“The best job I ever had was working for Halloween Horror Nights,” says Chris Louis, co-founder and production manager of Scream n’ Stream. In any other year, he’d be going head-to-head with Universal’s annual extravaganza. In any other year, however, there wouldn’t be a Scream n’ Stream.
But it has been a long time coming.
The seed was first planted when Louis spent his days studying Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida and his nights startling tourists at Universal Studios. In just a few years, he worked his way up from scare actor to the production management team. One of the haunted houses under his supervision would prove near and dear to the HHN faithful. 2007’s The Thing: Assimilation.
It wasn’t another Pop Goes The Weasel gauntlet of phony knives and pre-recorded shrieks. If a guest got lucky with their place in the Conga line, they could see an entire sequel to the 1982 John Carpenter classic play out like uncomfortably close live theater. It was scary. It was engaging. It was foreshadowing.
Thirteen years, two financial crises, and a career change later, the time was right or at least the extenuating circumstances.
Chris and his wife, co-owners of an audio-visual event company, staked their claim with a website in June. Scream n’ Stream was still more concept than creation but, since the launch of ScreamNStream.com, he says, “It’s been one frightening confirmation after another.”
Live events dried up overnight. All of Central Florida theme parks closed and stayed that way until further notice. The biggest entertainment employers in town started announcing layoffs in the thousands on a near-monthly basis. On July 24th, in a move as responsible as it is unthinkable, Universal cancelled Halloween Horror Nights for the first time in 30-year existence. That was the point of no return for Louis.
So he created Scream n’ Stream, the product of 41 paid contractors, four compensated interns, and six local businesses, including host attraction Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures. All told, it’s injecting about $80,000 into the Central Florida economy.
“That is a tiny drop in the bucket compared to what’s happening with coronavirus right now in Central Florida,” admits Louis, “but it is something.”
Talking to some of those contractors sells his assessment short. To them, the work is everything.
“It’s certainly not lost on me that I’m very, very fortunate,” says Kyle Ransbottom, the lead scenic designer. He joined Scream n’ Stream a week after losing his job from Universal Creative’s Prop & Model Shop. “It’s really given me some hope.” His background is closer to the rule than the exception.
Actress Felicia Thornsbury has scared paying customers everywhere from Ohio’s Kings Island to Orlando’s last debut haunted attraction, Dark Horizon, which was cancelled for this year back in June. Stanley Natonek, jack of all carpentry trades, cut his teeth on the traveling Marvel Universe LIVE! arena show. Disney Imagineer Stephen Claiborne was enlisted to build a six-foot-tall demon head that could realistically and responsibly swoop at passing cars. Composer Andy Garfield may be known to horror fans for the Hatchet franchise, but he’s also achieved theme park immortality through his musical work on Universal’s Men in Black: Alien Attack and Halloween Horror Nights 29’s Marathon of Mayhem. Lindsey Phillips was staring down an industry on indefinite hold as a senior Production Design student at the Savannah College of Art and Design when she got the callback to interview for lead scenic artist: “This job has already opened so many doors for me in terms of my future.”
Not that any of them are looking much further than opening night. “I’m absolutely stoked!” says Thornsbury, who will play the most visible role of the bunch.
Every haunt worth its salt has a brochure-ready mascot and Scream n’ Stream has The Fog Queen. Designed by Phillips and realized by Emmy-nominated make-up artist Michael Burnett, the Queen represents the spirit of the event. As Thornsbury describes her, she is “the veiled barrier between the darkness of Halloween and the overwhelming light of the living.”
Night at the Die-In, Scream n’ Stream’s marquee attraction, takes brave motorists straight through that barrier in the form of a dilapidated drive-in screen. On the other side waits a neon-spattered trip through time, stranding guests in the stone-washed hell of 1997 as a bloodthirsty cult does what bloodthirsty cults tend to do. The 1.2-mile experience works like a drive-through Christmas display with the added pacing of actor-operated traffic lights for each 30-60 second scene. Most drive-through Christmas displays, however, don’t end with a Blood Pit.
Anyone wary of the scary can still celebrate the season at Scream n’ Stream. The daytime Drive-Boo Trick-r-Treat lets the whole family get in on the socially distanced fun with contactless candy delivered by tube. Once night falls, visitors can sit out and soak in the ambiance. Nineties alt-rock carries over from the Die-In. Fog-scented air fresheners are available at the gift shop if one night of that syrupy perfume isn’t enough. Halloween Horror Nights lovers will be craving Scream n’ Stream’s pizza fries, but the bacon ranch tots are a whole new ballgame. Littler guests unafraid of the dark but not quite ready for the grisly things lurking in it can take a separately ticketed Haunted Airboat Tour, the “Stream” in Scream n’ Stream, that mixes tales of local folklore with a pitch-black ride across Lake Tohopekaliga.
The Fog Queen will also be on-hand for a complimentary photo-ops.
“This event has such a signature Floridian style to it,” says Thornbury. “It’s tough, it’s innovative.”
Everyone involved is quick to stress its most immediate difference from other drive-through events in the area—the price is per car, not per person—but its quieter difference resonates better than any slogan: 20% of the net proceeds will be donated to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. As Louis says, in a philosophy that informed every aspect of Scream n’ Stream from its existence to its employees, “It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do right now.”
Scream n’ Stream starts Friday, September 25th, and runs every weekend through Halloween. Tickets are already available at ScreamnStream.com, along with safety information and answers to all frequently asked questions.
As Natonek put it, “What better way to safely enjoy time with friends and family than going through an abandoned drive-in that’s been taken over by a murderous cult?”
In a year without a Halloween, there’s no better way to get in the spirit than a trip to Scream n’ Stream.