Wet, Wild & Spooky


POSTED: Sunday, October 18, 2009

Eye-popping visual 3-D effects in Freakshow caused a few folks to jump out of their skin at a preview of Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii's newest Halloween scarefest, where zombie skateboarders roam the park grounds and gory monsters and ghouls lurk in dark corners of “;The Freezer,”; invoking lots of screaming.

“;Festival of Fear”; at Wet 'n' Wild Hawaii is presenting an array of haunted habitats for haunted-house enthusiasts this Halloween season. The Sudden Impact! Entertainment Co. set up three scare zones, all with unique special effects, including the spinning sensation of a 3-D terror tunnel. As an added bonus, the three newest rides—the Tornado, Island Racers and Raging—will be open during the nighttime festivities. So, bring your swimwear along with your scare gear.

The “;Festival of Fear”; will be the largest Halloween event that the park has hosted in its 11-year history.

“;I don't think Hawaii has seen anything like this,”; said the park's general manager, Takuya Ohki. “;It's a $300,000 operation. We wanted to provide something for families, teens and young adults. People in Hawaii love Halloween.”;

Sudden Impact! Entertainment is an international producer of live, scary, interactive entertainment. Signs at the attractions offer a word of caution: “;Not for wimps or those under the age of 13, so be warned. Younger visitors will be allowed to go through, as these are mere guidelines.”;


AT “;The Freezer”; attraction—a cryogenic prison in meltdown—groups of cheerleaders came bounding out of the exit door. Boys also toppled over one another in making their escape. Inside, strobe lights and mirrors confuse visitors, leading them down narrow paths between chain link fencing that houses the ghouls. Frightening monsters always seem to be lurking over one's shoulder, as well.

“;You can't even tell where you're going because of the mirrors,”; said Anjellica Amian. “;It was so freaky ... especially with all of those blinking lights.”;

Brandy Akina agreed that it was quite a scary experience. “;The mirrors really throw you off. You think it's somebody else, but it's actually you.”; That's when the creatures sneak up on you.

The “;Terror Tunnel in 3-D”; was a little less scary but offered its share of surprises.

“;The tunnel was a good teaser to the rest of the mazes,”; said Amber Rosenberg. “;The most entertaining part was the moving tunnel. We couldn't walk straight through it without hitting the sides. The best part was that the actors were very believable and stayed in character throughout all of the mazes.”;

The beautifully designed special effects in Freakshow were created by artist Stuart Smith of Stuartizm Designs. He was sitting outside the structure in coveralls that were blanketed with colorful paints prior to the evening opening. “;We had some shipping issues so I flew in to paint the display,”; Smith said. “;I've been working on it for two days without any sleep.”;

He wasn't complaining, though. “;I travel around the world painting monsters for a living.”;

Smith's career began more than a decade ago when he worked on a Jaycee haunted house for free, provided that he could use the photos for his portfolio. Originally, his expertise was used to design laser tag arenas. “;I want people to be wowed by the artwork. It's enjoyable for all ages.”;

SETTING UP THE massive haunted houses isn't limited to special effects, sound effects, music and lighting. Safety is also a huge concern, according to Lynton V. Harris, chairman and CEO of Sudden Impact.

“;Some haunted houses have a continuous line of people going through. We like to keep the groups together,”; he explained. About five or six people embark on the adventure together, each person holding onto the shoulders of the person in front.

“;It's just as scary for the person in the back as it is for the person in the front. The groups are predictable.”;

By keeping the groups together, people are not running in the structure, and the actors can see where everybody's hands are.

When seeking actors, he requested that dancers, models, gymnasts and actors attend auditions. “;We look for people with enthusiasm. ... We can train them.”;

The actors are trained at “;Scare School”;—an intensive weeklong program whose aim is obvious.

“;We teach them how to effectively scare people, who not to scare and so on,”; said Dominic McChesney, director of actor training worldwide.

The actors are taught that it is impossible to scare everyone, but everyone can be entertained. “;I've seen little girls come out and shrug and big guys run out screaming.”;

About 45 actors were hired to work the sets of the “;Festival of Fear.”; Among them was Turner Harrison, a Leeward Community College drama student who's enjoying his job.

“;Everyone wants to scare others; it's human nature,”; he said. “;It's so much fun. ... You can see if people wet their pants. One little kid did.”;

On that note, Harris recommends using the restroom before entering the scare zones. “;It's not an uncommon thing for us to have what we call an unscheduled release.”;