That’s what Joey Wilson, a Horror Nights vet and my new scare mentor tells me. He’s a credible scarer: He once spooked a man into a heart attack. “Seriously,” Wilson, a clean-cut 26-year-old with kind eyes, tells me, prideful.
I sit in the salon chair as special effects makeup artist Miranda Jory adds horned prosthetics to my forehead and cheeks, tomato-red paint to my face and airbrushed contours onto everything. We joke that I look like a Kardashian.
I scare myself.
Jory calls me an attractive succubus. I share a photo of my new look with my mother, with the caption “I’m a cute demon.” She replies that I look “scary,” “crazy” and “not cute.” She reiterates: “NOT CUTE.”
All red and no cute, I dress in a black costume, swish teeth dye (it’s a thing) in my mouth, and join Wilson at the “Inferno,” where he will become demon king and I will be his demon protégé and we will scare all the of mortals.
Minutes before Universal Hollywood opens and our human victims are invited into our maze, I join about a dozen scare actors, including Wilson, for a pre-shift meeting that feels oddly like a work meeting for any seasonal job.
There’s a reminder of standards (no talking on set), congratulations for good work (people get “gruesome cards” for exceptional scaring), and a reminder of team-building events (there’s potluck Sunday, and everyone should know their “Secret Satan” by then).
After the scare squad brings it in for a cheer (“1, 2, 3, Burn!”) we’re off to our dark corners, with me planted next to a mound of skeletons. Scare Mentor Joey goes over some tips before we begin.
2. Don’t touch or talk to anyone. You can growl, though. My mentor has a great growl; I do not.
4. If you have a prop, the wind-up is important. Wilson hands me a toy hatchet.
I start with a “jump scare” Joey taught me. I creep behind a prop and step out, hatchet in the air, when the smoke from a nearby machine subsides.
That gets a few people.
But then it’s time to mix it up (I want to make the devil king proud).
I decide to become a murderous “flirty demon,” a name I will continue to call myself days after this job.
I approach men, walking arm-in-arm with their dates, and hold intense eye contact. Then, I strut alongside them, tousle my hair and put my hand on my hip. Finally, out of nowhere, I threaten their girlfriends with a hatchet.
Once I master that, I widen my scare demo: I “stalk stare,” as Joey calls it. Some flirt back. Others scream. A few say, “Hey girl!” Plenty laugh.
After 40 minutes, I’m spent. I can’t fathom how the 1,000 Halloween Horror Nights scare actors, paid an average of $18 per hour, do this for multiple hours a night. But I only realize I’m sweating and snotting (it’s hard to blow a prosthetic nose) once I meet up with my videographer.
We return to “scare base,” Universal’s parking garage-turned-dressing room, where two makeup artists spend a half hour removing traces of demon from my face. We chat like we’re at a salon, but instead of gossiping about relationships, we discuss things like which medical pages to follow on Instagram as inspiration for gory special effects makeup.
Halloween Horror Nights runs at Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando now through Oct. 22; Oct. 25-29; Oct 31 and Nov. 2-4. Tickets range from $70 – $95, depending on date, with extra fees for front-of-line passes.