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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Friday Frights (on Sunday): Screams in Waxahatchie

Careful. She snaps.
Playing in the background: Joe Jenkins on Spa

Well, technically it's Sunday morning but for me it's still Saturday night. Still, by the time I get this thing done and posted it will be Sunday afternoon, if I am lucky. So okay, Sunday. (Yep, a little zippy today).

We interrupt Jen's freaking out about needing a new heater and her recent diagnosis to take in the report of the the intrepid Jen, Suzi and Charlie, who trekked to Waxahatchie last night to visit Screams. Screams is a temporary horror theme park so important to the local economy that they put a sign up on the freeway. No kidding, an actual permanent road sign. The park is about 40 minutes south of Dallas off the I-35E, and it assembles about five haunted houses of varying degrees of scary, a "Trail of Terror" for a few extra bucks, vendors hawking everything from Tarot card readings to wax models of your own hand (you can decorate the nails), live entertainment (scary guys leaping out at you from behind trees, a David Bowie tribute band, walking horror comedians) and even some rides. Pretty darn cool. If I'd been in high school I'd have been in Jen heaven. (Most people there were high school age.) But I still had a great time, even if it meant being up a little past my bedtime. Okay, a whole lot past my bedtime. Which may be why I'm a little manic today. Or it could just be the adrenaline. Much screaming happened. See name of park, above.

Owing to the crowd and the fact that they kicked everybody out at 1 am, we missed the Trail of Terror, but we did get to five haunted houses, which was why we went. I dig haunted houses, the kind where they have people leap out and startle you senseless and large displays of gruesomeness and cool special effects. As it happened, we ended up doing 'em in order of scary. All five of 'em were very well done, showing a lot of care and attention to detail, and ranked between an AWESOME and a WOW on Jen's famous five-star rating system. So for this post we're gonna rank these things in order of scary, too. One to five skulls, five being the scariest. And let us be off!

Ghoulish Graveyard
Star rating: AWESOME (four stars)
This is a kid-friendly rendition of a graveyard, with tombstones listing interesting personages, their dates and causes of death. Keith Richards is in there, just to give you an idea of the sense of humor factor. There are s-fx that jump out at you, and a lot of silly stuff - like the dead gangster who appears to fire a machine gun at you in the car buried nose-up. And, yeah, lots of guys that run out from behind stuff and go "Rhaaaahr!!" but that's just a standard of the genre.

Pirates of Peril Point in 3-D
Star rating: WOW (five stars)
When I said carefully done and with a lot of attention to detail, I was not kidding. This attraction was amazing. They're playing music outside from the "Pirates of the Carribean" movies, for one thing, alternating with the "Dead Men Tell No Tales" voiceovers from the Disney World ride. There's a mural drawn across the entire outside wall in fluorescent chalk, which, when you get your 3-D glasses, suddenly has additional layers of detail that you couldn't see before. The whole interior is like that, including one room where the crabs seem to stand out from the walls until you realize that two of them actually DO stand out from the walls, and those two are attached to the hands of a scary guy, and he comes at you and goes "Rhaaaahrrr!" but again, standard for the genre. Best of all, they made it actually feel like a sinking ship - you step on boards that shift underfoot, whole sections vibrate and rock from side to side, and somehow they got the interior very dank and, uh, salty-smelling. (Didn't hurt that it was raining, or misting anyway.) This attraction was the best example of the degree of care and attention that's obvious throughout the whole park. Minor quibble - impossible to keep the 3-D glasses on over regular glasses. And a bit intense for little kids. 10 and up and maybe younger kids into pirates would love it though.

Death Trap Maze
Star rating: AWESOME (four stars)
This one was based loosely on the Saw movies, which I personally can't get into - I like my humor supernatural in origin, thankewverymuch. It was an actual maze, complete with dead ends and twisting turns and gates that shut behind you. Oh, yeah, and scarily masked clowns prowl the hallways, startling the f*ck out of unwary travelers. Coulrophobiacs* beware.

Arcane Asylum
Star rating: WOW (five stars)
The lunatics have taken over, the nurses are wearing skintight Spandex nurse costumes and things are getting really weird around here. Plenty scary and plenty funny. Even those of us who were just diagnosed with a major mental illness (hello) could appreciate the humor. And we really appreciated the nurses. Automatic one extra star. Could have done without the guy with the chainsaw at the end, but what can ya do. Not for kids under, say, 14.

The Dark Castle
Star rating: AWESOME (four stars)
The Dark Castle is the premier attraction, a classic that Screams has been doing for years. By far the scariest of the haunted houses, it's way too intense for kids and probably even younger teenagers. There are sloping hallways, people opening holes and yelling out at you (my favorite: "That one on the end! She smells delicious! Keep going, dearie, the kitchen's just ahead!") This was the only one that really scared me, that got me out of courtesy-scream mode (scream once in a while and the scary guys who leap out of dark corners will leave you alone; it is, after all, what they're there for) and into full fledged Oh my F******g God screaming in terror type screaming. I also spent most of this one clinging to Suzy (who seemed pretty amused; apparently I scream like a little girl). Only reason I'm not giving it five stars is that some of the scary stuff is associated with torture. Yeah, I know, that's kinda standard in the industry, but they were demonstrating a Judas cradle (look it up, people, I ain't gonna tell you what one is) and as a past member of both Survivors of Torture International and Amnesty International, that kind of stuff FREAKS ME OUT. Sorry, but it's my rating system and I can be arbitrary if I want to.

Anyway, a grand time was had by all, I'm hoarse as hell this morning and I got about five hours of sleep. I'm too old to do this very often but once in a while is a lot of fun.

*"Fear of clowns," people. C'mon now, this is why we have Wikipedia.

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