obligatory first step, like putting your big toe in the swimming pool to test the temperature before diving in? This show does a canonball from the first moments and just doesn't let up. This is television-as-art to be sure.

Honestly, why this show was cancelled will remain a riddle for the ages. The writing is tight, the performances . . . aw forget it. Just go out and BUY (not rent) the DVD. This is one of those things that you'd wind up renting more than once, and then kick yourself the third time around for not just buying it in the first place.

Number 3 - Rediscovering Baseball. There is something so primal about sporting events. It's a lot like really long form improvisation with thousands of screaming fans and a scoreboard. Pamela and I wound up at four baseball games this past year at Dodger Stadium. (I hadn't been to a pro game since 1988, when the Cubs played a double header vs. the Expos.) We got so wrapped up in the whole thing we actually watched the entire World Series. That probably doesn't read as something unique or extraordinary, but for us it truly was. Baseball is good entertainment.

Number 2 - The Getty Center. One day Pamela and I were completely broke. I mean completely. As in digging through couch coushins to find gas money so we could roll into work on Monday. We were also bored. I remembered once hearing something about "free admission" and "The Getty Museum." A quick check of the net verified my recollection. That was our price range! So off we went.

The Getty is an absolute gem. It sits perched high above the vast expanse of Los Angeles, like a citadel of art and beauty. It recharged my artistic batteries. I most enjoyed their current exhibitions of illuminated manuscripts, and the photography of Weegee.

Number 1 - Nickel Creek, live in concert. And free (again, well within my price range.) Amoeba Music in Hollywood has weekly free concerts. The day Pamela spotted "Nickel Creek" on the marquee I nearly wrecked the car trying to make out the date.

Nickel Creek plays bluegrass . . . but very "pop" bluegrass. They're all youngsters; Sarah Watkins on fiddle, her brother Sean on guitar, and the inimitable Chris Thile burning up the mandolin. Thile is the Eddie Van Halen of mandolin.

Why Should the Fire Die? is their latest disc, and it is absolutely amazing. Pamela and I bought it after the concert and stood in line for an hour to have them sign it. On stage, they're energetic and confident. They put on a good show -- they know how to handle an audience. Offstage they're funny, enagaging and modest.

Okay, so that's it. My obligatory top 5 list for 2005. Lists of movies or books are boring. I'm far more interested in entertainment experiences. I'm interested in your experiences!!! To the left, you'll see a "Forum" button. Enter the forum and tell me about your favorite entertainment experience of 2005! (All 14 of you, including my mom.)

20 December 2005


I'm going to try to do something on a regular basis here: I'm going to feature artists who inspire me, who challenge me, and who make me want to be a better artist myself. The first artist in this series is Ben Strawn.

Ben was a year behind me in High School. Before I met him, I ran in a circle of friends that included his sister Becca. The Strawn kids are all insanely gifted artists.

Ben's work speaks to the dark recesses of my soul. The part of me that thinks City of Lost Children really is a children's movie. The part of me that is both terrified of and fascinated with posionous spiders.

My first introduction to Ben was in art class. I was struggling with colored pencils and he was painting a masterful self-portrait: This hulking, dark monster holding a mask of Ben's face. Whoah. This guy wasn't just putting colors on canvas, he was digging deep and putting himself on the canvas. Nothing at all glib about this dude.

We collaborated on a cartoon for the school newspaper. We talked about doing a graphic novel, but I moved away to college and lost track of him until fairly recently. As you can see from the image here, and from his online portfolio, he has been very busy.

Check him out. Maybe he'll inspire you, too.

Update, 4/20/17: In addition to the newfound link to his online portfolio, check out his Artist a Day page, and this astonishing time lapse video of Ben at work.

19 December 2005

2012 Cometh
A good friend of mine was all abuzz about the year 2012, and how all heck is going to break loose. I could point out that the same was said about 2000 and 1975 and 1900 and 1000 and . . . but you get the point. Predicting doom is something humans enjoy doing, like playing cribbage or petanque.
Anyway, if the world doesn't end, but we are plunged into another "Dark Ages" I'm heading for the hills to build a pageant wagon. (The image accompanying this text is of a Medieval pageant wagon.) Once upon a time, actors hopped onto a wagon and took their act on the road. The Wagon was their home and their stage. Good times.
You are invited to join me. I'll be hunkering down in the Angeles National Forest near the western Highway 2 entrance. I'll need actors, dancers, musicians but also crafts people. Carpenters and the like. I have no need for electricians unless you know how to generate electricity in a post-apocalyptic world.
I figure we'll dramatize the stories we're most familiar with . . . such as Star Wars (as performed so well in the film Reign of Fire.) Yeah. That'd be cool.
Seriously. The world is not going to end in 2012.
It'll be 4772. [insert creepy X-Files-esque music here]
(By the way . . . here's a great site about Medieval Drama.)

