One of my favourite films ever is The Nightmare Before Christmas.
It’s a stop-animation tale of Jack Skeleton the Pumpkin King who presides over Halloween Town but dreams of something different and exciting and so plots to hijack Christmas and present it in his own horrifyingly spectacular style.
It’s dark, slightly scary but with a fabulously childish sense of adventure. And 15 years after its original release, it’s still one of the best films out there.
And that’s the sort of Halloween I love. Not too saccharine sweet, scary but not so I can’t sleep at night and a great event to enjoy with the children.
Tonight my two little monsters will be dressing up as a Little Devil and a Skeleton, they’ll be apple bobbing, feeling through the entrails (cold spaghetti) to find the hidden treats and eating black and orange (homemade) spider web cupcakes.
All of which is a world away from the roller coaster ride I found myself on during a recent trip to PortAventura in Spain where I was invited, along with a bunch of other bloggers, to see and experience the family friendly resort.
PortAventura at Halloween is SO SCARY!
We were there for Halloween, and believe you me, once evening falls this was no cutesy celebration – their end of day parade features the undead. Beetlejuice rubs shoulders with the Devil, Death rides at the head of the procession on horseback and all manner of witches, creatures and contraptions file past by the light of the moon and various flaming torches.
The colour is black, the soundtrack is various horror film tracks.
Kind of surreal, but just brilliant.
The following day we decided to ‘brave’ one of the larger rides. It’s marked down as 3 pumpkins (a measure of how scary various attractions are) but it’s daylight. I mean what can happen to scare you in the day?
We also choose to ignore the lovely PR man Oriol who said it was “12 pumpkins”. Silly man we were thinking.
So the ride. The ride called El Diablo, a name we just brushed off as theme park fun. I’ve been on many many theme park rides in my time. I even went on Terror Tower in Florida when it first opened and I foolishly didn’t realise what it was.
This one is a runaway train type of roller coaster, a rickety old silver mine that has been closed down since a group of miners disappeared in it.
I’m at the front of the queue with Laura and Erica and we have been divided off from the main group so there is about 15 of us.
A devilish creature comes screaming out from nowhere (the make up is phenomenal). He has flaming red pupils and a horn sticking out one side of his head. It looks convincing, but we all know it’s some man dressed up.
He is talking quite aggressively in Spanish and my companions and I are utterly relieved we can’t understand a word he’s saying.
He leads us around a corner and there are giant crates with a mahoosive dead rat thing sprawled across the top of them with bits of it’s insides cascading down the bloodied wood of the crates.
The girls and I just look at each other. We’re nervously laughing but our eyes are saying “what the?”
We are led into an antechamber. It’s small, dark and gloomy and as we crowd in I notice it’s strung with old netting and cobwebs. To be honest, I’m so busy burying my face in Laura’s top I don’t notice much else.
The devilish creature is back. He is shouting now. SHOUTING. In Spanish. I have no idea what the hell he’s saying but I know it’s not good. Everyone around me is giggling but they look very slightly worried.
A ghoul pulls back a rag of a curtain and leads us on. He doesn’t crack his face, his white eyes stare at us; no emotion, no flicker of the man behind there. Just the staring.
What follows was a line of 15 terrified people, shuffling single file through various cramped, pitch dark passageways where creatures whisper in your ears, blow in your face, jump out, shout, moan, cackle.
I felt like I’d stumbled into one of those horror films I’ve spent my whole adult life avoiding.
At one point I think one of the unimaginable things is tearing into my arm but realise it’s Erica holding onto me for dear life. Behind her a 20something Spanish lad is clutching onto her rucksack in terror.
Dear reader, I know you are probably reading this and chuckling away. Yes, we all knew it wasn’t real and the actors were very very good and the ‘set’ was swathed in dry ice and plants hanging from shelves to unnerve us at every turn. We knew this was just a theme park ride with a scary addition tacked on for Halloween.
We all knew it.
But let me tell you, my heart was racing, my face drained of blood and I had been terrified.
Worse than that though, as we walked (actually we were tripping over ourselves) out and exited the ride, we passed those queueing up to get on board – oblivious as to what was awaiting them.
And there were CHILDREN in that queue. The minimum age was 5.
Obviously, Spanish youngsters are made of sterner stuff than me.