For USF students, Halloween is not one day, but a month-long excursion of haunted houses and scary movie marathons. Busch Gardens’ annual event, Howl-O-Scream, is a quintessential example of these festivities.
This year, Busch Gardens enlisted the help of Robin Cowie, award-winning filmmaker and producer of the
“Blair Witch Project,” to create a new house that will raise the bar for years to come.
In “Unearthed – Scarlett’s Revenge,” guests act as part of an excavation crew as they go underground to discover a centuries-old house whose resident is a vengeful demon: Scarlett.
Scarlett summons the creatures from past houses and exacts revenge on those who enter by collecting all of their eyes.
Cowie said he jumped at the opportunity to create the house even before last Halloween.
Using the ghost tours in St. Augustine as creative fuel, Cowie and several park employees sought to answer the question “What darkness lives below a theme park?” They found an answer in Scarlett.
“Scarlett is known as the medicine woman. She’s an immigrant from a different place, and she was very much in love. The town turned on her and murdered her husband, so she wants revenge because they buried her underground,” Cowie said.
The transition from film was seamless for Cowie because of his extensive background in the horror genre. By combining media elements with the classic elements of a haunted house, Cowie was able to create an interactive experience unlike anything the park has seen before.
“The idea was to have a story that could start online (and) go all the way through to the moment you walk through the gate and into the house. It’s story-heavy, but at the same time, it’s visceral with lots of jumps and scares.”
Cowie isn’t the only one excited about this project. Several Howl-O-Scream employees, veterans and new workers alike, have expressed their enthusiasm about the house.
“Unearthed is the house I’m most excited for. I think the costume design is amazing, the whole house is really intricate, so I’m excited to walk through,” said Sabrina Perello, a USF senior majoring in communication sciences and Howl-O-Scream employee.
This year, Howl-O-Scream will feature seven haunted houses, and while lots of hype surrounds the newest house, several old favorites remain.
“Dead Fall: Thirst for Blood” brings guests to a Victorian garden with a twist: human-plant hybrids with a thirst for human flesh have taken over. In “Zombie Mortuary,” visitors to the park are swarmed by — wait for it — zombies. In this funeral home themed house, guests also have to watch out for the zombie queen, who is directing the undead hordes.
Meanwhile, several roller coasters will be open for brave souls to ride in the dark, including Falcon’s Fury and Cheetah Hunt. But if speeding thrills are not one’s first choice, the event will also feature the “most deranged dinner show ever seen,” Howl-O-Scream’s, “Fiends.”
The event will open at 7:30 p.m. until 1 a.m. on select nights until Oct. 31.
To purchase tickets, visit howloscream.com.