13 December 2005

Why "Buckaroo Bonzai"?

I was home sick. It was summertime in Chicago. Flipping through channels, fate shined upon me and I landed on TBS just as The adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension was starting. Maybe it was the fever, maybe the ennui of being trapped indoors on a beautiful day, but I knew that I had found my calling. I wanted to be Buckaroo Bonzai.

Who is Buckaroo Bonzai?

A rock star. A neurosurgeon. A cutting-edge physicist. An adventurer. He just does it all, with panache. He hopped from place to place, changing roles constantly. Showing up just in time to perform brain surgery, then jetting off to play with his rock band halfway across the globe. He had a worldwide network of friends who would help him out when needed.

When I call myself an artistic Buckaroo Bonzai, I do so with mock arrogance. I'm nowhere near as cool as the "real" Buckaroo Bonzai.

But I hope to be so someday.

The Great Russ Walko

I first met Russ at a Disneyland audition for Playhouse Disney - Live On Stage! He's a very talented performer and puppet builder.

We were cast in the show, and wound up performing as Pip and Pop.

Although you can't tell from the photo he looks a bit like Matt Damon and I bear a passing resemblence to Ben Affleck. In rehearsals for Playhouse we wound up with the "Matt and Ben" moniker.

He has a website. Check him out.

11 December 2005

Back in the limelight

Terry: I thought you hated the theater?
Calvero: I also hate the sight of blood, but it's in my veins.

I admit it. I'm not ashamed. I cried the first time I saw Charlie Chaplin's 1952 classic Limelight. I was going through a rough time professionally, and Calvero's (Chaplin) journey in this film really spoke to me.

I hate the theatre. It's an anachronism, clumsey, wasteful, expensive, self-indulgent . . . it's not film. An actor at the height of his powers may play Hamlet, and hold an entire house in the palm of his hand as he treads across the boards. But once the performance is done, it is done. It's like a really good dinner - enjoyed best in the moment. Down the toilet the next day.

On the other hand, I love the theatre. Creating illusions with stage tricks and an audience's imagination. Completing an act, and being met with the silence that roars louder than an ovation. The comradery of a tight-knit cast. The dance of performer and observer.

Personally, I am most frustrated with theater that does not struggle to be remarkable. I am most delighted with fellow performers who interchange with me on stage, like a spiritual game of one-on-one.

So this is why I am producing and directing a play I wrote: Instead of complaining about how rotten I think theatre is, I'm putting myself out there, to see what I can accomplish. In the process, I am rediscovering the joy of creation that I have so often known in my short life in theatre.

The play is called Torrid Affaire. It's a bit racey, but not trashy. I'm thinking about posting it somewhere online in PDF format for any who care to read it. In the meantime, while blogging about The Felties, I may make mention of this play. Now you'll know what I'm talking about when I do.

All about the puppets - Pupsumoto

Originally uploaded by scrapsflippy.

I built the original Pupsumoto prototype (seen here) while watching The Last Samurai. His name is a combination of "puppet" and "Katsumoto" the latter being the name of the archetypal samurai Ken Watanabe played.

Pupsumoto strives to live by the code of the Samurai, Bushido. This is a difficult task, especially in the manic world of The Felties.

Pupsumoto shares an apartment with Mimey in the run-down "Casa de Manos" building. He has a sister, Kabuki, and a sumo wrestling cousin, Cuzumoto.

09 December 2005

What is MSN's problem?

Yesterday, their lead article had the headline "MURDER IN THE BLOGOSPHERE." Today, as I'm checking my e-mail they're running this news story "Is e-mail past it's prime?"

I get the distinct impression from MSN that the internet is on it's way out.

Maybe MSN should commit hari-kari before it's too late. You know, honorably crash the servers. Heck, the internet is obviously on the way out. They could beat the curve and get out now before they lose too much money.

