Theme parks and carnivals are a fun, safe way to get your adrenaline pumping, but there’s also something creepy about them, too, making for a great setting for a horror movie. Never mind the possibility of ride malfunctions, or the huge crowds to contend with. Between the park theming and the creepy carnies, a carnival or amusement park also provides a perfect cover for murder. Especially if the theming is horror. And despite how fun this setting is in horror, it’s also one of the most underutilized.
Rooster Teeth and Fathom Events are bringing the premiere of Blood Fest to select theaters for a special one-night event on August 14, which will also include exclusive behind-the-scenes access to the film. Written and directed by Owen Egerton, Blood Fest sees fans gathering at a horror festival to celebrate their beloved genre, only to find that the director of the event might have a much more sinister, bloodthirsty agenda. As the attendees get picked off, three teenage horror fans (Robbie Kay, Seychelle Gabriel, and Jacob Batalon) rely on their genre knowledge and band together to battle psychos and monsters to survive. In anticipation of Blood Fest, we look back at the best theme part set horror.
Final Destination 3
When you think of amusement park set horror, this one is likely to pop into mind immediately. Each film in the Final Destination series opens with an intricate catastrophe that sets off a chain of events that causes Death to come back around to collect those that escaped his clutches. For Wendy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a premonition of a terrifying derailment of the Devil’s Flight roller coaster during a senior trip to an amusement park means she and a select few escapes the gruesome death that was in store. It’s one of the more memorable sequences of the series.
If you frequently found yourself annoyed with the classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon because it featured very little monsters and much more bitter janitors in masks, then this family-friendly comedy might be more your speed. At the very least it will make you wish the amusement park island resort Spooky Island was an actual place you could visit. In this live-action adaptation, the disbanded Mystery, Inc. team are unwittingly reunited to solve the mystery of strange happenings on Spooky Island. Ghosts, voodoo, and real demons abound, the gang has a lot of actual monsters to battle this time.
In this zombie comedy, the world is overrun with zombies, but all Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) wants is to find a Twinkie. All sisters Wichita (Emma Stone) and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) want is a trip to theme park Pacific Playland. All three finally get what they want in the film’s grand finale, only it’s not quite what they had in mind. Riding the rides that once brought the sisters fond memories becomes a terrifying battle for their lives as it’s quickly invaded by clowns, carnies, and attendees, all of whom have long become the flesh-eating dead.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Despite being a Disney film, this adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s novel is sinister. It features a twisted carnival, Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival, that passes through a small town in Illinois with the intent to claim innocent souls. The showman, Mr. Dark (Jonathan Pryce), is scary, and so is his warped merry-go-round that can age someone forward or backward depending on which direction you ride it. Though this might feature a couple of young boys as the heroes standing between Mr. Dark and the town, it’s scary no matter what age.
Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood
A definitive cult film, this low budget carnival set horror film from 1973 follows a family who gets a job undercover at a sleazy old carnival. They’re searching for their missing son, who disappeared after visiting the carnival. It doesn’t take long for the family to discover that the eccentric owner, Mr. Blood, is a vampire who rules over a horde of subterranean cannibals. Screenwriter Werner Liepolt based the story off the cannibal legend of Sawney Bean, and it was director Christopher Speeth’s first and only feature film. It shows its low budget seams, but it’s unafraid to go full blown weird. More importantly, it’s one of the best films to make excellent use of the carnival/amusement park imagery.
Escape from Tomorrow
Writer/Director Randy Moore boldly sets his surreal horror story in the world’s most well-known theme park; Walt Disney World. Employing guerilla filmmaking, Moore shot his film inside the actual park on the sly without permission. The plot sees a recently unemployed father descend into madness during a family trip to Disney World. Hallucinations of demented animatronics and hypnotic, park induced madness culminates into an insane finale.
Carnival of Souls
Instead of high octane thrills, this trip to the carnival is one of slow, permeating dread. When Mary Henry miraculously survives a harrowing car accident, she finds herself inexplicably drawn to a mysterious, abandoned carnival. Shot at the Saltair Pavilion, one of the first amusement parks in the west, the setting enhances the eerie atmosphere. A slow burn befitting of an episode of the Twilight Zone, this carnival is one you won’t wish to take a trip to anytime soon.
Leave it to teenagers to want to spend the night in a traveling carnival’s dark ride after it closes for the night. Too bad for them that they witnessed a creep in a Frankenstein’s Monster mask murder a prostitute in a fit of rage. Their night of fun becomes a night of terror as the teens find themselves locked in the ride and hunted by the silent creep. Tobe Hooper’s slasher takes full advantage of its setting for some scares, and the surprising face of the killer fits right in with the theming.
More information and tickets to Fathom Events premiere of Blood Fest can be found here.