Welcome to the Grand Illusion…

by on Mar.14, 2011, under Haunted Houses, Haunting Ideas

I heard my mother discussing movies the other day. It was that same old complaint – they don’t make movies like they used to, there’s nothing good at the theaters anymore because it’s all computers (my mother harkens from that school of thought that computers are evil, and the fad will end soon…), and there’s no “real actors” like there were in “the old days”.
Granted, it was another of those generational eye-rolling moments, but on some level she may be right. They don’t make movies like they used to.
Or cars.
Or televisions.
Or telephones.
Or toasters or ovens or freezers or hair dryers (?) or anything else that was also being made in 1955…
But I’m a big believer in progress, and you certainly can’t argue that it’s a lot easier to believe in movie monsters these days than it was fifty years ago. The dinosaurs of Jurassic Park proved that to me! As much nostalgiac fun as I derive from those classic sci-fi and horror films of yesterday, the effects simply don’t hold a candle to what is possible in the 21st century. Not that it always means the stories are any better…

The same argument can be applied to pretty much any genre of entertainment. As technical advances move forward, the seemingly impossible becomes more and more possible, making it feasible to create anything one can imagine. Yet the core essence of what makes entertainment magic is basically the same – the soul and spirit of the creative force. A crafty engineer can easily produce a lifelike forty foot tall gorilla, but someone has to be able to infuse it with enough personality to make us want to care…

Haunt designers and actors are faced with the very same challenge. The spectacle of a colossal monstrosity looming over the audience with a bloody corpse dangling from its grip can be shocking and thrilling, but once the initial shock has passed it is pretty much still just a prop. The true joy of visiting any haunted attraction is the personal investment one makes in the experience of being entertained. Actors make that happen. Being followed by a ghastly fiend as you nervously make your way through the darkness, or being stalked about the parking lot as tension mounts can be FAR more effective than a robot monster lunging out of a wall. Armed with the knowledge that it’s just pretend really doesn’t fortify you much when faced with the prospect of a living…creature…invading your personal space.

Is technology your marvel, or do you prefer the “human” touch? What triggers your “fear factor” most? When science becomes so affordable that haunts offer virtual actors, the comparison may no longer be viable, but for the time being the question remains – what’s your poison?


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