Theme parks usher in much needed haunted season – Daily News


After a year and a half of horrors, Monster Season is back. And that’s wonderful news for theme park fans.

Just as retail has extended the Christmas season, theme parks have extended Halloween. The Walt Disney World Resort in Florida kicked off its family-themed Halloween events last month. Now, Universal is leading the haunting season with the openings of its Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood. Knott’s, Six Flags and – for the first time – SeaWorld will follow with its own haunted events later this month.

Haunt is the season of the monsters – a period missed by many last year when the world faced the real horror of the pandemic. Today, with vaccines making gatherings safer for those who have chosen to protect themselves, the lairs may return. The monsters will respawn.

A lair may seem like the last thing you want to celebrate during a pandemic. But hangouts are perhaps the most striking attractions offered by themed entertainment.

Haunts takes theme parks back to the roots of live theater entertainment. People are scary here. Creepy actors prowl the mist-shrouded paths and leap from behind doors and props inside mazes. The mazes themselves are temporary sets built by hand. There are no expensive animatronics and few screens or media effects. You’re not traveling on multi-million dollar amusement ride systems. You pass haunted attractions, where spooky actors lurk inches away. It is an intimate and human experience.

When fear arrives, screams too… often followed by laughter. This is because people rarely visit the lairs alone. This is the time and place to bring friends – friends with whom you want to share the joyful humiliation of being afraid in public. Hauntings may be death-themed, but they celebrate life.

They also celebrate the monsters. John Murdy, Creative Director of Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, tells a great story about the first time he watched the 1931 Universal movie, “Frankenstein”. He watched it on TV when he was four, because weekend afternoon monster movies were the kind of thing Gen X grew up with. When it was over, his mother found him crying. But it wasn’t because he was scared, Murdy said. This is because he felt bad for the monster, who hadn’t asked to be created and was just trying to get along in a world he didn’t understand.

Monsters are the ultimate outcasts. It can make them heroes for anyone who feels like an outcast in real life. Monsters can also express all of those extreme emotions that people sometimes feel when facing a world that doesn’t seem to want them. And after the year has passed, I suspect we are feeling almost all of these emotions.

In a lair, monsters allow you to scream in public. You can let it all out and finally feel like you belong with all the other outcasts. And that’s exactly what many of us need right now.


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