Local theme parks scare audiences away

Campus Times
October 9, 1998

photo by Laura Ambriz

Back for another year at Knott's Scary Farm, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, presents a Las Vegas style show, with dancers, singers, costume changes and a trivia game. Tickets for Knott's Scary Farm are available in the Bookshoppe.

by Ryan Allen
Arts & Entertainment Editor

October has long been associated with All Hallow's Eve at the end of the month. Why wait to the 31st to celebrate one of the most popular holidays in the world?

Halloween came early to Southern California this year in not one form, but two. Both Universal Studios, Hollywood, and Buena Park's Knott's Scary Farm are getting into the act as they, in an attempt to bring people in, will try to scare them away.

Both have a number of brand-new features and events this year, as well as some of the old favorites.

Knott's Scary Farm's Halloween Haunt opened last Friday and will continue through Nov. 1. The regular haunt nights are Oct. 9-10, 16-18, 22-25, 28-31, and Nov. 1. This will be the 26th year of fear for the Halloween Haunt, and definitely not the last.

A number of familiar scary attractions are back to attract those people who have never been, along with some brand-new shows and mazes, to entice returners.

Knott's has converted almost all of its entire park for the weekend hauntings. Some of the attractions include three new mazes which consist of Alien Attack, Dead Man's Wharf, and the Horrorwood Hotel.

Alien Attack allows guests to experience a cross between the Twilight Zone and X-Files as they can make a close encounter of a galactically gory kind.

Dead Man's Wharf places visitors on an abandoned shipyard which is inhabited by a madman who is not too excited about guests.

The Horrorwood Hotel puts people face-to-face with some of the scariest villains of all time. It seems to be the perfect place to rest after a long day at a theme park, forever.

Along with the themed haunt attractions are the haunt entertainment shows which include Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who returned for her 12th year as Knott's "hostess with the mostess." Elvira stars in her Haunted House Party, an all-new monster music and dance review, which packed the 2,100-seat Ghoul Time Theatre for each of her four shows on Saturday.

Another popular show can be found in Calico Square, which is "dead" center in the middle of the amusement park.

The new show called "The Hanging '98," attacks the year's most infamous people who made it into the top headlines. Of course that includes Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. This comedic, stunt filled, special-effect engrossed, no-holds-barred show also incorporates the scariest movie villains of our generation.

If someone absolutely needs to be amazed then "Ed Alonzo's Magic and Mayhem" is the show for them. Alonzo's slight-of-hand-mouth and mind will surprise and intrigue. The show includes everything from farm animals, to a pretty girl, to a Lewinsky joke.

Knott's Haunt producer Matt Schliesman said, "Little did we know in 1972 that we would be giving birth, not only to the 'granddaddy' of Halloween parties-but to a whole industry of scare events patterned after the Scary Farm original."

Not to be outdone, Universal Studio's, Hollywood, will present its second annual "Halloween Horror Nights II," which will be showcased on three consecutive weekends Oct. 16 through Oct. 31.

This year, Universal decided to bring out a big gun of the horror industry. This big gun came in the form of noted filmmaker and author Clive Barker, creator of horror classics "Hellraiser" and "Candyman." Barker has been asked to create his own personal horror show in the form of "Clive Barker's Freakz."

"It is my attraction so I will be judging all the talent," said Barker.

Final auditions for Barker's show were held on Sept. 22, and the other judges were KROQ deejay Jed the Fish, "The Mask of Zorro's" Julieta Rosen, the vice-president of entertainment of Universal Studios Hollywood, Norm Kahn, and the Mummy.

Among the "freaks" auditioning were fire-eaters, sword swallowers, bug eaters, a contortionist, crazy pyromaniacs and blood-curdling screamers.

George "The Giant" McArthur is a sword swallower who also just happens to be a 7'2" insect eater.

"I saw a sword swallower at a side show and fell in love with the art as a kid," said McArthur, "Now it is dying and I won't let it die without a fight."

His partner for eight years, Micheal "Blockhead" Morena, got his unusual nickname because of his need to hammer two-inch nails into his nose and skull. Not only that, but on his spare time he enjoys breathing fire and feeding McArthur a variety of insects.

Barker said, "Audiences have come accustomed to images of extreme intensity and graphic violence and gore, so we've had to go in a more dramatic and unique direction to create this environment for Universal."

Barker's main goal is to make the audiences "adrenaline rush," and put them in a real state of fear.

"It's about projecting ability [from the actors]," said Barker. "Make up only does half the job, we're looking for energy."

Universal Studios will not only feature Barker's "Freakz" but will have a number of other shows and mazes. The classic Universal monsters which will "still have a place in our hearts," added Barker, are showcased in a classic creature feature.

There will be an Alien Assault, a Halloween tribute to KISS, The Cryptkeeper's Screaming Room, Chucky's Wedding Chapel, Slaughterworld, Bill and Ted's Excellent Halloween Adventure II, and a Carnival of Carnage.

Knott's Scary Farm opens each weekend evening at 7 p.m. and fear continues until 2 a.m. Advance tickets are on sale for $34 and $39 the day of the event. They can be ordered by calling (714) 220-5200. The University Bookshoppe is selling tickets for Oct. 16 and 25 for $18, and for Oct. 28 for $15. They can be reached ext. 4280.

Halloween Horror Night tickets are $34 regularly and $24 for advanced sale tickets. "Halloween Horror Nights II" is open 7 p.m. to midnight Thursdays and Sundays; 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Tickets can be purchased through Ticketmaster locations, at Universal Studios, Hollywood, at Spencer Gifts, or via the Internet at www.universalstudios.com.

It is up to each individual to decide which attraction he or she would rather attend, or for the truly brave, some might visit both. Either way, there is no excuse for the scariest month of the year to pass unnoticed.

"I will use darkness when appropriate," said Barker, "but when I want to show the gore, damnit I will."