The skits after "Weekend Update" on Saturday Night Live can either be utterly forget-able or legendary. A year ago, who would have thought that "The Haunted Elevator" sketch would have been the latter. For those with early bedtimes or a lack of television, I will elaborate.
A couple of haunt-goers board the 100 Floors of Frights ride anticipating the scare of a lifetime. The couple are seated in an elevator with an operator who has no shortage of haunting puns. As the doors of the elevator open to different floors the couple are assailed by different scary characters like a suicidal bride and a demonic chef. Then the door opens on Tom Hanks (the evening's host) wearing one of those three-piece, jack-o-lantern-print suits that emerged on the market some years back. Tom declares his name to be David Pumpkins and says that he will, "Scare the hell out of you!" He and the two b-boy skeletons bust out into a spastic, urban, dance routine at the end of which David asks, "Any questions?" The couple are stunned not with terror, but with the lameness of the routine.
As the skit progresses the elevator door opens multiple times, sometimes revealing horror scenes but other times revealing more David S. Pumpkins themed entertainment. When the couple complains to the elevator operator about the preponderance of scenes involving the pumpkin-suit-clad man and his dancing skeletons he remarks, "It is 100 floors of frights, they are not all going to be winners." Finally the door opens on just the b-boy skeletons who wish the couple a Happy Halloween. The couple appear annoyed momentarily until the booming voice behind them of David Pumpkins asks, "Any questions?" Then they are rightly scared witless.
The skit went viral and those suits--the hybrid professional wear and Halloween costume that had been languishing in the back of costume shops-went flying off the shelves. A mythology sprang-up and the response to the character has been so strong that Loren Michaels has executive produced an animated special to air on NBC at 11:30 PM on Saturday, October 28, 2017. More on that can be found at Deadline.com.
So why discourse on a Saturday Night Live skit? In actuality, I wanted to write this post last year. The first chapter in my book, 10 Cheap Tricks to Haunt Your Halloween, covers ideas like using humor in your haunt and having your spectators experience a range of emotions. The haunt portrayed in this sketch uses both these ideas. This seemingly goofy scene of skeletons who can't dance and a man in a silly suit that has no connection to anything is what gets the biggest scream in the end. At one point the elevator operator remarks, "The scariest thing to the mind is the unknown." I could not agree more, it is in our imagination that fear originates and it is the unknown that leaves the most to the imagination. Furthermore, when we let our guard down that is when we are most susceptible to the unexpected and that is when we are most vulnerable to a sudden fright. Laughter causes us to let our guard down; if you really want to scare someone get them to laugh first. Then take them by surprise.
Nine million plus YouTube views cannot be wrong.
As always, please haunt responsibly.