I really need to emphasize how seriously the actors in the Legions take their craft. The park designers gave each group a basic back story for their characters, but as groups they worked together to take their performances to a much higher and more terrifying level. The Warriors created their own marching order and war chants. The Prisoners each had distinct personalities - some were crazy, some were angry - and knew what crime had gotten them locked up. When these folks suit up, they commit. The illusion is so perfect that it's easy to forget that you're perfectly safe, walking through a theme park that's selling overpriced t-shirts and soda in souvenir cups. In previous years, the street performers were restricted to specific areas that were marked on a map, but now they're free to roam wherever they like, so you never know who might be out there in the darkness. The tension borne of simply getting to your next destination in one piece is both terrible and wonderful.
After a few other haunted houses (including "Gothic," a cathedral stuffed with living statues that didn't appreciate you stomping through their home), it was finally time to keep my appointment with Pyramid Head. Ash fell into my hair as I crept past the iconic green sign welcoming me to Silent Hill. The smell of burning filled the air. A grotesque, misshapen figure came twitching out of the trees, only to be chased off by Cybil, who fired a few shots before slipping away. I hurried past a trio of faceless nurses before they could spot me, only to find myself beside the horribly burned Alessa.
Then the air raid siren went off and I stopped dead in my tracks, much to the annoyance of the people behind me. They obviously didn't understand the significance of the sound. Whatever we'd seen already was nothing compared to what was about to happen. And indeed, things got worse.
Colin the Janitor made unholy noises as he struggled to escape his barbed wire bonds. Sharon stood silently on a landing, regarding us with calm menace. Steam spewed from pipes as I tremulously picked my way through a boiler room. And then He came at me. Ten feet tall, covered in blood and filth, Pyramid Head ran at me from across the room.
Now, let me be clear about this. I know that this was an actor on stilts. I know that this was an attraction at a theme park. I know the actors and haunted house staff go through extensive training to keep everyone safe at all times. I was in greater danger of getting a paper cut from the park map in my back pocket than I was of being hurt by Pyramid Head. Absolutely none of that information was in my brain at that moment; I was in the throes of pure animal fear as I backed as far up against the chain link fence as I could possibly get without actually phasing through it. Finally Pyramid Head relented, turning away and stalking back across the boiler room, intent on his next victim.
It was awesome.
"Welcome to Silent Hill" was pretty much tailor-made for a fangirl like me, but it's worth mentioning that not a single one of the other people in my group had a clue about the games or the movies, yet the house was still their favorite in the entire park. It's questionable whether a good haunted house would make someone suddenly decide to pick up a controller, but it might help at least a few people realize that there's more to games than just running through brown landscapes shooting each other.
Halloween Horror Nights changes its attractions every year, so if you can't make the trip this October, you'll miss your own chance to cower in Pyramid Head's shadow. But who knows? Maybe next year you'll get the opportunity to run away from Slender Man or a necromorph or even Alma. Let's just hope they don't decide to do a house based on Amnesia. That might be a bit too much even for a horror junkie like me.