Because chainsaws are stupid *

Haunted House (Gottleib)How many times have you trapsed blindly through a corporate haunted house whose theme was a collection of gore, guts, blood, evil clowns, more gore, and some lunatic running around with a chainless chainsaw?

It’s the same thing year after year. Pick out the cluster of tweener girls that are huddled together like a pack of hamsters in a box full of rattle snakes, follow them around, torment them mercilessly. Meantime, your guide, if there is one, leads you from one uninspired room to the next.

Here is the “bloody operation gone wrong”. Next is the “Freddy Krueger” room. Next is an Alien chomping on a space marine. Wait…what?

There was a time…1974, I think, when your friendly neighborhood haunted house was populated by Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, and their pet bats. Sure, some folks raised an eyebrow, but times were changing, people were loosening up a little, and if two middle-aged men wanted to live together, then who really cared? But back to the subject. Whole flocks of ghosts roamed the dark, cobwebbed halls where black cats and witches danced around cauldrons and maybe you’d even see The Creature From The Black Lagoon because you just never knew where that guy was going to pop out from. There were hollow-eyed skeletons and white-faced zombies, and graveyards, and all manner of unseen spirits. Sadly, focus moved away from the scare, instead concentrating on the shock.

“Haunted” has been replaced with “horror”, and there’s a distinct difference. Horror denotes “an overwhelming and painful feeling caused by something frightfully shocking”[]. Haunted simply means “inhabited or frequented by ghosts”[]. Sort of the difference between a midnight stroll through a cemetery and being electrocuted by a malfunctioning automatic toothbrush.

I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for a good shock, but the movie’s getting old. This fixation on grossing out the audience has taken over. Violence replaced the gothic. It’s much more difficult to evok and maintain a sense of apprehension or full blown dread than to simply target a knot of hamster girls and scream “Rrraaaaahhrr!!”

Being shocked isn’t being scared. You may fear the shock that you know is coming, but after the shock, everything’s over. That is, until the next one. And the next. After a while it just all runs together.

I want to experience a haunting. I want chills to run up and down my spine. I want to have time to appreciate a really well done prop. You should experience a haunted house. The only example I can think of is Disney’s Haunted Mansion. It plays with you. It doesn’t throw you down on the bed without so much as a kiss and scream “Rrrraaaahhhrr” in your face.

There are usually two or possibly three big “horror hotels” or “industrial nightmares” in any given medium-sized city, and they’re often run by the same company. The props are generally static, usually horrific, and every couple of rooms are sparsely peppered with actors earning minimum wage. A quick shock, then herd the sheep through the chute to the next blood-drenched room. <yawn>

Is it any wonder why home, carport, basement, and yard haunts are so popular? Their focus is on the scare, the creep factor. Not the dollar. Sure, they’ll still torment that cluster of hamster girls because they make it so easy, and because it’s fun. And without so much “blood – raar! – blood – raar!”.

“Did you see that ghost floating in the window? How’d they do that?”
“What’s behind that tombstone, daddy?”
“It’s a werewolf, son. We used to see those all the time back in 1974.”
“Where’d they all go?”
“I think they were hunted down by clowns or something, but they’re making a comeback.”
“I’m glad.”
“Me too.”

* The phrase “because chainsaws are stupid” was first launched into the Haunter’s Lexicon by the horrible folks at Castle Blood probably back before that one time I saw them at Ironstock and bought a bumper sticker that’s still stuck to my red toolbox out in the shop.

One Response to “Because chainsaws are stupid *”

  1. A haunted house I would like to go to this coming halloween is at the old mansfield penitentiary, I heard they have been getting better every year. I also wouldnt mind paying the $50 to spend the night, but I would rather do that during the off season otherwise to many people to feel the haunting.