Horror Movies vs. Haunted Houses: Which One Will You Choose?

Horror Movies vs. Haunted Houses: Which One Will You Choose?

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You might be tempted to go see the latest remake of Stephen King’s “Carrie” that’s going to be playing on dozens of screens in the DFW area this Halloween, but don’t be surprised if you’re the only one in the theater. Trying to decide if you should plunk down the money for a movie again – just like you do every year – or if you should finally screw up the courage to visit one of Dallas’ haunted houses? Maybe we can help.

There was a time when watching “The Exorcist” at the Majestic Theater was the most terrifying thing you could imagine. Watching that little girl’s head spin, up there in technicolor on that huge screen, almost made you feel like you were right there in the room. Almost. The demon’s cursing, the slamming doors and the screams all bounced off the walls of the theater, making an even greater sensory impression that left you staring wide-eyed into the dark when you went to bed that night – and your fears were completely forgotten the next morning.

Back then, the thrills you experienced at the movie theater were enough, but only because everything else paled by comparison. If you were lucky enough to find a haunted house it was decorated with dime-store spider-rings, a few Jack-o-Lanterns and some guy wearing a sheet. The closest you came to being scared out of your wits was when you brushed up against one of those fake spider webs you can buy at the dimestore.

We’re in the 21st Century now and the technology used in haunted house attractions is mind-boggling. We’ve come along way from the days of cassette tape players reeling off an endless loop of hokey screams and organ music and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone wearing anything that even remotely resembles a sheet.

Today’s haunted houses utilize much of the same technology you see in horror movies. In fact, many are designed by the same professionals who design the sets for not only horror movies but the big-name amusement parks, as well. The actors are professionals who wear realistic costumes and work hard at their craft. The “stages” aren’t just dark rooms, they’re professionally crafted scenarios designed to make you believe you’re really being terrorized. But there’s one really big difference between a horror movie and a haunted house…

When you’re sitting in a movie theater only two of your sense are involved – your sense of sight and your sense of hearing. The same holds true for amusement park rides – you sit in a little car, you see things and hear things as you ride through the haunted house, but nothing ever really comes close to harming you – no one’s ever been killed by something they only see or hear. It’s up to you to use your imagination if you really want a terrorizing experience but imagination can only carry you so far.

When you tour a haunted house you’re completely immersed in terror. You not only see gruesome sites and hear horrifying noises, you smell the smoke from the fire and the sulfuric odors. You feel the cold spot as you make your way down the darkened corridor, and you taste the terror at the back of your throat. Your heart beats like a drum, the hair on your arms and the back of your neck stands on end and adrenaline courses through your veins.

No more black rooms with fake spider webs and creaky floor boards, today’s haunted houses have strobe lights, black lights and other types of theatrical lighting to lend an air of creepiness to your surroundings. Hallways tilt at impossible angles to throw you off balance, monsters come up out of the floor and those rats over there in the corner? Well… they’re not made of plastic.

In a theater there’s always the thought in the back of your mind that it’s “just a movie”, nothing you see on the screen can really harm you, but when you’re trying to make your way out of a haunted house with a bloody butcher knife-wielding madman hot on your tail, the terror you feel is real and it stays with you long after you make your escape – if and when you do. You’ll never experience that rush of adrenaline and pure, unadulterated fear in a theater!

These days, watching a horror movie is a little like reading a book about surfing. It’s fun and entertaining. It might even be educational. But it’s nothing compared to actually getting on a board and paddling out into the ocean, feeling the spray from the surf, tasting the salt on your lips and getting that rush of adrenaline as you mount that monster wave.

And here’s one other major difference between horror movies and today’s haunted houses. In a horror movie you’re simply sitting in a nice, cushy chair, munching your popcorn and drinking your Big Gulp, while you watch other people be terrorized and murdered by all sorts of monsters. But, when you visit a haunted house, you’re the one being chased by zombies, you’re the one being threatened with death down every dark corridor.

Think of it this way: You can sit in the theater and vicariously enjoy someone else’s pain and agony or you can visit an interactive haunted house where YOU become the victim and it’s up to you, alone, to survive the experience. Instead of yelling at the screen, “Take off those high heels and run, you idiot!” you’ll be the person doing the running and you’ll see just how clearly you can think with a monster breathing down your neck.

The whole purpose of going to a horror movie on Halloween is to be scared out of your wits but there’s no movie that will ever completely immerse you in the fear you’ll experience in an interactive haunted house. A movie just can’t compare. If you’re tired of doing the same old thing and you’re up to the challenge, skip the movie and visit Thrillvania Haunted House Park, the most terrifying haunted house in Texas.

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