(Ugh. Pessimists.)

06 December 2005

I posted the following words last year on my "My Space" blog. (I don't keep up with My Space. I'm too old and married.)

I put them here because of all the things I posted in My Space, this received the most interest.

And I believe the following still holds true.

* * *
I saw "A Charlie Brown Christmas" the other night. I forget what channel it was on (the one that's advertising "25 Days of Christmas" specials.) The first half hour was the classic special, crappily animated with a voice track obviously edited together line by line. Charlie Brown is down in the dumps, buys the skimpiest looking Christmas tree ever, discovers the true meaning of christmas, and everybody lives happily ever after (all to the awesome Vince Guaraldi Trio soundtrack.)
The second half hour was a slickly animated, cleanly voiced story involving some ice-skating contest. I turned it off after about three minutes.
The point is, you can't beat the classics. You can jazz it up, repackage it, make it look all pretty and new, and add some BS "feel good" theme. But the classic still stands the test of time.
Compare the old "Miracle on 34th Street" with the new one.
Compare the 1966 animated "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" with the flashier, jazzier Jim Carrey version.
I rest my case.
Merry Christmas! Now go enjoy some classics!
* * *
End of reposting.
The wife and I went to Target a couple of weeks ago to pick up It's a Wonderful Life on DVD (on sale for $10!). Surprise, surprise, they were sold out. I should add, it was the ONLY holiday DVD that was sold out. Jim Carrey's Grinch, the Newer, crappy Miracle on 34th Street were in ample supply. It's a Wonderful Life has to be the most watched holiday movie of all time. I know I've seen it at least fifteen times. But it is obvioiusly the most in demand. Classics NEVER grow old.

05 December 2005


I just finished reading Survival is not Enough by Seth Godin. Great book -- it's a manifesto (I think that's all Godin writes) about running a company in alignment with evolutionary theory as applied to the idea structure of the organization. (I think I got that right.) The manifesto wears a bit thin in places, but overall it's a very valid concept. Instead of resisting or neglecting or declaring war on change, companies in the "new economy" should let change "call the tune".

Two little pieces of this memetic puzzle he's built jumped up and bit me on the nose: "The Power of Prototypes" and "Better Beats Perfect".

"The Power of Prototypes"

Writes Godin, "Prototypes are, by definition, rough drafts, designed to be wrong, not right." He suggests a radical approach to prototyping: do a lot of it, and hang them out for everyone to see. He cites the success Chrysler has had with rolling out mind-blowing concept cars (The Viper, The Prowler, the PT Cruiser.)

"Better Beats Perfect"

"Isaac Asimov wrote a new book every six weeks. Some of the books were classics, some were merely good. All of them, however, were far better than the books J. D. Salinger never wrote." It's dumb to wait until something is "perfect" before launching it. "Perfect" can take a lifetime to achieve. Get your product out, and fine tune it over time.

This reminds me of something a college professor once told me. "You have to know when to say 'that's good enough' and just walk away from the canvas." Words of wisdom.

I'm also reminded of an anecdote from Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew. He wrote about this experiment in a pottery class. Half the class was graded on quantity and the other half on quality. At the end of the term, the quantity guys -- who had hundreds of completed pieces each -- were creating beautiful pieces of artwork. The quality guys on the other hand hadn't made more than a few finished pieces each, and none of them approaching the level of mastery of the quantity guys.

So in this spirit, I've decided to go ahead and just shoot my first episode. No more waiting until I "really know what I'm doing." (I'd be waiting a long time.)

BUT, I'm building in a safety net: I'm calling this first episode a "protopilot." Sort of a combination of the terms "prototype" and "pilot." The idea is, this is going to be rough. It's sort of like a previsualization, but intended to be seen by the [gulp] public-at-large.

04 December 2005

All about the puppets - Clownie

Originally uploaded by scrapsflippy.
Hello! I am not Andrew Moore. No, it's Mrs. Andrew Moore here. This is Clownie, another one of The Felties.

Clownie is based on a toy I had since I was born. He was this pillow-panel stuffed clown with a flowery shirt and eyes just like the puppet. Clownie and I had a strange relationship. I would take him to parties, take him to Grandma's house. I wouldn't take him to bed - Lord no. Sometimes I would just beat him up for fun. I like to punch him in the face or drop kick him. Then, whenever I felt like picking him up again, I'd go back about my business dragging him along behind me on my way to a new adventure.

