Enter if you Dare: Five Frightening Amusement Park Facades in Film and Television
An Artsy Ghoul Blog
Enter if you Dare!
Amusement parks and carnivals are often popular places where we can share happy moments and create lasting memories with family and friends. However, every once in a while we might come across an attraction that sends a chill down our spines. This week, I will be discussing five of the most frightening amusement park attraction facades that appear in film and television.
FINAL DESTINATION 3 (2006)
The Final Destination franchise is known for being filled with symbolic imagery that foreshadows the death of its characters and leaves the audience with a feeling of great unease. Out of all the imagery in these films, the Devil’s Flight roller coaster facade from Final Destination 3 remains the scariest. The eye-popping red roller coaster itself is already scary enough, and it used to be a real attraction called The Corkscrew at Vancouver's Playland amusement park. To make the film version of the coaster as dreadful as possible, the filmmakers decided to create a GIGANTIC devil that welcomes guests into the ride’s queue with evil threats such as "you can run, but you can't hide". Now, I’m already not a huge fan of coasters with lots of twists and loops, but if you put the devil in front of it then you better believe I’m not going anywhere near it. The devil here is portrayed as a red-skinned, muscular, winged creature with glowing yellow eyes and long, sharp teeth that are ready to devour at any second. I truly don’t think psychic abilities should've even been needed to warn these characters of their impending doom. Final Destination 3 is my favorite entry to the franchise, and this massive facade is a big reason why the film always frightens me no matter how many times I watch it.
BIRDS OF PREY (2020)
Gotham City is known for being a very dark and gritty place in the DC Universe, and it's never a surprise seeing so many horror elements in the comics, shows, and movies that take place in the city the Dark Knight himself calls home. One of the creepiest locations in Gotham is “Amusement Mile”, the run-down amusement park that The Joker and Harley Quinn have taken over as a secret hideout. To my delight, the final act of Cathy Yan's Birds of Prey takes place at the abandoned park, and the massive fun house that the art department team created has a facade that is freakishly perfect for the film. This fun house is called the "Booby Trap!", and it features a woman's large face screaming in terror with her hands raised up in fear. As the park has seemingly been abandoned for quite some time, everything appears very faded and grey-toned. Even a middle finger and thumb from the woman's hands have fallen off, making her look even more macabre. This facade is just as fun as it is scary, and I couldn’t imagine a location more fitting for Harley and Joker to use for their evil shenanigans .
The Shaman Vision Quest hall of mirrors from Jordan Peele's spine-chilling horror film Us has one of the most visually striking facades. A shaman figure points toward the viewer, staring at them and capturing their full attention. Painted below are woods with various spirit animals emerging from the trees and all along the arched facade are bright carnival lights. Directly below the words “Vision Quest” is a completely lit up sign that reads “FIND YOURSELF”, and a large red arrow points into the dark entryway of the hall of mirrors. Now, the find yourself sign is clearly referring to the spiritual experience of Shamanism in relation to seeing one’s reflection in the mirrors, but knowing the actual context of the film makes this facade one of intimidation rather than invitation. The opening scene of this film is so well done that it makes the viewer feel the wandering curiosity of young Adelaide as she discovers this empty beach attraction. You can sense her fear, and you just know that greater forces are reeling her in, convincing her to explore and, quite literally, guiding her to find herself.
WATCHMEN (TV Series, 2019)
In episode 5 of HBO’s Watchmen series, “Little Fear of Lightning”, we begin with an incredible flashback sequence that reveals the origin story of the character Wade Tillman, aka Looking Glass. In 1985, a festive night at a small Hoboken, New Jersey fair turns into an absolute nightmare when an enormous squid is dropped on New York City. The biggest moment of the scene happens inside of, you guessed it, the fair’s funhouse. All the mirrors inside shatter from a piercing sound wave that kills the majority of the people at the fair. When young Wade emerges from the funhouse to find all the bloody dead bodies, we get a perfect look at the facade behind him. It's a large laughing clown face with wide eyes painted red and blue. Eyebrows are arched in an evil gaze and the clown’s red hair curls into the air, almost like tentacles (clever, right?). On opposite sides of the clown face are two oval shapes depicting grinning circus monkeys cycling while playing symbols. Lastly, the background of the entire facade is a black and yellow checkerboard pattern, the signature Watchmen colors. A section of the checkerboard carves down into the forehead of the clown face like we are seeing a piece of its brain. I feel that the checkerboard could be representative of the mental damage and trauma that the survivors of this event have experienced. Overall, the entire facade is a haunting image reflecting the dark memories that would torment Looking Glass for the rest of his life.
THE FUNHOUSE (1981)
Last but not least, Tobe Hooper’s slasher film The Funhouse goes all out with the creepy carnival vibes. Four teenagers decide it would be a good idea to hide inside a dark ride style funhouse with hopes to spend the night. What makes this attraction different from the ones mentioned above is the fact that this one is actually horror themed and is filled with spooky decorations. The facade of this funhouse is a mural of creepy creatures like spiders, skeletons, and even a big red dragon; the words “chills” and “thrills” hint at what awaits for those who enter. Up top and center there is a traditional fun house sign, and sitting directly below it is an animatronic circus “fat lady” wearing doll makeup and a polka dot dress. Human-like animatronics already give me the chills, but this one moves its head and eyes while letting out a cry of maniacal laughter. To make it even worse, the animatronic is a bit worn down and it’s eyes stare in different directions, making this lady look absolutely insane. This figure is clearly symbolic of all the freaky carnival workers the teens come across throughout the night. In the film’s final moments, the fat lady animatronic laughs disturbingly as Amy, the traumatized final girl, stares up at it. She and her friends totally get what they deserve for disrespecting the carnival, and even the facade itself wouldn’t let Amy leave without rubbing it in her face.
Would you be brave enough to enter any of these amusement park or carnival attractions? Tweet me (@artsy_ghoul) and let me know!