It was a dark and stormy night in Victoria, B.C. A night worthy of a good scare. And boy did we find it.
Monsters Haunted House (formerly Evil Acres) brings the terror to a new, nautical setting, this year. Being closer to the downtown core is proving to draw quite the crowd, and for good reason. If you are looking to attend one haunted house this year, then let this be the one. If you're prepared for enduring some legitimately freaky shit, that is.
Having experienced two previous haunted houses put on by these horror hounds, I kinda knew what I was getting into, but when some chick ran by me and my pals and out the front door seconds after entering, I have to admit that I wasn't feeling too confident. Yes, of course this horror vet made it through without diving out one of the "chicken exits" (which I actually don't even remember seeing), but not without some serious scares and a borderline panic attack (I'm claustrophobic). But that's exactly the kind of thrills I was after. It's what I crave.
Ever since I was a little girl, I remember loving the feeling of being scared. Whether watching Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger slice and dice their way through my favourite films, or reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark while huddled under blankets, I was a sucker for a good old fashioned freakout. And I haven't changed all that much. So when an opportunity comes to actually place myself inside a scary story, I tend to jump at that chance. And I literally did jump.
For those of you aware of Monsters Haunted House and the terrifically terrifying work that they do, you will be pleased to see some familiar faces in this attraction, but don't kid yourself into thinking you're a pro, because some shocking surprises await. This year's fear fest takes place inside a warehouse at Ogden Point, where the cruise ships rest. But Fear on the Pier is certainly not a place to rest, but rather somewhere to go with your friends and be temporarily transformed into a scream queen (this includes the guys, too) while venturing through the best parts of hell. This haunted house had me jumping, screaming, laughing and cheering all the way through--it was the most fun I've had in a very long time. I highly recommend that you grab some friends and $13 (cash only) and head down to Pier A at Ogden Point to live it up, October style.
Fear on the Pier earns a 10/10 for creating a perfectly creeptastic attraction that will have you hyped up for the Halloween season.
Monsters Haunted House Website
"That night, behind the sliding glass door in that first-story apartment, a woman was terrorized, slaughtered, defiled, and then arranged in a pose more frightful than one ever conceived by those who created Hannibal Lecter or Freddy Krueger and it was real." --Robert D. Kepplel describing one of Ted Bundy's many horrific crime scenes in Signature Killers: Interpreting the Calling Cards of the Serial Murderer.
That pretty much explains my infatuation with serial killers (one that I've had since childhood). Freddy Krueger. Hannibal Lecter. Killers like Bundy, Dahmer, and others, closely resemble some of the villains from my favourite horror movies and books. According to Scott Bonn, criminologist and author of Why We Love Serial Killers: The Curious Appeal of the World's most Savage Murderers, this is certainly one explanation.
Recently, while listening to one of my favourite true crime podcasts, I came across an interview with Bonn, where he discusses what serial killers represent in today's society and why they've become such icons. The origin of the word serial killer (coined by FBI agent and criminal profiler Robert Ressler) actually comes from serial fiction, and Bonn suggests that horror fiction villains and real-life serial killers are virtually indistinguishable. This is partly because we use words like "monster" and "devil" (inhuman terms) to describe such murderers. When Jeffrey Dahmer was caught, he was often referred to as "the real-life Hannibal Lecter." In this sense, the lines between fact and fiction are significantly blurred.
Another aspect that Bonn explores is our fascination with natural disasters and real-life predators. He suggests that serial killers are similar to earthquakes and great white sharks because they are rare, exotic and deadly. We simultaneously find them interesting and terrifying. I can definitely relate. Countless times have I watched specials during the Discovery Channel's popular "Shark Week," while partially turned away due to fear and disgust. I suppose this is similar to how I read about or watch documentaries on serial killers. Though, I have to admit my fear of sharks is somewhat stronger, likely due to my dread of what lurks below the ocean's surface. That said, what lurks below the surface of a murderer is probably more terrifying than what awaits in the ocean current. Luckily, I don't have to go into the ocean, but I most certainly do have to leave my house.
A third facet of our love affair with serial killers, according to Bonn, is entertainment and consumerism, which is undeniably linked to their branding. "Son of Sam" "The Night Stalker" "Jack the Ripper" "BTK" (Bind, Torture, Kill) and "The Boston Strangler" are like brand names. You can actually buy products--films, posters, t-shirts--with those labels attached. In a consumer culture, these sickos have become easily marketable. Bonn's correspondence with the BTK Killer, Dennis Rader, led him to this realization of serial killer brands. Interestingly, Rader often compared himself to natural predators, including a shark, and when signing letters from prison, would write the name Dennis in the shape of a shark, with teeth carved into the signature. In that sense, he had created his own logo.