I never felt bad about beating him. It wasn't abuse. It seemed oddly appropriate.

Which is why the character Clownie is always getting beaten up.

02 December 2005

My lovely wife

half hooker
Originally uploaded by scrapsflippy.
Here's the "voice" of Mimey. (This is a picture of her on set at a zombie photo shoot.)

I am a very lucky guy.

I met her thirteen years ago. She was playing Portia in a production of Julias Ceaser set in the sordid yet coloful world of 1930s organized crime. I was absolutely blown away by her performance (and good looks) and married her nine months later.

She writes a blog, too.

30 November 2005

Evolution of a mime

Originally uploaded by scrapsflippy.
Just because the horse I'm beating on doesn't quite feel dead enough yet ...

Here is a pictoral history of Mimey.

Mimey is a mime, but he's no pansy. He has a short fuse, but is a very loyal friend. As a mime, he does not speak out loud (although his silence is often communicated to the audience with subtitles). This leads to Mimey being misunderstood, which then fuels his short temper. Mimey lives with Pupsumoto, his best friend.

(More on Pupsumoto next time.)

All about the puppets - Mimey

Mimey Expressions
Originally uploaded by scrapsflippy.
I built Mimey one day as a gift for my wife. I had all this felt, pipe cleaners, etc. left over from the International Day of Puppetry. (In an historic display of "puppet nerdism" I thought it's be "cool" for me and some of my puppeteer friends to sit around and build puppets all day.) I gave Mimey to Pamela and she loved him.

Since he's a mime, Pam doesn't have to worry about lip sync. She thought this was really funny. Later that night, she called me into the living room from my home office and sang a duet with Mimey. "Sun and Moon" from Miss Saigon. Pamela sang Kim's part, and when it came time for Mimey to sing his part...

Pamela's so damn cute, it really was roll on the floor funny.

The next evening, our neighbors (who absolutely hated us for some unknown reason) yelled at our dogs. Pamela ran to the back window with Mimey and let Mimey give them a (silent) tongue-lashing.

So Pamela has pretty much cemented the character. An absolutely ridiculous mime with a very short fuse, who is completely and totally dedicated to being a mime.

The picture above is Mimey as built by Russ Walko. Compare to my earlier prototype and gift to my wife (see below entry.)

The Felties
I am digging deep into my personal journals for this entry. I guess I was inspired a bit by Michelle Zacharia's blog (found via Andrew over at Puppetvision.) Michelle is working on a shadow puppet project, and her blog reveals a deep and personal passion for what she's doing. So I've decided to pluck up my courage and get personal.
So here are some of my early thoughts about The Felties.
* * *
Treat Felties as a web-comic. Same type of humor, site-gag & "punchy" verbal humor. NOT puppetry sketches. Serialized comedy.
This means HIGH FREQUENCY of "webisodes." But -- short webisodes. I DON'T want people to have to download FOREVER.
The overall look of the project
  • Primary and secondary colors (felt squares - duh!)
  • Any patterns are simple patterns; "kindergarten" simple.
  • SIMPLICITY - I want people to see it and think "I could've done that.!"
  • Not "cartoony" but simple. Like Picasso's drawing of a bull. Minimalist - but minimalist like a circus poster. Simple, but ALIVE and QUICK AND EASY TO GRASP.
  • No real attempt to be "edgy" or "hip." Just letting the property BE what it wants to be -- letting it evolve naturally.

The look of the website

  • All of the above plus: No need for bells & whistles (i.e. Flash animation). Those can come later if needed.
  • IMPORTANT: I have limitations as a web designer. I need to use my limitations to my advantage. This is a SIMPLE idea, and doesn't require much in the way of presentation -- the CONTENT is KING.



Should be short. 2-3 minutes.

Low bandwidth - download/stream QUICK.

* * *

That's enough self-indulgence for now.

22 November 2005



One author who I constantly refer to (for inspiration if nothing else) is Rick Schmidt. His books Feature Filmmaking at Used-Car Prices and Extreme DV at Used-Car Prices are both textbooks and manifestoes written by a doer, not a talker.

In Extreme DV there is a chapter entitled "Guerilla Promotion: A Quicktime Movie Player at Every Web Site." Although this chapter is more about launching an independent film into festivals and ancillary markets (video stores, cable TV, etc.) it got me thinking about the posibillity of skipping all that nonsense and just taking your production straight to the audience.

