Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Bump in the Night

I, like Columbus from the United States of Zombieland, hate clowns. It's the month of October, and with it come Tootsie Rolls galore, kids wearing devil costumes, and slutty nurses (...slutty police officers, slutty witches, and slutty - well, you get the idea). This year, my second Pathobiology exam provides a convenient excuse an unfortunate obstacle to participating in Halloween festivities.

In lieu of spending Halloween day dressed up like an emo rockstar, elbowing strangers in the face at a club and eating the cruddiest pizza of my life, I opted to celebrate Halloween early with Wonderland's Halloween Haunt - open now.

Halloween Haunt is a haunted-house type attraction with ten mazes set up around the Wonderland grounds and a show playing in the theatre. I headed over with Syd and a couple of other high school acquaintances. The group number was notably truncated from last minute dropouts.

Over the course of the evening, my friends and I managed to hit all ten mazes but missed the last viewing of the show. If I had expected the Haunt to be exciting, I was sorrowfully disappointed. The night got off to a great start, with a logjam to get into the park through the ill-conceived single lane entrance. I was genuinely disillusioned by the number of people streaming into the park. Mentally, I braced myself to spend all night in line.

We began our adventure at two mazes at the far end of the park - Blood Shed and Club Blood. Our experience in the Blood Shed set the tone for the rest of the evening. We herded in, single file, four among a never ending moving stream of people. The maze weaved and bobbed with the occasional dangling obstacle hanging from the ceiling. While the maze was decorated, there was very little in the way of tricks or treats - no trap doors, no animatronic beasts of fury. In fact, the "shock value" was achieved almost entirely by near pitch black and people in costumes popping out from behind every corner. Because you could see the people in front of you, you'd miss the scare at least fifty percent of the time; and the scare would never hit the whole group, only the person in front (we took turns).

Upon entering each maze, a kindly Wonderland attendant would tell you, "Don't touch the monsters. The monsters will not touch you." This, of course, meant no strange hands grabbing your feet unexpectedly and no monsters creeping up behind you to tap you over the shoulder. Monsters almost exclusively needed to approach you from the front, and while sometimes these costumed cretins could look menacing, they would seldom lunge at you should you manage to make eye contact with them before they did so (although, some did entertain the tactic of slithering around you and whispering in your ear). The effect was not completely lost, because given an effective enough actor, your body can still twitch in anticipation of being attacked, even if strangulation by monster is, in fact, prohibited.

Other than jumping out from corners and creeping up in your face, the monsters utilized one more tactic to get around their no-contact handicap - sound. There was a lot of unexpected banging on walls or tables in the dark in order to elicit a jump. All cheap tricks, I assure you. After the first couple of mazes, it was hard to do more than yawn at these occasionally menacing looking creatures, as we had already become accustomed to looking carefully around each corner as we walked around it.

Club Blood was actually fairly well lit. Like something out of a bad vampire flick, this venue tried to recreate a dance club-like atmosphere with monsters mingling around. Because you could, for the most part, actually see where you were going, there was very little to intimidate. As such, it came out more as a dark and twisted art piece rather than a scary maze. There were a couple of unique moments, however, like where they split us up in two separate directions. Syd and I, finding ourselves for the first time alone on a path laden with monsters, had nobody in front to cue us of oncoming threats. Bam! Then, at the very end of the maze, a costumed monster came flying at us out of the dark chittering like an insect. He was, in fact, a man on a short bungee; but that was probably the neatest effect of the night.

From that point on, there was very little to surprise us. The remaining eight mazes rehashed the same combination of jumping monsters, dark environments, and tragically long lines. As the night went on, the temperature became biting cold as well. By the time we left, I could barely feel my hands.

