Halloween Decorating Strategies

I used to be focused primarily on making realistic props to sit around and "be scary," but there's more to it than that, and even the idea of "realism" is sort of misguided.  The following are principles or strategies that guide my approach to decorating for Halloween.

Go big and bold.  People are just passing through; they don't have time to linger.  They aren't expecting a gallery, and 99% of the folks who see your decorations are not Halloween connoisseurs.  You can spend hours looking to get the fine details right, but that's time (and possibly money) better spent putting together other decorations.

Make it instead of buying it.  Store-bought props are always too small to have the effect you're going for.  They also will not conform to a cohesive look in conjunction with other props in your collection.  Some things are going to look too cartoonish when placed alongside your better props.  However, if you make your own things, you're going to achieve a uniform look.

Think in terms of scenes.  A scene is much more effective than single-prop displays.  For example, I could have set out a single severed foot, but then you'd just think, "Oh, a severed foot prop."  Instead, I placed it in the bathtub with fake blood, a saw, and a pair of rubber gloves.  The effect: "They tried to get rid of the body after the murder."

Use all three elements.  These can exist independently, but try to think in terms of lights, motion, and sound.  These three elements will turn props and other decorations into something more real than mere stationary objects.

Lights.  At night especially, things just aren't going to stand out unless your yard is well-lit already.  Target certain props with lights to draw attention to them.  Lights also add an atmospheric effect relatively easily and inexpensively if you use colored bulbs.  Additionally, animated lights, flicker bulbs/circuits, and/or color-changing bulbs add the illusion of motion, the next element you should go for.  See my primer on different lights and their uses here.

Motion.  Animating props brings them to life like nothing else.  There are a number of options you can use as well, depending on your needs: pneumatics, electric motors, and even computer-controlled interfaces that can be programmed to orchestrate sequences of movements.

Sound.  This adds color to the scene.  You can do anything from an ambient backing track of night-time sounds to a full musical playlist.  There are ways of integrating sounds and lights intelligently as well (e.g., Light-o-rama or light organs).  


Copyright 2011 the Ale[x]orcist.