There's a subheading in that chapter: "Your Own Internet Six-Plex Movie Theater." Imagine that! If, like I pointed out in part one of this mini-manifesto, The experience of going to the movies is getting smaller, and the experience of watching television is getting smaller, then why not? Why not become the Loews or AMC of the internet? What's required? Is it even doable? What do you need - a powerful enough server, a PayPal account, and content.

The very same technology that the "Hollywood Establishment" and the MPAA fears -- the same technology that makes video piracy possible -- is going to make some smart entrepreneur very very wealthy when he realizes one very simple thing: There is no end of content out there. I forget the exact figure but the order of magnitude of short and feature-length films that get made in Los Angeles alone numbers well into the thousands each year. It's a buyer's market.

For me and my scrappy little puppet show, all this means one thing: I don't need to ask anyone's permission. I can bootstrap this thing, shoot it, edit it, and distribute it. There are no external stops anymore!

I can have my own television network!

(So can you!)

11 November 2005

Very interesting posts recently over on Seth Godin's blog.

To an artist, point "C" on Seth's graph is very familiar. It's the up all night, throwing stuff across the room, avoiding your landlord part of the creative cycle right before the big breakthrough that pushes your game to a whole new level.

I think about Walt Disney. How the man "hit the wall" so often, usually after some big breakthrough. The temptation is to do more of the same. Bigger! Better! Snow White II: Double the Dwarfs, Double the Action!!! This is what was expected of him after the huge success of his animated short "Three Little Pigs." So the story goes. Walt was asked "So, when can we expect the follow-up to Three Little Pigs?" Walt's response: "Never. You can't top pigs with pigs."

From an artist's standpoint, the safe thing to do is to try and top pigs with pigs. The brilliant thing is to top pigs with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

I only hope I can be so brave.

31 October 2005



I knew the day would come.

The iPod Video. This is monumental; for me, my industry, and my puppet show "The Felties."

May I elaborate?

I've recently discovered a fellow by the name of Seth Godin. If you don't know who he is, you should. According to his website, he's "a bestselling author, entrepreneur and agent of change." I've gotten to know him as a brilliant mind concerned with where marketing, entrepreneurship, and our entire system of commerce is heading. I agree with practically everything the man says (I disagree when it comes to Ringo's talent as a drummer.)

One point of disagreement seemed rather nitpicky until Steve Jobs unveiled iPod video a couple of weeks back.

Quick - read this.

Seth says "Big computers are silly. They use lots of power and are not nearly as efficient as properly networked Dell boxes (at least that’s the way it works at Yahoo and Google). Big boom boxes are replaced by tiny ipod shuffles. (Yeah, I know big-screen tvs are the big thing. Can’t be right all the time)." [emphasis added.]

True enough, TV screens are getting bigger and bigger. At the same time, however, DVD sales and home entertainment system sales are going up while your local multiplex is hurting for box-office money. It's not that TVs are getting bigger ... it's that the experience of "going to the movies" is getting smaller. At the same time, the experience of watching television is also getting smaller. Sorry, Mr. Godin. You're wrong; you are right all the time! ;-)

According to Arbitron/Edison Media Research in their "Internet and Multimedia 2005: The On-Demand Media Consumer" report, "One in four Americans say they have ever viewed video over the Internet." The audience size of Internet video consumers weekly is over 20 million strong and growing! That's incredible!

And it's like a huge blinking neon sign to bootstrappers like me: independent content producers who have been looking for a way to buck the "system" and get their product out to the consumer!


25 October 2005

I hate to keep ragging on independent film makers, but here's another casting notice I ran across:

"[Title deleted] is about a soldier who pushes through his self-hatred for being gay by hooking up with a boy before leaving for Iraq."

Wow ... how incredibly deep. He overcomes his homophobia ... by hooking up with a boy.

Oscar caliber stuff.

11 October 2005

(This fellow is Stan, one of The Felties.)

The Felties is an upcoming webseries featuring a cast of rowdy characters who live an a cartoon-like universe of gentle anarchy and barely-contained chaos. Short, punchy episodes will be uploaded weekly to the site. This entire project is being "bootstrapped" which is to say produced on a very tight budget.

