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[whitespace] Grounds for Fear

GYRO's fills Santa Clara Fairgrounds with creatures of the night

By Sarah Quelland

VIEWING HORROR MOVIES with a twisted reverence, I have always gotten the chills from cinematic creatures of the night and the murderous undead. Freddy, Leatherface, Michael Myers, "Ghostface" (from Scream) and other celluloid evils have all kept me up nights, and I haven't stepped foot in the woods since my introduction to Friday the 13th without imagining a hockey-masked Jason lurking behind the nearest tree and the ominous background soundtrack of "chchchchahhahhahhahhkillkillkillkill" looping over and over in my head.

Perhaps those memories explain why GYRO's World of Terror's Planet Horrorwood (one of three haunted areas inside the "Feargrounds" complex) got me pretty good. Running through Planet Horrorwood's 3-D maze with three willing victi ... I mean friends ... I could have rivaled the Scream Queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis, for sheer volume and terror. It's all in good fun, of course. What GYRO offers is the illusion of danger without the consequences. (Though in my haste to escape some brutish fiend, I did shove one of my friends into a wall. Hard.) With creature-feature stars like Dracula and an evil carnival funhouse as an introduction, the last section of the maze boasts some of Hollywood's finest subhuman villains along with their weapons of choice.

While there may have been a few too many Scream scenes (some no more than spooky set-ups in a room), those quieter moments were good not only for building suspense, but for collecting your wits before moving on to the next round. Ending with Leatherface and his buzzing chainsaw, Planet Horrorwood saved the most terrifying for last, and it was even scary the second time around. I expected the Haunted Woods to be much scarier, particularly after the success of The Blair Witch Project. Although eerie, the woods were spooky only because of the fear of the unknown--but looking back from the end of the forest trail, nothing drastic enough to leave a lingering, visceral sense of terror ever happened. The Toxic Terror set-up was much the same. It consisted of little more than elaborate grisly meltdown scenes and giant man-eating rats (a la Gnaw: Food of the Gods II), with only a few living characters. Both the Haunted Woods and Toxic Terror lacked the substantial human element that made Planet Horrorwood so successful. To GYRO's credit, the 3-D graphics were effective and the random lurking ghouls who shadowed far too close were highly disconcerting. In a culture in which celebrities take the place of royalty and cinematic bad guys are cheered as often as they are condemned, its oddly exhilarating to find oneself in the shoes of the onscreen hero/victim being pursued by some of Hollywood's darkest nightmares come to life--as long as it's pretend. Be sure to bring a friend along. There's strength in numbers.

GYRO's World of Terror runs Sunday-Thursday, 7-10pm; Friday, 7pm-midnight; Saturday and Halloween night, 6pm-midnight through Oct. 31 at the Santa Clara County "Feargrounds." Admission is $14.95 Sunday-Thursday; $17.95 Friday-Saturday. (888.477.HOWL or www.worldofterror.com)

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From the October 21-27, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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