Cornstalkers, Miner's Revenge, and a Midsummer Night's Scream were outdoor mazes. Of these, Cornstalkers was probably the most interesting, since the monsters genuinely blended in with the environment and popped out quite effectively (at least the first couple times). About half way through, I felt a fist clench around my sleeve and hold on. I was at the back of my own group, so I was confused. Had someone mistaken me for one of their friends? I leaned forward and whispered to Syd, "The girl behind me is holding onto my sleeve..." Syd replied with an, "Oh really?" and a chuckle. Perhaps the girl heard me or deduced that I was talking about her because she piped up, "Sorry... I'm holding onto you." She clung on for another minute or so before abandoning the exercise to huddle with her own friend.

The male members of my readership may consider this a missed opportunity, but I assure you that the majority of the Halloween Haunt crowd was composed of irksome teenagers. And when we hit the Clowns at Midnight and Mother Noose, there were some genuinely detestable folks behind us. These two exhibits were glow-in-the-dark and petitioned patrons to purchase $1 paper 3D glasses to fully appreciate the paint job. As if my $35 admission was not enough...

But as I was saying... detestable folks. Behind us for the Clowns at Midnight were a group of four teenagers, a little on the chubby side and a little on the ghetto side. Backwards caps. Check. Foul language. Check. Foul attitude? Check. "Are you going to be f*cking scared?" The two girls, at every opportunity, screamed at the top of their lungs and cannonballed around the room trying to get away. Literally cannonballed, bumping into everyone every which way. The guy, determined to demonstrate his alpha-ness, just yelled, swore, and talked a lot while making faces at and making fun of the monsters. Halfway through, all of us were sick of the volume, and most of all, sick of being shoved from behind. When the male member came careening into me from behind like a bowling ball to a pin, I reached up, grabbed him by the shoulder, and forcefully shoved him over to the side. I looked up to find Sydney staring at me with a smirk on her face: "I saw that."

From there, we headed to the Kingdom of Carnage and Red Beard's Rage. The Kingdom ended with one of the neatest tricks - a bunch of decapitated heads hanging from the ceiling in a room lit by a pulsing strobe light. It was actually quite disconcerting trying to navigate to the disorienting effect of a strobe whilst trying to avoid bumping your head against one of the props. I should note that things hanging from the ceiling was a recurring theme throughout the mazes. When it wasn't hanging heads, it was hanging plastic strips. The worst, of course, were the hanging fuzzy strips of felt-like material. I considered how these fuzzy tentacles would make great vectors for picking up and transmitting small parasites like head lice. Yuck.

Red Beard's Rage was unique in that it had giant animatronic octopus bits penetrating the maze, which was decorated to look like the interior of a ship. Interestingly enough, I got sprayed by something from the ceiling, which I can only hope was an intended effect... even though none of my other friends got wet.

Our last stop was the Asylum, right near the park entrance. As such, it also had the longest line - likely three to four times longer than any of the other mazes. Some of our group started to get cold feet (literally) by this point in the night, but Syd and I insisted on finishing ten for ten. It's at this point that I'd like to note that lines for these temporary exhibits were not well set up, and they were frequently abused by naughty teenagers who took the opportunity to just walk past everyone else and cut the line. At one point, a group of teenagers snuck up beside us, and we could hear them discussing their evil schemes. "You know, we could just sneak across from this side of the line to the other," said one girl. "Let's do it. That's how we do things in Guelph, baby," came the reply. There were several moments when I was tempted to grab one of these youngsters by the hood and challenge, "What do you think you're doing, buddy?" Sadly, teenagers are pack animals, and on the occasions where I've actually challenged line budders, it's seldom done me any good. /sigh

So there you have it friends. Halloween Haunt had its moments, but it was a generally uninspired and unconvincing experience. All of our ten mazes were rated at an Attraction Rating of 4, which is almost as "thrilling" as you can get. Sadly, this was a gross overstatement.

But like New Year's at Nathan Philip's Square and other activities that sound more fun in concept than are fun in practice, I'm glad that I had the chance to experience this event... just once. Happy Halloween!


Jerry said...

I hate clowns too lol im scared shitless of them lol so i dunno WHY you would put a BIG CLOWN face at the BEGINNING of your post!??!?!

ted said...

"bump in the night" - when i read your title, i thought you were gonna describe another sensual experience again - exploring a reaction you had