Circling back to my first point, I have to say that, much like having a childhood favourite fictitious villain (Freddy Kruger) I quickly grew partial to a real-life villain--Ted Bundy. Now, that partiality does not stem from love, or even like, but rather it ties into Scott Bonn's discussion of fact and fiction. I liked scary stories; I enjoyed being frightened, and I still do. Bundy was (and is) my Krueger. The same way that Freddy terrorized teens in their dreams, Ted often crept into mine. He was a character. Charismatic and funny, much like Freddy, only much better looking. Scott Bonn insists that this is the very reason Bundy terrified us so much--he showed us that anybody could be a killer--your friendly next-door neighbour, your husband, your son.
Perhaps this helps to explain why hundreds of women became obsessed with Bundy as he awaited trial, while in court, and on death row. Could it be a combination of the meshing of fact and fiction and the seemingly harmless appearance of a killer like Bundy? Whatever the case, I find those women to be almost as disturbing as Bundy himself. Apparently, he received nude pictures from hundreds of women, and letters professing their love for him, even after he confessed to at least 36 murders. Honestly, any feeling of guilt I may experience during my time spent watching and listening to Ted and his story tend to fade away as I read about those women. At least I'm not one of them, right?
"We serial killers are your sons, we are your husbands, we are everywhere. And there will be more of your children dead tomorrow" --Ted Bundy
I've included this video of Ted on trial. I find the fact that he represented himself to be a fascinating aspect of his ego. The guy never finished law school, but was cocky enough to believe that he could convince the jury to let him walk, or at least dodge the death penalty. Fortunately for us, he really wasn't that good of a lawyer, or liar. That said, his psychopathic manipulation tactics are really something.
To me, Freddy Krueger was special. I felt incredibly attached to him, and would root for him as a child, "Come on, Freddy, get them!" I found, and still find him to be incredibly witty and charming. A child killer with wit and charm. Who could create such a character? Wes Craven, that's who. He had this knack for designing creepy characters who somehow win over the hearts of moviegoers. That is not an easy task, my friends. Not only was he able to create endearing psychos, but he ended up churning out cult franchises; he built empires. Freddy and Ghostface (from the Scream franchise) are, to this day, two of the most popular villains in cinema, and also two of the most popular Halloween costumes year after year.
I will leave you with two of my favourites--Freddy and Wes. Both unforgettable. It may seem weird, but this was a very difficult post for me to write. I am absolutely heartbroken. Wes Craven and his films have truly touched my life in a profound way. As a little girl, watching his films made me feel like I wasn't all that weird. Like I really did have a place where I belonged. He and his films will remain with me for an eternity. For you, Wes, I vow to never sleep again. Unless, of course, Freddy wants to meet me.
Alysson Paradis in 2007's Inside (A'L'interieur)
Julien Maury and Alexandre Bastillo's brilliant film, Inside, coincides with the New French Extremity of cinema (a delightful blend of arthouse and horror), and is an example of what happens when almost nothing is left to the imagination. In this instance, however, the fear remains. The film is well-crafted, with strong characters and a captivating story. It also happens to contain one of the bloodiest scenes I've ever witnessed.
Why the contrast? I just find it interesting how there are so many ways to successfully tell a horrifying tale. On one hand, you can credit your audience as the sadistic bastards they are, and allow them to create their own version of hell or, alternatively, you can do it for them. While both methods sound like a great time, I would argue that the prospect of tricking people into scaring themselves is super exciting!
Climbing inside a viewer's mind and tapping into their fears is an awesome concept, for sure, but what about the artistic element of gore? Last night, I revisited Stanley Kubricks' masterpiece, The Shining, and was once again reminded that there is artistic merit in the horror genre. Big time.
To end things I will say that, while I don't have a definite preference either way in terms of the presence or absence of gore, I tend to be most freaked out by films that require the use of my imagination. Whether that says more about those films or my mind, I'm not so sure. One thing is for sure, and that is the fact that I continue to be impressed by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and its ability to retain such elite status as a horror giant while omitting the gruesome carnage, amidst a genre thats popularity often relies on gore factor.
To me, that should always be the motivation in making a film--to have fun! Reading Gunnar Hansen's (Leatherface) book about the making of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has proved to be greatly inspiring. It definitely lights a fire and makes me want to burn shit up. This poor girl doesn't need to be tortured over a lack of funds when it comes to creating a film. If you've got some ideas and a camera, you're golden. I urge any aspiring filmmaker to pick up a copy of Chain Saw Confidential. You don't need to be a horror fan, either. The book is not only well written (Hansen is a poet) but it gives an interesting glimpse into the world of movie making, encouraging people like me to step out of their comfort zone and have some fun!
Producer Ron Bozman during the filming of the infamous dinner scene.
"It was the heat, the smell, the impossible hours, the frenzy and insanity of shooting the dinner scene--the overall misery. It was the particular combination of actors and crew, most of whom had never made a movie and were willing to do whatever it took to get Chain Saw made. It was even the photo lab's sloppy work that produced the murky, off-color release prints. And it was the title. Take away any of these parts and it would all fall down. Somehow all these elements created something new and unexpected. Somehow, just for this one time, we caught lightning in a bottle. The movie is what it is because of this combination--and because this time Saturn was not in retrograde."
I'm finally doing it--pulling my insides out and splattering them around for all to see. Here we go!