100 Days of Horror welcomes you to ... SATANFEST 2013

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"Y'all know me, know how I earn a livin'. I'll catch this bird for you, but it ain't gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', and down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that'll bring back the tourists, that'll put all your businesses on a payin' basis. But it's not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I'll find him for three, but I'll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you've gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don't want no volunteers, I don't want no mates, there's too many captains on this island. Ten thousand dollars for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing."

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Son of Perdition! Little Horn! Most Unclean!"

This is it! We are in the thick of it! We're coming down to the wire! It's all over but the screaming!

And other cliches, to be sure.

Truth is, we are almost down to the wire here, with Oct. 1 and the debut of "Satanfest 2013" literally just days away. We here at the offices of the Unstoppable Movie Monster have been hard at work compiling, sorting, downloading, codifying, complexifying, and otherwise exemplifying themselves in every way to get this frigging list together in time to share it with our thousands of loyal readers.

And it's actually done, folks. Yes, we actually have the complete list ready for you guys, and it will be published before the end of the week, so help me Satan!

But before all that happens, we gotta talk about a little place called "Jason's Woods."

Long ago, when the world was younger, there was a little boy in the small hamlet of Oxford, Pennsylvania, who was utterly obsessed with all things horrific and terrifying. This disturbed little bastard couldn't get enough of the plethora of horror movies available to him, and the bloodier the better. His weekly allowance would be squandered on Jolt Cola and rentals from his local video store, sometimes renting the same titles week after week, silently hoping that someone, somewhere, held the same fascinations as he, and that one day there would be a place where his vivid imagination could run buck-wild-naked in the streets.

And then that place was born.

Since its inception over 25 years ago, Jason's Woods has become an institution all of its own. Ask any haunted attraction enthusiast, and if they haven't already made their pilgrimage to this Mecca of the Macabre, it's sure as shit on their bucket list. It is literally acres of terrifying thrills, nestled in the quiet and idyllic hills of Lancaster County, and it is worth the trip if you're anywhere within driving distance.

Over the years, Jason's Woods has evolved from a simple haunted hayride to a truly unique haunted attraction experience. Its creators are always looking for the next big scare, the next intriguing character, the next eye-popping horror to expose their audience to, and good lord do they ever succeed.

The event's founder and the original scaremeister himself, Bob Hershey, has handed the reins over to his son, Bob Jr., who as of this week was still hard at work with the finishing touches - so hard at work, we didn't get much of a chance to speak with him, except to hear that he was on a skid loader and was pretty darn busy. But we picked the tasty, tasty brains of production manager Damien (how apropos a name) Schlegelmilch to find out what other changes were in store for this, their 30th season.

What we found out was that one of its largest attractions, the Barn of Terror, was no more, having been reclaimed as ... well, as a barn by Bob Sr., who still runs several active farms in the off-season.

In its place, however, is a brand-new venue Schlegelmilch said is sure to scare the living crap out of their visitors: the Chamber of Horrors.

"It's pretty much the culmination of over 30 years of design work," Schlegelmilch said. "We've come up with some new concepts, the scenes are all different. And the intensity level has definitely been raised."

Tossing around words like, "aggressive" and "violent" as descriptors for the new Chamber of Horrors, Schlegelmilch also added that it isn't over-the-top gore or violence in the strictest sense of the word.

Rather, the new scenes are so suddenly intense, it is as if the entire venue was seething with things that leap to unanticipated life.

"There's nothing despicable in there," Schlegelmilch said. "It's definitely more PG-13, but nothing too bad. Definitely more action and movement than what you may be used to with a haunted attraction, that's for certain. So this is much more in the vein of 'Shock and Awe.'"

Schlegelmilch explained that the scares were revamped in an effort to keep up with changing tastes in horror movies and even video games, where the level of violence and intensity of the overall experience is at a completely different level than in previous decades.

"Stuff that was scary 25 years ago isn't so scary now," he said. "And our clientele is different now than it was back then, too, so we have to keep that in mind. Plus the collective horror mindset has just evolved over the years."

Along with the addition of the Chamber of Horrors, the scares have been retooled throughout the rest of the attraction's different events, including the hayride and the Carnival of Fear, where some of the freakiest clowns you will ever hope to encounter reside. So if you suffer from coulrophobia, Schlegelmilch advises you to stay away. Or not, if you've got the minerals.

"Clowns to the left of you, clowns to the right of you," he said with a devious chuckle. "And they are much more droolly and bitey this year. We really worked to make it more like a circus inside as well - we added lots of red."

The hayride portion of the attraction sees the return of some fan favorites, according to Schlegelmilch, as long-time attendees were clamoring for their return.

So you will certainly find Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers slinking around in the dark, along with some of the classic creatures like Frankenstein's Monster and others.

"We're calling it the Return of the Legends," Schlegelmilch said. "I think people are going to be very happy."

There's plenty more to do at Jason's Woods, including the zombie-ridden Pirate's Revenge and the Lost in Jason's Woods experience where you take a chilling guided stroll through the trees and get face-to-face with some creepy creatures. And everyone gets to visit the Grand Theater, where fan-favorite Beetlejuice gets the crowd all riled up before the real shows start outside.

In between the attractions there is a great carnivalesque atmosphere going on that is almost as much fun as the attractions themselves. There's some yummy greasy food, live music, weird folks a-aplenty wandering around and a crowd that generally is looking forward to the experience and is fun to be around.

Thousands of people come from throughout the region - even from New Jersey and New York - to take part in this unique experience each year, and it never disappoints. The hundreds of actors involved with the attraction give their all each and every time, even on the slow nights, and the energy and pace is always high. The effects and makeup are also top of the line, produced in-house by a group of dedicated and creative professionals who start gearing up for next season before the winter snow has melted each year. And even if you don't choose to take in all of the madness the event offers up, the hayride alone is worth the trip. It's somehow relaxing and rowdy all at once, particularly if you get a cart filled with fun folks.

If you haven't figured it out yet, I was the demented little bastard mentioned in the beginning of this feature. I have been attending Jason's Woods off and on since the tender age of 13, and it has never disappointed me. It was a joy I came to eventually share with my own children, and it became a major bonding point for my oldest son, who was always afraid of the event until I explained that they were people who loved Halloween just as much as we did, and they were just here to have fun, too. That lead to a real father/son moment where he told me my words gave him confidence and thanked me. All because of a haunted hayride.

For his part, Bob Sr. thinks the venue is in good hands.

"He's grown up around this, he's been a part of it the whole time," he said of his son's involvement. "I'm hoping it's better, with some young blood in there."

He also waxed briefly on his time running the Woods - and on the relationship he and I have formed over the years, to the point that he thanked me for my dedication and support. And that brought a genuine tear to my jaded, weary eye, because I love this place tremendously. And you will, too, if you give yourself over to its unique charms.

Jason's Woods is located at 99 Stehman Road in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Tickets are available at the site and in advance online at www.jasonswoods.com (they do not take credit cards at the ticket window, but they do have ATMs onsite).

Also, this is a working farm, so dress accordingly - proper shoes are a must. Scroll down for a custom video done by yours truly, featuring our family, our best friend and staff member Shannon, Mr. Hershey and Son, and a brief interview of the legendary Butch "Eddie Munster" Patrick from his visit a few years ago. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

My youngest son, Josiah, menaced by a Tusken Raider at Jason's Woods oh so many years ago.