The puppets are in production right now, being built by the very talented puppeteer Russ Walko. I worked with Russ on a pilot not too long ago for a children's show called "Uncle Grizly". He built the puppets for that one too. (If you visit the site and watch the trailer, Russ is performing the pink naked mole rat "Lon" and I'm performing the green and yellow banana slug "Pupps".) Uncle Grizly retores my faith in the future of children's television entertainment.

Anyway, I'll be posting more about The Felties in the coming days. For now, enjoy the "work in progress" Stan!

06 October 2005

As long as I live in Los Angeles, I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing ads like this one, recently posted on www.lacasting.com:

"INGA & HELGA / Co-Star / Female / Caucasian / 18-28
Characters will play strip poker and end up in just a thong before the big twist ending. Need to be attractive, slim or fit with decent to nice breast.

"Must have nice breats without any visible implant scars. Should speak perfect English and be able to fake a swedish accent. Short will play at many festivals and director has feature coming in the spring. Gig only pays 100 dollars and will shoot in one day, possible two."

How would YOU like to expose yourself for some horny film school graduate for only $50 a day?

There seems to be a constant stream of projects like these going on in L.A. How do they get funding? Horny venture capitalists? Maybe the filmmakers sell their souls to Beelzebub.

I'm not against nudity in film (or on stage for that matter.) But just because you can go there doesn't mean you should. Like any other story telling device, there is artful use and gratuitous use. Artful is the bathtub scene in English Patient. Gratuitous is anything with "National Lampoon" in the title.

(And to think, there will be hundreds of women who submit their headshots and resumes for a shot at Inga and Helga. How sad.)

01 October 2005

Babies love They Might Be Giants.

(Me serenading my sister-in-law's 7 month old.)

30 September 2005

I am in a play in Los Angeles called "Director's Cut", a horror show hell-bent on scaring the bejeebus out of the audience. During rehearsal the other night, a train of thought reappeared like a ghost from the milky darkness of my memory regarding the difference between "angry" and "creepy" and why it is so many attempts to scare an audience fail miserably.

It all goes back to a trip I took through one of the haunted houses back in St. Louis. Not a "real" haunted house, but one of those walk-through jobs filled with all manner of creepiness, and the occasional angry actor. There were some truly chilling moments.

The one that stands out in memory ran like this ... you enter a room. It's a small theater - or perhaps a chapel. It's hard to tell because it's dark and dusty, filled with cobwebs. Before you step two feet into the space, you are aware of twenty or so people - or corpses - sitting in rows facing forward. All of them perfectly still. You know you must walk down the center aisle to exit this space and continue on through the maze. But it's so quiet, and so still ... and you are surrounded by bodies. The rational part of your mind knows that they're just mannequins and perhaps an actor or two. But one thing is for certain: at any moment one of them could reach out and grab you as you walk past them. You're frozen in place.

Well, at least I was. So were the people I went with. Looking back from the front of the theater/chapel (I eventually made it through the aisle of doom) I noticed the same reaction from the people behind us just entering the space.

Why? What made that so scary?

At other times during the haunted house experience, my party ran into actors who just kind of got in our faces and screamed. It was laughable. It was simple anger, and anger is not scary. Sure, it signals that whole "fight or flight thing" but you know where you stand. Your'e gonna have to turn tail or kick some tail.

What made the theater/chapel so scary is you don't know where you stand. It's a mystery. It allows your imagination to dredge up the worst possible scenarios for you to chew on as you tenderly step down the aisle. Think about it: when you've been the most frightened, the most scared it was the mystery of the whole thing. Not knowing turned on those dark thoughts you suppress in every day life. I'm not just talking about when you watched The Ring. I'm talking about your first trip to the dentist. Sleeping alone in the dark. Feeling sick, but not knowing what illness has infected your body.

Sort of a corollary to this is when the everyday and ordinary person, place or thing is turned slightly askew. On some level you know it's not right, but you can't quite grasp what it is. This turns on the mystery but on more of a subconcious level. It's like when the folks who scare up that "generic" halloween music throw in lots of subsonics. It's there, you can feel it, but you can't quite hear it.

Creepiness works because it engages our imagination and our memories. It makes us do part of the work. Mere anger is easy to tune-out. Heck, raise your hand if you've ever successfully ignored an angry boss/parent/teacher.

(In the interest of encouraging better theater and, by extension better haunted houses, I strongly recommend The Empty Space by Peter Brook.)