It used to be that the three-day holiday from October 31 to November 2 was celebrated solemnly in the Philippines with families visiting dearly departed loved ones in cemeteries across the country. With the Western influence on Halloween celebrations, Trick or Treat and fun costume parties have now become a tradition in these islands as well.
This year, however, The Manila Times stumbled upon a very interesting and more “localized” approach in celebrating Halloween, combining old folk tales with modernized concepts that brings Shake-Rattle and Roll movies—and this endeavor—to reality.
David Willis, the American creative director behind such blockbuster movies a The Matrix, House of Wax, and Star Wars, brings the Halloween Haunts Scream Park to the Philippines, where “traditional [mythological]elements from the Philippines and around Asia are combined with US-style Halloween themes.”
Willis, who is a proud “monster-maker,” chose the country to launch this unique project precisely because of the Filipino’s “interesting horror stories. In fact, he finds quite a number of them “really disturbing.”
“When I heard the story of the aswang who feeds on aborted babies, I thought, that’s pretty disturbing, and that gave me the idea of putting up a scare park,” Willis told The Manila Times.
Aware that a Halloween-themed park is not a new concept, Willis went ahead with his pet project because he believes “it’s fun to get scared and it serves as an excuse to dress up!”
Taking inspiration from old, local folk tales, Willis built three scare zones for the Halloween Haunts Scream Park, located in the city of Manila. The first is the “White Lady” in an abandoned house, a widely popular Filipino horror character whose sightings are still reported to this day in barrios all over the country.
Willis took the US-horror movie concepts of The Conjuring and Insidious, and turned the White Lady into a witch-like character feeding off innocent souls and turning them into damned, mass killing murders.
Next-door is a graveyard where zombies abound. Far from the idea of The Walking Dead series, or movies like Resident Evil or 28 Days Later where the “Frankenstein-like” creatures are infected with viruses, Willis took a more traditional approach for his zombies using the Filipino practice of visiting cemeteries on All Saints and All Souls days. There, they literally “rise from the dead” when park visitors come around.
The third scare zone, which will open in November, is called the “Mental Hospital,” and inspired by the true-to-life Clark Air Base Hospital, apparently considered one of the scariest places in the country.
Why so? As the story goes, a tragedy took place at the Clark Air Base Hospital’s Home Plate Canteen when merrymakers celebrating Christmas were killed in an air raid launched by the Japanese in 1941. The community swears that violent spirits and anxious souls never left the hospital canteen, so much so that one day, authorities decided to close it off to the public.
Far from ordinary
Willis, who invested $1 million from his own pocket to make the scare-themed park a reality, declares the Halloween Haunts Scream Park is “not your ordinary theme park.”
His definition of a typical theme park is one with big roller coaster rides and huge amusement houses. Halloween Haunts, on the other hand, caters to the Filipino’s penchant for “eating, drinking and being entertained.”
He even included a “Christmas-themed Halloween scare park” concept in his offerings, what with the season being so close and important to Filipinos. Similar to the Nightmare Before Chirstmas concept, this one has a twist, which he refuses to reveal. This feature is open on select nights from October 31 to January 5, and promises a “frightening holiday season for Filipinos who want to experience something new and different.”
“Doing things right is what sets this apart from the typical haunted houses in theme parks. Being in this business for so long, I’ve learned how to set the mood, knowing the production, and how to frighten the audience, and that’s what makes this different from the others,” Willis added.
Even his marketing approach is unconventional. “We let the public create the hype, which is different from usual advertising productions done in the country. We give out as little information possible, and we let the public anticipate more.”
Located at the corner of Diosdado Macapagal Blvd. and Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. in Pasay City, Halloween Haunts Scream Park is open to visitors aged 13 years old and above. Sundays are reserved for families with smaller children, complete with live entertainment and food offerings.
For more information, log on to www.halloweenhaunts.ph.