Halloween is right around the corner and it’s time to break out the costumes and decorations. For many people this means either spending money on high dollar props or getting stuck with cheesy smiling ghosts and pumpkins. We’re here to help! You don’t have to spend a ton of money to have a good, scary Halloween. Whether you’re building a haunted maze, a yard scene, or just decorating for the season, the Homemade Horrors section will be bringing you tips on how to make inexpensive DIY props, costumes, and decorations
But that’s not all! We Are Indie Horror is a community full of Fear Makers that range in experience from film makers building props and sets, to enthusiasts who build haunted houses on a home budget. Our hope is that Homemade Horrors will provide an outlet where everyone’s knowledge can intermingle. Imagine a homemade haunted house that could incorporate FX from low budget horror films! How great would it be if you film makers could save money on FX using DIY methods? If you have any tips or ideas yourself, please comment, message, or e-mail us and help Indie Horror take another step forward
On to the DIY
Today we’ll be talking about walls and framing. This may seem basic, but every scene needs a backdrop, and there are many options available to you. Walk through events such as Haunted Houses or Haunted Mazes tend to be more demanding on the materials due to weather and interaction with guests, so we will gear our advice toward those implementations. If you are looking to use these ideas in a less demanding setting, take what is useful to you and ignore what doesn’t apply. Before deciding on your building materials, consider your specific conditions. Weather, pricing, storage, and anchoring methods, should be factors in your decision. Speaking of decisions . . .
It should go without saying, but what follows involves using tools, sharp objects, and possibly intelligence. Be careful. Follow safety regulations and common sense. Keep the Fear Alive, remember? Don’t get dead!
More likely than not, your frame will be made of PVC or lumber
PVC is my framing material of choice. Your local hardware store will have a selection of sizes and types. 3/4″ is usually your best bet. 1/2″ is cheaper but won’t support much weight. When pricing PVC at your local hardware store, check the difference between the plumbing and electrical PVC. Also, once you find 3/4″, check the pricing between different Schedules (Sch 40, Sch 80). I usually go with Electrical 3/4″ Sch 40
To frame a single wall or background with PVC, simply cut it to size and connect the pieces with PVC fittings. I like to drill a hole through my fittings and put a screw threw it into the PVC to hold it in place. This allows the item to be taken apart and stored later. To frame a haunted maze I lay out 10′ sections of PVC in the pattern of where the walls will be going. I then cut vertical pieces at around 8′. Drive a stake of some sort into each corner of the layout, and between each piece of PVC. Stand your vertical pieces on these stakes. Now start connecting the laid out 10′ pieces to the top of the vertical pieces with 3-way and 4-way fittings. This can be done alone, but a helper speeds the process up amazingly. Once your basic frame is complete, use scraps of PVC, cut pieces, or scrap wood to support the tops of your walls at each fitting or wherever you feel it is needed. Now you have a basic frame for your walls and ceiling
Lumber is a sturdier framing material, but will cost more unless you have a good source (this is where you call your construction worker friends, they always have access to random materials). If this is the way you want to go, 2x4s are great, but keep in mind, you’re not building a permanent structure. Think about saving some money and using 2x2s or pallets. There are a million ways to frame your walls depending on what type of wood you use. If you need some advice, though, shoot us an e-mail with your specific situation and we’ll give you some ideas
Now you’ve got a frame, what about the walls? A few options are Plastic Sheeting, Cardboard, Sheets, Tarps, and Wood. Each has its pros and cons, but ultimately the decision comes down to what you can manage. What materials do you (or that construction buddy) have on hand? What does your budget look like? Also keep in mind the weather conditions in your area and how you will store your walls after the event.
Black Plastic Sheeting is a quick, versatile choice that can be reused year after year. It is easily connected to PVC by wrapping it around the PVC and duct taping it or zip tying it. I like to poke a zip tie hole through the duct tape for extra strength. With lumber you can use the same methods as well as staples. Plastic Sheeting comes in many thicknesses. You just need to find that balance between too high a price and so thin it will rip. Buy one smaller roll to start with, and if it’s too thin, use that one for backdrops, dividers, etc., and get another thicker roll. You can never have too much plastic sheeting
Bed Sheets and Cardboard may seem childish, but they offer a flexibility that the other materials do not. They are extremely cheap, if not free, but also very susceptible to weather conditions. Cardboard will also usually require some sort of disguise. Thankfully cardboard is very easy to paint over and attach things to. Also, you can easily cut holes in cardboard to allow strategic lighting through, or set up a backlit scene behind a sheet to create silhouettes. Let’s see, picture a sheet stretched tight with a person behind it pressing into it? Likewise, cardboard can add an extra dimension to your event by using it to build facade items and painting over them. Pretty much the uses are endless, but they have weather and durability limitations that the other options don’t have.
Tarps are quick, thick, and easy to store, but tend to be expensive and are heavy on lighter weight frames. They are also worse in windy conditions than Plastic Sheeting (which you can cut slits in) Keep tarps in mind, though, if the weather gets bad and you need to cover soggy areas in the floor of your yard event.
Wood. Wood, again, can be used in many ways depending on the type of wood you have. One quick, inexpensive, and highly effective use of wood is pallets. Many big box hardware stores will allow you to take some of their pallets for free if you ask. Pallets can easily be turned into creepy slatted walls which could serve as a backdrop, or a room in a haunted maze. Pallets can also be torn apart for free lumber to form bases for free standing walls, braces, anchors, or used in a myriad of other ways.
Now that you have some ideas for how to encase your Halloween event, you’re going to need to light it, fill it with props, sounds, and bodies. Check back soon as we get into the down and dirty of DIY prop and decoration making. In the mean time let us know how you build your frames and walls, and what area of DIY Haunting you want us to discuss next time